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.
Comfortably nestled in the shadows of the San Tan Mountains, owner Perry Rea and his family coax silken oils out of the olives they grow in their own groves. After more than 10 years of experiments, they finally settled on planting a few more than 16 distinct varietals, which thrive in the otherwise unforgiving Arizona deserts. Extending thoughtful care to each harvest, they avoid using any pesticides or genetically modified trees, employ water-conserving drip irrigation, and hand-pluck their olives at the peak of ripeness. Within 24 hours of picking, the staff then presses the crop in order to extract oils that taste as fresh as honey taken directly from a bee's pantry.
The fresh oils line the shelves of the mill's marketplace alongside imported wines and locally made goods. In addition to gourmet food items, the store stocks an extensive collection of Italian ceramics, works by local painters, and bath-and-body products infused with extra-virgin olive oil.
Queen Creek Olive Mill's oils also appear on the menu of del Piero, the facility's Tuscan-inspired bistro. Based on the Rea family's own recipes, each entree incorporates organic ingredients whenever possible, including locally sourced meats and herbs from the organic garden.
At Bombay Spice Grill, you don't have to grab a table to enjoy the spices and sauces of Indian cuisine. Instead, Executive Chef Sunil Kumar designed a menu full of Indian meats, tofu, curries, and toppings that can be customized into a flavorful meal-on-the-go. Though the sauces come in traditional varieties such as curry, tikka masala, spinach, and vindaloo, the preparation veers from the methods of India to create healthier dishes. Chefs eschew cooking with ghee—Indian clarified butter—and instead use olive oil for heart-healthy wraps, sandwiches, salads, and bowls. And though wraps come with a slice of freshly baked naan or roti bread, clients can opt to make their dish gluten-free by swapping out bread for quinoa or rice. Guests can even customize their dish to be vegetarian and vegan, with ingredients clearly denoted on the menu. And to pair with a main entree, they can grab traditional Indian sides such as samosas and rice pudding.
At La Bocca Urban Pizzeria, preparations for pizza crusts start a full day before they hit the brick oven. Chefs knead organic dough by hand, watch it rise for 24 hours, and then top the crusts with gourmet, locally procured ingredients such as Queen Creek Olive Mill olives, Schreiner’s Fine Sausages meat, and housemade pulled pork.
The rest of the Mediterranean-inspired menu proves equally indulgent. Chefs layer bruschetta planks with fig and smoked prosciutto and toss pastas with housemade sauces and meatballs molded from grass-fed beef. To grant molars breaks from the rigors of chewing, servers are happy to recommend pairings from the drink menu, which features handcrafted cocktails, European and Arizonan wines, and award-winning sangria.
Brosenbrus Cafe combines the convenience of a coffee bar with the cuisine of a refined sandwich shop, creating an ambiance that azcentral.com described as “young, hip and summer-session sedate.” In addition to brewing Cartel coffee, the cooks also artfully layer pulled pork, pickled vegetables, or hummus between slices of ciabatta or focaccia bread. Steven Gross described the culinary passion that he and co-owner Brad Stewart share, telling State Press Magazine, “whenever we’re around food we always want to experiment.”
This creative energy extends beyond the menu to the café’s clean, modern decor. Seating fills the high-ceilinged space, allowing patrons to enjoy their orders while sitting at one of the gleaming wooden tables, in a plaid armchair, or on the shoulders of an obliging employee.
Walter Salazar—chef, owner, and Lima native—staffs Villa Peru with family members who are "friendly, familiar with the food, and happy to take the time to walk you through any of the dishes," according to the Phoenix New Times in 2011. This help is especially valuable in light of the eclectic menu, which chef Salazar fills with exotically spiced meats and seafood. Inside the kitchen, chefs flame pieces of steak, hot peppers, and tomatoes in the chef's secret sauce to craft lomo saltado de carne entrees, or sprinkle fresh fish, squid, and octopus with lime to prepare their specialty ceviche mixto. Those customers who don't bring bottles of their own wine may sip hard-to-find Peruvian beverages such as Inca Kola or sweet and tangy chicha morada, an extract of purple-corn juice.