Finding great eats from independently-owned restaurants in the chain-heavy northwest Valley is not always easy. But Peoria and Surprise do claim several excellent restaurants that range from fast-casual gems to upscale restaurants well worth the drive from wherever you live. Here are our five favorite restaurants that are delivering big flavor on the west side.
Mucha Lucha Taco Shop
Mucha Lucha is a fast-casual restaurant whose specialty are guisos, traditional Mexican braises. Behind the counter, you'll note trays brimming with about a half-dozen chile-laced, stewed meat preparations, most of these approximating some shade of deep orange or burnt red. The most popular order is the plate of five street tacos, each taco double-layered with two small, warm, corn tortillas. The carnitas are excellent, the scraps of pork frizzled to a slight crisp, and full of garlicky flavor. There are also burritos - enormous ones that must be eaten with two hands.
There's something seriously satisfying about good quiche. Light and fluffy, but also rich with eggs and cream, a good quiche can be a perfect meal almost anytime of day. One of the best places in town for this French specialty is Amuse Bouche in Surprise, where husband and wife team Snir and Kiersten Mor, both of whom are French-trained chefs, craft quality bistro fare. Though it's a fairly casual spot, the menu includes everything from duck breast and pate du foie to meatloaf sandwiches and tuna nicoise salad. On Sunday, the restaurant serves one of the best breakfasts in town with dishes such as crepes, eggs Benedicts, and beignets.
You'll find the original Rito's location in Central Phoenix, but this spot still knows how to make a kick-ass burrito. It's owned by Richie Muñoz, the brother of Rito's founder Rosemary Salinas, and uses many of the same recipes that fans have come to love. The most popular items are the green chili and red chili burros, which feature tender beef in just-spicy-enough chile sauces. Unlike Rito's in Phoenix, this strip-mall restaurant takes credit cards and has indoor seating.
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Not only is Vogue Bistro chef Aurore de Beauduy one of the most interesting people we know, she also knows her way around a kitchen. The French-born and French-trained chef moved to the Valley in 2004 and opened her Surprise restaurant four years later. The menu includes both classic French and more common American fare, so diners can choose from escargot and croque monsieur or opt for one of the restaurant's burgers and sandwiches. The menu even includes lasagna. For drinks, the house specialty is a martini — Vogue serves more than a dozen variations all named after classic clothing designers.
is a nostalgia-fueled, automobile-themed restaurant and bar near 83rd Avenue and Bell Road in Peoria. The menu is huge, encompassing all the standard American fare — sandwiches, burgers, soups and salads — and then some. There's also the "Land of Enchantment" side of the menu, where you'll find New Mexican specialties like carne adovada, green chile, and enchiladas. The taco combo plate lets you sample two standard house-braised meats — spongy, flavorful chicken and savory beef, shredded to a fine consistency. Neither is particularly spicy, but both exhibit the kind of careful, finely tuned braise that takes hours to achieve. Even sides, including whole pinto beans and rice, evoke the flavors and richness of home-style cooking. Slicks Garage features specialty burgers, too, many of which are smothered in things like green chile and bacon. A house specialty is the Becky's Breakfast Burger, a late-morning feast of a fried egg, bacon, hash browns, and cheese, layered over a chunky, juicy patty and squeezed into a basted bun.
Originally published on March 24, 2015. Updated on May 2, 2017.