The bar’s hanging lights glow like down-turned tulips against cobalt walls. A plush corner nook invites lingering with low-slung tables and vibrant throw pillows. Peeking through the lattice of Guru Palace’s decorative blue dividers, patrons can catch an eyeful of the restaurant’s centerpiece, a sprawling wall mural of the Taj Mahal.
Surrounded by decor that the Phoenix New Times called “a deliberate antidote to the sameness that sometimes pervades local retail complexes,” patrons tuck into a menu of traditional Indian dishes. The paper also named Guru Palace Best Indian Restaurant of 2010, lauding foods baked in a traditional tandoori oven and a wide range of vegetarian options. The chefs at the eatery specialize in Mughlai cooking, and the dining room’s burgundy tablecloths crowd daily with fish and lamb entrees infused with ginger, cumin, and red chili. Warm], baked naan breads and samosas sop up sauce, and bottles of wine can raise spirits after the realization that a vehicle’s owner’s manual says nothing about driving underwater.
If you’re tired of Arizona's desert landscape, blame the Flancer goat. Legend has it, the greedy little guy saw Arizona’s once lush land and greenery as a personal buffet—he ate and ate until the landscape became barren. And though he's now extinct, it is said that the goat's shadow can be seen running through the café with a satisfied grin on his face.
Lucky for hungry Arizona natives, Flancer’s manages to offer a robust, diverse menu despite its desert location. Sandwiches are built on made-from-scratch breads that are baked throughout the day. They come stacked with unique flavor combos such as filet mignon and caramelized onions, or chicken breast marinated with prickly pear.
Owner Jeff Flancer claims you won’t find the café's bruschetta anywhere else but Flancer’s. The appetizer comes with breaded goat cheese, basil, and tomato piled atop baked-to-order crouton bread. With innovative food offerings such as this, it’s no wonder the restaurant claims to have been "rockin' taste buds" since it opened in 2000.
Hidden behind an unassuming A-frame exterior, The Original Blue Adobe Grille surprises guests with colorful decor and a variety of innovative twists on New Mexican cuisine. From appetizers such as green chile lobster dip to entrees such as the Blue Adobe burger cooked over a pecan-wood grill, the restaurant's surprising eats earned them a mention in Jane and Michael Stern's survey of American cuisine, 500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late. Other menu favorites include shrimp enchiladas stuffed into blue corn tortillas and rims of salt served with margaritas to wash it down. Composed of a blue peaked roof and white stucco siding, The Original Blue Adobe Grille's outside belies its more exciting interior, where stained glass windows and colorful chandeliers illuminate a room filled with reds, oranges, and pinks—a spectrum reflected in the handwritten chalkboard menu announcing the daily specials.
The chefs at Baja Joe's Mexican Cantina prepare seafood in the style of Sinaloa, a region of northwestern Mexico that flanks the Pacific Ocean. That coastal influence is especially evident in dishes such as the campechana especial—a medley of scallops, oysters, octopus, and shrimp served inside of a coconut shell—or whole red snapper, cooked with white wine, olives, and bay leaves and served by Poseidon at the end of a trident. Chefs also grill traditional Mexican combinations of carnitas, steak, and chicken, in addition to preparing veggie dishes. The cantina's 1,200-square-foot patio makes an ideal setting to sip a specialty margarita, such as the La Pinta, mixed with pomegranate-infused tequila, while their newly expanded 2,600-square-foot sports cantina boasts eleven flat-screen televisions, pool tables, darts, music, live music and karaoke nights, and more.
PaPaYa Thai Restaurant’s chicken mango curry won Best Thai Curry 2009 by Phoenix magazine. It brims with the bold, sweet, and spicy flavors of coconut milk, mango, and red-curry paste, further enhanced by sweet basil, lean chicken, and bell peppers, each shaped like a life-size Stanley Cup. It’s testament to the carefully crafted dishes typical of PaPaYa, which serves traditional dishes that alternate between sweet, sour, and salty flavors and feature no MSG. The barbecue grill adds crispiness to chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, and salmon, each plated beside thai sticky rice and sides of sweet chili dip or spicy lime sauce. Most dishes can be made vegetarian on request, and PaPaYa’s attentive waiters encourage patrons to pick their preference of spiciness, ranging from mild and medium to thai hot.
Though tacos and burritos anchor the menu of traditional favorites at Chilero's Mexican Grill, it's the sauces that pop with the most flavor and flair. For the mole sauce, chefs chop red chilies, grind nuts, and shave chocolate into a simmering mélange. A green-chili sauce perfectly complements a diced-pork dish, and the chipotle sauce seems tailor-made to contrast with a poblano pepper stuffed with chicken and jack cheese.
Kids younger than 10 can select pint-size portions from the Niños menu, which quenches toddler thirst with a free fountain drink. Sweet teeth of all ages can scoop up the caramelized custard of flan or crack the brittle shell of fried ice cream. Chilero's catering services offer its tasty fare for parties, anniversaries, and "Weird Al" Yankovic fan-club meetings in the East Valley and beyond.