12 days of Christmas: Restaurant suggestions

Joe's Real BBQ

According to Local First Arizona, 45 cents out of every dollar spent at a locally owned business stays in the state, as opposed to just 13 cents out of every dollar spent at a national chain.

That’s why I try to do most of my holiday shopping at the Valley’s many independently owned restaurants, all of which offer gift cards or gift certificates.

Not only am I helping some worthy local businesses, many of which are struggling in this recession, I’m usually giving people a unique (and quality) dining experience as well.

The National Restaurant Association estimates many non-chain restaurants ring up as much as 25 percent of their annual sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

As a bonus, many restaurants this year are offering enhanced deals — for example, buy a $50 gift card and get an additional $10 card for free.

Looking back through the southeast Valley restaurants I’ve written about the most in the past year, here are 12 of my top suggestions for that hard-to-satisfy person on your shopping list.

The DeliFlancer’s: Culinary-school grad Jeff Flancer could have gone the fine-dining route. Instead he opened a pair of fun cafes that serve great sandwiches and pizza. 610 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert, (480) 926-9077; 1902 N. Higley Road, Mesa, (480) 396-0077.

Latitude Eight: How to decide among the many delicious soups, curries and seafood dishes at this Thai gem? Start with the three-course lunch special for $11, which even includes a beverage. 11 W. Boston St., Chandler, (480) 722-0560.

The Deli: Sandwiches made with local meats and produce (pictured at left) are the backbone of the menu, but two upscale entrees — like a beef tenderloin filet in a red wine reduction — are offered each night. 18914 E. San Tan Blvd., Queen Creek, (480) 279-3546.

Si Senor: If you’re looking for heaping platters of tasty Mexican food for around $10, this is your place (pictured below). Freebies include tortilla chips with four different sauces as a starter and sopapillas for dessert. 600 N. Alma School Road, Chandler, (480) 857-1217.

Chino Bandido: Don’t be fooled by the no-frills décor. This warehouse-like eatery dishes out the best (OK, probably the only) Mexican-Chinese-Caribbean fusion dishes in the Valley. 1825 W. Chandler Blvd., Chandler, (480) 889-5990.

Liberty Market: This 70-year-old Gilbert grocery store was renovated last year and now serves hearty breakfasts, wood-fired pizzas and farm-fresh sandwiches and salads. It also has a 10-seat espresso bar. 230 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert, (480) 892-1900.

Si SenorCork: Despite its well-deserved reputation as one of the Valley’s best fine-dining restaurants, this Ocotillo-area gem offers surprisingly affordable happy hour and Sunday tasting menus. 4991 S. Alma School Road, Chandler, (480) 883-3773.

Joe’s Real BBQ: From the beef brisket to the pulled pork to the sliced turkey, this Gilbert favorite smokes the best meats this side of Texas. Add some Southwest kick with their habanero barbecue sauce. 301 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert, (480) 503-3805.

Blue 32: The Valley’s gold standard in sports bar cuisine. Twenty-eight TVs show all the action, and you can get a table-top speaker box to tune into your game of choice. 1524 E. Williams Field Road, Gilbert, (480) 963-0032.

Joe’s Farm Grill: This retro burger stand, built from owner Joe Johnston’s family home, specializes in farm-fresh comfort foods, which you can enjoy on a front or back patio or at picnic tables scattered among the huge trees. 3000 E. Ray Road, Gilbert, (480) 563-4745.

Floridino’s: Good food at cheap prices — no wonder this neighborhood favorite is usually packed for lunch and dinner. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., get a one-item junior pizza and large fountain drink for just $3.99. 590 N. Alma School Road, Chandler, (480) 812-8433.

SanTan Brewing: This downtown Chandler microbrewery makes seven different beers that complement a menu of delicious pub grub, such as burgers, sandwiches, wings and pizzas. 8 S. San Marcos Place, Chandler, (480) 917-8700.

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