This article was updated on Friday, January 18, 2019. It was originally published on August 28, 2018.
Usually brought to you in baskets, deep-fried, and accompanied by a side of ranch, cheese curds can be irresistible. This piping hot appetizer or side also can be served deliciously cold as little pops of cheese. You can buy them retail at local spots like Arizona Cheese Co. and Milk N More, both in Tempe. But sometimes, you just want to sit and enjoy immediately.
Sure, Canada and the Midwest have fried cheese curds covered — but there are plenty of spots in the Valley where you can have a seat and an order of squeaky cheese. Here are 10 places across metro Phoenix where the curd is the word.
Casey Jones Grill
2848 East Bell Road
As a Green Bay Packers neighborhood bar set in the north Valley since 1993, Casey Jones Grill knows its cheese curds. Its order of this Wisconsin favorite is hand-breaded white cheddar served with sides of marinara and ranch dressing. And if you really want to get inventive, order the Wisco Style Poutine – better known as the Casey Jones Grill twist on this classic Canadian dish. The Wisco Style Poutine is tater tots topped with bacon, green onion, brown gravy, and of course, the house cheese curds.
20283 North Lake Pleasant Road, #110, Peoria
If you’re looking for cheese, bread, and beer in the northwest Valley, pick a seat at CheezHeadz and settle in. Set in the Ventana Lakes Village Center, CheezHeadz is known for their pizza and burgers from Craig Maynard and Shaun Godfrey. However, there are also some incredible sides like the Fried Cheez Curds – and when there’s brown gravy, some poutine.
Gracie's Tax Bar
711 North Seventh Avenue
Yes, Gracie’s has tater tots, and yes, they’re good. But you know what else is on deck — fried cheese curds. An order gets you a paper dish of roughly two dozen cheese numbers, plus a cup of on-the-thicker-side ranch for dipping. Much of the food there is prepared on the flat, hot grill behind the bar, reminding some of us of bar and grill setups like Robert’s Western Wear in Nashville, or The Old Pink in Buffalo. Enjoy your curds in this glowing-red diner meets bar atmosphere, which will almost certainly be soundtracked by the Talking Heads or Fugazi or Waylon and Willie emitting from the classic and now beloved jukebox.
McKenzie's Midtown Tavern
4531 North Seventh Street
Most of the food items you would find at McKenzie's Midtown Tavern look like something off the kids’ menu, but none of us are complaining. Especially about the cheese curds. Though the neighborhood spot hasn’t been around for too long, the cheese curds already have midtown patrons clamoring for the little breaded mozzarella balls. And we have to mention, if you ride your bike to McKenzie's, you can pair your curds with happy hour-priced libations.
3223 South Mill Avenue, Tempe
Think what you will about the name, the 1 a.m. shirtless shots, the karaoke, the fish racing, the décor, whatever — Monkey Pants has a pretty all right menu. If you can pass up the wings, try the cheese curds. They’re served as spicy jalapeño cheese chunks, breaded and accompanied by a generous amount of ranch. That and a beer or cocktail might take your mind off someone’s rendition of "Material Girl," but we doubt that very much.
Rocket Burger & Subs
12038 North 35th Avenue, #2
This north Valley sandwich shop and eatery knows cheese. Rocket Burger & Subs puts it on everything, and no one is complaining. If you ever get your hands on a menu, scan down to the bottom for the Rocket Sides. You can choose between an order of small or large cheese curds, which are received fresh each week, prepared in house, and fried when ordered. And if you’d like to pair that order of curds with a beverage, Rocket Burger & Subs is next to Pop the Soda Shop – featuring more than 1,000 sodas, waters, juices, and teas.
Short Leash Hot Dogs
4221 North Seventh Avenue
With its new location in the Melrose District, its pop-up at the Biltmore, and its widely roaming original food truck, Short Leash Hot Dogs is renowned for its inventive hot dogs wrapped in naan bread, and an impressive selection of beer. However, if you’d like to go beyond the typical side of fries, order a tin of homemade fried cheese curds – sided with a cup of ranch.
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Tuck Shop Kitchen & Bar
2245 North 12th Street
You might not think that a place with a weekly afternoon tea service would have cheese curds on the menu, but you’d be wrong. The cute and modern Tuck Shop Kitchen & Bar offers dinner starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and on that menu, you’ll find an appetizing selection of starters. Topping the list is cheese curds – described as beer-battered, “fresh Arizona dairymen curds.”
The Buffalo Chip Saloon
6823 East Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek
There are a million reasons to visit the Buffalo Chip Saloon. There is amateur bull riding, dancing and music, drinks, and one raucous atmosphere. But another reason might be the menu, and sitting right at the top are the breaded cheese curds. They take fresh Wisconsin curds, bread them lightly, and fry them to an ideal golden brown. Dip in ranch, wash down with cold beer, and enjoy the show.
The Irish Hare Pub
4747 East Elliot Road
Though it’s hard to overlook menu items like Reuben sliders and Irish nachos, you might want to try the cheese curds at the Irish Hare Pub in Ahwatukee. The long rectangular plate definitely holds more than one person can eat, especially if you’re saving room for Great Grandma Suzie’s Corned Beef Hash, and is served with a cup of chipotle ranch. The Southwest meets the Midwest somewhere on the Emerald Isle? We like to think so.