Welcome to Dining Guides, an intermittent series on the many dining hubs around the greater Phoenix area and what they have to offer. Breakfast to drinks, quick coffee to sit-down dining, we break down some of our favorite places in each neighborhood. Today, we want to zero in on Gilbert's Heritage District.
In recent years, the city of Gilbert clearly has had some fun with its Heritage District. A Gilbert location of seemingly all local restaurant chains started springing up faster than the freaking airport — and all to our benefit. Gilbert is a walkable, bikeable little cluster of popping breakfast and brunch spots, approachable barbecue and chicken joints, fun walk-up windows like Topo, and respectable restaurants.
Here’s an eater's run-down of Gilbert Road. And if you need more, here's a visual guide to the Gilbert Heritage District.
Bergies Coffee Roast House309 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert
For lovers of coffee and lawn decor, Bergies is a very inviting coffee shop known for its big, backyard-style patio. There are tables and chairs, bird houses, wind chimes, and palo verde trees offering shade and pops of yellow in spring. It's like being on your favorite kooky aunt's back porch. Brothers and owners Brian and Bruce Bergeson are behind the roasts and coffee selections, and the place is slinging caffeine as early as 6 a.m. — 7 a.m. on Sundays.
Snooze: an AM Eatery310 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert
Breakfast doesn't get more fun than at Snooze. Diners can look forward to a retro-modern design and perks like free coffee and games while you wait for a table — which you almost always will do on weekend mornings. Once settled, select from options like pancakes, seasonal varieties of eggs Benedict, and a whole section dedicated to hollandaise sauce. There's also an impressive lineup of breakfast cocktails — Snooze offers not one, but four types of Bloody Marys and seven kinds of mimosas.
Liberty Market230 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert
This Heritage District restaurant has a full menu dedicated to first meal. There’s Chef David’s Breakfast Sandwich, buttermilk pancakes, and chilaquiles for starters. But for our vegan friends, it’s not all eggs and protein suggestions. The Smothered Vegan Breakfast Burrito at Liberty Market is your answer. The breakfast burrito is a flour tortilla packed with scrambled tofu and vegetables (usually diced sweet potatoes) and sautéed with peppers, onions, and tomatillo — plus it’s all smothered with tomatillo and chile pequin sauces. It’s filling, it's pretty, and it's a great way to start your day.
Whiskey Row323 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert
Not just a night spot, Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row also offers a rowdy brunch. At the Backyard Brunch, order the Dierks Scramble, chicken and waffle sliders, and French toast stuffed with citrus cream cheese for the table. Brunch-appropriate cocktails include the Lipstick Collar, plus $7 Bloody Marys and mules, and $20 for mimosas with penny refills. But don't fret, you can work off that sugar with cornhole, Ping-Pong, and other yard games. Backyard Brunch is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Postino302 North Gilbert Road, #102, Gilbert
Postino is an Italian food and wine and beer joint with an expansive patio. Though the brunch menu is placed in front of you the moment you sit down, save yourself some time — go straight for the bruschetta and wine. Glasses of wine, mimosas, the white peach Bellini, and beer pitchers are $5 till 5 p.m., so you can go a little easy on your billfold. As for main eats, the brunch menu lists country toast, grilled focaccia, the farm scramble, and the morning staple — two eggs, bacon, walnut toast, and roasted potatoes. Postino brunch is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.
Joe’s Real BBQ301 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert
Now in its third decade, Joe’s Real BBQ and owner Joe Johnson have expanded the menu for this Gilbert stalwart. Yes, there is still killer barbecue, but now there are more vegetarian and vegan options (as in smoked jackfruit substitutions) and sides like beet salad, spicy slaw, and braised greens from Agritopia — also in Gilbert. But for classic and longtime fans of the meat here, good news. There’s a new combo platter, plus a new sandwich called the Big Bad Wolf — rounding up pulled pork, pit ham, and rib meat on Texas toast, all held together with a knife. And weather permitting, the picnic tables in the “backyard” are always fun.
Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles366 North Gilbert Road
Does fried chicken sound good? Always? You’re in the right place. Go for the basic Lo-Lo's special here, which is three pieces of fried chicken paired with two fluffy waffles. You also can’t go wrong with orders of DVZ’s Hot Ghetto Mess, Uncle Brotha’s Shrimp and Grits, and Cool Bre Bre’s Chicken Salad. And if you don’t have to go back to the office, spring for the Lo-Lo’s Punch — red berry vodka, red Kool-Aid, and pineapple juice. You won’t regret it till much later.
SushiBrokers350 North Gilbert Road, #101, Gilbert
Tucked behind the main drag of Gilbert Road, SushiBrokers opens at 11 a.m. — just in time for a quick power lunch. Diners may start with edamame, spring rolls, and calamari, or go straight for the sushi options. The Hot Lips, caterpillar, and cowboy (or cowgirl) rolls come recommended. There are also salads for the carb-conscious, and substantial options like the Brokers Burger or grilled mahi mahi entrée. And if it’s a late lunch, happy hour starts at 3 p.m. daily, just FYI.
Petersen’s Ice Cream & Cafe366 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert
The adorable Petersen’s Ice Cream & Café has two locations — one in Chicagoland, and one in Gilbert. The ice cream shop was started by Hans Petersen in 1919, and now, you can scoop up even classic ice cream flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry while seated in pink and blue chairs on the sidewalk along Gilbert Road. For the more adventurous, additional flavors include Mackinac Island Fudge, Caramel Ripple, and New York Cherry.
Topo301 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert
The soft serve ($2.50) is almost irresistible at Topo, even if you’re not a dessert person. Choices are vanilla, prickly pear, or twist. Um, prickly pear, please. What results is a tall spiral of mauve in a cute little cone. It’s so pretty it pains you to take a bite, but that bite is heavenly. The fruity soft serve is incredible to the last crunchy bite of the cone’s base. Dips are a fun accompaniment at 50 cents a pop. Choose from chocolate, lime, or prickly pear again. However, the soft serve is good enough to walk away sans dip.
Rocket Fizz350 North Gilbert Road, #105, Gilbert
It’s not all ice cream when it comes to a sugar rush in the Heritage District. Sneak back to Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop for mounds of by-the-piece candy and single-serving sodas. There are also toys and wacky signs, so if you bring kids in here, you’ve officially been warned.
Pomo366 North Gilbert Road, #106, Gilbert
Gilbert Road’s sidewalks are heavily dotted with sandwich boards inviting pedestrians in for a quick drink, maybe a shareable snack. But Pomo’s deals, coupled with that clean, open-air bar, will definitely draw you in. Plus, a pearl-white Vespa will meet you at the entrance, making you feel very much in vacation mode, indeed. Sit down to $5 well drinks, $4 house wines or Peronis, and small bites like meatballs, calamari, Tuscan chips, and the Italian Snack. And the best thing about happy hour at Pomo is participants can easily slide into dinner at this posh Italian eatery.
Culinary Dropout383 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert
Set at the start (or the end) of the Heritage District, Culinary Dropout sits as Sam Fox’s sixth location of the warehouse-style eatery. The 25,000-square-foot space has indoor and outdoor seating, two private dining rooms, and yes, the Yard area with Ping-Pong, cornhole, and more. Happy hour is 2 to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and offers everything from $4 well cocktails and draught pints to pork belly nachos and those famous pretzel balls.
Nico Heirloom Kitchen366 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert
Nico Heirloom Kitchen is the Heritage District’s initial upscale, chef-run restaurant, but friendly touches like the well-manicured patio and casual-but-elegant dining room make it fit right in. The dinner menu lists starters like burrata and octopus, house-made pasta, and mains like lamb, filet, short rib, and pan-roasted chicken. And don’t sleep on that Parmesan risotto. Couple your supper with a craft cocktail and watch Gilbert walk by from your seat on the patio.
Clever Koi384 North Gilbert Road, #101, Gilbert
The second location of this Asian-inspired restaurant welcomes you to head behind the main drag for imaginative cocktails and one of the best bowls of ramen in town. Clever Koi diners may dig in to those classic confit wings, share a plate of tuna chips, and go straight for the pork ramen or spicy seafood hot pot. And the cocktails should be half the reason you’re here. The menu is divided into shaken or stirred drinks, or one could spring for signature cocktails like the Lemongrass Swizzle, Always Always Bad News, or the Herbie Hancock.
Oregano’s328 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert
This powerhouse of a local chain is super-inviting, which is probably why there’s an Oregano's in every corner of greater Phoenix. But for good reason. There's pizza, pasta, and wings, and signature dishes like Italian wedding soup, Italian fried zucchini, Mom’s Mac n' Cheese, and Lawrence’s Stuffed 'Shrooms. Plus, there are local beer options, craft cocktails, and certainly some wine.
Champions Sports Saloon211 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert
Champions Sports Saloon has been some sort of bar in Gilbert since the 1940s. Amenities include pool tables, TVs, darts, pinball, arcade games, and retro Arizona sports team posters. They also have snacks, a deep fryer, and a pizza oven, or you can bring in food from one of the many surrounding restaurants. Champions also hosts poker and dart leagues, plus other typical bar activities. The pennies on the bar are gone, but you'll still get a stiff drink at this neighborhood bar in the Heritage District.
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The Novelist335 North Gilbert Road, #103, Gilbert
The Novelist is a restaurant and speakeasy-style bar inside O.H.S.O., reached by following the signs. It’s adjacent to the patio bar and tucked behind a two-story wall of blue-lit kegs. Inside the dark space, spot the mural dedicated to Harry Potter books, and surrounding decor heavily featuring female writers like Mary Shelley and those wacky Bronte sisters. So, yes, there is good food here, but you’ll definitely want to try a Novelist cocktail, or maybe a local beer or glass of wine. This is the perfect setting for it.
O.H.S.O. Brewery335 North Gilbert Road, #102, Gilbert
Brought to you by another sandwich board, O.H.S.O. has the kitchen open till midnight for you late-nighters. The two-story Gilbert location runs the late-night menu from 10 p.m. till the next calendar day rolls over. It offers $5 cheese curds, crab wontons, and pretzels with green chile cheese. For something heavier, order the brisket fries, the PBJ burger, and maybe one last local beer or two. There are definitely worse ways to end your night in the Heritage District.