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 Wildlife World 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.
The 1950s were a simpler time in America. Long before we were confronted with the rapid rise of technology and the messy implications of time travel, our grandparents’ generation saw their hopes and dreams reflected in the polished body of a Cadillac or the shiny, streamlined façade of the local diner. Those days seem a world away, but 5 & Diner offers guests a privileged glimpse into the past with its unapologetic veneration of everything ‘50s. There are now several 5 & Diner locations across Arizona and the Southwest, but most of them have certain key elements in common. Sleek, rounded corners and a profusion of reflective aluminum are unifying features that harken back to an age when space travel was the talk of every town. Of course, the most important thing they have in common is the food. No matter which 5 & Diner you visit, you’ll find 12 signature burgers, creamy malts and milkshakes, and classic diner desserts such as apple pie and bread pudding.
Restaurant maven Sam Fox joined forces with health expert Dr. Andrew Weil, and the result is True Food Kitchen, where healthy, beneficial dishes taste like they shouldn’t be. This bustling, bright, Biltmore Fashion Park eatery shouts high fashion with its clean lines and fashionable clientele – think socialites rubbing elbows with beauty-conscious health club fanatics. Many things can be vegetarian, and dishes sing with an orchestra of flavors, like the Winter Ingredient salad: roasted cauliflower with Brussels sprouts, squash, mulberry, pomegranate and white beans in horseradish vinaigrette. Meat lovers will be happy, too, tucking into hearty turkey lasagna layered with spinach, ricotta and organic tomato. Some drinks are restorative, such as the Hangover Rx of coconut water, pineapple, vanilla and orange juice, yet there are indulgent adult drinks to be savored too, like the cucumber-citrus skinny margarita, stocked with Ixá Organic Silver tequila, lime, fresh mint and soda.
An offshoot of the prestigious D.C. hangout, The Capital Grille impresses with dark wood, leather and linen tablecloth ambiance, alongside smooth, professional service. The star of the menu is beef, dry aged for fourteen days on premises in state-of-the-art meat lockers. After that, the individual steaks are hand-cut, generously seasoned and grilled to order in oversize portions, with everything else offered a la carte. These first-rate meals are appropriately pricey; even the rare seafood options are flown in daily to ensure their freshness. The dark wood accents, hanging lighting and tall, soft booths help to round out a high quality meal.
Papa Joe brings his slow-cooked meats to Phoenix by way of Texas, where he learned the fine art of cooking over mesquite wood. At Papa Joe’s Fish-N-Que, he does just that, imparting smoky flavor into pork ribs, pulled brisket, and Italian sausages before brushing them with his homemade barbeque sauce and piling them onto the plate with sides such as fried okra and jalapeño hushpuppies. Of course, the name of the shop is Fish-N-Que. And so, with equal skill and finesse, Papa Joe dishes out perfectly cooked plates of fried spicy or mild catfish, whiting, and cod. Of course, no good barbecue joint would ever skimp on dessert, so Joe's kitchen also serves up slices of Granny Ann’s sweet potato pie or helpings of a peach cobbler so sweet it could talk its way into a member’s only apple orchard.
Mark Smith and Gary Clark wouldn’t be where they are today without a 50-year-old barbecue recipe. When the two childhood friends started a catering service in college to cover their living expenses, they soon became renowned for their barbecue, made with a Tennessee-style recipe passed down through several generations. Bolstered by demand, they bought a truck and a portable barbecue pit—but soon traded these for a brick-and-mortar location, a rustic storefront on East Van Buren Street. More than 25 years later, the pair are still serving smoked meats at Honey Bear’s BBQ, boosting their output with a second location on North Central Avenue and a separate catering center.
Their recipe has only improved with age, earning them accolades such as the Phoenix’s Best BBQ Sauce 2010 Award from the Phoenix New Times. Inside the Honey Bear BBQ kitchens, chefs brush this signature Tennessee sauce onto pulled pork, shredded chicken, and beef brisket, which they serve by the pound, pile onto sandwiches, or stuff into face-level catapults. They complement the mesquite flavors with traditional Southern sides such as potato salad, cowbro beans, collard greens, and tater tots. For faraway fans, they also bottle and ship their signature sauce around the country.