October 31, 2008

Flagstaff's Best Pizza Slice spots

(This article was written by me and first published in Flagstaff Live! in October.)

Best Slices

In a hurry and need a quick bite on your lunch break or between classes? Your best bets are Fratelli Pizza (downtown location) and Oregano’s.


The slice specials are fabulous and cannot be beat. For $6 (including tax) you get two slices and a drink or a slice, a salad and a drink. Let them upgrade ya for $1.50 more. Fratelli serves up lunch really fast in a relaxed environment. Perfect atmosphere for eating alone or with friends.

While Oregano’s does indeed have a slice special for lunch, instead opt for the personal-sized Chicago stuffed pizzas. They only make a limited number of these everyday, and they do run out early. I’ve been there for lunch at 11:30 a.m. and they were already out. Call ahead to find out what type they’re making each day.

Flagstaff's Best Pizza Joints

(This article was written by me and first published in Flagstaff Live!)

In search of Flagstaff's Best Pizza

Pizza. The variety you can find in this one menu item is almost amazing. It may sound simple and easy, but pizza is really an art form, at least at the great pizzerias. It’s like the famous old saying goes, “Pizza is a lot like sex. When it’s good, it’s really good. When it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.”
I went on a quest to find not just good pizza, but the best in Flagstaff. I forced myself to dine on pizza pies at New Jersey Pizza Co., Fratelli Pizza, Oregano’s, NiMarco’s Pizza, Roma Pizza, Scott’s Chicago Pizza, the Pizza Guy and Alpine Pizza.
Here’s a look at the best of the pies I tried.

The Best

New Jersey Pizza Co.

This small and relaxed pizzeria gets the overall best pizza rec. I managed to come here over and over to be sure it deserved top billing. It does.
New Jersey pizzas run from $8 for a plain cheese 12-inch to $18 for 16-inch specialty pies.
There’s an actual chef back in the kitchen and you can taste the care in the pizza. All of the ingredients blend together smoothly to complement, not overpower, the others.
The sauce is fantastic! Flavors of fresh tomatoes and spices are infused to make an almost creamy sauce. The cheese is generously doled out. It’s salty, but not overly so.

The crust is very thin and crispy. Everything about this pizza tastes fresh.
Another reason for the superior taste, New Jersey uses as much locally grown and organic ingredients as they can. Many places charge extra for organic, but that’s not the case at New Jersey Pizza Co. Another bonus.
You can even order pizzas (for a little extra cash) with their homemade Mozzarella cheese. I saw them making this one day when I was dining there and it’s pretty cool. Tasty too. (You can buy New Jersey Pizza Co.’s homemade cheeses at the Flagstaff Community Market on Sundays through Oct. 12.)
New Jersey Pizzas take time to make. It’s never a quick in-and-out dinner, so plan accordingly.

Fratelli Pizza, downtown location

Fratelli is the classic Flagstaff pizza joint. It’s comfortable, low key, has a super friendly staff, and makes a good pizza pie.
My favorite thing here: the slice combos. (See sidebar for details).
To feed the family, the office or a group of friends, ordering a whole pizza is a better deal. They range from $7.25 for a 10-inch plain cheese to $20 for the 14-inch Chicago, which their menu calls “the manliest pizza alive.”
Fratelli makes a great thin crust. The cheese is super-gooey with just the right amount of sauce. The dough is homemade and hand tossed then baked in a stone deck oven—perfect if you like New York-style thin crust, which I do.
I recommend going for a little different pizza here: the pesto. It’s basically their thin crust cheese pizza with pesto sauce. Even if you’re not a huge pesto fan you should try this. The pesto is blended right into the cheese. It tastes so fresh and smells so good. Most days the pesto pizza is one of the options on the slice deal too!

Also worth mentioning in the best category: Oregano’s Chicago-style stuffed pizza. Their stuffed pizza tastes like authentic stuffed Chicago pizza. The stuffed feeds an extra person than the same size thin crust and runs from $12.95 for a 10-inch cheese to $22.95 for a 12-inch meaty Numero One-O.
I used to live in Chi-town and ate the best stuffed pizzas on the planet. This one isn’t the best I’ve had, but a great substitution considering your only other option is to fly 1500-plus miles to eat.
A great way to test out Oregano’s stuffed pizzas—the lunch special personal sized pizza (see the sidebar for details).

The Rest
There will be NiMarco’s fans who disagree with this, but I have to say NiMarco’s may be the most overrated pizza in town. They have a great patio and great prices ($1.75 for a plain cheese slice) and great sauce. But the pizza itself is sub-par and greasy with a cracker-like, dare I say cardboardy, bland crust. The sauce is tangy and tasty, but not good enough for me to recommend ordering pizza here.

Grandma Tina's

By Arikka Fullmer

198 South 100 East, Kanab, UT

The Food (taste/flavor/quality of food & drinks)
>>>>= a favorite, can count on it being good every time
The Atmosphere (environment, wait staff, comfortableness)
xxxx= comfortable
Price (what to generally expect to pay per person per entree)

$$$ = $15
Value (what you get for your money)
**** = worth it - you won’t be disappointed with what you get for your money

This is a family restaurant with humble decor typical of your Grandmothers. We have the choice of inside the dining room or on the sunny patio. We choose outside. So does another diner with his young pup named Dinosaur. The patio is a dog friendly place with buckets of water under each table for your best friend. We also have views of redrock cliffs in every direction.

The menu is diverse from appetizers, soups, salads and main dinner options that climb to over $20 dollars per person. We are here for lunch so I order a cheese burger and fries. It’s a bit pricier than I expected at $9 for my plate.

To my surprise the fries are spiced. I enjoyed them but more sensitive palettes may not. The burger is packed with flavor. Its obviously a preformed frozen patty but it is very tasty. The bun is full, fresh and stuffed with fresh condiments. No droopy lettuce or wilted tomatoes. So you get what you pay for in Kanab. Our waiter was attentive, genuine and had a sense of humor. Big tips all around for making us feel at home while on the road.

October 24, 2008

Cafe Ole

By Angele Sionna

119 S San Francisco, Flagstaff, AZ

(no menu online)

The Food (taste/flavor/quality of food & drinks)
>>>= good, but not great

The Atmosphere (environment, wait staff, comfortableness)
xxxxx= you’ll love it

Price (what to generally expect to pay per person per entree)
$$ = $10

Value (what you get for your money)
*** = fair -you get what you pay for, not in a bad way

The relaxing atmosphere is everything at Cafe Ole. The outside patio is more of a courtyard and is the best in town. You feel comfortable from the moment you walk in. There's a giant fountain at the back and plants all around with Mexican pottery scattered about. On the weekends, you'll often catch a live music performance to set the mood as well.

The food and drinks at Cafe Ole are creative. The special drinks of the night have included blueberry mojitos and pomegranate margaritas. Both were good, though there seems to always be too much ice in the mojitos and margaritas here and they only serve them on the rocks. They're a little watered down tasting as a result.

My favorite thing on the menu is the "make your own combination" platter. They're served in one, two or three item portions with rice and beans. I like to do three item combo with two cheese enchiladas and a guacamole taco. It is the perfect size to share with my toddler. The special enchilada dishes are often intriguing choices and I recommend them as well.

The service is generally slow but very friendly but the atmosphere makes up for any negatives here.

All in all, this is the best Mexican restaurant in town to take out of town friends or go on a date. The food is quality and the surroundings really put you at ease and in a talking mood.

For more photos of Cafe Ole, click HERE.

October 15, 2008

The Soup Kitchen

By Arikka Fullmer

2012 S 1100 E, Salt Lake City

The Food (taste/flavor/quality of food & drinks)
>>>>= a favorite, can count on it being good every time

The Atmosphere (environment, wait staff, comfortableness)
xx= nothing to write home about

Price (what to generally expect to pay per person per entree)
$ = under $10

Value (what you get for your money)
***** = superb -lots of quality/taste for what you pay

There's nothing more classic than tomato soup and a cheese sandwich.
With temperature's dramatically dipping in the West I had to revisit my favorite soup server. The Soup Kitchen in Sugarhouse is perfect for a college student on a budget or a banker on a break from counting beans.
You may have to stand in line but as you move closer to the counter you can smell the bubbeling soups.
You'll change your mind several times before you order.
Grab a tray with paper lining, use plastic tongs to pick a variety of bread sticks for dipping, wheat, garlic, or cheese!
I order the sandwich/ soup combo, creamy tomato and eggsalad on wheat bread.
It's a twist on the classic combo that I love! The Soup Kitchen's tomato soup is filled with chunks of tomato and onion. The cream is subtle and the herbs don't overpower.
For a moment you'll be back at your grandmothers kitchen table slurping down a traditional winter warm up.
The chalkboard menu is diverse, every type of sandwich you can image with six types of soup. The quality is consistant, the service is friendly. There's always a hustle behind the counter but count on waiting for  your sandwich, don't worry soup is served hot and quick.

The dining area is 'vintage' with a slightly neglected style. You might have to brush previous diners crumbs off your table. But no one here cares, it's like dropping in on your neighbor.

October 14, 2008

The best beers in the Southwest

Dozens of brewers in the Southwest Win Medals at the 2008 Great American Beer Fest

By Angele Sionna

Attention beer lovers - if you weren't able to go to the Great American Beer Fest, don't dispare. You can try many of the best beers without leaving the Southwest!

Here's a look at the brewers in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah who took home gold, silver or bronze medals in the Great American Beer Fest this month.

Category: 4 Fruit or Vegetable Beer - 87 Entries
Bronze: Sangre de Frambuesa, Santa Fe Brewing Co., Santa Fe, NM

Category: 6 Coffee Flavored Beer - 28 Entries
Gold: Java the Hut, CB & Potts Restaurant & Brewery (Flatirons - Westminster), Broomfield, CO
Silver: Big Shot Espresso Stout, Twisted Pine Brewing Co., Boulder, CO
Bronze: Double Espresso Stout, Barley Brothers Brewery and Grill, Lake Havasu City, AZ

Category: 9 Specialty Honey Beer - 33 Entries
Bronze: Honey Moon Summer Ale, Blue Moon Brewing Co., Golden, CO

Category: 11 Other Strong Beer - 32 Entries
Gold: Derail Ale, Durango Brewing Co., Durango, CO

Category: 12 Experimental Beer - 82 Entries
Silver: Fifteen Avery Anniversary Ale, Avery Brewing Co., Boulder, CO

Category: 14 American-Belgo Style Ale - 36 Entries
Silver: Brush Fire Ale, Pump House Restaurant & Brewery, Longmont, CO

Category: 15 American-Style or German-Style Sour Ale - 34 Entries
Bronze: Fifth Element, Squatters Pub Brewery, Salt Lake City, UT

Category: 17 Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer - 79 Entries
Silver: The Legend of the Liquid Brain Imperial Stout, Bull & Bush Brewery, Denver, CO

Category: 20 Kellerbier/Zwickelbier - 23 Entries
Bronze: Zwickel, Chama River Brewing Co., Albuquerque, NM

Category: 21 Smoke-Flavored Beer - 31 Entries
Bronze: Second Hand Smoke, The SandLot, Denver, CO

Category: 22 International-Style Pilsener - 22 Entries
Silver: Yep, Still Boneheads, The SandLot, Denver, CO

Category: 24 Bohemian-Style Pilsener - 34 Entries
Gold: Pleasantville Pils, Durango Brewing Co., Durango, CO
Silver: Pallavicini Pilsner, Pug Ryans Brewery, Dillon, CO

Category: 25 Munich-Style Helles - 30 Entries
Bronze: BS Helles, The SandLot, Denver, CO

Category: 26 Dortmunder or German-Style Oktoberfest - 16
Silver: Westy Export, CB & Potts Restaurant & Brewery (Flatirons -
Westminster), Broomfield, CO

Category: 35 German-Style Schwarzbier - 23 Entries
Gold: B3K, Wynkoop Brewing Co., Denver, CO
Silver: Cherny Bock, Bohemian Brewery, Midvale, UT

Category: 36 Bock - 39 Entries
Gold: Goat Rancher, The SandLot, Denver, CO
Bronze: Butt Head Bock, Tommyknocker Brewery, Idaho Springs, CO

Category: 39 Golden or Blonde Ale - 40 Entries
Bronze: All Nighter, Chicago Brewing Co., Las Vegas, NV

Category: 49 Imperial or Double Red Ale - 30 Entries
Silver: Alpha Dog Double Red Ale, Big Dog’s Brewing Co., Las Vegas, NV
Bronze: Weekender Red Ale, Amicas, Salida, CO

Category: 50 Bitter or Pale Mild Ale - 42 Entries
Silver: Hopsmith Pale Ale, Bull & Bush Brewery, Denver, CO
Bronze: Sawtooth Ale, Left Hand Brewing Co., Longmont, CO

Category: 51 Extra Special Bitter or Strong Bitter - 43 Entries
Bronze: Standing Wave Pale Ale, Kannah Creek Brewing Co., Grand
Junction, CO

Category: 53 Irish-Style Red Ale - 31 Entries
Gold: Red Rocks Red Ale, Rock Bottom Brewing, Louisville, CO

Category: 54 English-Style Dark Mild Ale or Brown Ale - 48
Gold: Sweet George’s Brown, Dillon DAM Brewery, Dillon, CO
Silver: Old Elk Brown Ale, Walnut Brewery, Boulder, CO
Category: 56 German-Style Altbier - 27 Entries
Bronze: All The Way Alt, Desert Edge Brewery, Salt Lake City, UT

Category: 57 South German-Style Hefeweizen - 52 Entries
Gold: Wixa Weiss, Wynkoop Brewing Co., Denver, CO

Category: 58 German-Style Wheat Ale - 32 Entries
Bronze: Wasatch Hefeweizen, Wasatch Brew Pub, Park City, UT

Category: 59 Belgian-Style Witbier - 53 Entries
Gold: Mothership Wit/Organic Wheat Beer, New Belgium Brewing Co.,
Fort Collins, CO
Silver: Belgian Wit, Redrock Brewing Co., Salt Lake City, UT
Bronze: Squatters Wit, Utah Brewers Co-op, Salt Lake City, UT

Category: 64 Belgian-Style Strong Specialty Ale - 44 Entries
Bronze: Golden Armor, CB & Potts Restaurant & Brewery (Highlands
Ranch), Highlands Ranch, CO

Category: 65 Brown Porter - 30 Entries
Bronze: Prospector Porter, Tommyknocker Brewery, Idaho Springs, CO

Category: 66 Robust Porter - 47 Entries
Gold: Nolan’s Porter, Barrio Brewing Co., Tucson, AZ
Silver: Sweet Sanderine Porter, Il Vicino Brewing Co., Albuquerque, NM

Category: 67 Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout - 19 Entries
Silver: Shaft House Stout, Dostal Alley Brewpub & Casino, Central City, CO

Category: 69 American-Style Stout - 23 Entries
Gold: Terminal Stout, Rock Bottom Brewing, Louisville, CO

Category: 70 Sweet Stout - 19 Entries
Silver: Milk Stout, Left Hand Brewing Co., Longmont, CO

Category: 72 Imperial Stout - 44 Entries
Bronze: Yeti Imperial Stout, Great Divide Brewing Co., Denver, CO
To see a full list of winners from all across the country, see beertown.org.

October 4, 2008

Dickey's Barbecue Pit

By Jerry Ireland
4811 Pan American Freeway NE, Albuquerque, NM
Menu at: dickeys.com

The Food (taste/flavor/quality of food & drinks)
>>>>= a favorite, can count on it being good every time

The Atmosphere (environment, wait staff, comfortableness)
xxx= good but could be improved

Price (what to generally expect to pay per person per entree)
$$ = $10

Value (what you get for your money)
** = okay - overpriced for quality/taste

When I was eating at Dickey's Barbecue Pit in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I kept thinking about the line in Pulp Fiction, "It's the little differences. I mean, they got the same sh** over there that they got here, but it's just – it's just there it's a little different."

The reason: I used to frequent the original Dickey's in Dallas, Texas and it has always been one of my favorite barbeque joints. While the Albuquerque version has the same good food, some of its differences threw me a bit. But that’s what happens when you turn an original into a franchise, you loose a little of the charm and quality.

One of the things I like about the Dallas version is it is a down home cafeteria style restaurant. You get in line, get your food and get to business. In Albuquerque, it is a sit down restaurant. Also the motif of the restaurant was different. The Dallas Dickey's is essentially a dive and the Albuquerque smokehouse seemed like a cross between a TGIFriday's and the original. It lacked none of the dive quality that gives the original its charm. Now, I know this is a positive for some people, but I prefer the simplicity of the cafeteria and not having to wait for my food and refills on my drink.

In Albuquerque you have a more expansive menu. You can get starters like hot wings and nachos, several types of sandwiches (chicken hoagie, hamburgers, and ham and cheese) that you won't find at the original because a true Texas smokehouse would be embarrassed to carry these items. Also, the salad choices are much more diverse compared to the original. Again, some people may find this to be a positive, but to make room, they removed one of my favorite sides from the menu. The original has outstanding green beans, and that used to be a staple of my Dickey's experience. But when I ate in Albuquerque there were no green beans. This must be changed.

One thing that remained the same is the excellent barbecue. I ordered the beef brisket and sausage plate. The brisket perfectly melts in your mouth, which is how I like it. The sausage explodes with taste. The sauce is a bit sweet with a little tang too it. Of all the excellent Texas barbeque sauces, Dickey's sauce remains my favorite.

I tried the onion strings, which are essentially thin stringy onion rings and I liked them. I also had the Caesar salad and it is more than serviceable but nothing to write home about.

One other difference is the price. The Albuquerque smokehouse's prices were a couple of dollars extra. I assume that is because of the restaurant style seating.

These differences took away from my enjoyment of one of my favorite restaurants, but I would say that the Albuquerque restaurant is a cousin of one of the best BBQ restaurants in Texas and that makes it among the best in Albuquerque.

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