Hot!Raising Arizona

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Foodbme
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/02/28 16:11:44 (permalink)
pnwchef
Foodbme
pnwchef
Looking forward to some good picks, the Super Bowl is there next year. It just may be a nice place to visit in early Feb.........nice report so far BB........

Seems there's a MAJOR assumption that the Chickenhawks might be participating????????????
I had the pleasure of joining BB & Cousin Johnny during their visit and look forward to the rest of the report!
 
fbme, I think it's a dream come true if it happens. It would make traveling easy for the home team. Seattle gets to play Denver during the season, in Seattle.........I can hear the roar of the crowd already...I may come down for a few weeks during that time and stay for the Mariners Spring training.......pnwc

IF, and that's a BIG If, they do and you do, I would love to meet you and show you the town, even though you already know some good spots!
#31
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/02/28 17:07:36 (permalink)
Friday February 14, 2014
 
Since Johnny's plane didn't land until evening, I had the day to myself.  The ambitious plans consisted of two things:  wear shorts and eat pie.  Looking over the list of possible breakfast destinations, I noticed Fran's Place in Mesa is also known for their pies, so that became stop #1.  
 
Pulling up to this small boxy building

just as the sun was coming up, the painted signs on the front windows quickly won me over.  Just in case you can't read them, the one on the left says, "We cook from the heart, not from the box".  On the right window, "Everything homemade, pie, bread pudding".  
 
There were two ladies already inside at the front table.  The one who turned out to be Fran was telling everyone she had just returned from a trip to Hawaii, but the weather was terrible, so she slept most of the time.  The other woman didn't work there, but was originally from Nebraska and stops in every morning to drink coffee and chat with Fran.
 
It didn't take much discerning to figure out that Fran was from Minnesota.  Clue #1, the accent, although years of living in Arizona has diluted it some.  Clue #2, the menu offers a "hot beef commercial",

Minnesota's name for a hot beef sandwich.  Clue # 3, there is walleye on the menu and I'm thinking there isn't much walleye indigenous to the Southwest.  Now, on the daily specials,

they do have a day for pasties, a Michigan Upper Peninsula food, but that was just a clever misdirect!
 
For breakfast, I went with something called the gambler,

a dish with scrambled eggs, sausage, mushrooms and onions.  Nothing overly complicated, but it is was very good.  Fran recommended the biscuit and of course I said yes to gravy on top.  The biscuit was small and crumbly, the gravy creamy, with big chunks of sausage, but not as peppery as it appears.  An all around excellent breakfast!
 
When I asked Fran what my pie choices were, she looked at me like I was crazy.  She said they come out of the oven around 10:30 and that they are quickly bought up, meaning there is none to be had the next day.  I promised to be back late morning and Fran promised to set aside a slice of sour cream raisin.
 
Fran's Place
6230 E. Main Street
Mesa, AZ
480-358-8765
 
At this point, I was jonesing bad for a slice of pie, but luckily I knew of a place nearby where I could get my fix.  Just ten minutes away was Iowa Café, which I visited previously in 2011.  While the place was a cute little café, the sour cream raisin I tried that day tasted old and gummy.  Hopefully, today it would be better.  Arriving, it was hard not to notice that they had moved into a big new building. 

Although clean and sparkly, it looked like any chain restaurant in suburbia.  I was not getting a good feeling.
 
But, I am a soft touch.  Seeing the map

with all the pins and the sign asking, "Where are you from", it became clear they hadn't lost their Hawkeye State roots.  Seeing a breaded pork tenderloin and a loose meat sandwich on the menu was also assuring.  The menu cover

tries hard not to offend, so it has both Iowa and Iowa State colors, although the men's room was decorated in black and yellow only.
 
The fact that I was only eating a slice of pie seemed to throw them off a little, as it took three different waitress to get me an iced tea and a slice of sour cream raisin pie.  This time, the pie

was significantly better.  The custard was much fresher and the was chock full of raisins, but was maybe a little sweeter than I would prefer.  I was also not a fan of the cracker thin crust.  And this might be the first time I have ever seen this pie with raisins inside the whipped topping.  Not a great slice of pie, but still satisfying.
 
Iowa Café
1129 N. Higley Road
Mesa, AZ
480-985-2022
 
It was back to the hotel to shower and get dressed.  Plus with this being Valentine's Day and my sweetie being in the Philippines visiting family, we talked on Skype for about a hour.  Soon, it was time to head back out for more pie.    
post edited by buffetbuster - 2014/03/01 09:05:44
#32
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/02/28 19:17:56 (permalink)
You schmoozer...in town a half day and already Fran is holding pie for you!  Nice job! 
That breakfast had a faint resemblance to the dish you and Poverty Pete had recently minus the biscuits and gravy.
 
#33
Foodbme
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/01 02:22:57 (permalink)
MetroplexJim
Be sure to hit Amy's Baking Company in Scottsdale!

Gordon Ramsey is going back on Friday, 2/28.
Check Saturday's News to see if anyone got killed. Those people are NUTS! Not worth anyone's time. IMHO Real Scumbags. He's fighting Deportation to Morocco. Has a criminal history.
post edited by Foodbme - 2014/03/01 02:30:56
#34
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/01 08:56:07 (permalink)
What I like is that Fran's Place didn't trot out some day(s)-old slice of pie just to make a sale.  I'm guessing either they sell out every day or have high standards about what they serve, or both--either of which is a great sign!
#35
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/01 09:03:53 (permalink)
love2bake-
There was no pie to had, all sold from the day before.  The morning of my visit, I would have gladly eaten a day old slice, but was quite happy to come back and get some right out of the oven, instead.  But you are 100% right, that is a great sign!
#36
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/01 09:50:51 (permalink)
Arriving back at Fran's Place at 10:45AM, I found the dining room to be hopping, with all the tables in the front room being occupied but one.  There was also a spillover down the hallway into the back dining room.  When the waitress came over (there were now three different waitresses, while Fran was manning the place alone earlier in the morning) and I told her there is a slice of sour cream raisin set aside, she told me the pies were just coming out of the oven and it will be a few minutes before they can be sliced.  
 
The best way to kill time?  Order some lunch.  Knowing my lunch destination was only a few minutes away, I went with the 1/2 hot beef commercial.  The waitress came back seconds later, saying the mashed potatoes weren't made yet, so we settled on fries instead. 

There wasn't an abundance of beef on the sandwich, but what was on there was really good.  One of the reasons I don't order a hot roast beef sandwich more often in a diner is that it is usually that low grade, fake beef, almost like what you see at an Arby's.  This was the good stuff.  The thick, fresh bread was another highlight.  The fries were nothing special and I really wish they had the mashed potatoes, but then anything would have tasted great in this spectacular brown gravy.  Thick, full flavored, with just a hint of sour, this was one of the best gravies I ever remember.  
 
While I was eating Fran herself came over, sitting at my table for a good 15 minutes.  Although she seemed to enjoy chatting with me, by the way she was gulping down a couple big glasses of water, she more or less just taking a break.  It turns out that Fran grew up in the restaurant business back in Minnesota and learned to bake at an early age, with her mother and grandmother.  She also owned two previous restaurants before moving out here.  She also told me that many of the recipes were handed down through the family and that she was Norwegian/Swedish on one side, Polish/German on the other.  Note to wanderingjew:  we did discuss lutefisk, but she brought it up.  When I mentioned I would love to try it someday, she told me don't bother, there is no way you would like it unless you grew up with it. 
 
I really enjoyed the time chatting with Fran, who is understandably proud of her little restaurant.  The pasties got on the menu because of a Yooper asking her to make them.  They were such a hit, they made their way into the rotation of daily specials.  Speaking of daily specials, I asked "Do you really need a reservation for cabbage rolls day?" 

Fran told me that there will be lines well out the door on Wednesdays just for them.
 
When Fran first came over, she brought a small dish with some of the sour cream raisin filling and meringue on it, saying this will have to do for a few minutes.  Despite the fact the custard was still warm, the flavor was obviously spot on for what I think a SCR pie should be.  After finishing her second glass of water, she got up to go slice the pie, bringing back this beauty! 

She did sit back down to get my reaction to the first bite and smiled with amusement at all my photo taking. 
 
First of all, I much prefer the meringue to whipped topping and this wonderfully airy version had practically no fork resistance at all.  The custard filling didn't have nearly as many raisins as the one at Iowa Café, but I take that as a good thing.  It walked that line, perectly between sweet and sour.  The flaky crust broke apart easily against the fork.  Other than the fact it was still warm and I think this is a pie that is best served cold, this was a genuine great slice of pie.  The version they used to serve at Farmer's Kitchen in Atlantic, Iowa is still my gold standard, but this one was right there with it.  And in all places, Mesa, AZ!
 
Before leaving, I asked Fran if she will be making sour cream raisin pie on the Saturday of the following week, since we would be back in town and she replied that she made it everyday.  If I wanted a couple of slices, just call ahead and she will save them for me.  Knowing Johnny has never had a serious slice of SCR pie before, I set that little bit of information aside for later.
 
It was now approaching noon, with my lunch destination not too far away.....        
post edited by buffetbuster - 2014/03/01 10:01:11
#37
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/01 10:04:10 (permalink)
Two other notes from Fran's Place I forgot to include:
 
1) Most of the people having lunch were eating the walleye and it looked great.  If I had it to do over again, I would have ordered that for lunch. 
 
2) I was not the only person from breakfast who came back just for pie.  Fran pointed out two other tables of people who had eaten there earlier in the day and had come back, including one I recognized from when I was there and overheard us talking about the SCR pie!
#38
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/01 11:44:35 (permalink)
"no fork resistance"...are you kidding me with these terms...I would rather know the time in seconds it took to devour! 
#39
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/01 11:50:43 (permalink)
Cliff,
Great report so far. I was reading this at work yesterday... and let me just say this, pics of food do not increase worker productivity lol.
 
Are you using your new camera to take these photos? They look fantastic!
-Danny
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/01 13:19:25 (permalink)
I want Fran to move back home!
 
#41
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/01 14:39:23 (permalink)
Mangos Mexican Café in Mesa is also included in the 500 Things To Eat book because of their chimichanga.  Which sounded pretty good to me.  There wasn't much parking on the street out front, but there is a big lot behind it where you can park for free, with a short alleyway leading right to the restaurant.
 
Arriving just a few moments before noon, all of the outside tables were filled. 

Fortunately, when I went inside to place my order at the counter, there was only person ahead of me.  Within five minutes, that line would be well out the door.  When I ordered the chimichanga, I was asked beef or chicken.  Not sure, I asked advice and he recommended the beef.  I stuck a couple of bucks in the fish tip jar

and grabbed a table next to the outside window that had just opened up.  To pass the time, I started into the chips and salsa. 

The chips were obviously store bought, with the salsa not having much in the way of heat or flavor.  Johnny and I ate lots of chips and salsa on the trip and I would rate these as the worst.
 
In a very short amount of time, the food was delivered.  The horchata

was too sweet, with not much flavor or spice.  It was up to the chimichanga

to save this meal.  Luckily, it definitely delivered.  First of all, it was massive!  Half of it was covered in sour cream, the other half in guacamole, which tasted very fresh, with big chunks of avocado.  The outside shell was very crispy, but still cut easily without splintering.  The inside

was filled with warm, tender beef.  This more than made up for the salsa and horchata.  Besides, I am eating outside in shorts, out of the cold and snow back home.  How could I not enjoy me experience here?
 
By the time I was done, there were at least a half dozen people waiting around for a seat to open.  I told a woman, who seemed to have her hands full with a couple of kids that I was leaving and that the table was hers, which seemed to be great relief to her.
 
Mangos Mexican Café
44 W. Main Street
Mesa, AZ
480-464-5700
 
A few years back, I had a fun time visiting Pittsburgh Willy's, a hot dog shop inside a small antique mall in Chandler.  But, I found them closed

due to the fact that they were in the process of moving.
 
Since I was already in Chandler, I remembered Johnny had mentioned a place he had read about with really good pies called Pecan Grove.  So, I thought picking up a few slices to share for after he arrived would be a great idea.  Chandler is bigger than I thought and it still took me at least a half hour, due to traffic.  Inside a strip mall, Pecan Grove appeared closed from the outside.  And it didn't look much better from the inside, either.  There was one couple eating, one waitress and one man at the register.  The atmosphere was weirdly quiet.  The sign advertising the daily special

wasn't very encouraging, either.  I don't think I would order a dish that they can't even manage to spell correctly.
 
I ordered three slices from the big menu board. 

The pies didn't look very good, but I took them back to the hotel room and put them in the frig.  Wanting to get off the roads before the afternoon rush hour traffic, I was content to take an afternoon nap, while waiting for Johnny to arrive.      
post edited by buffetbuster - 2014/03/01 14:47:12
#42
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/01 15:15:44 (permalink)
This is awesome! I stayed at Fran's house last time I was in Phoenix----too bad it wasn't the same Fran. This Fran couldn't cook! You are giving me so many new places to try next time I go there. I hope you made it to the TexAz Grill--it is a great place. 

#43
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/01 16:16:04 (permalink)
So you ordered no food at Pecan Grove and took pies to go...we need to talk! 
#44
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/01 18:07:12 (permalink)
Just the day before, the East Coast got hit by a major snowstorm.  There were hundreds of cancelled flights, including at BWI, where Johnny would be departing.  We stayed in contact all day and kept our fingers crossed.  His flight ended up leaving only an hour or so late, which we considered a victory.  Instead of meeting him at the airport, I met him at the car rental facility, since I was turning in my car and renting the SUV we would be using for the rest of the trip.  And if Budget wasn't crazy enough the night before, it was much worse on this Friday night.  They were waiting on people using numbers, ala bakery style, with the man next to me having #61 and they had just called #14.  He wasn't happy, because he knew he was going to be there a while.  
 
By the time Johnny arrived, almost of the restaurants we considered were closed for the night.  Not have much in the way of choices, we settled on In-N-Out Burger, near to the airport and the Arizona State University campus.  And the place was jumping!  The line we waited in wasn't too long, but once again, it quickly lengthened

until it was well out the door.  And we were about 30 years older than anyone else.
 
Both of our orders were straight off the secret menu, with double-double animal style

and neapolitan milkshakes. 

The shake was thick enough that the flavors did stay separated.  The animal style takes the already quite good fast food burger (always made with fresh ground beef) and adds grilled onions, pickles, extra spread (which is similar to 1000 Islands dressing), plus mustard fried into each patty.  Of chain hamburgers, this one is tough to beat.  The thin french fries were not quite as good as I remember.
 
Eating here was quite an experience.  The customers were in various stages of inebriation, with some truly bizarre outfits being paraded around. 
 
Back at the hotel room, we dug into the pies from Pecan Grove.  The choices were double crust peach,

sour cream raisin

and sweetheart,

a combination of chocolate and cherry.  All of them tasted mass produced, with the sour cream raisin being particularly bad.  No big deal to me, because I had already enjoyed some great pie on this day, but I felt bad for Johnny.
 
Not too bad, of course, because the next morning we were driving to Tucson, one of the very best cities for Roadfood!
post edited by buffetbuster - 2014/03/01 18:15:54
#45
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/01 18:41:19 (permalink)
Here's another chocolate cherry combo...
 

 
...in this picture, cherry pie with a chocolate coating from the Homemade Pie and Ice Cream Kitchen. 
#46
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/01 18:42:01 (permalink)
ChiTownDiner

So you ordered no food at Pecan Grove and took pies to go...we need to talk! 
Don't worry me friend, once we hit Tucson, they restaurants will be coming at us at a ChiTownDineresque pace! 

#47
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/01 18:43:36 (permalink)
ChiTownDiner

Here's another chocolate cherry combo...



...in this picture, cherry pie with a chocolate coating from the Homemade Pie and Ice Cream Kitchen. 
Now that looks like the real thing!  When Johnny saw that one of the pies was was a chocolate/cherry combo, he even remarked that it was something CTD would love! 

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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/02 10:39:39 (permalink)
On another thread, I see we have pie threat brewing for Cinci...game ON...giddy up!
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/02 12:28:51 (permalink)
buffetbuster



By the time Johnny arrived, almost of the restaurants we considered were closed for the night.  Not have much in the way of choices, we settled on In-N-Out Burger, near to the airport and the Arizona State University campus.  And the place was jumping!  The line we waited in wasn't too long, but once again, it quickly lengthened until it was well out the door.  And we were about 30 years older than anyone else.

Both of our orders were straight off the secret menu, with double-double animal style

  The animal style takes the already quite good fast food burger (always made with fresh ground beef) and adds grilled onions, pickles, extra spread (which is similar to 1000 Islands dressing), plus mustard fried into each patty.  Of chain hamburgers, this one is tough to beat.  The thin french fries were not quite as good as I remember. 


I'm glad you liked In-n-Out----I think it's a place that us Left Coasters can be proud of. The secret to In-n-Out's fries are to order them "well done", which means they cook them a second time like pomme frites. They turn out crispy yet still soft inside. And bravo for getting it Animal Style-----that's by far the best way to do a Double Double!

#50
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/02 13:10:03 (permalink)
Oh yeah....In-N-Out......this East Coaster's first stop when visiting out west.....love that animal style!!!!!
#51
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/02 19:11:56 (permalink)
Saturday February 15, 2014
 
The plan this morning was to get up early and make the 1 1/2 hour drive down to Tucson.  Our breakfast destination was Teresa's Mosaic Café,

which sits conveniently close to I-10 on the western edge of town.  Arriving at 7:20, we had a short wait until they opened their doors at 7:30. 
 
Once inside, we had the pick of the tables.  The dining room

is wide and arc shaped, with large windows letting in plenty of light.  At this time of morning, there were all kinds of shadows, so I slowly walked from table to table to find the one with optimum light for taking photos of the food.  If you watch the Big Bang Theory, I probably looked like Sheldon searching for the best seat in a movie theater.  The waitress undoubtedly thought I was crazy, but this is just a rerun that poor Johnny has seen too many times!  She probably thought I was seeking the table with the most eye catching mosaic,

as each table has one under glass.
 
Having eaten here multiple times before, I know that they usually have big plastic jugs on the counter with their excellent beverages, but these weren't out, yet.  I did notice another container that looked like a drink,  

but the waitress let us know it was pickled peppers in a sauce.  Glad I didn't end up with a tall glass of that, although I do wish we had asked for one to try.  Shortly after we received our jamaica and horchata,
 
the big beverage containers were set in their usual positions.  BTW, the third one in that photo is lemonade, something I need to try someday.
 
While we looked over the menu, we worked on the chips and salsa, with the lively salsa

here being far superior to what I had the day before.  Knowing how good the huevos rancheros is, I let Johnny decide if he wanted to order it, since it was his first time here (actually this was Johnny's first trip to Tucson).  He said he wanted something else, so I got the huevos rancheros,

which is the gold standard I rate other versions.  I seem to be drawn to dishes that are a mish-mash of different foods, all blended together and this is another example.  Here, it is fried eggs, in a mildly spicy red sauce, with lots of peppers and cheese over a crispy tortilla.  For an extra two dollars, I added savory chorizo, which really puts that excellent dish over the top.  Oh, I should mention that when my dish was set down in front of me, the four ladies at the table next to us oooohed and aaaawed, asking what it was.  As near as I could tell, only one of them ordered the huevos rancheros. 
 
When the waitress asked us if we wanted corn or flour tortillas, we are often unsure how to answer.  So, we usually ask which one they recommend.  There have been times when one has been homemade, while the other is store bought.  No concern about that here, as I have seen them making the tortillas by hand right at the front counter for everyone to see.  We both got one of each. 

I used the warm tortillas to mop up

every little bit of that great sauce! 
 
When Johnny ordered the mole enchiladas de huevo,


the waitress told him, "Great choice!"  And she was right.  We were a little surprised that the enchiladas were filled with scrambled eggs only, but anything wrapped in these tortillas and covered in the dark, chocolatey (without being sweet) mole sauce, would be something special.  Oh, and those are sesame seeds on top. 
 
We both loved our breakfast.  So much, that we discussed possibly coming back for lunch later in the trip.  But there are so many great restaurants in town, we never made it back.  Still, this was one of the food highlights of the trip.
 
Teresa's Mosaic Café
2456 N. Silver Mosaic Drive
Tucson, AZ
520-624-4512 
post edited by buffetbuster - 2014/03/02 19:28:30
#52
Michael Hoffman
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/02 19:36:26 (permalink)
You're killing me.
#53
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/02 19:39:34 (permalink)
Hate to tell you Michael, but we spent four days in Tucson.  It's going to get ugly!
#54
Michael Hoffman
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/02 19:46:34 (permalink)
Boy, you'll be sorry. You will. I'm gonna tell.
#55
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/02 20:11:43 (permalink)
Bring on more ugly!  I love your trip reports. 
Did CTD say there was a "pie threat" brewing for Cincy?  It's going to be a PIE THROWDOWN!  I already know Pie Diva will win, but that's OK.
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/02 21:43:15 (permalink)
bb - those are great looking choices....would have loved to try them both....haven't been toTucson in years...looks like it needs to be on THE LIST! I noticed Johnny's was served with pancakes...is that usual? Were there options? Also thought there might have been more choices for the filling.....
#57
ChiTownDiner
Filet Mignon
  • Total Posts : 3010
  • Joined: 2006/07/09 10:58:00
  • Location: Westmont, IL
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/02 21:47:20 (permalink)
bb - those are great looking choices....would have loved to try them both....haven't been toTucson in years...looks like it needs to be on THE LIST! I noticed Johnny's was served with pancakes...is that usual? Were there options? Also thought there might have been more choices for the filling.....
#58
Texascajun
Cheeseburger
  • Total Posts : 142
  • Joined: 2012/03/05 20:46:00
  • Location: Lone Star, TX
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/02 23:06:28 (permalink)
WOW! Both plates look great. Its good to be there with someone else so you can share food and try more things. Bring CTD along with you next time and I bet you can try them all at once.
#59
Foodbme
Porterhouse
  • Total Posts : 10407
  • Joined: 2006/09/01 14:56:00
  • Location: Gilbert, AZ
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Re:Raising Arizona 2014/03/02 23:37:31 (permalink)
From what I've heard, if CTD was along, the other 2 might not get anything to eat since CTD's reputation is that if it's on the table, it's gone in a flash!
#60
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