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.
Heritage Marketplace in Gilbert includes restaurants like Even Stevens, Farm & Craft, Clever Koi, Nico Heirloom Kitchen and candy store Rocket Fizz. Sushi Brokers is one of their newer tenants. Sushi Brokers has locations in Scottsdale and Phoenix and offers a huge selection of sushi, vegetarian fare and dishes comprising seafood, chicken and beef if you are not into sushi. They have over twenty creative sushi rolls on their menu. They also have a nice selection of wines, draft and bottle beers, sake, and a large array of imported and domestic Vodkas. Their happy hour is what makes them so popular as they discount their prices on sushi and drinks. I came here with a buddy after an evening at the neighboring Art Intersection. We ordered quite a bit of rolls and drinks. The sushi wasn’t bad but definitely pretty pricey compared to most places. I may come back again for happy hour.
Downtown Gilbert is continuing to add to its long row of restaurants that face Gilbert Rd. Chef Gio Osso’s Nico Heirloom Kitchen is one of the newest additions this year. It brings a modern twist on Italian fare for the casual crowd. Gio named this restaurant after his son Nico. His other restaurant Virtù has made all types of headlines here in the Valley. Nico has an open patio and beautiful decor that hangs on its brick walls. They roll their own pasta daily and have a nice selection of signature drinks to choose from. We had a large party of friends that came here to celebrate my buddy’s bday. My one buddy ordered the Virtù Octopus and allowed me to sample it. I’ve only tried octopus once and it was very chewy. I was surprised how flavorful and not-so-chewy Nico’s was. I was feeling pasta and ordered the Rigatoni. It had a delicious bold red wine pork sauce that was nicely balanced. I really enjoyed it. This was overall a great experience for myself and my friends. I expect good things from Gio Osso in the future as he contributes to the Valley’s ever-growing foodie culture.
A long-time favorite of mine is Joe’s Real BBQ in downtown Gilbert. Opened in 1998 by Joe Johnston, Tad Peelen and Tim Peelen, Joe’s BBQ is a huge local favorite that continues to have lines out the building for dinner. Joe got the idea of smoked BBQ from frequent visits to Texas. He decided to house the restaurant in an old building built in 1929. With an agricultural theme, Joe’s pays homage to the farmers of the past. Joe’s uses pecan wood to smoke their BBQ and a variety of delicious side dishes to choose from. I’ve been taking my boys here for years and tonight was no different. I tried the turkey jalapeno sausage and the root beer cake. Seriously – amazing! I love coming here as many good friends of mine work here. I love the family feel of Joe’s Real BBQ and it will always be a local favorite of mine.
Liberty Market has an amazing wood fired pizza oven. It’s an Renato oven that ranges from 600 degrees to nearly 1,000 degrees and never goes cold. They only use Pecan (from Arizona) wood in the oven because it burns very evenly. Liberty Market makes its own pizza dough and you can catch the cooks tossing them as you wait in line to eat. They use San Marzano tomatoes for their sauce and they don’t cook it a second time in the oven out of fear of losing it’s flavor. I took my friend Jaimie here after picking her up from the airport. She got the pepperoni pizza and I got the grilled sausage. Both were delicious and we had a fun night. We capped off our fun culinary adventure with cheesecake from AJ’s.
Postino East is one of the newest restaurants in Gilbert. It is nestled near Joe’s Real BBQ, Liberty Market, The Farmhouse Restaurant, Oregano’s Pizza Bistro, and the Hale Centre Theatre. It has a lounge area and an open outdoor patio that looks out toward the town’s water tower. Native Chris DeMarco first opened Postino WineCafe in the East Phoenix Arcadia neighborhood in April 2001 and one in downtown Phoenix in 2009. The Gilbert location is the third location and is housed in a building that previous restaurants have failed. DeMarco hopes to find success here. It offers the same menu offered at its Phoenix locations with most prices being under $13, including bruschetta, panini, soups and salads, all made with local ingredients and artisan breads. There are over 100 bottles of wine available to buy and six wines on tap at Postino East.
Over 20 of us met for Katrina’s birthday. Because of our size, we had to wait in the grassy area for a table to be available. My friend Juliana happens to work here and I asked her to help speed the process for us. I also ran into a local artist that I knew and she offered me a job to shoot some of her interior design work. I guess she saw some of my pictures on Facebook. While waiting, I walked Jaimie over to Liberty Market and gave her a tour of the place (she had never been there). Once we got in, her and I shared meals so we could sample some of the different foods. I ordered the Prosciutto with Brie Panini (Prosciutto with triple cream brie, fig jam and arugula) and Jaimie got the bruschetta sampler (warm artichoke, smoked salmon with pesto, roasted peppers with goat cheese and the ricotta with dates & pistachios). I love her passion for food and it was all delicious. My friends Heather and Geoffrey (newlyweds) from Redemption church happened to be there too. Heather was a team member on my first mission trip that I led into Tijuana. Her husband is a photographer and asked me to come to do some still life photo shoots with him. Wow.. two photo shoot offers in one night! It was a lot of fun catching up with them. We all had a fun evening and then we headed to Toby Keith’s to go dancing.