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Tag Archives: patio seating

July 22 – Boca Taqueria

Boca Taqueria

1674 N. Higley Rd., #101
Gilbert, Arizona 85234
Phone: (480) 306-8690

http://bocataqueria.com/

Organized by: Sarah and Bill

It was quite a small group for July with just 5 DDs. Much of our group was traveling or had family events going on so it was a small group of Fred, Karna, Ann, Bill, and Sarah.

We tried a local taco place that opened a second location in Gilbert. The place is fast casual where you order at the counter and they serve you at the table, but don’t worry the quality doesn’t seem rushed. There is a great happy hour every day until 6pm with some good drink and food options.

Portions are plenty for the full plates or you can get some good a la carte options if you aren’t famished. The Macho Nachos (pictured below on left) are a big plate of nom noms with plenty to share with friends. The enchiladas are tasty and the during the fall you can get the Green Chile Pork ones with a butternut squash sauce. It is really tasty and quite unexpected. Ann tried the seafood enchiladas with green sauce. The flavor was good even for a non-seafood loving person as myself! We also tried the tilapia and chimichanga, served enchilada style.

The margaritas are cool and refreshing or they also have a small but good selection of beers on draft. The atmosphere is light and super casual. It’s a great place to stop by for a quick bite or grab some take-away. According to their website, they also have a food truck and offer catering options as well.

It was a fun and casual night with our small group of peeps. Good times on a hot monsoon night.

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Posted by on 07/22/2017 in Latin

 

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April 30 – Brickyard Chandler

The Brickyard Downtown 

85 W Boston St |Chandler, AZ 85225|480-963-1373

http://brickyarddowntown.com/

Organized by: Pat and Fred

For April, the DDs went to a great gem in Chandler that is known for their craft cocktails that are paired with tasty small plates. We started out with cocktails ranging from gin gimlets, pineapple and pimms and their special take on a margarita using saline solution instead of salt and citric acid instead of sweet and sour. It was really tasty but strong, so some of us all switched to wine for the rest of the night.

We also shared their pork tacos and new fish tacos, pork belly skewers, olives, shishito peppers, loaded fingerling potatoes and new mushroom mini bricks. For dinner we had shrimp and grits which were creamy and cheesy, squash ravioli, and spiced rubbed tenderloin that was cooked perfect.  It was all so good we forgot to take pictures but in classic Tony style, he went over to the neighbors table to take a picture of their creme brulee. Ha!

For dessert we had a couple of each: the mini churros were light and with great sauces, crème brulee and the new lavender panna cotta. The last two were light and perfect for summer.

Everyone enjoyed the idea of the smaller plates and sharing. The small patio was nice after the sun went down and perfect because we could actually hear each other. Sometimes I even think the patio is more comfortable than the inside. It feels like a secluded little garden with a fireplace. I could spend hours out there, certainly doesn’t help that that cocktails are delicious 🙂

 
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Posted by on 05/01/2017 in American

 

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Espos – March 2017

Espos Mexican Food

3863 W Chandler Blvd|Chandler, AZ| 85226

480-588-7377 |https://www.espos.co/

Organized by: Jen and Don

Hidden right in the middle of bustling Chandler is a fast casual gem that has been serving up Mexican favorites and good times for the people in Chandler. Whether it is tender and juicy carne asada or fresh and tasty green chili pork, Espos originally started serving the farm worker community and has been dishing happiness for over 40 years.

We visited Espos on a beautiful April Sunday in Phoenix before the heat melted our skin off so we enjoyed sitting outside in the comfortable patio. There is no table service, rather you order inside and then find a seat. The margaritas are only $2 and they are quite delicious and refreshing on a warm afternoon. You can also order a bucket of beers and they will literally put them on ice for you. Even though the patio is sitting right on Chandler Blvd, it feels secluded and inviting, making you forget that a huge mall is just right down the road.

The portions are plentiful so be prepared to possibly take leftovers home or share a dish. You would think that with this kind of quality ingredients, prices would be high but they are not. A red chili burrito is under $6 and it is not a baby burrito! There are also a variety of snack options such as corn or flour chips with a whole variety of dips such as queso, green chili beef, or pico de gallo. The rice and beans are good, but unless your plate comes with it, I would rather focus my laser sights on enjoying the tasty main dishes. You won’t be hungry, that’s for sure!

So bring your friends, order some good food, and chillax on the patio with a margarita or a frosty cerveza and let summer roll on by…

https://www.espos.co/special-event-pictures

 
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Posted by on 03/26/2017 in Mexican

 

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May 28, 2016 – Old Town Tortilla Factory

Old Town Tortilla Factory

6910 East Main Street

Scottsdale, AZ 85251

480.945.4567

http://oldtowntortillafactory.com/index.php

Organized by: Fred and Karna

Fred and Karna took the reigns again this month and organized dinner at the Old Town Tortilla Factory in Scottsdale. The restaurant is located in a very cute 75-year old adobe home. You enter through a huge flagstone patio surrounded by lots of pecan trees. Needless to say, the patio seating is amazing!

We started with the “award winning” margaritas that seemed a little watery and light on flavor. So we decided to change it up to a bottle of wine…at a Mexican restaurant with 120 tequilas. Not a good sign. Instead of tortilla chips like most Mexican restaurants, the Tortilla Factory provides warm homemade tortillas with butter. Rightly so. This was a interesting twist and the tortillas were pretty tasty.

From the starter menu we got a few orders of chips and salsa fuego and the much anticipated Chorizo Fundido. I was quite disappointed that it was light on the Chorizo, but heavy on the Fundido.

For dinner, the Red Chile Pork Chops was nicely presented and had good flavor. The green enchiladas with chicken, cheese, and tomatillo sauce was also good. Overall, I would say that the food was okay but I probably wouldn’t come back just for that. The best part of the dinner was certainly the ambiance of the beautiful patio!

We opted not to order dessert and instead part of the group walked down the block to the Hotel Valley Ho for cocktails and dessert. The Valley Ho has been a Scottsdale landmark since 1956. The hotel was renovated in 2005 and brought back to its modern 60’s vibe. The ZuZu lounge had a fun design of 60s modern bar stools, minimalist couches with clean sharp lines and yet still looked comfortable and soft. Since we were there at night, there was a soft red glo giving everything a fun artsy vibe.

We opted to sit outside at the Cafe Zu Zu taking full advantage before the Arizona weather kicked into full gear. When first sitting down, I made the mistake of asking the hostess how long the hotel had been open knowing that it was a landmark but not much else. The young girl sheepishly looked at me and said “I really should know this, but I don’t.” Yes dear. You really should.

After a rousing discussion of Scottsdale vs. Gilbert socialites, we delved into libations. I tried the Bourbon Smash which was Maker’s Mark, muddled lemon, mint, simple syrup, club soda, and lemon peel. Someone else tried the Blackberry Mule of vodka, ginger beer, lime juice, and blackberry and Tony went with a Manhattan.

For dessert, we tried the Raspberry Creme Brulee, Key Lime Pie, and Caramel Macchiat”Oh” Cheesecake. The cocktails and desserts were delicious and were a nice ending to a fun evening of heated political discussions and lots of good times and laughter.

 
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Posted by on 05/28/2016 in Mexican

 

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April 23, 2016 – Flo’s

Flo’s Tempe

788 E Baseline Rd

Tempe, AZ 85282

480-588-7922

http://www.madebyflo.com/

Organized by: Karna and Fred

 

In April, we visited one of the three locations of Flo’s, a local Arizona restaurant opened in 1997 and focused on spicing up your experience with Asian cuisine. Their motto of “Traditions with a twist” illustrates that there will be plenty of recognizable dishes but with some twists to wake up your senses.

We made our place on the back patio and, even on this windy day, it was a really comfortable setting with the added bonus of twinkle lights. We certainly enjoyed the San Diego type weather before the Arizona summer rears its ugly head.

As with almost every dinner, we started with cocktails. Ann ordered a Pomerita-Florita, made with tequila, triple sec, pomegranate syrup, lemon juice, sweet & sour, and soda water. To cut down on the sweetness, she ordered it without sweet & sour and it was still plenty sweet and probably more refreshing. Well done Ann! We also ordered some beers like Kiltlifter and the Japanese beer, Asahi, which is similar to a Heineken and a few bottles of Riesling. Just out of curiosity, we also ordered a taster of the Hakutsuru Plum Wine. Yes, it was just as sweet as imagined, but this was different. It was a thicker, more fragrant sweetness. Sound crazy? The best way I can describe it is to say, imagine the difference between drinking the juice of a plum versus the empty, hollow sweetness of a processed candy.

Never one to shy away from apps, we tried the lettuce wraps, potstickers (chicken, pork, and veggie versions), and the spicy wontons. The spicy wontons were hands down my favorite of the night! Shrimp and pork wontons served in a chili oil plus a soy and vinegar sauce. Nom nom nom! The lettuce wraps were a nice surprise as well. Unlike the drier versions that you find at PF Chang’s and Pei Wei, the lettuce wraps are covered in a tasty sauce. Be careful of using the red chile sauce, it carries a yummy but spicy kick!

Kelly and Tony ordered the Hot and Sour Soup, but little did hey know that they would receive a cauldron! Entrees included Thai Fried Catfish and Chile Sauce; Katsu Chicken, which is panko breaded chicken on egg-fried rice with teriyaki sauce and sesame seeds; Yellow Curry Chicken; and Yuxiang Pork, a twist on an imperial dish with bell peppers and onions. The sauce on the Yuxiang was surprisingly sweet considering it was on the “spicy China” side of the menu. Perhaps I needed to order it with more spice? The Spicy Orange Chicken was delicious! If you have ever been to Panda Express, do not make the mistake of thinking this is the same. Instead, think less bread and more flavorful sauce.

Sadly, we didn’t get to try the Peking Duck which is on the “hidden treasures” menu and needs to be ordered 24 hours in advance. For dessert, we enjoyed the Chocolate Won Tons, which were little crisp pastries filled with chocolate ganache and a tasty wrap up to the night.

Overall it was good, but there were plenty of intriguing dishes that we just didn’t have the chance to try. I guess it just means we will have to go back. 🙂

Prost!

 
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Posted by on 04/24/2016 in Asian fusion, Chinese, Thai

 

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March 12, 2016 – House of Tricks

House of Tricks

114 E 7th St

Tempe, AZ 85281

480-968-1114

http://www.houseoftricks.com/

Organized by: Jen and Don

House of Tricks is a well-known oasis in the middle of the bustling Arizona State University campus. Surrounded by trees, this little 1920s bungalow has a fire pit, bar, and open patio seating making it perfect for a quiet and tasty retreat.

Robert and Robin Trick opened this fine dining restaurant way back in 1987. I am sure they have seen so much change with how ASU has grown around them.

The seasonal menu changes regularly and they are known for using only the freshest ingredients from local sources.

 
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Posted by on 03/12/2016 in American, Wine Bar

 

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Low country noshing in Charleston

Low country noshing in Charleston

Being part of a dinner club has made us come to realize that food is not just a way to provide nutrition to your body or a social event, but it also provides a special kind of insight into the culture and history of an area. So for our trip this year of exploring south of the Mason/Dixon line, we decided to take our first ever walking culinary tour in Charleston, South Carolina.

Charleston has been getting a lot of publicity for their foodie culture and number of award winning chefs and restaurants so it seemed like a perfect place to explore through food tastings. We met up with Glen from Charleston Culinary Tours at the Southend Brewery and Smokehouse. We arrived early to grab a drink at the bar before the walking tour and were worried that the torrential downpour outside from Tropical Storm Anna would cancel the tour, but we seemed to be the only people worried about the sideways rain and 30MPH winds. Such tourists! But with an umbrella and a determined spirit we decided we were still going for it. The heavens were smiling at us that day because the rain and wind stopped just before our tour and provided us with a cool and beautiful day to be out walking and exploring Charleston.

There are many towns and cities we have visited that claim to have the best of the local dish. Pizza in Chicago, cheesesteaks in Philly, BBQ in Nashville, clam chowder in San Francisco, and now shrimp and grits and she-crab soup in Charleston. Glen started us off at Southend Brewery and Chef Orlando Barrera with a cup of she-crab soup. The she-crab soup is iconic to Charleston ever since it was made for President Taft when visiting the mayor of Charleston and is reportedly served every year at the White House Correspondents Dinner. The creamy bisque or chowder like dish is made with blue crab meat, crab roe, with a dry sherry float. It was so flavorful and creamy and a great start to the tour! Southend also has Glen’s vote for best shrimp and grits. As a grit lover extraordinaire, I never knew that the best kind are made with heavy cream and butter and no water.  Where have I been?!? These grits were not the soupier kind I have had before but rather decadent, creamy, and popping with flavor! The shrimp was local with a roasted tomato and tasso ham gravy. Last but not least we had fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese and chow chow. I have tried fried green tomatoes before but this was the first time I had tried pimento cheese. From what I can tell it is frequently served with fried green tomatoes but also used as a dip, on sandwiches, or even burgers. The spread is commonly made with cheese, mayo, onions, pimentos, and S&P. But with this foundation, I think there are many opportunities to kick it up a notch with lots of other ingredients. The chow chow is a slightly tangy vegetable relish, usually made with bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, beans, carrots, etc.

After Southend, we took a nice walk through downtown while Glen talked about the restaurant scene in Charleston. He said that there is about 1,003 restaurants in Charleston and he seemed to know every chef, every dish, and the history of every restaurant! He also described how because the real estate is so expensive, many restaurants are part of restaurant groups with investors to help cover the costs of the facilities.

Our next stop was at the newly opened Cumberland Street Smokehouse and Chef Kyle Yarbrough. Here we tried some great Low Country style BBQ. The meat was rubbed with a spice seasoning before smoking and not slathered in sauce. The BBQ is served with the rub and then sauce (usually a mustard and vinegar based) are added on if desired. Collard greens are a common BBQ side and I highly suggest adding the pepper vinegar on top! It really makes a flavor explosion in your mouth. 🙂 Also a must is the duck fat fries. Crispy, hot, and cooked in duck fat for a flavor that will surely send your taste buds to Shangri-la. The rest of the BBQ was cooked well, but seemed dry. I definitely opted to add the additional sauce on top.

Next we walked down the waterfront and learned about some Charleston history. Glen also explained the grey flags that we saw displayed on some homes for Support Shore Power. This is a local effort to require cruise vessels to use shore side power instead of running their engines when sitting at port. Those in support of this are hoping to cut down on pollution from the ships that goes into the pier and soot that travels into the historic downtown area. It seems like it is all about perspective. Glen said that many of the restaurants do not like the cruise ships because no one comes to shore to eat when all the meals are included on the ship. On the other hand, when we asked a city bus tour guide about the flags, he scoffed and said “those groups are always upset with someone. Before the ships, they hated the bus tours. It’s always something.” I guess it depends on what industry you support. 🙂

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Our next stop was at Pearlz Oyster Bar and Exec Chef Victoria Neikirk for some fish tacos. Not sure why we weren’t able to go inside but it could have been because the place was quite small and our tour group was a large group of 13. Instead the kitchen delivered the rolled fish tacos outside to us across the street. I am sure not everyone enjoyed that in the group but I love the idea of a good street food so it didn’t bother me at all. To me, it felt less formal and more local. The grilled Mahi taco was absolutely delicious! Rolled in a soft tortilla with cabbage, pico de gallo, and crema. It was fresh with a little bit of a spice. Pearlz is also a big supporter of the Sustainable Seafood Initiative which is a conservation program through the South Carolina Aquarium.

Last stop on the tour was Carmella’s Café and Dessert Bar. This place had beautiful and fresh décor with an open and vibrant feel. It is a fun atmosphere and great way to wind down after a foodie adventure. This place had an awesome mix of amazing desserts and coffee but with a full bar and creative cocktails. Our final dish of the tour was a chocolate mouse on a chocolate cake and was divine! (And I don’t like chocolate too much so that is saying a lot!) We also opted for the $5 special cocktails made for the tour. One was a fruity and refreshing orange slushy cocktail that tasted like an Orangesicle with manners and a hot chocolate coffee cocktail.

Now that the tour and we had some bearings in the city, Bill and I wanted to walk around and explore downtown as well as seeing their famous Rainbow Row. We asked Glen to give us some suggestions for places to stop in while we were down in that area and he sent us to Blind Tiger. “It looks like a real dive”, he warned us, “but walk all the way through to the patio in the back. They have the most amazing patio in Charleston.” Man was he right! We were stuffed from all the food on the tour so we were looking just to have a drink but I did try the white corn fritters. Eh. Their “Secret Sauce” seemed like a version of ranch and the fritters were served on some sad wilted lettuce. Clearly the selling point for this place is the patio atmosphere. The Blind Tiger has been many things during its long history including a speakeasy. These parlors called “blind tigers” were places where a person would pay an entrance fee to see the “blind tiger” and be served complimentary cocktails while waiting to see this tiger that would never show up. Pretty soon all patrons would stumble out blind. Today the patio is just overflowing with character and feels like a little oasis surrounded by crumbled courtyard walls in the middle of the city.

Our only regret with this tour is that you only have time to visit a few places and Charleston has so much to offer. Another big lesson is that many of the places are so popular and only open for dinner, that you need to make reservations well in advance! We certainly fell in love with this city during our brief few days and only feel like we scratched the surface of what this area has to offer. We most certainly will be going back because we have South Carolina on our minds.

 
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Posted by on 05/24/2015 in American, Seafood

 

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