Locals are lamenting the shuttering of the latest classic Arizona restaurant — Bill Johnson's Big Apple — which has us asking a question. When's the last time you actually ate at Bill Johnson's? Yeah, we can't remember, either. DItto for Monti's, Pinnacle Peak Patio, and other recent closures. Let's make a pact to change that, Phoenix. Hit up your old time favorites once in a while, and maybe they'll stick around. Here are 10 of our favorites.
Cheese 'N Stuff
How many sandwiches can you serve in 60 years? Well, we don't know the exact answer, but we do know it's more than a million because in 2011 this humble Phoenix deli served its one millionth sandwich since first opening its doors back in 1949. Owner Stan Zawatski has been working behind the counter at Cheese 'N Stuff since he was a boy, when his father moved the family to Phoenix in their 1966 Oldsmobile Delta 88. His father owned a deli back in New York, and so he bought Cheese 'N Stuff — then just a cheese store — and turned it into a sandwich business. Decades later, Stan carries on the family tradition, serving sandwiches and subs stacked with everything from bologna and Canadian bacon to corned beef and pastrami. The restaurant's popular creations include The Doughboy, a sandwich loaded with deli turkey, bacon, creamy avocado, and mayo and served on toasted sourdough bread.
Thanks to an extensive makeover in 2010, El Chorro Lodge is looking better — or at least, fresher — than ever. This legendary Paradise Valley restaurant isn't so much known for its food these days, but it's an undeniable fact that the restaurant's large patio is one of the very best places to sip a cocktail and soak up some Arizona sun. With gorgeous foliage, cozy fireplaces, and a handsome copper-topped bar, El Chorro still draws an eclectic crowd there as much for the food and drink as for the property's history. Originally opened in 1934 as the Judson School for Girls, the restaurant features a Classroom Bar decorated to highlight the property's old school Arizona charm. No matter whether you're there for dinner or drinks, be sure to enjoy the basket of famous sticky buns.
Don and Charlie's
You don't have to be a fan of baseball to enjoy Don and Charlie's (though it might help you appreciate all the autographed memorabilia on the walls). The Scottsdale eatery is something of a pastime itself, serving up classic comforts like chopped liver, potatoes au gratin, and baby back ribs while other younger restaurants rely on the nuances of fusion fare and hard-to-miss speakeasys to make themselves known. When you've been the go-to spot for springing training tourists and local meat lovers alike since 1981, predicability has its perks.
It wasn't that long ago that Dick's Hideaway lost its adjoining sister restaurant Richardson's in a fire at the corner of Bethany Home and 16th streets. Fortunately Dick's was spared and Richardson's was rebuilt down the road, much to the relief of its Phoenix patrons. The small and subtle setup of Dick's is practically the antithesis of the food it serves: large metal plates full of of hearty New Mexican fare like pork chop chorizo and carne adovada. It's the savory Santa Fe-style establishment that locals love to claim as their own little secret (even if that's not the case).
Since 1972 Duck and Decanter has been doing what it does best: lunch. Although the sandwich shop has had its share of change over the years — what with the opening and closing of different locations and the addition of certain menu items — it has remained consistent in quality and most importantly its customer base. Whether they're enjoying live music and cheese plates on a the patio or phoning in for a half dozen sandwiches for the office, regulars have been relying on the Duck for brown bag meals that are as memorable as the ones mom used to make.
Los Dos Molinos
The South Phoenix outpost of this micro-chain of New Mexico-style Mexican restaurants is definitely a classic — with the added bonus of exceptional food. Renowned for super spicy fare, you can also enjoy your tamale or enchiladas on the milder side, with a full menu of traditional Mexican favorites served in a cozy old adobe structure tucked up against South Mountain. Whatever you order, don't forget a margarita — or two.
Look, we've got nothing against chicken sandwiches and waffle cut fries — in truth, they pair pretty well with a lemon drop martini — but it's not the food that catches you off guard at AZ88, it's the restaurant itself. For more than 25 years, the local dining destination (that dons a serious party hat in evening) has been taking its cues from artsy next door neighbors the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art by offering an ever-changing installation of decorative straightjackets, large-scale Christmas trees comprised of broken martini glasses, and the notorious mirrored he, she, and he/she bathrooms.
Durant's on Central Avenue has been the subject of countless articles, plays, and a movie — but all we really care about is the martinis and the meat at this classic Phoenix steak house. Red flocked wallpaper and a gorgeous bar add to the old school flair of the place, where you enter through the kitchen and will likely see someone you know, if you've lived here long enough.
Drive around downtown Tempe, and you'll notice no shortage of trendy new breakfast spots popping up. But for our money, it always has been and always will be Harlow's, the best place to scarf down a greasy (in all the right ways) hangover breakfast. There's nothing fancy here, no trendy green juice or funny grains, and the only thing free range is the gaggle of old time Tempe politicians who frequent the place. Pass the syrup and keep the coffee coming, Harlow's. We love you.
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SHOW ME HOW
Scottsdale may no longer be the West's Most Western Town (who are we kidding, was it ever?!) but one thing stays the same and we hope that never changes: the Sugar Bowl. This pink and white confection of an ice cream parlor features marble counter tops and cartoons by the late Bil Keane, whose "Family Circus" enjoyed the place immensely. So did we, as kids, and are happy to bring our own there today. From the Arizona orange sherbet to the Turkish coffee ice cream, you can't go wrong. Grab a tuna melt for a little protein, then order a Camelback soda, which comes with an extra side of seltzer water.