You've downed the Kool-Aid and you don't even care because some restaurants in town deserve the obsessive following you give them. That might mean constantly checking a joint's Facebook page to find out the week's market specials or it might mean stalking your favorite local chef's Instagram. Ain't no shame in it. Admitting that you're crazy in love with a restaurant is the first step -- though we have no interest in recovery -- and we have to come clean about these 10 Valley spots that we just can't get enough of.
Mary Coyle Ol' Fashion Ice Cream Parlor Younger generations probably associate other places with ice cream, but those who have been here for a while know that ice cream can only mean Mary Coyle's Ol' Fashion Ice Cream Parlor. It's like a restaurant lost in time, with nostalgic décor and a classic menu of ice cream with plenty of butterfat -- 16 percent, to be exact. It's also a surprisingly well-loved lunch spot for those hardcore fans of the restaurant's housemade Thousand Island dressing and soups.
The Original Hamburger Works This no-frills bar and grill at the corner of Thomas Road and 15th Avenue has been keeping steady foot traffic since 1974 -- probably because very little has changed. Its regulars consist of Phoenix police, Phoenix College students, and Encanto Park visitors who enjoy the casual atmosphere of order-at-the-counter and build-your-own-burger toppings bar. Add to that, the consistent quality of mesquite grilled meats and reasonably priced drinks, and it's easy to see why this burger hub has earned the right to call itself "The Original."
Lo-Lo's Chicken and Waffles As far as Lo-Lo's purists are concerned, there pretty much isn't a Lo-Lo's location in Scottsdale. Sure, it shares the name, and, sure, the Phoenix one got fancier digs recently, but going to the Phoenix Lo-Lo's is all part of the experience. We'd gladly wait in line on a weekend for an hour just to get our hands on the crunchy, salty fried chicken and buttery, cinnamony waffles that taste like they came straight from the South. The best part is indiscriminately slathering syrup and maybe hot sauce all over both the savory and sweet components of the dish and making your own ideal flavor combo. Pair all that business with some collard greens, mac and cheese, or a big mason jar of fruit punch and we're a bunch of unreasonably happy campers.
AZ 88 For more than 20 years, AZ88 has been catering to large clusters of the Scottsdale community: gays, artists, late-night partiers, and anyone who appreciates a good cocktail. Between the constantly changing art installations, the quasi-pornographic ambiance of the he, she, and he/she bathrooms, and watching the wait staff maneuver through large crowds of customers with trays of filled-to-the-brim cocktails without spilling a drop, a trip to AZ88 is always as entertaining to the taste buds as it is to the eyes.
Ted's Hot Dogs If you don't know why people love Ted's hot dogs so much, look no further than how the Tempe mainstay cooks up its dogs. As one of the only places in town that serves charbroiled dogs cooked on a charcoal grill, it's close to backyard barbecuing as possible.The dog itself also comes straight from New York, for East Coast devotees. Add to that the housemade relish and even a gluten-free bun if you need and it's clear to see why Ted's has earned a place in Phoenix food lovers' hearts. Of course, it might just be the loganberry milkshakes.
Lux Locals love Lux. More than anything, they love to tell you about Lux as though it's their own hidden gem, their caffeinated speakeasy situated not so subtly within spitting distance of the Central Avenue light rail. Whether you're sipping coffee or cocktails, it's the place to see and be seen in Central Phoenix, bringing in a good dose of hipster socialites, satellite office workers, semi-serious study groups, and senior citizens who know the baristas by name.
Bosa Donuts Morning or night. Sober or stoned. There really is no bad time to enjoy a doughnut. Especially one from Arcadia favorite, Bosa Donuts. This Indian School sweets supplier knows the pull of an unpredictable craving for powered donuts, which is why it keeps its doors open for the unusually generous window of 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. And if you feel shamed for seeking out an entire boxed dozen of apple fritters all to yourself, Bosa brings you privacy and convenience with a much appreciated (and much-utilized) drive-thru window.
Tee Pee Mexican Food No, Tee Pee isn't true Mexican food. But that doesn't stop its regulars from filling up the orange vinyl booths and outdated patio while they wait for their order of cheese crisps, burritos, and chimichangas served enchilada-style. Inside you'll find wall-to-wall autographed pictures of celebrities, politicians, and athletes who swear by Tee Pee's hearty (and potentially heart-stopping) dishes.
Dick's Hideaway Once upon a time (okay, prior to a fire in 2009), you could go to next-door to Richardson's for a taste of southwestern cuisine -- Dick's was the restaurant's spillover lounge. Now it's a destination all its own, a sort of speakeasy only for those who already know it's there. It's tiny, it's dark, and it's also one of the best-loved spots for day-drinking in Central Phoenix.
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Haji Baba Middle Eastern Food There was a distinct time in every Arizona State University student's career when they ate at Haji Baba twice a week, if not more. The portion-to-price ratio is enough to draw cheapskates in, but the authentic Middle Eastern cooking just keeps people coming back for more. The inside might be adorned with little more than a drab, cheesy mural of a desert landscape and some simple and admittedly uncomfortable chairs and tables, but that's not the point. The point is the falafel, foul mudammas, and gyros "DLX" sandwich are the stars.