The Guilty Pleasure: Green Chili Combo Frybread Where To Get It: The Stand The Price: $4 What It Really Costs: Tell your boss you're taking an extended lunch.
I've lived in the Phoenix area for most of my life. I grew up on the edge of nowhere, back when that edge was about 25 miles closer to the middle of town than it is now. It's hard to imagine, but back then, the Superstition Freeway went as far as Gilbert Road and just stopped dead. Beyond that, it was miles and miles of fertile farmland.
Rural settings still abound around the Valley in the form of numerous Indian reservations. I'm particularly fond of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, east of Scottsdale. Seeing the miles of fields takes me back in time a few decades, back when Phoenix wasn't such a burgeoning metropolis. I also love the area because there's an amazing little fry bread stand right in the middle of it.
The folks who run The Stand just off the corner of Alma School and Indian School (not to be confused with the burger-and-taco joint of the same name on 36th Street and Indian School) have been doing so with little fanfare for about five years now. I'm somewhat embarrassed that I hadn't even heard about the place until the Cooking Channel show Eden Eats featured it last fall. While host Eden doesn't get nearly the press as a visit from Guy Fieri*, my hat is off to Eden for featuring The Stand on her show for showing off some real Arizona eats.
At first glance, The Stand looks, shall we say, rustic. A closer look reveals that instinct to be correct. The stand itself has a roof of chicken wire and palm thatch. The dining area consists of two tables and enough chairs for only one of the tables. The menu is short and to the point. They have red and green chili, they have beans, and they have Indian tacos with ground beef or chili. There's red and white menudo available, and there are a couple of kinds of cake for dessert. I've been through most of the menu (I still can't bring myself to sample menudo) and have found that the chili with beans added is my favorite. The beans add a little earthy richness and help thicken up the slightly soupy consistency of the chili.
The only thing left to decide is whether you want it on frybread or wrapped in a burrito. It's a tough call. The tortillas are some of the best I've found in the Phoenix area. They flatten every single one by hand, giving them a little extra thickness and chew than the machine-pressed ones found everywhere else in town. Then, they cook them on a repurposed tractor disc harrow blade. The outdoor gas burner gives them a little bit of char, just enough for some extra character.
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Though the burritos are excellent, this is the Guilty Pleasures column. So, of course, it's frybread time. When you order a frybread, the ladies at the fryer get to work tossing a ball of dough back and forth with a rhythmic thwap-thwap-thwap to form a disc of dough. It then gets slipped into a vat of smoking hot oil. Seconds later, it emerges a gorgeous golden brown. The exterior is impeccably crisp -- all the better to hold the chili. As soon as you get your hands on the frybread, crack open the wrapping; the crispness is fleeting if left fully wrapped.
You can always get the best of both worlds. Have your chili in a burrito, then spend another two bucks on a frybread topped with honey and/or powdered sugar. Be warned, if you decide to go all-out and have a chili frybread for lunch and a second one with honey for dessert, I hope you have time for an afternoon nap.
*May I take a moment to kvetch that with Fieri's recent swing through town for places like Barrio Cafe and St. Francis, it's increasingly obvious that his production team wouldn't know a diner, drive-in, or dive if one walked up and bit them on the ass?