I can hardly believe April is over -- and more important, that we're already staring down the barrel of another Arizona summer. But with the busiest part of the year winding down, I finally have a chance to catch my breath and appreciate all the restaurants, new and old, that I've gotten to dine at recently.
Last month's best bites include everything from a simple but seriously filling starter from a small market restaurant to a classic Southern dish done in modern style. I hope you get to try some of it for yourself soon.
See also: 5 Best Things I Ate and Drank in March
Aloo Paratha at Tahoora Grill
Located on the west side of 40th Street just north of McDowell, Tahoora Grill is a halal "south Asian" restaurant that's tucked behind the adjacent Zam Zam World Foods. It's been open for some time, but the restaurant recently underwent a name change and invested in a large sign that makes the little spot much harder to miss. It's a good thing too, because during lunch you're likely to find a sizable crowd of diners in the restaurant, all digging into generous portions of curries and kebabs. The large menu gives you plenty to explore, but I'd recommend starting with the aloo paratha, an Indian dish that features bread stuffed with spiced mashed potatoes. It's then cooked over a flat grill. Served with a cilantro chutney, the pancake-like dish is hard to resist.
Tempura Cauliflower at Crepe Bar
There's little I don't like on the menu at Jeff Kraus' Crepe Bar in Tempe, but the last few times I've visited some of the most exciting dishes are the small plates the chef crafts to showcase local produce. Last month the list of seasonal plates included a serving of tempura-battered cauliflower from the nearby farm at Agritopia in Gilbert. As always the colorful array of produce made for a handsome-looking dish, but the flavorful batter and sprinkling of tender microgreens also made for a snack that I'd be happy to have any day of the year. Kraus' locally-focused creations are the perfect way to make diners appreciate produce in its freshest state.
Hoppin' John at Yard bird + the Larder
I've been excited to try chef Stephen Jones version of Hoppin' John since I first got a peek of the menu for Yard bird + the Larder, the chef's counter/restaurant inside the DeSoto Central Market. The dish, which features black-eyed peas and rice, combines two staple crops of the Carolina Rice Kitchen, and Jones builds intense flavors while using the traditional combination of Sea Island Red Peas and Carolina Gold Rice. Supplemental ingredients such as onions, celery leaves, and chive flowers contribute to a dish that's hearty and packs a little bit of heat, a well-done modern version of a Southern classic.
If you're still in the mindset that bread is bread is bread, I challenge you to taste test a few different types of Noble Bread side-by-side. When you do, I'd imagine it'd be hard not to notice the subtle differences in flavor and texture that result from alterations to the baking process (think, fermentation time) and grains used in the loaf. Last month I snagged a loaf from Noble Bread that was one of the first to be made with grains milled in-house by the bakers -- and the grain was a locally grown heritage variety to boot. Though they're still working out the kinks, one slice of this bread has me convinced that local grain and bread movement in town is alive and growing at an exciting speed.
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301 Pizza at Forno 301
This new downtown pizzeria is already becoming one of my go-to spots for a casual dinner. There's something inexplicably charming about the owners, a duo of Italian guys who apparently intend on dancing their way to restaurant success (seriously, there's been spontaneous dining room dancing both times I've visited so far). And the pizzas at Forno 301 are simple but easy to enjoy with a thin crust that's crisp from edge to edge. The toppings include high-quality ingredients combined in classic ways, and I prefer the namesake 301, which highlights savory strings of onions and chunks of sausage.