Eating like a local when traveling is what Real Food Traveler is all about. With the guidance of writer Ron Stern, it’s also easy, while making your way around Arizona’s West Valley restaurants (and other places for delicious bites) and know exactly what to order.
Hungry for more? Eat local from area farmers markets.
12 Tasty Bites of the West Valley of Arizona: Glendale, Avondale, and Litchfield Park
Located just a short drive west of Phoenix, the West Valley is emerging as a burgeoning foodie destination. The growing communities of Glendale, Avondale, and Litchfield Park, in particular, are offering surprisingly tasty dining opportunities. Local mom and pops, bakeries, and established restaurants are thriving while sharing a common passion for quality, service, and a desire to provide a great gastronomic experience.
Here, then, are my twelve suggestions for some of the best cool places to eat under the warm Arizona sun.
West Valley Spots to Eat in Glendale
While the name might make you wonder how people are dressed, Pit Boss Oren Hartman thinks his BBQ meats are so good, you probably won’t want any sauce. But, like everything else on the menu, he makes his from scratch including mustard, vinegar, and tomato-based condiments. Having left a profitable career in technology, Hartman opened his newest location in the Westgate Entertainment/Sports District in September 2021. A true smoked meat perfectionist, he cooks his low and slow for 15-18 hours until they are fork-tender. He also offers prime beef brisket, pulled pork, turkey, hot links, and ribs.
I have sampled BBQ from all over the country and I can honestly say this is one of the best I have ever had! The same goes for his three-cheese mac and cheese and moist cornbread. This is probably why he has won numerous awards including the Best of Phoenix. Have I mentioned his banana pudding and peach pie? Oh my goodness, get both. He even waits until the last minute to add vanilla wafers to the pudding, so they won’t get soggy.
State 48 Funk House Brewery
This family-run craft brewery is located in the sprawling Westgate Entertainment/Sports District. Set among scores of restaurants, athletic stadiums, water fountains, and retail shops, they have 28 brews on tap with the local favorite IPA called The Sound of Freedom.
The scratch menu here was loaded with options, and I was told that the number one selling item is, believe it or not, their P.B. & J Burger. Now I know what you’re thinking. Peanut butter and burgers do not mix. I thought the same until I tried it. They take a burger, add peach jalapeno jelly, peanut butter and Applewood smoked bacon, and place it in a brioche bun. This crazy combo succeeds deliciously! For your side, go with their beer-battered French Fries. The must-try dessert is their fried Oreos which were supremely addicting.
Now, for the unexpected part of this visit. You can work off some of those calories at their 12 colorfully LED-lit bowling lanes. Or, if you prefer, they have shuffleboard and pool tables.
The Pink Door Tea House
Catlin Court in Historic Downtown Glendale is the area’s oldest neighborhood with many houses dating from the 1800-1900s. One of them, however, seems oddly out of place. The front yard looks like a whimsical Alice in Wonderland set with colorful yard ornaments and a distinctive pink front door.
Owner and realtor Lupe Encinas has been a local Glendale resident for many years. When she had an opportunity to purchase what was a previous tea room in 2021, she didn’t hesitate. Encinas recreated the location into her unique version featuring vintage artwork, plates, cups, and furniture from all over the world.
I love tea rooms and have visited many both here and abroad. I was looking forward to Lupe’s most popular Classic High Tea ($25) and wasn’t disappointed! I started with a big pot of pink herbal tea. This was followed by a fresh fruit parfait and a tier of finger sandwiches, white chocolate-dipped strawberries, an assortment of pastries, fresh-baked scones with Devonshire cream, and lemon curd. You’ll want to make reservations as they are growing like crazy as more people discover this elegant and genteel dining experience in Historic Downtown Glendale.
Memory Lane Trinkets and Treasures
After my wonderful tea at Pink Door, I strolled around the block and came upon Lorraine Zomok’s converted, 1948 Ranch-style house. It’s a fun-filled boutique featuring the works of 70 artisans ranging in age from 16-94. Each room is filled with jewelry, purses, women’s apparel, and retro gifts.
Zomok also displays a variety of foods from locals such as jams, syrups, popcorn, jelly beans, and chocolates. One line, in particular, called, “Kick-Ass,” is an infused snack item made from various peppers. These are, forgive the pun, hot sellers and wildly popular with locals. I am pretty much a lightweight when it comes to intense palate experiences but I did love the ones I tried.
Having previously worked on behalf of Glendale tourism, Zomok’s shop has an entire wall dedicated to traveler information. She is a warm and gracious host and can help direct you to any areas of interest during your visit.
Carousel Arcade Bar
Another delightful surprise was the Carousel Arcade Bar which is also within the Westgate Entertainment/Sports District. The décor was pure fun with retro video games, Skee-Ball, and carnival-themed amusements. Colorful pop art and murals adorn the walls with the focal point being a central circular bar carousel.
Popular with the post-sports game and concert crowd, they offer a full-service food and cocktail menu. What I was really here for though were their over-the-top desserts. You see, here, every milkshake comes with a second dessert placed on top.
I ordered their crowd-pleaser called the Funfetti Cake Shake ($15) and boy did it look even better in person. They start with a vanilla cake batter shake, add confetti sprinkles along the outer sides and then plunk a giant piece of funfetti cake on the top! Be warned though, this thing is huge!
Others are just as amazing and you will want to make this an Instagram shot. Come on by where their motto is “Where Childhood Meets Adulthood.”
Ceretta Candy Company
More than 50 years ago Jim Ceretta Sr. loaded up his eight kids in a station wagon and traveled across the country to start his own candy company in Glendale. Having learned his candy craft in Canton, Ohio, Jim worked every day until he was 90 years old. During that time, he passed on his knowledge to his children, and now, after four generations, this is still a family-run business.
The inside reminded me of a retro 1960s candy mega-warehouse with eye-tempting bins filled with caramels, buttercreams, clusters, chocolates, and their signature; a French mint melt-a-way. With more than 100 different products, you can satisfy every sweet tooth and even get some hands-on experience with a factory tour for only $5.00.
Papa Ed’s Ice Cream
Also located in Downtown Glendale, just off of 58th Ave. is a lovely little green and white building called Papa Ed’s Ice Cream. Opened in 2008, this 1951-era garage has been transformed into a small retail space where Linda Moran-Whittley scoops up the “best ice cream in town” at her personal oasis of coolness.
Made locally in nearby Avondale by Karen’s Kreamery, she offers 16 flavors including vegan and dairy-free sorbets. Her top flavor is Butter Pecan but other wild combinations include Aztec Chocolate, Lemongrass Poppyseed and Cappuccino Splatter. I love lavender and opted for her Honey Lavender made with real bits of lavender flowers. Just wonderful!
Crooked Pint Ale House
Hotel restaurants don’t usually get me excited. But in this case, I found that the newly opened Crooked Pint Ale House, inside the Holiday Inn is the exception.
The interior is open and airy with large windows and light-colored wood décor. The menu, however, is what actually got me excited. First, there are their stuffed burgers called “Lucy’s” with their signature being a burger stuffed with creamy beer cheese on a pretzel bun, topped with bacon and bistro sauce. Then there’s their famous Walleye Fish and Chips, and Stuffed Tater Tots called Tatchos. I had to split their Gigantic Pretzel with my wife because this one-pound behemoth with creamy beer cheese sauce was, actually too big for just one.
You can wash it all down with 36 beers on tap, 17 of which are local. Or try one of their cocktails such as “Berry’s Gone Wild.” Crooked Pint offers superior service, a fun ambiance, and unbelievably great food. Don’t pass up this hidden hotel gem eatery.
It’s no secret that I love German food, a taste I acquired on my many trips to Germany. Even though they are only open four days a week, I made sure I included Haus Murphy’s in my food roundup.
Owner Rose-Marie Hoffman and her husband Chef William started their iconic Haus Murphy in Downtown Glendale 26 years ago and endeared themselves to the local community.
I couldn’t wait to try two of my favorites which are normally only served seasonally in Europe. Not being able to decide, I ordered both dishes—Sauerbraten and Rouladen. The former is marinated for six days with 14 aromatic spices and herbs and comes out tender and tangy. It is served with a side of red cabbage and spaetzle. If you not familiar with rouladen, it is a traditional dish of beef rolled around pickles, bacon, carrots, and onions.
While both of these were wonderful, I did save room for dessert but had the same problem of which to choose. So, of course, I tried all three: Cherry Strudel, Black Forest Cake and another chocolate cake they assured me wasn’t a joke, made with sauerkraut. I know it sounds crazy but they weren’t kidding! The sauerkraut adds moisture without imparting the typical sour taste of the cabbage and was absolutely fabulous.
While I was wallowing in my after-meal glow, a customer came in and they asked if he would like to be seated. “No, thanks he replied, I’m just here for two slices of sauerkraut cake to go.”
Hungry for more? Try this poolside restaurant in Sedona.
West Valley Restaurants in Litchfield Park
Hope’s Artisan Bread
There’s a steady stream of devoted customers every day at Hope’s Artisan Bread. Why? She uses only the finest quality ingredients when preparing her breads, pastries, cakes, cookies, and quiches.
Owner Hope Menorin is one of those people you will like immediately. Her bubbly personality made me feel right at home and she was excited to share her story with others.
A bread lover at heart, she struggled with issues of digestion and sluggishness after eating. Having experimented with many different processes, she finally discovered a way to bake bread that didn’t use commercial yeast, preservatives or additives. Then using a special fermentation process as well as a 1918 sourdough starter, she created delicious loaves that were “gut-friendly and nutritionally intense.”
Early on she offered her products at a local farmer’s market and quickly sold out every day. She shared her favorite story of one lady who stood in a long line to buy a sourdough loaf only to start crying when she got to the front. She said that this was the first time in eight years she was able to eat bread again, thanks to Hope!
In addition to bread, Hope has an entire line of cakes, pastries, and confections, all baked fresh daily. She also provides products made locally such as Peixoto Coffee. You will want to take some bread with you as you will no doubt be craving for it later.
Papa Paul’s Brick Oven Pizza & Pasta
All this eating was making me hungry so I had to try a place a local told me about called Papa Paul’s Brick Oven Pizza & Pasta. The space was formerly occupied by a drug store but has been converted into a modern, open eatery with exposed wood beam ceilings and a warm, inviting décor.
The large wood-fired oven is the centerpiece from which they make NY-Style pizzas. I tried their ricotta and sausage pizza laden with mozzarella, caramelized onions, Italian sausage, and roasted red peppers. The flavors all melded perfectly into a mouth-watering textured sensation. The crispness of the crust was just the way I liked it, owing to the high cooking temps of their pizza oven. This family-owned Italian eatery owes its roots to Brooklyn where they learned how to make some of the best pizzas in Arizona.
Hungry for more? Here’s a 4-day itinerary for Scottsdale.
West Valley Restaurants in Avondale
I was craving good Mexican food and was fortunate to be directed to Barrio Queen serving what they call authentic Mexican soul food. All the recipes here were passed down from the family of Executive Chef Julio Mata.
The décor is bright and colorful with local artist works on display. With more than 150 tequilas, you won’t go thirsty, and they have some heavenly signature cocktails like the Queen’s Cooler.
Featured on the Food Network with Guy Fieri, their scratch kitchen turns out some truly delicious meals. I started with their signature guacamole prepared tableside, with lime, peppers, cilantro, and topped with pomegranate seeds of all things for a touch of sweetness.
For my entrée, I couldn’t resist their award-winning Conchita Pibil. They start with pork and slow roast it with sour orange and achiote paste. Then they wrap it in banana leaves and cook it all night. They crown it with pickled red onions and serve it with house-made tortillas. This was so good my mouth is watering just writing about it.
The West Valley of Arizona is seeing a dining resurgence with some old favorites as well as new, creative eateries. Whether crafting cocktails, baking bread, making candy, or serving tea, these entrepreneurs’ passion and love for their craft have locals and tourists beating a hungry path to their doors.
Hungry for more? See what awaits in Tucson.
Know before you go to the West Valley:
Learn more about Glendale:
Known best for its Sports and Entertainment District, some of the major draws are the State Farm Stadium, home to the Arizona Cardinals NFL football team and Gila River Arena. In addition, there are numerous restaurants, retail shops as well as on-site accommodations. An upcoming project called the Crystal Lagoon® Island Resort will be showcasing an 11-acre water park complete with beaches, dining, and shopping opportunities. Glendale is also known for Spring Training at nearby Camelback Ranch – Glendale for the Chicago Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Learn more about Avondale and Litchfield Park:
The communities of Avondale and Litchfield Park are young, vibrant, and attracting new residents looking for great weather, job opportunities, and affordable housing. Avondale is tucked north of the Estrella Mountains and offers abundant outdoor adventures and small town attractions. Litchfield Park is home to the Wigwam, a large resort opened in 1929 that served the executives of the Good Year Tire and Rubber Company.
Where to Stay
The Renaissance Hotel & Spa, Glendale
Situated in the heart of the Westgate Entertainment/Sports District, this is centrally located and close to all major attractions and restaurants. The rooms are modern, spacious, clean, comfortable, and tastefully decorated. I found the staff here to be well trained, friendly and helpful with special requests.
Tru by Hilton Phoenix Glendale Westgate
Just a stone’s throw from the Renaissance, this Hilton property is a newer hotel with clean, bright rooms and some very comfy beds. They have a state-of-the-art fitness center, board games, outdoor pool, free breakfast and 24/7 coffee.
— Story and images by Ron Stern, “The Global Gumshoe” and RFT’s Hospitality Editor
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