Topo

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The newest edition to downtown Gilbert is nicely squeezed in between Bergie’s Coffee and Joe’s Real BBQ. Topo is a small walk-up food stall with a huge gopher on the roof (Topo means gopher or mole in Spanish). Leave it to owner Joe Johnston to add a little something fun, unique but weird to the growing downtown Gilbert area. This place draws you in like many of the weird roadside attractions do if you were driving on the Route 66 in northern AZ. What I like most is its very simple menu – burrito, beverage and ice cream. What else do you need in life? You can order a regular burrito (chicken or pork) or have it loco style with elote corn, fritos chips, tomatillo cream and hot sauce. They offer a small bowl of elote for a side. For dessert, they have vanilla or prickly pear ice cream cones that you can dip in chocolate, lime or prickly pear. That’s it – very quick and simple. I came on opening day and it took about 15 min waiting in line to order my food (I’m sure that will decrease over time). Food came out in a few minutes. Joe Johnston greeted people in line and offered us gopher stickers. The kitchen space is small and systems-based. I noticed they weigh every burrito that is made before they serve them. There are a few tables off to the side, but most people use the larger picnic tables next to Joe’s BBQ. This place is unique and fun and opens late. They should get quite a good crowd that just want a quick bite to eat.

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Joe Johnston greets guests on opening day

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Topo Loco

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Elote

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Lime Dipped Pickly Pear Ice Cream

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Prickly Pear Dipped Vanilla Ice Cream

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Topo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wine Tasting with James Callahan of Rune Wines

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James Callahan & Oren Molovinsky

I always enjoy wine tastings paired with good food. Tonight’s event was at Farmboy in Chandler. It was a reception-style evening that hosted James Callahan of Rune wines and was paired with Hors D’oeuvres from Chef Dennis Bagnasco. I just recently visited Farmboy for the first time for lunch a couple of weeks ago. Rune Wines (Rune means a mark or letter of mysterious or magical significance) was founded by Arizona native James Callahan in 2013 and is located in Sonoita – the heart of southern Arizona wine country. Tonight we got to sample four of his Arizona wines that were paired with samples of locally sourced cheeses, meats, and vegetables. Farmboy is all about using and highlighting local Arizona ingredients and was the perfect place to host this event. Both Oren Molovinsky of Farmboy (who owns Molovin Farm in South Chandler, AZ) and James Callahan of Rune wines were on hand to talk about their lasted endeavors.

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Rune Wines

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Smoked Chicken, Goat Cheese & Grilled Tenderloin

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Smoked Chicken

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Flourless Chocolate Cake & Rune Wild Syrah

Our first wine was the Rune 2015 Viogner paired with goat cheese and a rice cracker. Our second pairing was the Rune 2016 Rosé paired with a smoked chicken breast with arugula and topped with a aioli. Their third pairing was the Rune 2015 Grenache paired with a Mesquite grilled tenderloin with mushrooms. And the final pairing was the Rune 2015 Wild Syrah paired with a flourless chocolate cake topped with a raspberry. I really love the artwork on the wines and the story on the back of the bottles. The food was delicious and paired nicely with the wine samples. My favorite was the Wild Syrah – Rune’s flagship wine. Tonight was an enjoyable evening of meeting new people and supporting local businesses.

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Farmboy

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Real Food, Real Farms, Real People

This was a nice little find for lunch. Farmboy, Market, Meats, Sandwiches is a fast-casual restaurant and mini marketplace located in a popular spot that was once operated by Paradise Bakery. They specialize in sandwiches that use wood-smoked meats that are nice and tender because of the slow cooking process. In fact, the moment you walk into the restaurant you get a nice BBQ smell that immediately draws you in. All the meats, produce and bread are locally sourced here in Arizona. The restaurant itself isn’t incredibly large but has both indoor and outdoor patio seating. The ambience is casual and the walls are decorated with beautiful photos of various landscapes in Arizona that pay homage to our great state.

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The sandwiches at Farmboy are made from scratch and use only the quality portions of the smoked meats. One thing that is unique is that they are named after different locations in Arizona. Some of the names include the Verde Valley, Lake Powell, Alma School, Coconino and San Tan. If you are a native like myself, you will get a kick out of it. I ordered the Pinetop Beef and Chicken sandwich and thought it was amazing. In addition to the delicious smoked meats, the sandwich is topped with a spicy mayo and honey BBQ sauce that really make a nice blend of flavor. You have a variety of sides to choose from to go with your sandwich. Farmboy also has a small marketplace that you can purchase locally grown fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk (Danzeisen) and meats. They serve breakfast as well in the mornings. If you live in Chandler and are wanting to eat and buy local, this is the place to go. Farmboy is a nice addition to the area.

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Pinetop Beef and Chicken Sandwich

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Farmboy Market, Meats, Sandwiches Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fry Bread House

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This place is so good! I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve only recently visited here for the first time. Especially being a Phoenix native living close to Guadalupe who grew up on Fry Bread with honey and powdered sugar. Of course my expectations were high for my first visit to Fry Bread House – James Beard recognized and the Green Chili Beef Taco voted as a top dish from AZCentral’s Dominic Armato. Plus all its history here in the Valley going back to when it opened in 1992. The restaurant is located within the Melrose district (after a couple relocations). The decor pays homage to Native American culture with plenty of pictures and a Man in the Maze motif standing in place of a welcome mat. The roped off line to the ordering area at first confused me but I eventually caught on. There was a good mixed crowd here and plenty of regulars. Even though I already had my mind set on the taco, the Chumuth Burro, the Red Chili stew and the Hominy stew with plain fry bread called out to me from the menu on the wall as I waited. Service was quick and easy and they really try to move the line. The green chili taco was a lot bigger than I thought. I’m not going to lie, it was also a bit sloppy to eat. But when you stuff a fry bread with all that yummy gooey goodness it’s probably not going to hold together for long. The fry bread is light and crisp and folded into a taco shape. The chili beef was nice and tender with cheese and the perfect amount of spiciness for me. It was a pretty good meal for $9 and good first experience for me. I’m dying to try that stew next time around. I’m also looking forward to introducing some of my Native buddies to this place.

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Green Chili Beef Taco

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The Fry Bread House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tempe Public Market Café

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I am such a fan of the Phoenix location and St. Francis that I was pretty stoked to hear that chef Aaron Chamberlin was putting a location in the East Valley (closer to home for me). I thought the decision to put a location in a quiet residential part of southern Tempe with no restaurants within a mile was pretty bold for them. They are essentially sending a message that they are going to own this area and be a cafe for the surrounding neighborhoods. I’ll be honest that my first couple of visits during opening month had its issues. The lines were super long and the customer service was working through many kinks. But after a few months, Tempe Public Market is quietly settling in and becoming a staple in this area. The patio area is dog friendly and very spacious. They have plenty of misters for the hot summers and a killer fireplace for the colder winter evenings. I like that beverages (non-alcoholic) are self-serve. They have counter service for ordering your food and seating is open. These are some of those things that makes this place feel like home. So far I’ve had breakfast and dinner here now. The Blue Corn Pancake is fantastic. It’s pretty large but not too filling for a pancake. The Steel Cut Oats are good but a little on the pricey side for me for oatmeal. They also do a community night for dinner on some nights. It’s a 3-course dinner for around $13 that includes salad, entree and dessert. Overall I can see this as a regular stop for me (especially in the mornings on that patio). I love the Farmer’s Market at the Phoenix location and hope that is something that gets incorporated here someday.

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Steel Cut Oatmeal

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Poptart

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Blue Corn Pancake

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Tempe Public Market Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sip Social

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I had a fun evening eating and meeting new foodie friends. Two long time friends Erika and Kaylyn of Sip So Good hosted their first event at Arizona BBQ Company in Gilbert and invited me to come. This place just opened recently (not too far from where I used to live). This was a fun media event with a bunch of food bloggers and Instagram influencers. My first impression when walking in was that this place pays a nice tribute to Arizona. The decor is southwestern with a fun board listing Arizona facts and history. The restaurant itself is very simple and comfortable (great for kids!) with counter order service and a bar located to one side. The owners are longtime Gilbert residents and they opened this place to give back to the surrounding community. I was here for a buffet style dinner so I don’t have a lot of info on portion sizes of their platters, but their menu prices seem very reasonable to other BBQ restaurants. I felt very welcome here and Colette was great at sharing her passion for this place to us. Even though I came here for BBQ, I was immediately drawn to the tray of green chili bacon mac n’ cheese. I’m huge mac n’ cheese guy and I thought it was fantastic. Not too spicy but nice and cheesy with lots of flavor. We also tried their black bean and corn salad, brisket and pulled pork. These guys definitely know their BBQ and do a great job of capturing the flavors of the southwest. The BBQ comes naked as they have a condiment bar with different flavors of BBQ sauce. My favorites were the sweet and tangy and habanero sauces. Overall this was a great experience and I wish this place was open back when I had a house in the adjacent neighborhood. AZ BBQ Co. accepts non-perishable foods that they donate to a local food bank. Just another way they try to give back.

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Black Bean and Corn Salad

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Green Chili and Bacon Mac n’ Cheese

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Pulled Pork and Brisket

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Condiment Bar

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Arizona BBQ Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato