Post image for Reminder: Chef Off! dinners kick off new season Monday at El Palacio

Just a few seats still remain for this season’s kickoff of Chef Off!, a series of friendly competitions between East Valley chefs in the form of collaborative dinners.

Defending champion Romeo Taus (pictured on right) of Romeo’s Euro Cafe in Gilbert travels to El Palacio in Chandler to take on Anthony Serrano (left) on Monday.

Each chef will prepare three dishes to be paired with a craft beer from The Perch in Chandler. The secret ingredient is pork, and the dinner theme is Southwestern.

For $55, diners will get all six dishes, plus beers and dessert, and vote for the winner.

The dinner starts at 6 p.m. RSVP: 480-802-5770.

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Post image for Jimmy & Joe’s slice of the month: Prosciutto, arugula & ricotta

A new month means a new Slice of the Month at Jimmy & Joe’s Pizzeria.

Starting Saturday, the August featured slice will be prosciutto, arugula, and ricotta with a balsamic drizzle.

The price of the oversized slice will be $7.99.

Jimmy & Joe’s has locations in Chandler, Mesa, and Ahwatukee.

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Post image for Friday specials & deals from MXSW sponsors

Today’s specials and deals from MXSW sponsors:

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Post image for What new restaurants are opening next in downtown Gilbert?

The doors of Petersen’s Ice Cream barely were open this week when MXSW readers already were asking, “What’s opening next in downtown Gilbert?”

Who can blame them? In the last nine months, Zinburger, Lo-Lo’s, Barrio Queen, Snooze, Pomo Pizzeria (pictured), and Petersen’s all opened on the same block, more or less.

The tiny “downtown” stretch of Gilbert Road already had Joe’s Real BBQ, Liberty Market, Romeo’s Euro Cafe, The Farmhouse, SoCal Fish Taco, Postino, Joyride, and Oregano’s.

Well, there are still more restaurants coming, although you’re going to have to wait several months. Here are three to watch for:

Nico

Gio Osso is chef and owner of Virtù, one of the Valley’s top fine-dining restaurants. He’s also a Gilbert resident, and the still-developing concept for his second restaurant is “West Coast-inspired food” influenced by his Italian background, according to Phoenix New Times.

Nico, named after Osso’s son, will be a more casual, family-friendly kind of place next to Pomo in the new Heritage Marketplace. A December opening is being targeted.

Sushi Brokers

This longtime north Scottsdale favorite opened a second location in Arcadia in early 2013, and its third will be a 3,600-square-foot, second-floor space in Heritage Marketplace.

Besides 40 different sushi rolls, the restaurant also offers bento boxes, yakisoba, and udon bowls.

The owners are still fine-tuning the Gilbert blueprints, so they’re looking at opening at the end of the year at the earliest.

Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row

Carlos Santana, Toby Keith, Julio Cesar Chavez… Celebrity-themed restaurants have a lousy history in the Valley.

Will Bentley, a county music star who was born in Phoenix, fare any better?

The concept already has opened its first location in Scottsdale, with another opening this fall in downtown Tempe.

The Gilbert location – across the street from Oregano’s, north of Joe’s Real BBQ – is scheduled to open in early to mid-2016.

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Post image for Thursday specials & deals from MXSW sponsors

Today’s specials and deals from MXSW sponsors:

  • Baja Joe’s: $9.99 fajitas; Cantina Nachos for $5 after 5 p.m. (cantina only).
  • The Brass Tap: Service industry gets 25% of draft beer and house wine from 9 p.m.-close.
  • Fibber Magees: Half-price wings & tenders; $2 off Captain Morgan drinks, $4 shooters.
  • Hungry Monk: 99-cent chicken tenders.
  • La Ristra New Mexican Kitchen: Ladies receive happy hour pricing on drinks from 6-9 p.m. in bar.
  • Murphy’s Law: Ladies Night with $3 Pinnacle cocktails and $4 Pinnacle martinis from 8 p.m.-close.
  • Nicantoni’s Pizza: All-day happy hour with $2-$3 beers, $5 wines, and $1 off spirits; $4.50 appetizers; $6 wings.
  • El Palacio: $2 street tacos, $3 Mexican pints, $4 margaritas, $5 sangria
  • Romeo’s Euro Cafe: Five-course “Taste of Romeo’s Euro Cafe” dinner at 6:30 p.m.
  • Uncle Bear’s: $2 off fajitas and Lemon Chicken Sizzle; $3 Fence Jumper golden ale pints; $4 Mexican Moonshine rocks margaritas
  • Wimpy’s Paradise: Handmade pierogi (pictured above) available from 5-7:30 p.m.
  • Zappone’s Italian Bistro: Buy one pizza, get a second for half-price. Dine-in or takeout.

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Post image for Coming soon to a drive-through near you: Salad and Go

Salad and Go, a two-and-a-half-year-old homegrown concept that has three busy locations in Gilbert, is about to go Valleywide.

Over the next year, the drive-through salad bar is opening three locations in Mesa, two in Cave Creek, two in west Phoenix, and one in Tolleson.

If that doesn’t include your city, just wait. Salad and Go founder Roushan Cristofellis is looking for additional sites, including in Chandler and Tempe.

A Gilbert resident and former elementary school teacher, Cristofellis (pictured above) was frustrated by the lack of healthy and tasty fast food in her neighborhood.

Although she and her husband had no experience running a restaurant, they launched the first Salad and Go on the southeast corner of Gilbert and Guadalupe in February 2013.

The menu was simple: 10 made-to-order gourmet salads created by Daniel Patino, executive chef at Bourbon Steak at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort.

“When we first opened, our average ticket time was seven minutes,” Christofellis says. “That’s horrible. You can’t be a replacement for fast food at seven minutes.

“Now we’re about a minute-and-a-half, maybe 2 minutes.”

After a few months, the eatery added a breakfast menu with healthy items like egg-white burritos, quinoa bowls, and power wraps.

Salad and Go’s second location opened at Cooper and Warner in March 2014, and a third followed at Higley and Williams Field in September.

“We built this concept with the idea that this isn’t the type of place you do just one of,” Christofellis says. “We’re trying to change fast food, so the idea is we need more to fulfill our mission.”

Two new salads debut on menu

SaladAndGoSweetPotatoStrawberry

Earlier this month, Salad and Go’s menu got its first facelift, based on two-plus years of customer feedback. Gone are the Spinach and Smoked Bacon and Louie salads.

Taking their place: Sweet Potato and Strawberry (pictured) and Southwest Kale Caesar salads.

In the beginning, all 10 salads were made with romaine lettuce. Now, eight of them feature mixed greens as well as romaine.

“What we found was a lot of our customers didn’t like the romaine hearts,” Christofellis says. “They wanted something with different flavors and different textures.”

Salad and Go uses organic and fresh ingredients whenever possible.

For example, the pineapple chunks on the Asian salad are from freshly chopped whole pineapples. The peanuts are roasted on-site. The chicken is free-range. All oils are GMO-free.

“Our goal is to constantly get better,” Christofellis says. “A lot of our greens are organic, but not all. One week our bananas are organic, the next week not.

“We’re still too small to have the necessary buying power. Not like Chipotle.”

All 10 salads come in 48-ounce plastic to-go containers. All are the same price: $5.74. (All also are available as wraps instead of salads.)

The Cobb remains the chain’s best-seller by a wide margin. Second place, though, is an ongoing battle between the BBQ Ranch, Greek, and Caesar.

Where Salad and Go is opening next

SaladAndGoBuilding

Given their unique needs – drive-throughs and walk-up windows, but no dining rooms – Salad and Go builds each of its locations from the ground up.

All the new locations will feature an updated facade with a more modern look and the concept’s green, orange, and charcoal color scheme.

The two Cave Creek locations have not officially been announced yet, but here are the others (in order of their anticipated openings):

  • Higley and Brown in Mesa
  • Power and Broadway in Mesa
  • 99th Avenue and Lower Buckeye in Tolleson
  • Pinnacle Peak and 19th Avenue in Phoenix
  • Alma School and Southern in Mesa
  • Baseline and 19th Avenue in Phoenix

“We do really want to get into Chandler and Tempe,” says Christofellis, who grew up in Chandler. “We’ve got this hole now in the middle (of the map).”

Beyond the Valley, she and her husband are looking at Tucson, Flagstaff, Prescott, and Payson.

“Our goal is to have 40 stores in Arizona,” she says.

The couple own each location and have no plans to sell franchises.

“I think it’s risky when you franchise and you lose that control,” Christofellis says.

Making ‘drive-though food better’

SaladAndGoSign

When she opened the first store, Christofellis expected the vast majority of Salad and Go’s customers to be female. She’s been surprised.

“I think our biggest following on Facebook is female, and they tend to be the most vocal,” she says. “But as far as guests, it’s pretty mixed.”

(As Christofellis says this, a pickup full of male Hispanic landscape workers pulls up to the drive-through.)

“If you had the numbers, you might see there’s a few more percentage points of females, but I think we thought it would be more overwhelming than it is.”

A number of fast-casual salad concepts have entered the Arizona market in the last few years, such as Denver-based MAD Greens at Tempe Marketplace.

Christofellis, however, points out none of them have drive-throughs.

“We don’t consider anyone a competitor who doesn’t have a drive-through,” she says. “Our mission is to make drive-through food better.

“We think a big part of the reason people choose fast food is it’s convenient – you don’t have to get out of your car.”

As the mother of a 15-month-old daughter (born between the openings of the second and third stores), Christofellis is speaking from experience.

“I now appreciate the convenience as much as anyone.”

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Post image for Yet another new addition to downtown Gilbert: Petersen’s Ice Cream

Petersen’s Ice Cream & Cafe, a Chicago institution for nearly a century, opened its newest store at Heritage Marketplace in downtown Gilbert on Tuesday.

Petersen’s makes 19 super-premium ice creams – meaning 16%-18% butterfat – in addition to several kids’ flavors, no-sugar, and sorbet varieties.

The chain has a dozen stores in the Chicago area, where it has been voted “Best Ice Cream in Chicago” numerous times.

Petersen’s opened its only non-Chicago area store in Old Town Scottsdale in 2012. The store was closed when the lease expired and moved to the Gilbert location.

Besides ice cream cones, sundaes, and milkshakes, Petersen’s offers a full range of hot and iced coffee drinks and teas.

Petersen’s also sells pints and quarts of ice cream to go. Its ice cream also can be found in some grocery stores in Arizona.

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Post image for Liberty Market’s ‘Burger Daze’ menu: 31 specialty burgers in 31 days

Liberty Market in downtown Gilbert kicks off its annual “Burger Daze” on Saturday.

Every day in August, the restaurant will offer a different specialty burger. Prices will vary based on ingredients.

The schedule of burgers:

  • Aug. 1: Weekender Burger with beef patty, cheddar cheese, bacon, breakfast potatoes, and sunny side up egg.
  • Aug. 2: Pad Thai Burger with seared tofu, peanut sauce, bean sprouts, julienned vegetables, and lime.
  • Aug. 3: Roasted Corn Dip Burger with beef patty, roasted corn, poblano, jalapeno, pepper jack cheese, on jalapeno ciabatta.
  • Aug. 4: Buffalo Blue Burger with beef patty, buffalo sauce, blue cheese, lettuce, tomato, celery.
  • Aug. 5: Cowboy Burger with beef patty, smoked cheddar, bacon, grilled onion, housemade steak sauce, pickled jalapenos.
  • Aug. 6: Salmon Cake Burger with housemade remoulade (or tartar sauce), mixed greens, veg.
  • Aug. 7: Pasta House Burger with beef patty, linguine, and marinara on garlic bread.
  • Aug. 8: Shepherd’s Pie Burger with mashed potatoes, vegetable medley, and gravy.
  • Aug. 9: Rustic Guacamole Burger with beef patty, chipotle-gouda cheese, roasted vegetable guacamole, cotija, and tortilla chips.
  • Aug. 10: Portobello Burger with marinated and grilled portobello patty, avocados, alfalfa sprouts, and tomato.
  • Aug. 11: Lamb Burger with ground lamb patty, housemade jalapeno mint jelly, and arugula, and tomato.
  • Aug. 12: Herbed Goat Cheese Burger with beef patty, red wine and onion marmalade, arugula, and of course, herbed goat cheese.
  • Aug. 13: Cubano Burger with beef patty, smoked pork, pickles, whole grain mustard, and cabbage.
  • Aug. 14: Shrimp and Crispy Bacon Burger with beef patty, sauteed shrimp, crispy candied bacon, and sriracha aioli.
  • Aug. 15: Ahi Burger with a seared ahi “patty” with wasabi aioli, and pickled julienned vegetable slaw.
  • Aug. 16: Brie Burger with beef patty, brie, wild mushrooms, spring mix, and guava glaze.
  • Aug. 17: Bestie Burger with beef patty, monterey jack cheese, spicy avocado, chipotle vin, and veg.
  • Aug. 18: Hollywood Cobb Burger with beef patty, chopped greens, egg, bacon, tomato, and blue cheese dressing.
  • Aug. 19: Italian Stallion Burger with ground sausage patty, roasted peppers, and provolone.
  • Aug. 20: Chile Con Queso Burger with beef patty, queso with chorizo, and fritos.
  • Aug. 21: Juicy Lucy Burger with American cheese stuffed beef patty, bacon, bbq sauce, and onion ring.
  • Aug. 22: Chicken Parmesan Burger with chicken parm patty, marinara, and mozzarella on brioche bun.
  • Aug. 23: Prosciutto Burger with beef patty, sliced prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, basil, balsamic reduction, and date jam.
  • Aug. 24: Pork Belly BLT, with pork belly “patty”, heirloom tomato, arugula, and pesto.
  • Aug. 25: Jamaican Jerk Burger with beef patty, mango salsa, and chipotle aioli.
  • Aug. 26: Barbacoa Burger with beef patty, barbacoa pork, pico de gallo, lime slaw, and avocado crema.
  • Aug. 27: Grinder Burger with beef patty, sliced meat, pepperoncini, and lettuce, onion, tomato.
  • Aug. 28: Roast Beef Burger with roast beef, vermont cheddar, horseradish sauce.
  • Aug. 29: Billionaire Burger
  • Aug. 30: Savory Waffle Burger with beef patty, cheese and veg.
  • Aug. 31: Truffle Mushroom Burger with beef patty, havarti, truffle mushrooms, and arugula.

If you eat 10 different burgers in the series, you will receive a $25 gift card. If you eat all 31, you receive a $100 gift card.

You must bring in receipts by Sept. 7 to pick up gift cards.

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It’s National Chicken Wing Day! Here are today’s special at The Hungry Monk in Chandler:

HungryMonkWingDay15

What’s the Angry Brewtus Carolina Reaper Sauce Challenge, you ask? Eat five Angry Brewtus wings in 10 minutes and they are free.

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Post image for Wednesday specials & deals from MXSW sponsors

Today’s specials and deals from MXSW sponsors:

  • Baja Joe’s: $8.99 chef’s pasta specials; dozen wings for $5 after 5 p.m. (cantina only); $2 bottles and shots, $3 mugs, margs, and Patron from 8 p.m.-close (cantina only).
  • Craft 64: Two-item pizza and pitcher of local craft beer or bottle of house wine for $25 after 5 p.m.
  • Fibber Magees: Half-price flatbreads and desserts; half-price glasses of wine and $3 flavored Smirnoffs.
  • Floridino’s Pizza & Pasta: With purchase of $8 or more, kids under 10 eat free off kids menu.
  • Hungry Monk: 59-cent boneless wings (pictured above); $3 craft beer pints.
  • La Ristra New Mexican Kitchen: Ride your two- or three-wheel bike (with or without motor) and get happy hour pricing on drinks from 6-9 p.m. in bar.
  • Murphy’s Law: All-you-can-eat fish & chips for $16 from 6-10 p.m.; $4 Tullamore Dew, $5 Jameson, $5 Bushmills, $5 Irish Car Bombs all day.
  • Nicantoni’s Pizza$3.95 house wine; $3.25 Blue Moons and Shock Tops; $9.95 salad & lasagna combo.
  • El Palacio: Kids eat free with a paid adult entree.
  • The Perch: 50% off all wine and meat & cheese plates.
  • Uncle Bear’s: Kids eat free with paid adult entree; $3 Head to Tale amber ale pints; $1 off appetizers.
  • Wimpy’s Paradise: Kids eat free with each adult meal (additional kids eat for $3) from 4-7:30 p.m.
  • Zappone’s Italian Bistro: 50% off all bottles of wine.

Keep up to date on local food & drink news: Click here to receive a daily email of MXSW posts