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.
I love tacos. I especially love Taco Tuesdays! It has become such a big concept and everyone who serves up tacos puts out great deals for this day. Backyard Taco is a popular spot here in the Valley that serves up tacos al carbon. “al carbon” means to cook over charcoal and are very popular in Mexico. I was introduced to this place when I ate here with my foodie group a few years back. Backyard Taco was started by Ruben and Maricela from Mazatlan. Their business was birth from cooking tacos in their backyard for friends and neighbors. So hospitality and making customers feel at home is a big part of their business. They use fresh simple ingredients along with their amazing selection of meats to create the authentic taste of Tacos al Carbon. I love it when you walk into the lobby and get a glimpse (and smell) of the meat grilling on their mesquite grill. I came by for lunch and sampled a few of my favorite tacos – Carne Asada, Pollo and Al Pastor. Of course I grabbed a horchata to wash it all down. They also do quesadillas, burritos, tostadas, gorditas and a crazy potato. My favorite thing about Backyard Taco is the condiment bar which has a variety of salsas, onions, limes and jalapeños for toppings. Lunch was delicious and affordable as always and made for another fun Taco Tuesday.
I got invited to this Super BowlPre Party at Helio Basin Brewing. The event was put on by azfoodie and sponsored by Vienna Beef. Pure Peru provided drinks for us and you can read about them in my post. This year Vienna Beef is celebrating their 125th anniversary. Vienna Beef was born in 1893 and is Chicago’s first-choice hot dog. It was first introduced at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago by Austrian-Hungarian immigrants Emil Reichel and Sam Ladany. They opened their first store a year later in 1894 and business takes off. Hot dog stands start popping everywhere and Vienna Beef becomes a part of Chicago’s community and culture. The famous Vienna Beef hot dog is eventually dubbed “The Original Chicago Style Hot Dog” (recipe below).
The Phoenix area is known for it’s large population of Chicago natives. Most of them visit because we are home to the Chicago Cubs’ spring training facility. Others visit to escape the cold windy winters. We have many Chi-town favorites like Portillo’s, Geno’s East and Giordano’s to choose from if you want a taste of home. I have many friends here from Chicago and they have introduced me to many things that make up the culture of the Windy City. Chicago style dogs are definitely one of them.
Hello Basin Brewing Co.
In addition to playing some fun patio games to get us hyped for the big game on Sunday, we got to eat some great food prepared for us by Helio Basin’s Chef Tamara Stanger. She incorporated some Vienna Beef polish sausage into one of the dishes. The food was amazing as always and of course we got have some of Helio’s great beer. You can read about my adventures at Helio Basin in this post. We were given jars of toppings so we can make our own Chicago style dogs at home. I rounded up my evening by taking some fun goofy photos with props in a photo booth with my fellow Instagram foodie community.
Below is the recipe on how you can make you own Chicago style dog! I made my own version of it with the toppings that were given to me by Vienna Beef.
One of my fondest memories growing up were going on ski bus trips with my youth group and watching Warren Miller movies on the ride up. The movies were funny and inspiring and always got me pumped up for a day of shredding on the slopes. I started attending Warren Miller movie premieres not too long after that. Being around other skiers and snowboarders always gets my adrenaline going. In fact, I won a set of Warren Miller beanies in a drawing at the most recent premiere I went to. Warren Miller Entertainment ski films have changed my life. I love his story on how he got started in the entertainment business when he made his first movie Deep and Light in 1950 with a 8mm movie camera he purchased. Since then there has been an annual Warren Miller movie shown every year just before ski season. Warren Miller has been involved with all of them until 2004 when he retired. Even though the newer movies are no longer produced by him, they continue to have his name on them. I was saddened to hear about his recent passing but will forever be inspired by his career. I just bought his book Freedom Found: My Life Story not too long ago and can’t wait to dive into it. Warren Miller lived a full life and changed the culture of skiing and snowboarding forever. Thank you for your films and the memories and may your legacy live on.
One of the many ski trips where we watched Warren Miller films on the bus ride up
Warren Miller vehicle at the recent film premiere of Line of Descent in Scottsdale
Florencia Pizza Bistro is one of those locally owned neighborhood eateries. Ahwatukee has a lot of these little hidden gems because most of them are located in strip malls. This one has been around for quite some time and resides next door to the popular Melting Pot. They offer three types of pizza – Traditional, Olive Oil (Garlic, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Mozzarella Cheese with no tomato sauce) and Pesto (Basil Pesto Sauce with no tomato sauce). You can create your own with toppings (over 40 topping choices) or choose from one of their popular specialty pizza creations. Some of the names include the Snow White, Pomodora, Valentinos, Winchester, Clevenger, Malanzane, Bo-Be and the Green-Eyed Chicken. There are many more creations to choose from and they have vegetarian options as well. The dough is house made and their pizzas are thin-crust. I’m more of a thick crust person myself but actually found their thin crust quite enjoyable. They also have panini, calzones, salads and sandwiches if pizza is not on your radar. Their appetizer menu is not incredibly large but they have a nice variety to choose from. I got the mozzarella sticks and felt they were just average. We ordered the Clark’s Classic pizza which consisted of pepperoni and chicken marinated in buffalo sauce. I was a little worried the sauce would soak through the thin crust and make it soggy but it actually held up (even eating it as a leftover the next day). There is a small bar area to the side where you can order a glass of wine or beer. The owner is a Wildcat fan (boo…) and they’ve had fun fundraisers in the past during the annual ASU/UA football game to benefit the local high schools in the area. It wasn’t very busy when I visited but service was pretty good.
I love this location because it’s always close by when I’m either running an errand in Tempe or at something related to ASU. They are about a mile south of the 202. My Dad once lived in Ashland, OR years ago and I vaguely remember going through the original Human Bean drive-thru there. That’s where this company got their start. They are known for their hand-crafted espresso drinks and fruit-infused smoothies. And of course every drink is topped with a white chocolate espresso bean. They have a program called the Farm Friendly Direct that allows them to work directly with the farming communities that harvest their beans so that they can build long-term relationships with them. This location has a double drive-thru or you can walk up to the window. You order directly from the barista and not through some intercom which I love. The baristas are usually high energy and very friendly. I haven’t tried one of their teas yet, but I really enjoyed their popular Granita drink. During the holidays they do holiday style cup that is pretty festive.
When I was visiting New York City, I had the opportunity to eat at a halal cart. It was pretty amazing. The Halal Guys are the most popular of the halal carts. Three partners opened up a hot dog cart on West 53rd & 6th Avenue in New York City in 1990 and then switched over to Mediterranean food to cater to Muslim cab drivers. That’s how Halal Guys were formed. They are pretty well known all over Manhattan and have expanded outside the Big Apple. Now they are here in the Valley of the Sun with a few locations planned. I had a chance to visit their Tempe location which is in the perfect spot because nearby Muslim community. The menu consist of platters (with salad and rice) and sandwiches. You can either get chicken, beef gyro, a combination of both or falafel. I got the beef gyro sandwich and really enjoyed it. The white and red sauce are a must and really add some spice and flavor to your meal. I’m excited to made a return visit!