Though Terry "Joe" Black spent more than two decades in the restaurant and food industries, for many years the notion of opening his own pizzeria remained a wistful one. Smitten with the restaurant business during his college years, he spent the first 15 years of his career working for national chains, then another 10 in food distribution. It wasn?t until Black met and befriended Nick Heddings, owner of Arizona Pizza Company in Tucson, that the gears were set in motion to allow Black to make the leap to ownership, spurred in part by Heddings's support and pizza recipe. Black and his wife, Mary, kept the concept simple: a limited menu centered around tasty, New York?style pizza. They resolved to be fanatical about their customers? experience and to create a welcoming, neighborhood feel. To further that goal, Black and his family remain active with local schools and organizations to this day.
Their focus on quality and friendliness has paid off. Of Jimmy & Joe?s signature "Serious Slice," blogger Michele Laudig said?as part of the Phoenix New Times? 100 Favorite Dishes series in 2010?"It's super thin and crisp on the bottom, with puffy, chewy edges." Each gigantic slice is cut from the 24-inch Big Jimmy, arrives on its own metal pan, and, like a celebrity?s engagement ring, is bigger than the average person's head. As testament to its food?s deliciousness, the restaurant has won multiple awards, including the Reader Pick for Best Pizzeria in the East Valley Tribune's 2011 Best of East Valley.
As the restaurant's website explains, Otaku means “obsessed, hardcore fan” in Japanese, which serves as an appropriate echo to the chefs' enthusiasm. Maki rolls in aesthetically pleasing arrangements have a starring role on the menu, employing sweet asian pear and mango to enhance savory slices of raw fish, sautéed scallops, and mushrooms. While sipping from 1 of 13 sakes, diners can also savor hot platters—such as curry chicken or crispy walnut prawns—or enjoy an omakase meal, where the chef presents five courses of off-the-menu rolls and dishes.
The culinary masters at Otaku also aim to “remove the veil of mystery” from sushi dining and preparation through their Otaku Academy. During the learning experiences, patrons of any knowledge level have the opportunity to sit down with a chef as he slices rolls and serves them with ample education.
Sweeping structural curves dressed in warm colors lead patrons through Otaku's dining room, characterized by its sushi bar and multiple counters for parties to dine upon. In a lower section of the dining room, a tree rises from the center of a circular stone counter with chairs, proving that trees thrive when fed salmon.
With more than 700 locations, Jamba Juice proves to the masses that nutrition can be speedy and delicious. Since the beginning, the company's product philosophy has revolved around choosing whole fruits and other natural ingredients over artificial flavorings, sweeteners, and preservatives. The menu is completely free of high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats, and it offers additional accommodations for vegan and gluten-free diets.
Blended drinks dominate the menu, with options including fruit refreshers?made with naturally hydrating, electrolytic coconut water?and pre-boosted smoothies that can fill nutritional gaps with infusions of protein, immunity boosters, or antioxidants that neutralize accidentally swallowed pool water. The drink list also includes organic house-blend coffee and Talbot Teas, including Paris Breakfast and SOHO Earl.
For those with heartier appetites, steel-cut oats steep in soymilk before being enhanced with toppings such as apples, cinnamon, and brown-sugar crumble. The lunch hour presents protein-packed mini wraps, toasted bistro sandwiches and California Flatbreads that pack only about 320?420 calories each.
Using more than 30 spices, the chefs at Ocean Blue Caribbean Restaurant and Bar add super-potent complexity to jerk shrimp, a jerk turkey burger, and jerk chicken. Along with those dry-rubbed and wet-marinated meats, the culinary team crafts Caribbean classics such as ackee and saltfish, sweet potato pie, and Jamaican patties with fillings such as beef, fish, and veggies. “Loosen your belt for large portions and ready your taste buds for well-seasoned staples like brown stewed chicken, curry goat, and jerk chicken,” advises Phoenix Magazine, which has also praised the “excellent coconut curry shrimp” and the “light, pop-in-your-mouth cornmeal fritters,” known as “festivals” for their frequent use as parade confetti.
During daily meals and weekday all-you-can-eat-buffets, the aroma of sizzling meats and spices fill a cozy dining room where the green and yellow of Jamaica's flag brighten the walls. A thatched-roof, tiki-hut-style bar in the room's center help wash down feasts with wine, draft and bottled beers, and fresh-squeezed juices of tropical produce rarely seen stateside, such as soursop and irish moss.
Several times a week, local bands showcase their soaring melodies and heavy riffs at Tonic Tavern & Kitchen. Adorning the tavern's exposed brick interior, the collection of framed electric guitars and autographs reminds patrons of the now-famous bands who once rocked the bar.
A passion for music and its history isn't just apparent on Tonic's walls—it's all over the tavern's rock-themed menu. Here, grilled cheeses on parmesan-crusted challah bread are named after the famous CGBG rock club, while a pound-plus of wings is called a drum set in honor of the chicken that was the original drummer of the Beatles. The theme continues with a selection of handcrafted pizzas such as the Fleetwood Mac, a medley of ribeye steak, thousand island dressing, and dill pickles.
Besides the guitar wall-of-fame, feasts at Tonic unfold among pool tables and flat-screen TVs tuned to the latest sports. A secluded outdoor patio features misters and fans yo keep guests cool in the summer, while heaters thaw visitors during the winter. Along with concerts, Tonic hosts events ranging from team trivia nights to live comedy.
If Cork's name doesn't give you enough indication of its focus on wine, just walk inside. There, you'll see the wine wall, a 25-foot-long, climate-controlled "cellar" that spans from the floor to the ceiling in full view of the dining room. The bottles that line this wall are nothing to scoff at: Wine Spectator has given the selection its Award of Excellence for the last four years. The wine list's excess of 400 options represents just a piece of Cork’s carefully curated cuisine, however. Sommelier Robert Morris and his pastry chef wife, Danielle, join forces with executive chef Brian Peterson to create ever-rotating menus for dinner, happy hour, and dessert. Though dishes typically change with the seasons, they always represent new American cuisine with a hint of European influence. Peterson makes sure to select the freshest and most flavorful ingredients to create these dishes, rejecting any produce that comes from a can or shows its age by speaking in Shakespearean English. Cork also serves up a once-a-month, four-course themed dinner, as well as a Sunday brunch on Easter and Mother’s Day.