An elegant chandelier sparkles above Amaro Pizzeria & Vino Lounge's open kitchen, but it’s rarely the first thing that guests notice. They are too engrossed by Executive Chef John Spahr’s delicate dance as he flings discs of pizza dough high into the air, careful not to get them caught in the chandelier’s net of crystal beads. Spahr and his culinary team pull their own mozzarella and top their Neapolitan pizzas with such creative ingredients as shoestring onions, oven-roasted artichoke hearts, and shaved ham. Pizza is hardly their only specialty, however. Their dishes run the gamut from house-made pastas to a bone-in pork chop with a Dijon and mustard glaze. 90 wines complement the complex Italian flavors, as do the artworks on the dining room’s walls and live musicians who have strung their guitars with resonant spaghetti al dente.
Stabilized by a protective layer of sticky rice, raw fish explodes in a shockwave of flavor when exposed to munching mouth-bone agitation. Sushi, cooked fish, and beef entrees frolic along with the creative appetizers, salads, and udon and soba noodles on Ebisu’s menu. Start with garlic soy edamame ($5), Ebisu ribs ($8), or a squid salad ($7) before entangling taste buds in a web of nabeyaki udon noodles with shiitake mushrooms, green onions, eggs, konnyaku, cabbage, fishcake, and shrimp tempura ($12). Main courses include the Ebisu sushi platter, served with seven nigiri sushi rolls, one special roll, and miso soup ($20), and kombu-grilled salmon with miso cream sauce ($17).
Harold's Corral gussies up mealtime with an eclectic menu of western-inspired eats, two full bars, patio seating, and live entertainment. Round up hungry herds for dinner with dishes of chicken, fried to a golden finish and side-kicked by yellow-bellied mashed potatoes ($9.99 for 4 pieces, $15.99 for 8 pieces). Southwestern penne pasta ($14.99) brings new meaning to spaghetti westerns with poblano cream sauce and Cajun chicken. Barbecue barons smoke slabs of ribs and brisket ($11.99–$24.99) on-site daily, crafting nuanced flavors with mesquite wood chips. Dig into classic Mexican dishes such as the chicken enchiladas ($9.99), or light off meat-based fireworks with a juicy light show of burgers, strip steaks, and a grand finale of the Meatball Bomber ($8.99), dripping with sauce, cheese, and glory.
For the location of the first Dillon's, Rich Dillon and George Valverde chose a 1940s Thunderbird Road structure that a writer for the Phoenix New Times described as "a cute, converted old house that looks like grandma's parlor." Since then, they've opened four more eateries in locations that are as appealing as the signature flame-kissed and slow-smoked meats served inside. Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium's shark tank flanks the dining room of Dillon's at the Zoo, and the boat-accessible Scorpion Bay location opens onto the waters of Lake Pleasant so that diners can chortle as fish attempt to develop democracy. Live music and karaoke lend additional social vibes to the smokehouses.
Zen's Cafe slings a varied menu of fresh, tasty eats to sate appetites of all sizes within a casual neighborhood setting. Dinner and lunch grazers can lavish taste buds with Linda's veggie pasta garnished with an array of garden dwellers desperately trying to dance beneath a hoedown-hindering deluge of marinara ($11.09) or the lightly breaded shrimp in a french-fry-festooned basket ($10.09). Don & Sue's 10-ounce New York strip ($13.09) satisfies beef-centric noshers and bunnies who are unaware of the food chain with char-grilled succulence.