BEST CHEESE 2005 | Cheuvront Wine & Cheese Café | Food & Drink | Phoenix
You don't have to be a gourmand to appreciate State Senator Ken Cheuvront's spiffy downtown wine bar. Sure, it's got enough panache to satisfy the snootiest connoisseur -- a long wine list and one of those ever-changing, overlong cheese selections that manages to include two dozen options without a single supermarket Brie. But the thing that endears us to the place is its accessibility. Every cheese comes with a useful description: You'll learn if it's salty or sweet, hard or soft, and where it's made. Best of all, each cheese also comes with a beer or wine recommendation, so you can try something you've never heard of and still not feel lost. Still confused? Sit at the bar, and we guarantee you'll get a wise recommendation, some political gossip, and probably a sample, too.
"Hey, you've got your meat in my Emmenthaler!" "Yes, but you've got your chocolate on my beef!" Okay, so that's how we imagine it going down at the stylish new Chandler eatery Shabu Fondue, which offers diners a chance to sample both Swiss fondue and Japanese shabu-shabu in one night. Of course, you may be singing "The Sukiyaki Song" in German before it's all over, but the reality is that most folks have these very different hot-pot experiences in tandem, not together. In the case of shabu-shabu, you heat up a bowl of water and oil, swish around thin slices of beef and veggies, and voilà, you've got shabu-shabu. Fondue, of course, is the Swiss version of same, using mostly bread and fruit with melted cheese and chocolate. All of this is done on the stove built into your table, which does make you wonder how that meat would taste cooked in chocolate. . . . Hmmm. Just remember, you heard it here first.
The Food Channel has really effed up America's eating habits. Now everyone and his brother wants to make hot dogs with goat cheese, pizza with portabella mushrooms, and hamburgers with sun-dried tomatoes. What the hell is wrong with this country? There's no reason to go and mess up perfectly fine, Americana-type food with unnecessary culinary experimentation. That's why it's so hard to find a good bowl of chili. But after wading through a swimming pool full of high-class beef stew masquerading as chili, we finally found some chili con carne worthy of the epithet at a west-side greasy spoon named Susan's Diner. Set the way-back machine for circa 1960-something, and you'll end up at this little white house with a peaked roof. Take a seat at the weathered benches beneath all the pictures of Elvis, and vintage signs advertising stuff like "Babe Ruth underwear." Order a bowl of chili with cheese, and you get a brown mélange thick with beans, ground beef, and just enough spice to tingle your tongue. Fresh Cheddar shavings are piled on top. Mix them in until the cheese melts, and alternate each third spoonful with a sip of a Mr. Pibb-vanilla ice cream float. Later for that Food Channel gourmet-gobbledygook. When we want chili, we're headin' over to Susan's Diner.
Mike Madriaga
Once upon a time, Cornwall, England, was best known for its tin mines. Thousands of them. Indeed, the patron saint of Cornwall, St. Piran, was beloved by the common folk for teaching them how to smelt the tin ore contained in local rocks, thus giving the region an industry. St. Piran's good works may be the stuff of legend, but it's no legend that Cornwall's miners preferred pasties (pronounced pass-tees) during their meal breaks. A pasty is a pastry filled with meat, potato, rutabaga and/or any number of other savory innards. Shaped like a deflated football, a pasty's crust is thick, thus allowing miners to hold onto the crimped ends and nosh away without fear of poisoning themselves from the arsenic of the mines that ended up on their fingertips. As far as we know, the Cornish Pasty Co. is the only pasty shop in the Valley, though some pubs do serve them. You don't have to be a miner to enjoy these Cornish treats, but be prepared. After a pile o' pasties, you may not be hungry again 'til the next day. And even then, you may just want another.
Natalie Miranda
Ted's Hot Dogs started as a hot dog cart run by a Greek immigrant named Theodore "Ted" Spiro Liaros in western New York. Today, there are nine Ted's hot dog shops -- eight in western New York and one in Tempe, run by the current president of Ted's, Spiro Liaros, Theodore's son.

Lucky us. Ted's is a diner without the frills but with plenty of trimmings for your crisp, juicy hot dog and crunchy, sweet corn dog, both cooked before your eyes. The price is right, too: We ate well for under $5, including skinny fries and a drink.

We prefer Tempe to Buffalo, too, Spiro. Glad to have you here.

Lauren Cusimano
The thing that makes a city a city is late-night life. Being able to hit the town in the evening, and not having to fret about snaggin' a meal after normal din-din hours. We ain't talkin' about the drive-through window at Jack in the Crack, bro. Restaurateur Lenny Rosenberg is doin' his part. Rosenberg had the first 5 & Diner in town, a place we still hit when desperate for an after-drink repast, and his Zen 32's guarantee of sushi-'til-midnight was nothing less than revolutionary.

Now with his stylish new venture Delux, Rosenberg not only delivers the best burger and fries in town, but he makes sure they're served until 2 a.m. Both the Delux and the Standard burger are blue-ribbon-worthy, and a bargain at $9 each. The fact that you can cop one after midnight? Priceless.

Seems like every other new restaurant in Phoenix is offering grilled Italian panini these days, which is lovely, but may we remind you that the Earl of Sandwich was a subject of the English crown, not some cat from Milan. So recognize a fad when you see one, and head on over to Prickly Pair, where the sammies are more Gotham than Tuscany, though there is an old-school New York Italian thing going on here. In any case, there's nothing pinkie-in-the-air about the babies that PP's deli pumps out. These are big muthas, double stacked with meats and cheeses, slathered with tangy Russian dressing, and given oddball names like Ike and Tina Tuna, Hammy Davis Jr., and the Great Barrier Beef. Atmosphere is, well, nonexistent, but who cares? We just want a "Huge Hefner" to go, baby.
Diana Martinez
Finally, someone who knows and loves our beloved Gadus morhua better than we do! That's cod, dude, the tasty bottom feeder of the deep blue sea, and we enjoy its flaky-white flesh better than that of haddock, salmon or even halibut. And the guy we trust to fry us up a proper mess of fish and chips, just like you'll get in Merry Ol' England, is British expat Mark Briner, who along with wife Ruth and son Jordan runs The Codfather chip shop in sometimes merry Fountain Hills. Paterfamilias Briner trained in England with the National Federation of Fish Fryers before moving to the States, and has spared no expense in shipping over a Hopkins fryer from England, the kind used in nearly all fish-and-chips establishments across the pond. The result is the pinnacle of piscatory pleasure: moist yet firm and flavorful fish topped by a light, golden crust. Forget Pete's. The Codfather restores fish and chips to their rightful gustatory glory.
Courtesy of Joe's Real BBQ
Just in case you forgot, spareribs are not supposed to be health food. And no, that white stuff on 'em that tastes so good is not granola. That's pork fat. Each hunk you suck off that rib bone is equal to a pack of unfiltered Camels and is sure to slice 365 days off your life span. Okay, we're exaggerating, but you get the point. Still, what would ribs be without a little gristle on 'em? They wouldn't be ribs from Joe's Real BBQ in Gilbert, and they wouldn't make you want to lick your dining companion's pile of leftover bones. Maybe that's why the place is called Joe's REAL BBQ. At other places, the ribs are lean -- the porkers work out on the treadmill and do sit-ups. But Joe's hogs are lounging somewhere, drinking margaritas, eating bonbons, and watching reruns of Curb Your Enthusiasm. (Well, Larry David is a pig.) The ribs have just enough fat on them to make 'em delish. And the sauce is sticky, tangy, almost sweet. No one makes granola that tastes like this, but then again, maybe they should.
Lotus Asian Cafe and Grill is small in space, but colossal when it comes to taste. Chef Abraham Indradjaja does Chandler proud by offering the best curry in the PHX with his gulai kambing. Gulai kambing is a hot, rich brown curry served in a bowl, almost as a soup, with small bits of lamb ribs and meat and a dozen or more different spices. Unlike any other curry you can imagine, it explodes like Chinese fireworks in your mouth, with a complexity most other curries cannot match. If you need to cool down afterward, try a bowl of es campur, an ice-cream-like mélange of shaved ice, jellied palm fruit, and lychee-esque rambutans. Only in Chandler? Well, until you can afford that round-trip ticket to Jakarta, or until Lotus opens up a sister cafe in downtown Phoenix, the answer is "Yes."

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of