Craving something savory from northern Italy? How about the fresh taste of a tropical island? Or maybe something spicy by the way of the South is more your style.
In any case, you can satisfy all those cravings with a trip to Mesa. This East Valley suburb has some of our favorite dining destinations, including a top spot for Hong Kong-style cuisine and an adorable place for Latin American eats.
Angry Crab Shack
If you like seafood -- in particular, Cajun seafood -- then there's absolutely no chance you won't like Angry Crab Shack in Mesa. This locally owned spot keeps things simple when it comes to ordering: Select a type of seafood from options such as crawfish, crab, and clams and then choose seasoning and level of heat. Your food arrives in a plastic bag and more likely than not, you'll enjoy it with your hands while wearing a bib. Things can get messy, but there's no greater reward for the work that bites of sweet crab in the restaurant's signature Trifecta sauce.
Asian Cafe Express
It's small and it's certainly no-frills, but Asian Cafe Express is nevertheless one of the best-loved Chinese restaurants in town. Opened by chef Michael Leung and his wife in 2005, this Mesa restaurant has become notorious for its BYOS (bring your own seafood) policy and for its impressive menu with more than 300 items. Leung prides himself of offering customers authentic Hong Kong-style cuisine including favorites such as clams in black bean sauce, preserved pickle and pork noodle soup, and preserved salted fish and chicken fried rice. And did we mention the incredibly affordable price point? Many of the dishes will set you back $10 or less.
Dolce Vita Italian Grocer
Located next door to Gelato Dolce Vita and owned by the same couple, this small but seriously satisfying market and deli brings a taste of Italy to east Mesa. Walter and Marti Bergamaschi import hard-to-find products from Italy to both sell them in the grocery side of the operation and use them in their food. At Dolce Vita Italian Grocer you can look forward to a small selection of pastas, sandwiches, salads, and antipasto offerings including dishes such as classic bruschetta, housemade ricotta and spinach ravioli, and the piatto formaggi, a plate of six top-notch Italian cheeses paired with marmalades and honeys from the Italian Alps.
If you're looking for a taste of the Hawaiian Islands but can't afford to jet set across the Pacific Ocean, then Aloha Kitchen in Mesa might just do the trick. This spot brings Hawaiian-style eats such as chicken katsu, manapua, and even fried saimin to the Valley of the Sun, and on Saturdays, you can even find some authentic island eats. The Laulau Plate makes for a good introduction; it features pork laulau, lomi salmon, and chicken long rice.
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Indecisive diners will love this family-owned and -operated restaurant that specializes in Latin American comfort foods. The star of the show is the selection of savory and sweet empanadas, each of which comes encased in golden, flaky fried wheat flour dough. Some of our favorites from the Republica Empanada menu include the Boricua empanada, which features fragarant pernil with arroz con gandules, or rice with pigeon peas, hamhock, and cooked in sofrito sauce and the achiote potato, made with potato and annatto seed seasoning. Don't forget to wash down the meal with a cold craft beer; the restaurant has a tempting fridge stocked with bottles.