Mesa’s underwhelming restaurant scene took more hits with the recent closures of EJ’s Steakhouse and Pizza Fusion. You have to wonder: Does any other U.S. city of a half-million people boast so seemingly few quality dining options?
While Arizona’s third-largest metropolis may appear to be all national chains and fast food, there are still a handful of standout independent restaurants that are worth seeking out. Here are five suggestions:
Blue Adobe Grill: A pecan-wood grill is the key ingredient at this decade-old New Mexican restaurant — even the salsa starts with blackened tomatoes and onions, resulting in a dark, sweet sauce. Must-haves include the chiles rellenos (filled with beef tenderloin, chorizo and two cheeses) and the bacon cheeseburger topped with green chiles. 144 N. Country Club Drive, Mesa, (480) 962-1000.
Flancer’s: Owner Jeff Flancer (pictured) opened a second, slightly larger location of his longtime Gilbert favorite in northeast Mesa last summer. It has all the attractions of the original fun-casual café — from its famous green chili turkey sandwich, dubbed the Chile Verde Birdie, to ’60s and ‘70s music artwork (in this case, posters instead of album covers) on the walls. 1902 N. Higley Road, Mesa, (480) 396-0077.
De la Cruz Bistro: If you’re looking for someplace to grab dinner before a show at the Mesa Arts Center, or a glass of wine afterward, you’ll find it right across Main Street at this year-old establishment from Mangos owners Omar and Silda de la Cruz. The Old World décor is rustic-romantic, and the menu ranges from bacon-wrapped meatloaf to Brazilian lobster tail. 10 W. Main St., Mesa, (480) 258-6942.
Cornish Pasty Co.: Owner Dean Thomas finally opened a spin-off of his popular Tempe eatery in January. The menu features nearly 40 different pasties (pronounced “PASS-tees”), savory English pastries stuffed with meats, cheeses and vegetables. CP also offers a nice selection of six draft beers and 18 bottled beers, about two-thirds European. 1941 W. Guadalupe Road, Mesa, (480) 838-3586.
Pastis: The three owners of this 10-month-old restaurant are Serbian-American, but the menu spans most of Europe. Pastis (pronounced “pass-TEESE”) has a dozen sandwiches, as well as entrees focused on grilled meats like sirloin sausage links called chevapi served with Bosnian bread called lepinja. Save room for crepes for dessert. 1935 S. Val Vista Drive, Mesa, (480) 926-3354.