You Don't Need a Golden Ticket to Tour This Candy Factory in Metro Phoenix

Welcome to The Essentials, our catalog of indispensable and quintessential Phoenix food and drink. From now until May, we'll be sharing 50 dishes, drinks, and food experiences that make up the culinary backbone (and personality) of metro Phoenix. This list is highly eclectic, mixing classics with newer and lesser-known favorites. But all The Essentials have one thing in common: We think they're required eating (and drinking) in metro Phoenix.

17: Cerreta Candy Co. Factory Tour & Candy Sampling in Downtown Glendale

From the moment you swing open one of those big double doors to this historic building in downtown Glendale, you know it's going to be a silly morning or afternoon – depending on whether you selected the 10 a.m. or 1 p.m. free tour of Cerreta Candy Co.

You immediately hit the lobby/candy store, and your eyes don’t know where to settle first. There’s everything from little balls of chocolate wrapped to look like tiny baseballs to cayenne-laced dark chocolate bars, frozen bananas, and jalapeño peanut brittle. There’s even an entire section of sugar-free selections.

Then your eyes pass over the factory – retro machinery, harvest gold in color, spread over the eastern side of the expansive building. The walls are coated with murals from another era, depicting the history of the Cerreta family and the company – of which you’ll soon hear more.
click to enlarge The candy store at Cerreta Candy Company in Glendale, which offers free factory tours during the week. - JACOB TYLER DUNN
The candy store at Cerreta Candy Company in Glendale, which offers free factory tours during the week.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
The guided tour of the family-owned candy factory starts in the southwest corner of the building – grab a sample by the cashier and have a seat in the row of plastic chairs. However, if you decide you’d like to build your own chocolate pizza at the end of the 30-minute tour, that requires a VIP pass for $12.50.

The tour starts with an employee, probably Esther, giving you a Cerreta Candy Co. sea cap and a breakdown of the candy company's storied past over a microphone. A small crowd may or may not build up, depending on the time of year. You’ll hear about how Jim Cerreta, Sr. founded the company on Halloween night 1968, and how he passed on the building and candy-making skills to his family, which now spans four generations.

Esther will ask you to form a line so you can walk single file passed the vintage machinery, the tray of 225-degree caramel, and the replica of the candy conveyer belt from that famous scene in I Love Lucy. You’ll be led back out to the other side of the divider wall, and the tour guide continues his or her spiel on the company history, current update, and how the French mint is the “Rolls Royce of chocolate mint” and also the company's number-one seller.

Cerreta Candy open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and the factory tours are offered Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. For more information, call 623-930-9000.

The Essentials so far:
50: Tequila Sunrise at the Arizona Biltmore.
49: "Dragon" Dumpling Burger at Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour.
48: Dizzy Fig Empanada at Republica Empanada.
47: Linguine Carbonara at Avanti.
46: The Food Court at Mercado de los Cielos.
45: Chicken Feta Salad at George’s Kitchen.
44: Spinach & Cheese Chimi Burro at Mi Patio Mexican Restaurant.
43: Dinner at Rustler's Rooste.
42: Gyro Omelet at Mel's Diner.
41: Zipps Wings at Zipps Sports Grill.
40: Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa.
39: Asian Nachos at Moto.
38: Olive Oil Tasting at Queen Creek Olive Oil Mill.
37: Baby Back Ribs at Don & Charlie's.
36: Limoncello at Cibo.
35: Chili Salt Chicken Wings at Asian Café Express.
34: Smoked Prime Rib at Texaz.
33: Steak Salad at Feeney's.
32: Tasting Menu at Kai Restaurant.
31: Toffee Banofi Sundae at Sweet Republic.
30: Big Jim at Welcome Diner.
29: Sonoran Hot Dog at El Caprichoso.
28: Sashimi at Nobuo at Teeter House.
27: Oysters at Casey Moore's Oyster House.
26: Spring rolls at Da Vang.
25: Bruschetta and wine at Postino.
24: Hot green chili fry bread at Fry Bread House.
23: The Big One at The Chuckbox.
22: Cahuamanta Stew at Cahuamanta El Yaqui.
21: Dim Sum at Great Wall Cuisine.
20: Fried chicken at The Horny Toad.
19: George & Dragon’s Famous Fish & Chips.
18: Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches at Pho 43rd Express.