There’s nothing wrong with fast-food joints and chain eateries. But, if you really want to sample the flavor of a small town, dine at a mom and pop restaurant. Eat at a locally owned establishment and everybody wins, especially your taste buds. Make some road-trip memories with a visit to one of these mom and pops.
Verde Lea Market Deli and Grill, Cottonwood
From the inside and out, Verde Lea looks like an unassuming neighborhood grocery store, but don’t be fooled. It’s a modest shop that serves a diverse menu of surprisingly delicious food. Everything is made fresh – from fries to tortillas to salsas. The house specialty is the addictive torta, a monster sandwich that owner Bill Murray credits with keeping his business afloat in the early years. It starts with telera bread for a hint of sweetness, followed by beans, a heaping portion of carne asada, grilled onions, lettuce, tomatoes and jalapeños.
Thuy’s Noodle Shop, Bisbee
Bisbee is a funky little burg full of surprises. A few steps from Brewery Gulch you can slurp a heaping bowl of pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup. Owner and chef Thuy Dang opened this tiny storefront eatery in 2013, creating the dishes she knew best. The pho bo is made with traditional spices, rice noodles, green and white onions and sliced beef. Chicken and vegan options are also available. Daily specials are creatively printed on a chalkboard.
Pine Country Restaurant, Williams
At Pine Country Restaurant, expect to plan your meals from dessert and work backward. First thing you see when walking through the door is the pie case – shelves stacked with an array of artistic creations. Luscious cream pies, golden-crusted fruit pies and specialty numbers crowned with slabs of chocolate and plump berries. Owner Dee Seehorn and her staff whip up these culinary masterpieces each day. The home-style cooking focuses on comfort food. Dig in, just save room for pie.
Velvet Elvis, Patagonia
This is the kind of eatery you hope to discover on every road trip – a middle-of-nowhere gem with a passion for healthy delicious food. Cecilia San Miguel opened this restaurant nearly 20 years ago to highlight recipes from her grandmother’s kitchen. She has now passed the culinary torch to new owner Alec Bezzina, who has kept the same chefs and menu, which includes complex soups, organic salads and hearty calzones – plus he’s added a few new creative pasta dishes as well. Designer pizzas are built using a savory whole-wheat crust as a platform, sturdy but light and perfectly charred, with an eclectic but beautifully balanced blend of toppings.
Tacos Mi Rancho, Yuma
You’ll feel like you’ve crossed the border when chowing down at Tacos Mi Rancho. The casual eatery is filled with color, tile, wood and mariachi music on the speakers. The neighborhood hangout is popular with residents and visitors alike. The authentic Mexican cuisine is made from scratch and full of flavor. A slate of street tacos is available with a choice of meats, along with burly burritos, rich enchiladas and chiles rellenos swaddled in cheese.
Darbi’s Café, Pinetop
Breakfast is taken very seriously in the White Mountains. Debates rage on where to get the best breakfast, but Darbi’s Café is always a top contender for classic breakfast cuisine, as evidenced by the crowds jostling to squeeze in each morning. They’re known for down-home cooking and plate-draping portions. And it’s served in a comfortable woodsy cabin. Now that’s a classic White Mountain experience. They’re also open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday.
Westside Lilo’s Café, Seligman
This little restaurant perched on the high plains of Northern Arizona feeds the world. Since Seligman is the birthplace of historic Route 66, it draws a steady stream of international visitors. German-born Lilo Russell slings homemade grub that keeps everyone coming back. She opened the restaurant in 1996 aided by husband, Patrick and daughters, Brenda and Nancy. Along with several German specialties, Lilo’s is known for decadent desserts like cream pies and towering slabs of moist carrot cake.