Who knows better than a culinary professional the best places to eat in the East Valley?
We enlisted the help of four pros — Tara Eivers of Sinbad, Joe Johnston of Joe’s Real BBQ, Dennis Sirrine of Rancho de Tia Rosa and Romeo Taus of Romeo’s Euro Cafe — to find out the best places in town for a hot meal. (Besides their own establishments, of course.)
When Tara Eivers, owner of Sinbad in Tempe, isn’t enjoying hummus, tabbouleh, kabobs and other Middle Eastern specialties, she can be found at DeFalco’s and Siamese Cat.
DeFalco’s Italian Grocery & Deli
2334 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, (480) 990-8660
"DeFalco’s is the kind of place where — they might not know your name — but they always recognize you, and say ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ They’re just very friendly. Since we are a mom and pop, we try to frequent mom-andpops. We stay away from the chains." Among Eivers’ favorite DeFalco’s offerings are the turkey provolone sandwich, the roast beef sandwich, the artichoke salad and the vegetarian pasta salad. She also recommends the hot daily specials — four-cheese lasagna, baked ziti and the like — as "they’re always good and always fresh."
Siamese Cat Thai Restaurant
5034 S. Price Road, Tempe, (480) 820-0406
Eivers’ favorite dish at this Thai eatery — which she frequents every Monday with her husband and son — is the Nuy Num Tuk, a spicy beef salad with fresh basil, red onions, cucumbers, carrots and dried chili peppers. She also enjoys the lemongrass soup with shrimp. "The soup awakens all your senses because it has the basil and lemongrass; last week I wasn’t feeling well, so I got the soup twice!" Eivers washes it all down with a dish of coconut ice cream topped with peanuts. "After really hot food, you need something to cool your palate."
Though Joe Johnston’s wildly popular Joe’s Real BBQ is nestled in downtown Gilbert, he prefers to head to Chandler for a meal. Among his family’s favorites are Citrus Cafe and Saigon Pho.
Citrus Cafe 2330 N. Alma School Road, Chandler, (480) 899-0502
Johnston says he loves escargot, and that this French bistro "is about the only place you can get it done right — even my wife and kids ask for a bite." He also enjoys Citrus’ house salad dressing, a Dijon vinaigrette, the walleyed pike ("Where else can you find this fish in Arizona?") and the Vacheron dessert, a light, creamy frozen concoction drizzled with raspberry sauce. As for the ambience, Johnston says it’s always comfortable and professional. "None of the ‘Hi! I’m Buffy and I’ll be your server tonight, can I bring you our assorted fried appetizers to start?’ that you find at the chain restaurants. You are treated and respected as a guest."
1381 N. Alma School Road, Chandler, (480) 786-8828
Though Johnston says "there is no ambience to speak of" at this Vietnamese hole in the wall, he describes the place as quick, clean and cheap. His family enjoys the spring rolls — lettuce, shrimp, basil, sprouts and carrots in a nonfried rice paper wrapper — and the soup or noodle bowls. "I usually go for rice noodles with grilled ground shrimp patties and chopped egg rolls. In the bowl, one also finds sprouts and lettuce plus steaming broth. You add all of the sweet fish sauce that comes on the side and stir it all up. Delicious!" Johnston washes it down with Vietnamese coffee brewed tableside with sweetened condensed milk.
Dennis Sirrine, owner of Rancho de Tia Rosa in Mesa, also does his fair share of cooking at the popular Mexican eatery. But when he’s not munching on spinach enchiladas and seafood tacos, he heads to Guedo’s Taco Shop — recently renamed Guedo’s Cantina Grille — and Marquesa.
Guedo’s Cantina Grille
Locations in Chandler, Gilbert and Tempe
Sirrine says he’s been frequenting Guedo’s for more than 15 years. "They have some really great Mexican street food there. All of their menu items have a great taste to them, and everything is reasonably priced." Sirrine says his favorite offering is the pork burro, stuffed with beans, cheese, avocado, fresh salsa, onions and sour cream. "I usually order that along with a beef taco and a root beer."
7575 E. Princess Drive, Scottsdale, (480) 585-2723
Sirrine says the food at this Spanish eatery at the Scottsdale Princess resort is simply outstanding. "The menu changes almost every week, so I haven’t had anything twice there," Sirrine says. Last time he and his wife, Liz, visited the restaurant, the chef had recently returned from a trip to southern Spain and had "developed an incredible regional menu of that area. Everything was first-rate — the service, the food and the atmosphere." Sirrine recommends the sea bass, the short ribs and the extensive tapas menu. In all, he says, Marquesa is "a great place to splurge!"
Romeo Taus, chef and owner of Romeo’s Euro Cafe in Mesa, specializes in all things Mediterranean. But when he goes out for a meal, he prefers something with an Asian or Southwestern flair.
2051 W. Warner Road, Chandler, (480) 899-3888
When Taus and his wife, Janice, are in the mood for something fancy, they head to this Chandler strip-mall gem. "When we go out to dinner, it’s a family-owned, independent restaurant, with a cuisine profile other than my own. In other words, I like to eat things I can’t cook!"
Taus — whose favorite dishes include shark fin dumpling soup and sugar cane shrimp — says "I’ve been known to drop $50 to $75 at the C-Fu Gourmet on dim sum. It’s great food and close to my favorite markets, Lee Lee Market and Sprouts."
Food City markets
Locations in Mesa, Chandler and Phoenix
For something spicy and quick, Taus likes to drop by his neighborhood Food City. "Every Thursday through Sunday in front of the market you can purchase — for only $7 — a roasted, spiced chicken with fresh salsa and tortillas."
Taus says that for an extra $1 you can spice up your dinner with "a baggy of fresh roasted green chilies." Says the chef: "I think this is the way to go for any summer evening."