By Michelle Jacoby
When in Chandler, do as the locals do and feast on the city’s must-have eats. From tacos drowned in a savory broth, to pizza toppings stuffed in a muffin, Chandler is home to some of the most creative and unique dishes in Arizona. If you’re looking to expand your culinary horizons, stop by these local restaurants and indulge in their signature creations.
Bao is having a moment. Also known as steamed buns, these fluffy pockets of goodness are becoming a Chandler must-have thanks to Hot Bamboo just north of Tumbleweed Park. Choose from five selections, including the Cha-Siu made with pork shoulder marinated in five-spice powder, Chinese rice wine and hoisin sauce; vegan tofu cooked with onions, garlic, rice wine and ginger; and chorizo made with ground pork seasoned with spices. Hot Bamboo also offers dumplings, rice bowls and snacks (try the musubi made with grilled Spam on top of rice wrapped in seaweed).
Map: 980 E. Pecos Road or by phone (480) 257-3304
The concept is simple: Pick a base, top it with a variety of yummy extras, then dig into a delicious dish stacked with all your favorite flavors. The unique menu at Grubstak in southeast Chandler offers build-your-own creations that start with a layer of roasted veggies, waffle fries, mac ‘n cheese, Brussels sprouts, romaine or broccoli, and end with a topping-filled feast. Try the Sweet Lou’s BBQ (braised beef or slow-cooked pork, applewood bacon, coleslaw), the Rancher (chicken, sour cream, cheddar cheese), or the signature Grubstak (sausage, applewood bacon, cheddar cheese, au jus, fried eggs).
Map: 4165 S. Gilbert Road or by phone (480) 454-3299
Floridino’s Pizza & Pasta
It’s only natural that a Chandler landmark like Floridino’s Pizza & Pasta would have an iconic dish. Open since 1996, this family-owned and -operated pizzeria offers traditional pizzas and pastas. But for something truly unique, try their famous pizza muffins, doughy pockets of cheese-filled love. Selections include the original style stuffed with ham, ground beef and sausage; barbecue chicken filled with chicken breast, bacon and onions; and the gourmet white, featuring Floridino’s secret white sauce, a blend of herbs and tomatoes. Or try the staff favorite: the spicy chicken wing muffins.
Map: 590 N. Alma School Road or by phone (480) 812-8433
The Drowning Taco
While you may be a traditionalist and enjoy your taco in a crunchy shell or soft tortilla, you haven’t truly lived until you’ve had a drowned taco. Just ask The Drowning Taco owner Alma Kirby, who has perfected the “drowned taco” at her uptown Chandler restaurant. The dish originated in El Paso at Chico’s Tacos, a west Texas mainstay that opened in the 1950s. Kirby’s version is made with three crunchy rolled ground beef tacos swimming in a spicy tomato broth topped with cheese. Eaten with a fork or spoon, the tacos soften in the broth and sop up the tomato-y, cheesy goodness.
Map: 55 W. Chicago St. or by phone (480) 699-9104
Chodang Tofu & BBQ
A true hidden gem north of downtown Chandler, Chodang is where you go for authentic Korean cuisine. The menu features a vast array of barbecued meats, steaming bowls of bibimbap, dumplings and cold noodles. But if you want to try a true taste of Korea, have the soft tofu soup. The dish begins with a hot earthen bowl filled with a bubbling spicy red broth and filled with silken tofu and scallions. From there, add an assortment of extras, including seafood, beef, kimchi, dumplings, bean paste or fish roe.
Map: 501 N. Arizona Ave. or by phone (480) 855-7712
AZ Food Crafters
Hand pies are everything we love about food-on-the-go. They’re compact, portable and packed with flavor. For Chandler’s—if not the Valley’s—best hand pies, stop by AZ Food Crafters. Made fresh daily, hand pies come savory or sweet, available in an array of flavors. Signature hand pies include green chile pork or chicken, Jamaican beef patty, or gold potato and mushroom, as well as a variety of breakfast options. For something sweet, try the lemon crème, chocolate cream or the classic apple.
Map: 961 W. Ray Road or by phone (480) 264-2532