That crashing sound you just heard is me busting through the Berlin Wall into downtown Phoenix . I know, I know. Why would I bother reviewing restaurants that are a good 20 or 30 miles from most of our readers?
Because it’s baseball season, and I can’t stand the thought of anyone dropping 20 bucks on a boring burger, chips and drink at Bank One Ballpark when they could fill up on much finer food.
After countless hours of research, I mapped out some potential picks within five miles of the ballpark, filled my tank, grabbed a compass and headed west.
Many miles and meals later, here are the nine places that made my starting lineup.
2814 N. 16th St., Phoenix
Scouting report: It’s the farthest away from the ballpark, but it's my first choice. Barrio’s conchinita pibil is the most melt-in-your-mouth pork I’ve had anywhere. The chili relleno costeno and pollo poblano are also spectacular. Save room for the insanely good churros stuffed with sweet cream, drizzled with caramel and served with vanilla bean ice cream.
Getting up to bat: No reservations and it’s extremely popular, so give yourself at least a two-hour block.
At the plate: Lunch Tuesday through Friday and Sunday; dinner Tuesday through Sunday.
CALABRIA ITALIAN GROCERY & DELI 1001 N. Third Ave., Phoenix
Scouting report: If you want a fast, simple bite, this is your spot. Fancy coffee drinks and specials such as lasagna and gnocchi join the daily staples of Italian sandwiches on crusty rolls, calzones and salads.
Getting up to bat: There are only about 20 seats, but sandwiches are served in a bag, so you can take it on the road if need be.
At the plate: Lunch and dinner Monday through Friday; lunch Saturday.
1326 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
Scouting report: A fine pinot paired with a plate of artisan cheeses in a semiswanky lounge setting? Sounds like the perfect pregame meal to me! No? Don’t fret — the red-brick wine bar also prepares pork, lamb, beef, pizza, soup, salads and a fine foccacia grilled cheese.
Getting up to bat: Shouldn’t be a problem, but a reservation might be a good idea on weekend nights.
At the plate: Lunch Monday through Friday; dinner daily.
COACH & WILLIES 412 S. Third St., Phoenix
Scouting report: The pretty patio — sporting stone, iron and a fountain — gives this upscale bar a view of the close-by BOB. Carb-friendly options join salads, sandwiches, burgers, wood-fired pizzas, pastas, steaks and seafood on the vast menu. Serving sizes are big; light eaters could split most dishes, including the tasty steak-stuffed wrap.
Getting up to bat: A go-to spot for everyone who wants to eat within walking distance of BOB, so get there early.
At the plate: Open for lunch daily and dinner if there’s a downtown event.
2201 N. Seventh St., Phoenix
Scouting report: Soup, salad and sandwiches rule the menu at this cute cafe. The cozy dining room is hung with local paintings, and candles are used as vases. Misters make the tree- and cactus-encompassed front porch a comfy option. Serving sizes are generous, and the thick balsamic vinaigrette is superb. Daily specials — which are the most expensive items at $7.95 — include enchiladas, meatloaf and lasagna.
Getting up to bat: If you go for dinner, make a reservation.
At the plate: Lunch Monday through Saturday; dinner Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
905 N. Fourth St., Phoenix
Scouting report: Small, funky, healthy Asian eatery with a great drink list (14 global beers, six iced tea flavors, mango juice) and prices that top out at 10 bucks. The creamy Thai coconut curry and spicy Saigon are nice noshes and — like all 12 entrees — come with chicken, beef, tofu or shrimp.
Getting up to bat: It’s tiny; reservations are recommended.
At the plate: Lunch Monday through Friday, dinner Monday through Saturday.
LO LO’S CHICKEN & WAFFLES
10 W. Yuma St., Phoenix
Scouting report: Friendly folks serving soul food in cramped quarters covered with posters of Charlie Parker and Ella Fitzgerald. Waffles are thin circles of crunchy contentment; I loved every bite. Fried chicken, grits, gravy, big corn-bread muffins, eggs, breakfast meats, fried fish, giblets and a bunch of Southern sides fill out the menu.
Getting up to bat: Non-prime time shouldn’t be an issue unless it’s Sunday.
At the plate: Lunch and early dinner Tuesday through Sunday.
MY FLORIST CAFE
530 W. McDowell Road, Phoenix
Scouting report: White and yellow daisies adorn the 30-plus tables in this neighborhood eatery. Salads, sandwiches (including a gourmet PB&J), pizza and soup are offered for lunch and dinner. Head next door to Willo Bakery, where My Florist gets its bread and baked goods, if you want a sweet treat for the road. The flaky apple strudel is divine.
Getting up to bat: It’s huge, so you should be safe.
At the plate: Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
53 W. Thomas Road, Phoenix
Scouting report: Pizza with organic tomato sauce, reduced-fat pepperoni and low-fat mozzarella? Leave it to those health-crazed Californians to turn something naughty into something nice. Delicious pies stacked with premium toppings join fresh salads, sandwiches, calzones, baked pastas and pints of Ben & Jerry’s at this colorful, urban quick-bite stop.
Getting up to bat: Shouldn’t be a problem.
At the plate: Lunch and dinner daily.