Mom-and-pop restaurants — whose ownership is well past an era of being defined by an actual man/woman couple — exemplify that personal touches, in both the food you’re eating and the experience you’re having that make these places breeding grounds for memories and traditions.
Here are some of the classics in the Phoenix area:
Lara Mulchay and Joel LaTondress
5618 East Thomas Road, #100
If you need a delivery of some craft beer, an affordable but exceptional fine wine, some tangy salami, or any combo of those things, Arcadia Premium has you covered. If you’ve got transportation, a trip to this moderately sized, homey retail shop for grown-up drinks is worth it. The owners have the scoop on their products and love to help steer customers find new treasures.
Silvana Salcido Esparza and Wendy Gruber
2814 North 16th Street
Regional, chef-inspired dishes from one of the city’s most celebrated culinary creators, Silvana Salcido Esparza. The cozy spot is shrouded in murals by local artists and features a variety of tequilas that equally warm your innards. Cochinita pibil and granada de flor con Jamaica — fish finished with a hibiscus flower reduction — are just a slight percentage of the menu items that have kept this place packed since it opened in 2002.
Best of Philly
Welfy and Awriana Youkhana
2818 North Central Avenue
This couple has been providing central Phoenix with juicy, gooey Philly cheesesteaks since the ’90s, giving hungry eaters a reason to stop. You’ll rarely find a time when Welfy isn’t manning the grill himself, or when Awriana isn’t taking orders. There’s other sandwiches, from burgers to vegetarian, as well as wings and crispy sides like onion rings and fries.
Anibal and Salem Bayene
849 West University, Tempe
Café Lalibela has made eating with your hands both fun and delicious. They are the Valley’s best-known Ethiopian restaurant, going for nearly 20 years, and recently have expanded their Tempe restaurant to include a next-door market with to-go meals and products. They are also selling some of those items in health-based retail stores like Natural Grocers.
Carla Wade Logan and John Logan
128 East Roosevelt Street
For more than 14 years, this restaurant and bar has been a staple on Roosevelt Row. From an array of sandwiches, soups, and salads, to refreshing adult beverages, this neighborhood place is great for a quick lunch or a lounge-y dinner. Carly’s also features changing art exhibitions and offers live entertainment.
Brad and Laurita Carr
4825-6 East Warner Road, Chandler
This couple from Pennsylvania serves up homestyle soul food along the lines of fried chicken and fish, and barbecued ribs. There’s side dishes aplenty — cornbread, collard greens, and sweet potatoes, to name a few.
Matt’s Big Breakfast
Matt and Ernie Pool
825 North First Street
And several other Valley locations
Now with four locations, this place owned and operated by the Pool family is still one of Phoenix’s most popular places for breakfast. There’s lunch too, but those super-crispy hash browns and creative egg scrambles make it hard to get past the breakfast options.
Middle Eastern Bakery and Deli
3052 North 16th Street
This central Phoenix restaurant is a go-to for Middle Eastern dishes. Hummus, grape leaves, and spinach pies will get you started. Gyros and shawarma are some of the heartier options, along with kabobs that let different chunks of meat be the star, from chicken to lamb. If you can leave without grabbing a fresh baked baklava, you are one tough cookie.
4130 North 19th Avenue
Slow-roasted meat makes for a tasty open face hot roast beef sandwich. Hearty pasta dishes, soups, and salads are some of the other good eats offered here. This family business has been going more than 30 years and has the feel of dining in a good friend’s kitchen. A daily array of homemade pies makes a trip to My Mother’s even more enticing.
New Wave Market and Super Chunk
Country and Sergio Velador
7120 East Sixth Avenue, #20, Scottsdale
This airy and colorful spot in Scottsdale’s Old Town is great for thoughtfully crafted sweet treats, delectable savory eats, like chewy bagels good enough to make New Yorkers weep, and crave-worthy egg sandwiches. Enjoy hip sounds while you peruse the curated selection of goods.
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Jinette and Edmundo Meraz
204 East First Avenue, Mesa
The growing neighborhood of downtown Mesa got tastier about five years ago when this place opened to sell South American style empanadas featuring Latin American flavors. These doughy delights are stuffed with a variety of fillings and come in both savory and sweet varietals. Among the former are the Cubano, featuring slow roasted pork, ham, and cheese. A tasty latter choice is the Republica Chicken, with seasoned meat and veggies. The Dizzy Fig is a heady sweet choice, loaded with local figs, dulce de leche, and mozzarella cheese.
6003 North 16th Street
This homey place in north central Phoenix serves up a slew of chicken fried steak plates on the daily. Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and buried in a thick country gravy, it’s no wonder. Ribs, pork chops, and chicken are also on this meat-heavy menu. You can get that chicken-fried steak for breakfast, too, if you are so bold.
A Touch of European Café
Waldemar and Margaret Okula
7146 North 57th Drive, Glendale
This west side destination for Eastern European dishes was opened in the early 2000s by this husband-and-wife team from Poland. He handles the cooking and she tends to the customers. Pierogis and stuffed cabbage rolls are menu favorites, alongside hearty dishes like Hungarian pork goulash.