Located a baseball's throw from Chase Field, Coach & Willie's is one of the only joints around with its own parking lot -- which makes it a prime destination for locals who don't have time to fiddle with parking meters on their dwindling lunch hours. There's not much directly around. A few warehouses. An old auto body shop. Rusty railroad tracks. But don't let the surroundings steer you off.
Coach & Willie's is a pretty cool spot. A large stone-front building with painted murals and a huge patio, the restaurant's interior is dark and cozy, with booths and hi-tops situated around a sunken mahogany bar. It's got a little bit of a "Cheers" feel, though it's doubtful Norm or Cliff could see to the bottom of their beer glasses in the dim lighting here.
We popped in on a weekday lunch and were seated at a hi-top near the front windows. Above our heads, some unimportant college sports game was playing. If there's a sport -- any sport -- playing somewhere, you'll find the game on here.
The menu at Coach & Willie's is a bit pricey for a sports bar, but the food is good. Appetizers range from a half order of chili fries for five bucks to $12.50 prosciutto-wrapped prawns. Chicken pesto and sausage & pepper flatbread pizzas are nine bucks, while burgers average $12 and comfort food entrees like meatloaf and smothered chicken top out at $13. Your best bet to save a little dough is to head over during lunchtime or happy hour, when they offer reduced-price specials, or to take advantage of daily offerings like the $6 burger and fries combo on Mondays.
We had our eyes on the $7 Lunch Menu, which includes a half premium or whole cheap sandwich with fries, wedge salad, cottage cheese or pasta salad. Chili was also looking good, but at $5 a bowl would put us way over budget. Luckily, the menu said "Enjoy a house salad, Caesar, soup or chili with your lunch entree for $1.50." Sweet! I ordered the grilled cheese with fries and a cup of chili, all for $7. Right?
"The menu isn't written very clearly," said the server, who clearly had to go through this spiel at least several times a day. "It's $1.50 extra to substitute the chili." So, $8.50 gets you the sandwich and chili. Not as good of a deal, but a sandwich plus chili in downtown Phoenix (with free parking!) is still a steal at that rate.
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Our sandwich and chili arrived in short order on a well-worn white deli plate. The chili was excellent, a large cup of lean ground meat chunks swimming in thick red sauce topped with cheddar and sour cream. The sauce is sweet, with just the slightest bit of afterburn. Definitely a chili for the masses; even a child could eat it without intestinal distress.
The grilled cheese was reminiscent of childhood afternoons, with what looked like waxy, pre-sliced Kraft singles on buttery white bread. The congealed cheese didn't look appealing, but one taste and we were won over. It's not exactly gourmet, but the chili is solid and the grilled cheese just like mama made; which makes for a very comforting lunch on a busy workday.