March may already be in our rearview mirrors, but the 10 best dishes I ate last month are still very much on my mind.
From artisan pizza in North Scottsdale to a diner-style vegan breakfast in Phoenix to food truck fare on the streets, these are a few of my favorite eats of the month from new restaurants, reviewed restaurants, and places I've popped into just because. It's not a countdown, it's a collection. And I hope it inspires. Enjoy.
Sisig at Hey Joe! Filipino Street Food Truck
When Brian and Margita Webb's mobile kitchen of Filipino street foods rolls into your neighborhood, make sure to inquire about the sisig ($8). It's not always available, but when it is, this succulent hash-like dish of diced and sautéed pig snout, ears, and jowl with onions, chiles, and a raw egg that Brian Webb cracks on top to cook is satisfaction of the sizzlin' kind -- even if it does mean having to take the plate back to the truck.
El Español at Otro Cafe
Doug Robson's (Gallo Blanco Café) new neighborhood restaurant in Central Phoenix features a share-worthy menu of traditional and new-world Mexican and Spanish cuisine. All the more reason to bring a friend along to enjoy the El Español ($9). Made with thinly sliced pieces of ham, serrano peppers, avocados, olives, and red onion in a savory citrus dressing and accompanied by crunchy pieces of homemade bolillo bread, it's a fresh and lively appetizer that could have come out of any tapas-style café in Spain.
Loaded Pita at Hummus Xpress
Chef-owner Eddie Hantas says the concept behind his new Tempe restaurant is a simple one: Mediterranean eats served up Subway-style. But Hummus Xpress is hardly a fast food joint. Hantas uses quality ingredients, a selection of housemade hummus offerings and sauces, and quite possibly the best falafels in the Valley to load up plates, bowls, and pitas with satisfying Mediterranean eats all at around seven bucks. Instead of going through the selection process, consider giving Hantas the reins and letting him come up with your creation. You'll be glad you did.
Kalua Pork Plate Lunch at Leo's Island BBQ
For a carb load of the aloha-infused kind, it's tough to beat the kalua pork plate lunch ($7.69) at this bright little shop of Hawaiian eats in Peoria. Juicy, tender, and with a light smoky and salty flavor, it's piled into a Styrofoam container along with two scoops of rice and a side of macaroni salad for an island-style meal as filling as it is cheap.
Coconut Curry Waffles at Bragg's Factory Diner
For a diner-style vegan breakfast even non-vegans can enjoy, you'll want the coconut curry waffles ($7) at this cheery new diner in the retail space of the historic Bragg's Pie Factory building. The crispy, golden wedges feature a bold sweet-meets-savory flavor that gets even better with a drizzling of syrup and bites of the accompanying rosemary potatoes.
Fish pad ka pow at Chanpen Thai Cuisine
At quite possibly the only Thai restaurant in South Phoenix, owner and chef Chanpen Ramonaitis (whose Thai name is Tuk) serves up satisfying classic Thai dishes as well as a few signature creations. But for more adventurous diners (who ask nicely) she'll make you something off-menu -- perhaps lightly fried and crispy chunks of fish hidden underneath a generous helping of delectable pad ka pow, a spicy, basil-heavy stir fry. Delicious.
The Blazing Pig at Taste Rite
Chef Darryl King, owner of Riteway Catering in Phoenix, makes sure no one goes back to work unhappy -- or hungry -- after a trip to his food truck. Take The Blazing Pig. Featuring tender pulled pork, half a hot link sausage with a good skin snap, and slaw stuffed into a soft but sturdy roll slathered with a sauce that doesn't hold back on the heat, this non-traditional po' boy packs a punch. And with sides like green chile mac and cheese and addictively fruity sweet-and-sour slices of dill pickles soaked in Kool-Aid (called Koolickles) this solid, served-fast meal -- at just eight bucks -- is priced to please, too.
Cumin-Flavored Beef at Miu's Cuisine
Your new favorite Chinese restaurant just might be this Sichuan and Cantonese gem located in a windowless, storefront-less building in Tempe. With about 150 loosely described items, the menu can be a bit daunting. But if you're on the hunt for a solid Cantonese dish to pair with a spicy Sichuan one, you could do worse than Miu's perfectly prepared plate of aromatic cumin-flavored beef ($10.95) flecked with sauteed onions and celery.
Braised Duck Leg at Pig & Pickle
Comfort food meets chef finesse at this casual, new south Scottsdale restaurant courtesy of owner-chefs Keenan Bosworth and Joshua Riesner (formerly of Scottsdale's Atlas Bistro). Consider the braised duck leg entrée ($14) when you go. Meltingly tender with a crispy skin and topped with pickled mustard seeds, it sits atop a golden bed of springy farro risotto surrounded by a dark, seductive ring of blueberry gastrique. With its layers of flavors and textures, each bite can feel something akin to the gourmet version of an Everlasting Gobstopper.
Dirty Little York Pizza from Lamp Wood Oven Pizzeria
Rustic pies with bready crusts charred and crisp at the rim and thin and soft in the center are the heart and soul of Lamp, the casual yet refined pizzeria in North Scottsdale from Lindsay and Matt Pilato. One of the best is a creation called the Dirty Little York ($16), which brings together spicy sopressata, sharp provolone, heady roasted artichoke hearts and red peppers, and thin strands of red onion. It's more sophisticated than its moniker might lead you to believe -- and its well-balanced array of flavors are pure pizza elegance.
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