A Guide to Must-Try Restaurants in Downtown Mesa, AZ
When did downtown Mesa become one of the liveliest restaurant districts in the entire state of Arizona? It’s hard to say exactly, but over the past few years, the historic Main Street neighborhood has been awash with dining options ranging from a Venezuelan restaurant to the award-winning Proof bakery, to cute farmer’s market shops. like Main Street Harvest, artisan pizzas and a growing assortment. of brasseries, taprooms and cider bars.
Originally from Mesa, I regularly eat in this eclectic and growing neighborhood. Recently, I landed a coveted seat at the crowded bar at Espiritu, Bacanora’s hip sister concept. The newly opened spot was buzzing well past 11 p.m. with revelers sipping spiced chiltepin cocktails and tearing into huge platters of fried Mexican snapper.
After a host of unforgettable meals, here are my favorite local restaurants in downtown Mesa and what to order at each.
A little sister to the highly acclaimed Grand Avenue restaurant Bacanora, this hip Mexican cocktail bar dives deep into the seafood side of Sonora. Chefs René Andrade and Roberto Centeno have been gradually expanding the menu since it opened in January.
Espiritu’s menu is dominated by colorful and complex marisco dishes like ceviches and aguachiles, including a spectacular tostada of hiramasa amberjack fat with slivers of avocado and radish in a squid ink salsa negra .
As with Bacanora, the promotions are numerous and constantly changing. During my visit, I enjoyed a magnum opus in the form of a whole red snapper that had been fried and cooked in sesame seeds, served with a bright salad of julienned vegetables and mint.
Of course, you’re supposed to go there for the cocktails and I found the Sonoran Sling with its charred pineapple and chiltepin infused Bacanora liqueur to be the most unique. When the tiki gets spicy, it’s a world you want to be in.
Details: 123 Main Street West, Mesa. 480-398-8129, espiritumesa.com.
Believe the hype:This restaurant in Phoenix is one of the best in America. here’s why
Arizona’s one and only Venezuelan restaurant, Que Chevere, is the place to go for stuffed and stuffed South American corn cakes, known as arepas. Originally a food truck owned by Venezuelan-born Maria Fernanda and her husband Orvid Cutler, they moved to Main Street in 2020.
Unlike Colombian arepas, which are often stuffed with nothing but cheese, these Venezuelan versions pile on the savory toppings with carne mechada, shredded beef in sauce, vegan black beans, and reina pepiada, which is essentially a herbaceous chicken salad.
My favorite item after a few visits is the cachapa ($10), a sweet corn pancake that looks like an omelette but tastes like a cross between lunch and dessert. The soft masa filling is stuffed with queso de mano, a stretchy white Venezuelan cow and a sheep’s milk cheese that resembles a funkier mozzarella. I would order it as a complement to other items and share it with the table, as it is super filling.
Details: 142 Main St. West, Mesa. 480-474-4954, quechevereaz.com.
This Latin fusion restaurant was here before Mesa was cool. Republica Empanada has spent about a decade in a colorful, mural-strewn house tucked away on a side street, where it produces some of the most creative empanadas in the valley. On the savory side, three varieties of jalapeño popper empanadas, made with toasted seed jalapeños, cream cheese and ham, potatoes or beans, are the ones to look for. The cream cheese filling becomes soft and melts in the fryer, oozing as you tear the dough.
As for sweet options, be sure to order Ruiz’s Pieces, a velvety combination of Nutella chocolate and peanut butter, with two scoops of vanilla ice cream.
The restaurant also serves a variety of light Central and South American dishes like sopa verde, filled with green vegetables and rice in a light chicken broth. An essential.
Details: 204 E. First Ave., Mesa. 480-969-1343, republicaempanada.com.
Read the full review:This OG empanada restaurant is a must
Worth taking away
This downtown Mesa store wants to be the “Cheers” of sandwiches, or so they say on their website. I get more of an artisanal vibe from the chic minimalist dining room and eclectic menu of French dips, veggie sandwiches, and spicy candied BLTs.
More recently, I tried the Italian grinder ($12), which was loaded with garden-fresh greens that lightened up the sweet, creamy flavors of the mayonnaise and pickled pepper relish. The sandwich is made with thick slices of ham, Genoa salami and pepperoni on soft local bread. It disappeared pretty quickly, and while Worth isn’t an “everyone knows your name” place, sandwiches like these are enough to make anyone a regular.
Details: 218 Main St. West, Mesa. 480-833-2180. worthtaking.com.
One of the best pizzerias in the valley, Myke’s is tucked away in the bar of veteran-owned cider house, Cider Corps. You can see the wood-fired oven burning as you sip your Mango Foxtrot, a hard apple cider infused with mangoes and rose hips.
Myke’s has one of the most exciting pizza menus in town, and I was bowled over by the sophisticated pairing of charred baby kale with tangy lemon relish and sweet golden raisins ($17) that was special during my visit.
If a pizza doesn’t have red sauce, it has to be really good for me to enjoy it, and it was really good. I’ve never had a pizza blessed with Idiazábal fondant, a smoky cousin of Spanish Manchego sheep’s milk. And forever, I’ll be the boring girl asking for it. Or maybe I’ll come back here.
Details: Inside Cider Corps, 31 S. Robson #103, Mesa. 480-687-8526, mykespizza.com.
Simply wrong:Phoenix Ranked Worst Pizza Town On Dumbest Ever List
Subscribe to azcentral.com today.