Post image for Wish Naked BBQ wasn’t such a long drive away? Next month it’s coming to the 480

Great news for East Valley barbecue aficionados: One of Arizona’s top ’cue joints is coming to the 480 area code.

Naked BBQ, which opened in north Phoenix in January 2015, is launching a second location in the Scottsdale Fiesta Shopping Center on the southeast corner of the 101 and Shea.

It’s taking over the space formerly occupied by Cousins Subs, across the parking lot from Portillo’s.

While that’s not as convenient for me as a location in, say, Chandler would be (hint, hint), it’s only half the drive it takes to get to Naked’s current location at I-17 and Bell.

A drive I gladly make for perhaps the best Valley barbecue from a place without the words ‘‘Little Miss’’ in its name.

Taking center stage are the pulled-to-order pork sandwiches, including Naked’s award-winning Pork on Pork sandwich with pulled pork topped with smoked pork belly (pictured).

Naked is one of the few Valley BBQ joints where you can find a Carolina-style vinegar and pepper sauce (among several others). It also offers a Carolina version of its cole slaw and house-made pickles.

Owner Oren Hartman says the new location will have all the same delicious food as the original, plus a couple more options. It also will serve local craft beers as soon as its liquor license is approved.

Demo work has finished and the location should open in February, Hartman says.

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Post image for Fibber Magees Irish Pub announces new lineup of food & drink specials

Fibber Magees Irish Pub in Chandler has launched a bunch of new food and drink specials.

Food specials (dine-in only, with purchase of any beverage):

  • Monday: $6 burgers
  • Tuesday: $7 sliders
  • Wednesday: $7 flatbreads and $5 desserts
  • Thursday: $7 chicken wings and $7 chicken tenders
  • Friday: $15 all-you-can-eat fish and chops
  • Saturday: $11 corned beef and cabbage

Drink specials:

  • Monday: $3.50 Buds, Bud Lights, and Mich Ultras; $2 off all Jack Daniels drinks
  • Tuesday: $2 off Crown Royal drinks; $1 off Guiness, Harp, and Smithwick’s
  • Wednesday: $4 house wines, $3.50 Smirnoff flavored vodkas
  • Thursday: $2 off Captain Morgan drinks, $4.50 signature shots
  • Friday: $5 Irish Bombers, $5.50 signature cocktails
  • Saturday: $1 off specialty beers, $6.50 signature Mules
  • Sunday: $4.50 20-ounce Guinness, $5 Bloody Marys, $5 mimosas

Happy hour specials (11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday):

  • Drinks: $5 pub favorites, $4 pub drafts, $3 domestic bottles, $4 well drinks, $5 house wines.
  • Food: $5 garlic fries, hummus, and soft pretzels; $7 chicken wings, Dirty Nellies, pork sliders, chicken sliders, and cod sliders.

Reverse happy hour specials (10 p.m.-close Monday-Thursday):

  • Drinks: $5 pub favorites, $4 pub drafts, $3 domestic bottles, $4 well drinks

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Post image for Ahipoki Bowl announces 2 more locations coming to Valley this spring

Poke – Hawaiian raw fish salad – continues to be a hot dining trend in the Valley, with Ahipoki Bowl announcing its fourth and fifth Arizona locations will open this year.

Ahipoki Bowl allows diners to create their own bowls, choosing a base (rice or salad), seafood (tuna, spicy tuna, albacore, salmon, shrimp, octopus, yellowtail, or scallops), and any of 13 toppings and four sauces.

The California-based chain made its Arizona debut in Scottsdale in April, and added a second location in west Chandler in July (story).

A Tempe location, scheduled to open near ASU by the end of February, previously has been announced (story).

This week, Arizona franchisees Mike Zimmerman and Jason Jantzen identified two more Ahipoki Bowl locations:

  • In the former Verizon space (next to Starbuck’s) in the CityScape courtyard in downtown Phoenix.
  • Taking over the Jersey Mike’s space on the southeast corner of Seventh Avenue and McDowell in downtown Phoenix.

The CityScape location’s opening also is planned by the end of February, with the Seventh Avenue opening in late spring.

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New ice cream & coffee concept Frozen Creamery opens in Gilbert

BY Jess Harter Friday, January 6, 2017

Post image for New ice cream & coffee concept Frozen Creamery opens in Gilbert

Frozen Creamery, a new concept featuring all-natural ice cream and gourmet coffee, has opened next to Venezia’s Pizza on the northeast corner of Cooper and Ray in Gilbert.

Coffee, including the shop’s signature cold brew, is made with beans that are USDA certified organic, non-GMO, Fair Trade certified, and Rainforest Alliance certified.

Ice cream, custard, sorbet, and gelato all are made with cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. No artificial flavors or ingredient are used.

Flavors include Mexican chocolate, Thai iced tea, brown butter, and crispy marshmallow treat.

Hours are 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday. It is closed Saturdays.

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Sunday: Beer Mile fundraiser at The Brass Tap in Mesa

BY Jess Harter Friday, January 6, 2017

Post image for Sunday: Beer Mile fundraiser at The Brass Tap in Mesa

The Brass Tap at Mesa Riverview hosts the third annual Beer Mile charity fundraiser at 11 a.m. Sunday.

Participants run four quarter-mile laps around the parking lot, chugging a Grand Canyon American Pilsner or Ballast Point Longfin Lager each lap.

Registration begins at 9:45. Entry fee is $50 ($40 for veterans, ACBG members, or ASH members).

All proceeds go to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which provides college scholarships for children of special operations soldiers who have died in action.

Following the run, The Brass Tap will tap Collaborative Haze, an IPA brewed with Mesa’s Beer Research Institute and California’s Ironfire Brewing, at 1 p.m.

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Post image for Prepared-food concept Eat Fit Go makes AZ debut Friday in south Chandler

East Fit Go, a Nebraska-based prepared-food concept, makes its Arizona debut Friday on the southwest corner of Alma School and Ocotillo in south Chandler.

The store features refrigerators stocked with fresh, healthy meals that have no preservatives, low sodium, high protein and are allergy-friendly. Most meals have fewer than 600 calories.

Most customers pick up the pre-prepared breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks to take home, but there are tables and a microwave if they want to eat on-site.

Aaron McKeever and Sam Vakhidov opened the first Eat Fit Go in Omaha, Neb., in February 2016. In less than a year, the chain has grown to 12 stores in five states.

Another 12 stores are scheduled to open this year, including one in Scottsdale. The chain has said it eventually wants to open 10 Valley stores.

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Post image for The Crepe Club to give away free samples Friday at Gilbert grand-opening party

The Crepe Club, which opened last month at San Tan Village in Gilbert, will hold its official grand-opening party from 5-7 p.m. Friday.

Attendees can meet the three brothers – Karim, Fares, and Omar Tarabichi – who started The Crepe Club as a food cart on the ASU Main Campus two years ago.

The brothers now have two carts and a walk-up window at ASU, as well as small restaurants at Biltmore Fashion Park in Phoenix and San Tan Village.

From 5-7 p.m. Friday, the San Tan location will be giving away samples of its sweet and savory crepes, fresh-baked French pastries, and French-inspired dishes.

It also will have samples of its fresh-pressed juices and coffee.

The Crepe Club, located near the Harkins Theaters, is open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

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Post image for Today: Sierra Nevada Sidecar launch at The Hungry Monk

Today: Sierra Nevada Sidecar launch at The Hungry Monk

BY Jess Harter Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Hungry Monk in Chandler will help Sierra Nevada Brewing launch its first new beer of the year, Sidecar Orange Pale Ale, at 5 p.m. today.

Sidecar (5.3% ABV) is a fruity twist on the California brewery’s flagship Pale Ale.

Like most established craft breweries, 36-year-old Sierra Nevada, the nation’s third-largest, is struggling to grow sales in an ever-crowded market.

In response, Sierra Nevada is introducing two new year-round beers in early 2017: Sidecar and Tropical Torpedo. The latter is a citrus-y spinoff of its popular Torpedo Extra IPA.

The Hungry Monk will be selling pints of Sidecar for $3 tonight. A brewery rep will be on hand to discuss the beer.

If the beer’s name sounds familiar, it may be because the brewery also used it for an amber ale a few years ago.

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Post image for My Top 10 favorite new restaurants that opened in the East Valley in 2016

If 2015 was a year spent exploring international flavors (see last year’s Top 10), 2016 was a return home to familiar American dishes, both classic and contemporary.

Somewhat surprisingly, the hot spot turned out to be Chandler, home to six of this year’s Top 10. Before I get to this year’s list, though, a caveat.

I debated what to do with a pair of new Chandler restaurants – IncogNitos and 55 Chicago – that signed on as MXSW sponsors. It’s fairly obvious (and understandably suspicious to readers) to say they’re among my favorite new restaurants.

On the other hand, it didn’t seem very fair to completely ignore these restaurants simply because they choose to support local food and drink coverage.

I ultimately decided to leave both off the list to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, but am calling attention to them in this intro instead. Both are great places – definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already.

That said, here are my Top 10 favorites – non-MXSW sponsors – that opened in 2016 (in alphabetical order):

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Bella Gusto Urban Pizzeria

You still can count the number of wood-fired ovens in the East Valley on two hands, but the list is growing. This under-publicized Chandler gem, which also offers sandwiches, pastas, and salads, shows why we need more. (Pictured: Mary Margherita pizza.) Menu | Map

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The Brickyard Downtown

This ambitious small-plates joint helped spark a late-night craft cocktail culture in downtown Chandler. Before the year was over, it was joined by Modern Margarita, 55 Chicago, and VB Lounge, among others. (Pictured: Crusted ahi tuna with wasabi-scented potato.)  Menu | Map

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Fresko Mediterranean Kitchen

This Ahwatukee eatery from the former executive chef of Thirsty Lion features Greek faves like avgolemono (egg-lemon soup), keftedes (fried meatballs), souvlaki (skewered meats, pictured above in a pita), moussaka (aka “Greek lasagna”), and baklava. Menu | Map

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Ginger Monkey

Looking for someplace new to watch a ball game, sample some craft beers, or just hang out on a patio? This south Chandler restaurant and bar’s menu ranges from the upscale (chianti-braised short ribs) to the quirky (meatloaf TV dinner, both shown above). Menu | Map

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Good Time Charli’s

This is the fourth bar and grill I remember in this stylishly renovated west Chandler strip-mall space, and by far the best. The menu is standard pub grub but excellently executed. There’s live music almost every night. (Pictured: Sliders and fries.) Menu | Map

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Nico Heirloom Kitchen

Chef Gio Osso’s concept, one of the few originals at downtown Gilbert’s fast-growing Heritage Marketplace, appeals both as a fine-dining destination and an every-day neighborhood hangout. (Pictured: Nonna’s beef and pork meatballs with focaccia.) Menu | Map

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Nishikawa Ramen

One of the hottest concepts in the Valley last year was ramen, with no less than a half-dozen notable newcomers. Topping the list was this Chandler spot, which rebranded itself after a successful decade-plus run as Taiko Japanese. (Pictured: House black ramen.) Menu | Map

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Rodizio Grill

Giant skewers of grilled meats and produce? Check. Exotic desserts and cocktails? Check. This Brazilian steakhouse is a nice replacement for the dearly departed TQLA at Mesa’s Dana Park. (Pictured: Skewers of picanha sirloin and glazed pineapple.)  Menu | Map

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VB Lounge

This hip cousin to longtime Ahwatukee Italian fave Va Bene brings reinvented American classics, such as a cast-iron cheeseburger and pork belly lollipops, and craft cocktails to downtown Chandler. (Pictured: Fried chicken and smoked apple sauce.) Menu | Map

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Worth Takeaway

If you think you have no reason to go to downtown Mesa, you obviously haven’t been to this sandwich shop extraordinaire, which uses Proof breads and makes its own sauces, pickles, and chips. (Pictured: Crispy chicken sandwich.)  Menu | Map

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Post image for This week’s ‘Taste of Romeo’s’ menu: Spicy Apricot Chicken & Ravioli Marco Polo

Romeo’s Euro Cafe in Gilbert holds its weekly ‘‘Taste of Romeo’s’’ dinner, hosted by chef Romeo Taus and his wife, Janice, in a private dinning room, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

The dinners typically feature five courses selected from the restaurant’s regular menu. This week’s menu:

  • Vegeta Skins: Grilled hearts of palm, artichokes, onions, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, Italian dressing, and provolone (pictured).
  • Ravioli Salad: Deep-fried cheese ravioli with black olives, bell peppers, tomatoes, Genoa salami, hearts of palm, peas, and red onions in mustard-vinaigrette dressing.
  • Spicy Apricot Chicken: Blackened chicken breast, smashed crispy potatoes, zucchini, grape tomatoes, roasted garlic, balsamic Cipollini onions, and spicy apricot agrogolce.
  • Ravioli Marco Polo: Cheese ravioli, meat sauce with Italian sausage, ricotta topped with mozzarella, and a touch of cinnamon
  • Mini Mocha Tartlets

Cost is $30 per person plus tax and tip. Add five wine tastes for $10. RSVP: 480-962-4224.

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