The Corn Flower’s executive chef, Cecy Solano, is an artist whose medium is the humble empanada. Working from a palette of sweet and savory sundries, she balances poblano peppers with sour cream and potatoes, draws out the flavors of ground beef with red-wine sauce, and tweaks the classic combo of peaches and cream by replacing the cream with vanilla syrup. Her other authentic Mexican specialties include savory and sweet tamales, as well as breakfast and lunch burritos accompanied by homemade salsa.
Rather than keep her recipes all to herself, Cecy and her husband share their knowledge of Latin American cooking and culinary history during tours of the eatery and in-home cooking classes. Occasionally, she turns her pastry-making prowess to baking show-stopping 2-D and 3-D gourmet cakes, or trundles her gourmet eats to catered events that she decks out with artfully prepared dishes and centerpieces whittled from fruits and veggies.
Following Baja Fresh’s ethos set in 1990 as a healthy take on fast food, never-frozen meats sizzle atop the grill before they're tucked into made-to-order tacos and burritos. Grilled corn and flour tortillas embrace fish, carnitas, chicken, and steak, and smoky queso fundido sidles onto nachos and into burritos. Between bites, chips scoop up salsa made from farm-fresh produce rather than poured out of a can or fabricated in a space-age replicator. A complimentary salsa bar ensures no mouthful goes unspiced, and guests can scoop up their favorites as they await their dine-in, takeout, or catering orders.
John Flanders and Jeff Varner founded the Academy of Scuba to bring the magic of diving to the arid lands of the Southwest. They employ a team of PADI-certified instructors, who lead courses ranging from beginner and advanced open-water certification to more in-depth programs such as master diver, deep diver, underwater video and photography specialists, and professional shark imitator. Once certified, divers can stretch their new sea legs on diving excursions to exotic locales such as Belize, Mexico, and Bonaire through the academy’s partner and affiliate companies. Both of the Academy's locations rent, repair, and sell high-quality gear from reputable brands such as Sea Dive, Amphibious Outfitters, and H2Odyssey.
The three eggs that go into each of Original Breakfast House’s omelets are chosen with care. They’re cage-free and hormone-free, complementing the eatery’s organic, local produce and locally roasted, fair-trade coffee. These carefully curated ingredients go into classic diner plates that brim with thoughtful touches. The Angus beef burger patties, for example, are shaped by hand, rather than by the nearest hula-hoop; the pancakes, meanwhile, come smothered in blackberries, bananas and pecans, or raspberries and chocolate chips.
At My Big Fat Greek Restaurant, flames dance atop pieces of imported kefalograviera cheese as servers enliven the dining area with traditional Greek dances. The lively space also tickles the senses with scents of spanakopita and lamb carved straight off of the rotisserie. And in the back kitchen, dishes come together to form classic combinations such as spaghetti with meatballs and wood-fired pizzas topped with crumbled feta.
Restaurant veterans BJ and Gilbert Hernandez infuse Spanish and Latin flavors into traditional Cuban cuisine at both Havana Cafe locations, where chef BJ?s menu has been winning awards since 1989. BJ's tapas have caught the attention of critics at the Arizona Republic and Fodor's the latter describing the ham-and-chicken croquettes and shrimp pancakes as "marvelous." For the house specialty Paella a la Havana, BJ combines five types of seafood?? including lobster, mussels, and scallops??with chicken breast, chorizo, pork, and saffron, and the classic Cubano sandwich sees the chef carefully layering imported ham, mortadella, roast pork,swiss cheese, and pickles, and then pressing the savory stack into a thin, toasty sandwich. Those dining in-house can sample sangria that was voted No. 1 by the Phoenix New Times.