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Cliff Dwellers LodgeDaBoyz Italian Cuisine

© Paul Markow

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Best Restaurants 2014
Arizona has a long list of great restaurants, and every April, we feature some of the best. The selections are typically based on a combination of food, service and ambience. This month, however, we took it to a higher authority: We enlisted the help of the local fire departments. We also managed to snag a few of the restaurants' favorite recipes, which you can find by clicking the links that accompany each entry.

By Nikki Buchanan

Editor’s Note: “Follow the firetrucks.” That’s how the editorial staff of this magazine decides where to eat lunch. It’s a strategy based on the theory that firefighters are foodies, and, therefore, they probably have some solid insight into the best restaurants in their respective neighborhoods. It’s worked well in ours, so we figured we’d take it statewide. The feedback from the firemen (and women) was spectacular. What follow are their picks on where to eat. Of course, there are many other great restaurants in Arizona, but according to the everyday heroes who drive the firetrucks, these are among the best.

Average Entrée Cost
$ = $10 and under
$$ = $11-$19
$$$ = $20-$30

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Brown Mug Café, Winslow

Established: 1958 (approximate)
Cuisine: Mexican/American
Chef: Martin Vargas
Price: $-$$
Open: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday
Information: 308 E. Second Street, Winslow, 928-289-9973 (pay phone)

Decorated with sombreros, pictures of bullfighters and chile lights, this comfy hole-in-the-wall looks like it’s been around forever, and, in a way, it has — certainly long enough for owner Josephine Perez (who ran the place with her mother, Lucy Ono, some 50 years ago) to lose all track of the café’s opening date. But who really cares, given that Ono’s handed-down recipes for tacos, enchiladas, burros, Navajo tacos and sopapillas — not to mention the café itself, complete with an anachronistic pay phone — seem utterly timeless? One of the café’s claims to fame is that Harrison Ford ate there, a good thing to remember the next time you happen to be standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.

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AH Best Restaurants

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Da Boyz Italian Cuisine, Yuma
Established: 2010 (downtown)
Cuisine: Pizza/sandwiches/Italian
Chef: Robert Molina (downtown)
Price: $-$$
Open: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday
Information: 284 S. Main Street, Yuma, 928-783-8383, www.daboyzyuma.com

The name may conjure “Snooki” and the muscle-bound cast of Jersey Shore, but Da Boyz, a pizza-and-pasta restaurant with two locations, is strictly first class all the way. The “Joisey” reference is actually to Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack, whose photos, and those of other ’50s and ’60s icons, line the walls of the downtown location, which offers three private dining rooms: Da Rat Pack, Da Elvis and Da Marilyn (Monroe). But you don’t have to be a stuck-in-time celebrity worshipper to appreciate this nostalgic spot, specializing in gourmet pies, hefty sandwiches, build-your-own calzones and wildly popular lasagna. You just have to appreciate great Italian food at great prices, which is why “Da Boyz in Blue” and local firefighters keep this one in their regular rotation.

El Palacio, Kingman
Established: 1993 (approximate)
Cuisine: Mexican
Chef: Mario Perez
Price: $-$$
Open: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily
Information: 401 E. Andy Devine Avenue, Kingman, 928-718-0018

Twenty years ago, Gilbert Correa started out as a busboy at El Palacio, housed in a 100-year-old building sporting a 100-year-old bar. Now he owns the atmospheric old place, famous for its margaritas, salsas, homemade tamales and, of course, the El Bandido burrito — a 28-inch colossus enfolding cubed sirloin, chicken tenders, a tamale, a chile relleno, rice, beans, onions, avocados and tomatoes. Glazed with cheese and smothered in chile colorado and chile verde (the red-and-green-sauce combo known as “Christmas” in New Mexico), the thing feeds four hungry people (would that be equivalent to two firefighters?) for $31, which means customers eat like a king at the palace.

Esoji Japanese Restaurant, Prescott
Established: 2007
Cuisine: Japanese/sushi
Chef: Owner Hiroshi Horikawa
Price: $-$$
Open: Lunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Saturday; dinner, 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday
Information: 220 W. Gurley Street, Prescott, 928-445-4787, www.esoji.wordpress.com
Like his Tokyo counterpart Jiro Ono (the fanatical sushi chef upon whom the 2011 mega-documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi was based), Hiroshi Horikawa also obsesses about fish, turning out artful and authentic Japanese cuisine in a town more famous for rodeos than roe. But these days, even cowboys — not to mention Prescott’s own rough-and-tumble firefighters — have a yen for Horikawa’s popular sushi rolls, as well as sturdier rice bowls, noodle dishes and traditional entrées such as shabu-shabu. Bringing his 40 years of experience in Manhattan and Tokyo’s high-end Ginza district to the table, Horikawa offers a delicious mash-up of the trendy (think tuna poke and quail-egg shooters) and the traditional. How did Prescott get so lucky?
Vinny's New York Pizza, Sierra Vista
Established: 1980
Cuisine: Pizza/wings/Italian
Chefs: All 25-plus employees man the kitchen from time to time.
Price: $-$$
Open: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday; noon to 9 p.m., Sunday
Information: 1977 S. Frontage Road, Sierra Vista, 520-459-2315

Founder Vinny Ferrara died in 2012, but venerable Vinny’s — a Sierra Vista standby for pizza and wings — is now in the capable hands of Chip Brown, the like-a-son employee who worked at Ferrara’s side for 22 years. Brown recalls the time a hotshot crew of firefighters walked through the door and the restaurant stood en masse to applaud them, a touching moment for everyone. Ferrara bought their dinner that night, as Brown still does today when the crews are fighting nearby fires in summer. It’s that kind of community support that keeps this casual, family oriented place top of mind with locals who swear by the hefty, made-from-scratch pies and what many consider the best wings for miles around. It makes sense that bone-tired, half-starved firefighters would love the place.

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DiningWhether you find yourself famished in Flagstaff or starved in Sonoita, there are many great spots to find a bite in Arizona... [more

Weekend GetawaysCheck out Weekend Getaways around the state. ... [more]

Events CalendarEscape, experience and explore Arizona, one event at a time... [more]


LodgingNo matter where you travel in Arizona, you'll find lodging that ranges from rustic to ritzy, along with everything in between... [more]

External LinksFor more information about great places to visit in Arizona, view our list of links to external resources, from Native American arts to parks and national forests... [more]

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