$10 Lunch at The Fry Bread House, James Beard Award Winner

The Fry Bread House jumped to the top of Valley eaters' to-do lists when, just two weeks ago, it won a coveted James Beard award in the America's Classics category (just one of five awarded for 2012, and the second ever in the Valley). The award honors family restaurants across America that have served up generations of fine food.

The Fry Bread House is just off of the northwest corner Indian School Road and 7th Ave., and if you're a central/downtown Phoenix type you've probably driven by several times -- it's the corner that smells of freshly-fried dough.

What you may not have known is that The Fry Bread House offers sweet and savory fry bread fare that can be tackled for under $10, and fairly easily.

Owner Cecelia Miller is a member of the Tohono O'odham nation, and her food is directly inspired by some of what Arizona Native Americans have been eating for centuries. Here, it all revolves around chili and, of course, fry bread. It's dense, chewy, and golden brown, but manages to get fluffier and crispier as you move toward the edges.

Looking around the restaurant at a busy lunch hour, it's apparent that most come for the tacos (priced between $6 and $7), where the fry bread is wrapped around ingredients like red and green chili beef, shredded cheddar cheese, and lettuce, or a combination of chorizo and refried beans -- all applied liberally. Novices might do best with the green chili -- milder and less chunky than the red, but comfortably spicy on its own. Forget taking this taco to-go. It may be shaped like a taco, but you'll quickly realize it wasn't meant to be handled as such, so you'll be needing a fork and knife to do most of the work.
The chilis can be ordered separately from the tacos as a stew for just $3.75 if you dare fight the heat.

Some come just for the sweet options. It's the same size fry bread but a little crispier, laid flat and cut into triangular slices. Though two could easily share, one person can down a single order (priced between $3.50 and $4.50) of the treats topped with honey, cinnamon and sugar, melted butter and jam, or what we ordered: chocolate and butter. That's the most decadent out of the bunch; we got it on the recommendation of the owner's son. Share this one. The combination of rich, semi-sweet chocolate and what seems like half a stick of butter borders on gluttony. In a good way.

The combinations of food at the The Fry Bread House aren't complex by any means, and sometimes the added ingredients seem more like fillers than necessary complements. Just give us a pile of fry bread, and we're more than good.

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