Like a lot of folks in the Valley, I was stricken by germs of the nastiest nature this month (so many hot toddies and TV).
See also: The 10 Best Things I Ate in 2012
But despite the lingering ailments, I still managed to find some great eats for January. From old favorites to new finds and cheap food on the fly, here are 10 of my favorites. Enjoy.
Wiseguy at Pizzeria Bianco Thanks to just-announced new hours -- 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday -- love means (possibly) never having to wait in line again at Chris Bianco's legendary downtown pizza parlor. A recent lunchtime pop-in saw me munching on a Wiseguy ($16), Bianco's killer white pie of wood-roasted onion, heady house-smoked mozzarella, and fennel sausage, just a few minutes after I walked in the door. Bliss.
Broasted Chicken at Guido's Chicago Meat & Deli Chicken ($8.99/small meal) gets bro-licious at this Italian restaurant and grocery in Scottsdale. Thanks to the high-pressure frying process called broasting, the meat is unbelievably juicy inside and comes wrapped in a golden brown, nutty and crunchy crust. Snag a side of broasted potatoes for a taste akin to a crispy-skinned baked spud cut into wedges.
Nonna at North Fattoria Italiana
If you happen to be in Arcadia on a weekend and are hungry for brunch, the Nonna ($9), from Fox Restaurant Concepts' North Frattoria Italiana, should do nicely. In a small iron pan, torn bread, housemade sausage, and rich red sauce is topped with two fried eggs. It's a simple yet satisfying Italian colazione. Bonus: Grab a seat next to the exhibition kitchen and get lost in the rhythmic motions of a chef preparing fresh pasta.
Sonoran Hot Dog at El Exquisito
Late-night munchies on Phoenix's west side? You could do worse than a Sonoran dog at this hot dog stand around 39th Avenue and Indian School Road. In fact, I'll go so far as to say these tasty Mexican-style dogs -- with bacon, flavorful beans, bits of onion and tomato, and colorful squirts of ketchup, mustard, mayo, and green chile salsa in a super-squishy bun and with a fresh-roasted chile on the side -- rival those of the better-known Nogales Hot Dog several miles east on the same road. Game on.
Samosa Chaat at New India Bazaar & Cuisine
Thanks to top-notch chaat (Indian street food) and vegetarian dishes, this hidden, Punjabi-minded eatery in the back of an Indian grocery in Central Phoenix may not stay a secret much longer. In particular, the samosa chaat ($3.99), a crispy pastry broken into pieces and topped with garbanzo beans, yogurt, onions, tamarind and mint chutney, and a handful of chili powder, is a must-order -- an exotic version of a savory pie.
PB & J de Puerco at Milagro Grill
A new take on Macayo's from a new generation of Johnsons, the family who's been running the Arizona-based chain of Mexican eats since 1945, this stylish Arcadia restaurant may be experiencing some growing pains, but the PB & J de Puerco ($10) isn't one of them. Served as a sandwich, two halves of thick, downy bread are layered with luscious slices of pork belly, tomato jam, peanuts, arugula, and chiltepin peppers for a salty, spicy, and smoky flavor highlighted with sweet notes. Delicious.
Bánh Xéo at Pho 43 At this unassuming Vietnamese restaurant with a quick-service slant on the city's west side, I received some good advice on how to best enjoy a bánh xéo ($4.35), or Vietnamese savory crepe: Wrap pieces of the crispy, fried creation -- made of rice flour and filled with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts -- in lettuce and top with a bit of the dipping sauce nuac cham for a sweet, sour, salty, and spicy kick in each bite.
Meatball Sandwich at Italian Restaurant
Since Chris Bianco's latest Italian eatery in Central Phoenix recently received a makeover, spending a lunch hour or two at the bistro's new dining counter -- preferably with a meatball sandwich -- is a true afternoon delight. The changing menu means the sandwich, packed with heady, seasoned meatballs and bright tomato sauce on hearty homemade bread, isn't always available, but that just makes having one when it is more enjoyable.
Beef Ribs at Texas BBQ House
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Texas expat Mike Pitt, owner of this excellent Texas 'cue house in South Phoenix, says it took six months to perfect his beef ribs ($6.99 for a half-rack, $10.99 for a full), and perfection sure does taste good. Meaty, juicy, and smoky with a peppery, seasoned rub, they may be the best in the Valley. And you wouldn't be faulted for gnawing, tearing, and sucking up every last bit off the bones.
Roasted Red Bell Soup at Rezbot
Late-night Native American food? It exists at Jon Sagasta's (Jobot) new urban eatery in a bungalow in the Roosevelt Arts District. The vegan-friendly Roasted Red Bell Soup ($7), served up in a Chinese takeout box and with a golden and puffy piece of frybread for dunking, is especially tasty. Made with onion, celery, carrot, sundried tomatoes, and roasted red bell peppers, its thick and creamy texture and bright, seasoned flavor would make any night owl hoot with glee.