Updated for some of the restaurants we visited since last spring. I probably have forgotten a couple, so I will keep updating. Updated recommendations are highlighted in the light gray you see here.
I have not been in Arizona a year yet and we actually just squeaked in for the last game of spring training last year. I know the area around here reasonably well, though I imagine this will be a growing, changing list over the years -- even weeks -- so check back before you go. If you have any suggestions or additions, please add them in the comments section.
There are many places to go if you want to take a day (or three) trip such as the Grand Canyon, Sedona, or the Petrified Forest, but I am just focusing on things that are an hour or less from the ballpark.
5 Minute Drive/Walking Distance from the Park
Mesa isn't a particularly tourist friendly place, but things have improved since the days the Cubs played at Ho Ho Kam. It is also now more in a centrally located area, with easy access to the 101 and the 202 highways. There is also much more commercial development in the immediate area.
Wrigleyville West Sheraton
There's the Wrigleyville West Sheraton if you want to stay within walking distance of the ballpark.
- The hotel has several swimming pools and if you have kids that are anything like my nieces and nephews, then swimming pools are a must have!
Eats and drinks at the Sheraton
- Starbucks' Coffee
- Stats Sports Bar and Grill: reasonably priced lunch items, typical pub food fare (burgers, chicken sandwiches, etc.). Tables or comfortable couches with large flat screen TVs for group gatherings.
- Legend's Steakhouse: Have not eaten there yet, but it is close to the park and it's steak, so how can you go wrong?
Mesa Riverview Park
- To the east of the hotel is Mesa Riverview Park. The park contains paved well-lit pathways for short walks, a children's park that includes a climbing tower, some fishing (I am not a fisherman but when I asked one, he said there is trout), picnic areas and open grounds where kids play frisbee, soccer, football, etc.
There are two shopping centers that are within a mile from the ballpark.
To the east of Mesa Riverview Park, on Dobson and Rio Salado Boulevard, is the Mesa Riverview Shopping Center. Some of the stores/attractions include..
- Sports Authority
- Home Depot
- Cinemark Movie Theaters
Quick and cheap Eats
- Chick Fil-A
- Taco Bell
- Panda Express
- Carl's Jr.
- Dave's BBQ
- The Brass Tap: Tacos, sandwiches, flatbread, mini-pizza and an absolutely huge craft beer list. This is a cozy little place with great beer and lots of flat screen TVs for sports fans.
To the west, just across the 101 highway on Rio Salado, there is the larger Tempe Marketplace. Some of the major stores include...
- Total Wine and Liquor (the valley's version of Binny's. Great wine, whiskey, and craft beer selection)
- Best Buy
- Barnes and Noble
- Harkins Movie Theaters
- Dave and Buster's
- Portillo's -- Especially if you are Chicagoan and are missing home.
- The Keg (Steakhouse): Went here once with my parents. My dad is a steak and potatoes guy and he enjoyed it here.
- The Thirsty Lion: (Gastropub) High quality pub food (great burgers), craft beer, and Cubs players have been known to frequent this place from time to time.
Other Eats and Drink Nearby
- Los Dos Molinos is a small Mexican food restaurant with a New Mexico vibe that is casual and very affordable. The food is made right there on the spot, so it is fresh. It also means you might have to wait a bit longer than you might expect from a casual restuarant -- but it's worth it. If you want good Mexican food without big prices, this is a good place. Some good beer here as well, including selections from Mexico, Spain (La Estrella) and a very good IPA from Santa Fe Brewery in New Mexico.
- Republica Empanada: Empanadas are a Spanish/Latin American turnover pastry dish filled with savory deliciousness -- there are different varieties based on your taste. My mom made these all the time, so I am picky and these are good.
- Little Miss BBQ: Mesa isn't much for restaurants, especially fancy sit-down places, but if you like BBQ, this is the best we've tried so far.
- In N' Out Burger: You'll find one in just about every city in the valley. It's the west's signature fast food "gourmet" burger, much the way Five Guys would have that status out east.
- Backyard Taco: A little place on University Drive a few miles east of the ballpark. Great tacos, the best down here in my opinion. And they have Mexican Coke and Fanta -- which means real cane sugar. It just tastes better that way.
- Millie's Cafe: Nothing fancy -- you get your food served in styrofoam take out boxes, but this is very good Puerto Rican food. More of a homemade/comfort style food than gourmet. As a side note, this is Jacier Baez's faorite place and there are quite a few Cubs prospects who frequent here.
Zur Kate: You wouldn't expect a German restaurant to be right in the middle of Mesa, but you walk in there and suddenly it feels like you're in Hamburg. It's mostly typical German fare: Schnitzel, bratwurst, knockwurst, great beers, and even an accordion player.
Beaver's Choice: We go from German food to Scandinavian, Polish, and Canadian food. This is even more off the beaten path than Zur Kate, you have to go to the easter part of Mesa (and Mesa is very large from east to west, so it is a bit of a drive). It was well worth it, though. You can, of course, get Swedish Meatballs, Pierogi, a fish menu that includes a traditional Swedish dish called Laxpudding (which I did not try). I had their signature dish, which is the schnitzel cordon bleu. It was delicious. Also great beers, many from Eastern Europe that I hadn't never seen or tried...yet.
- Citizen's Public House (American eclectic): Excellent food with a comfortable atmosphere and knowledgeable service. I recommend the short ribs and the pan seared scallops. Our server was very knowledgeable when it came to wine. I gave a specific description of the kind of wine I wanted and he delivered exactly what I was looking for.
- Olive and Ivy: California style Mediterranean cuisine. We went early and so we had the happy hour menu. The flat breads were very good. I had the one with duck confit and blue cheese while my wife had the chicken pesto. Both were excellent. $5 local brews (including one of my favorites, San Tan Devil's Pale Ale) and excellent desserts. I really enjoyed the brown butter strata and the brown sugar bananas. In case you are wondering how I can eat so much, we are part Spanish, so we share everything. What really adds to the experience is an outdoor seating lounge located right next to the scenic canal.
- The Mission (Mexican): Have not been here (yet) but highly recommended by an opinion I trust.
- Barrio Queen: (Mexican): A bit more on the trendy side but very good Mexican-American food. The Cochinita Pibil -- which is a slow roasted (overnight) pork marinated in achiote and sour orange-- is excellent.
- Malee's Thai Food: Not a lot of Thai food out there, but if you are in the mood, this is the best place in the valley.
- Don and Charlie's (Steakhouse): I have not been here but it has been recommended to me by more than one transplanted Chicagoan/Cubs fan. Sports-themed decor.
Chez Vous (French): Quaint cafe specializing in crepes, sandwiches, and salads. A nice little find for us as the wife and I love crepes.
- House of Tricks: I went here for lunch and had the chicken breast sandwich with goat cheese and fig jam, which was very good. Can dine indoors in a cozy cottage setting or the beautiful patio area outdoors. We chose the patio. Relaxed atmosphere but want to go back here for after seeing the dinner fare and the extensive wine list -- not to mention a pretty good scotch selection as well.
- Four Peaks Brewery: Good pub food, a little difficult to find as it is not on a main road -- and then difficult to find parking during peak hours, which is often parallel parking on the street. Having lived most of my life in Chicago, however, parallel parking is in my DNA.
- Culinary Dropout: Great food, craft beer, and good whiskey selection. Bit of a hipster vibe -- very friendly staff. It was a bit loud when we were there as there was a live band.
- Perfect Pear -- Healthier eater/foodie/craft beer. This place has good, hearty salads and unique sandwiches. Also a nice outdoor patio (most places in AZ have an outdoor area). There is also one in the Ahwautukee area of Phoenix.
Salut Kitchen and Bar (Mediteranean American): Our favorite little place to go to grab a bite. Close to our house, so close to the park as well. Family owned, great drinks, including a very good scotch and beer selection. Great burgers, pasta dishes, sandwiches such as the delicious Brie Hive (prosciutto and brie), Chicken Kebob. Healthy menu options and a happy hour everyday where you get deals on appetizers, cocktails, and 1/2 price bottles of wine.
Rula Bula (Irish/eclectic) A restaurant near the university with traditional Irish food but also American eclectic as well. I had the fish and chips and a good Irish beer. They also have an excellent selection of Irish whisky, including the always delicious Middleton Rare.
- Mellow Mushroom (Italian/Pizza): Pizza place we stumbled on after a night out in Tempe late after the bars closed, so there were a lot of college students in there with this old geezer. Good pizza menu.
- Crudo (Eclectic): More for the foodie/adventurous eater. I am not a foodie, but I am a try anything type eater and at Crudo's I had the Risotto in squid ink, which gave it a very briny flavor. It made for an interesting experience and I did like it, but my wife had the brisket, which I enjoyed more. Has a very trendy, urban feel -- felt like I was in New York or Chicago in there.
- Beckett's Table (Eclectic American): This place has my favorite scotch selection of the restaurants I've been to so far. They have the classics like Lagavulin and Oban, but also rarer selections like Springbank, a Campbelltown scotch that you rarely find outside of the giant liquor stores. The food is good too, reasonably priced, and the service was excellent.
- El Chullo (Peruvian): I love Peruvian food so this place is one of my favorites. If you're in the mood for a pre-dinner cocktail, go with a Pisco Sour, which is the national drink of Peru. The place is easy to miss, a small white building with very limited parking that we drove past once or twice. But don't judge a book by it's cover, this is great food. Located on 7th avenue downtown near the Phoenix Art Museum, which is worth a visit as well.
- Richardson's (Mexican): Have not been but this was recommended to me by someone I trust. New Mexican Food with some creative dishes.
St. Francis (eclectic American): My cousin wanted to go here and we finally were able to make it. It was well worth it. The burgers are excellent and my wife had the Moroccan Meatballs, one of their signature dishes. My cousin had the Pig Dip, which is wood-roasted pork loin, bacon, gruyere cheese...on a baguette with an au jus. As for me, I had the French Onion burger. We all loved our choices and as always, we shared our meals tapas-style.
- Shula's Steakhouse (American): My cousin took me here on my birthday and the steak and wine selection is excellent.
- The Brass Tap (Mesa): See above-- small place with a huge craft beer selection. Lots of local beers from AZ, NM, CO, CA, etc.
- Four Peaks Brewery (Tempe): Recently bought out by Budweiser, so now its quasi-craft. I actually like this place more for the good pub food than the beer, which is good, but I personally prefer the next two breweries...
- San Tan Brewery (Chandler): I love the San Tan beers, especially the Devil's Pale Ale. Good pub food.
- AZ Wilderness Co. (Gilbert): The smallest of the breweries here, it is nonetheless excellent. If you're a craft beer hipster, this is one you have to check out as they don't bottle their beers -- even locally. You can buy them at the brewery by the growler. My favorite is the Suit-and-(Tie)PA, which has some elements of a sour and an IPA. Their beer selection can and does change over time. Oh, and there is good pub food. Love the burgers.
- Desert Eagle Brewery (Mesa): I have not been here yet, but check back before March and I will certainly update by then.
Cubs/Chicago Sports Themed Bars
- Mesa Drummer Bar and Grill (Mesa): By far the closest to the ballpark (about 3 miles) and near HoHo Kam as well. More of a dive/local bar, but close to Sloan and a place Cubs fans are known to frequent after the game. Burgers and beer.
- Half Moon Grille (Phoenix): We came here to be around Blackhawks fans when they clinched the 2015 Stanley Cup. Energetic atmosphere -- though obviously that was in large part due to the game and many ex-Chicagoans and visitors.
Hob Nob Sports Grill (Chandler): This is where we went to see Game 7 and I have to say, the minute I walked in there I felt like I was home with all the Cubs hats as well as decor from all Chicago sports teams around the bar. The people were incredibly friendly....I never hugged so many strangers in my life.
- Jimmy's of Chicago (Gilbert): Recommended by a reader, but have not tried it yet.
Recommendation from Cubs players, personnel, and media
Rob Zastryzny, LHP, AA
- Rehab Burger Therapy - "Peanut Butter and Jelly Burger at Rehab, (I know it sounds gross) and decent deep dish pizza and great spaghetti with garlic bread."
Shawon Dunston, Jr. , OF, A+
- "Geisha Go Go is a great sushi restaurant and also Lo Lo's Chicken and Waffles. Both are in Scottsdale"
David Kaplan: ESPN Chicago, CSN Chicago
- Don and Charlie's (Scottsdale): "The BBQ pork chops."
- Kap also reminds us that a Lou Malnati's will be opening up here in Phoenix soon.
Jason Parks, Cubs Scout
- Salty Sow (Scottsdale), "The Pork Belly Tacos are fantastic."
Anthony Iapoce, Rangers hitting coach and former Cubs minor league hitting instructor
- The Grotto (Scottsdale): "The best Italian"
Mike Ferrin, Diamondbacks Announcer (and native Chicagoan)
Bruce Miles, Daily Herald
- "Vito's and their eggplan parmigiana. The Blue Adobe and their stacked enchiladas. Vito's at Lindsay and McKellips. Adobe on Country Club, both in Mesa."
Justin Steele, LHP (A)
- When I first got out to Arizona my fav place was Ike's Sandwich Shop. It's right off of Alma School Rd. And my fav sandwich from there is the Matt Cain. Definitely think it's a must try. A different kind of sandwich shop."
- "Mimi's Cafe is a great breakfast spot I like to go to. A very tasty breakfast spot"
Bijan Rademacher, OF (AA)
- "My favorite restaurant out there is the Persian room fine dining. I get the beef barg, it's a filet mignon seasoned with a side of rice. The steak melts in your mouth."
Ben Carhart, C/IF (A)
- "I make sure every spring training I make it over to Oregano's (Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale) and have the Chicken Parm."
John Baker: Baaseball Operations Assistant and backup catcher/emergency pitcher extraordinaire.
— John Baker (@manbearwolf) February 4, 2017
Hiking and biking are a big part of Arizona outdoor life. Assuming most of you aren't bringing your bikes (and if you do, you probably already know where to go anyway).
- Camelback Mountain (Scottsdale): Recommended for more experienced hikers. Echo Canyon is the more rigorous route and I am told there is some rock climbing involved, so be prepared. Even many experienced hikers prefer the more manageable Cholla Trail. Very nice area of Scottsdale. Good day to go hiking and then eat at one of those great Scottsdale restaurants.
- South Mountain: A very large park in the southern part of Phoenix. It is a bit of a ride, but located near the picturesque Ahwautukee area of Phoenix. Lots of different trails for hikers of all levels.
- Riparian Reserve (Gilbert) -- more of a nature walk. More appropriate if you are a novice hiker and/or have children. Starts off like just a park and the deeper you go, the more rural it gets.
- Lost Dutchman State Park/Superstition Mountains -- East of Mesa, it may take about an hour drive to get there but if you are a serious hiker this is probably where you want to go. Lots of different trails with varying degrees of difficulty. Here are your options at Lost Dutchman and Superstition.
- Taliesen West -- Frank Lloyd Wright's Arizona home: If you are a fan of architecture or just like to hear great stories about the self-proclaimed world's greatest architect, this is worth the trip. One of Wright's great examples of how he blended in architecture with the surrounding environment.
- Tempe Beach Park - A man made beach with some area for fishing, beach volleyball, paddle boats, or just hanging out and getting some sun. But you really don't come to the valley for the beaches -- this will pale even in comparison to Chicago's beaches, but if you get the urge and you have kids who enjoy the beach, this is as close as it gets. A nice of view of growing downtown Tempe. There is also some hiking at a nearby small hill near the old mill for which the area is named.
- Mill Ave (Tempe): Close to Arizona State University campus. It's a nice little walk that also includes some nice little stores as well, including an old musty bookstore that is one of my favorites. Nice to grab a quick bite to eat, grab a beer or do some shopping. Bit of a younger crowd in the evening.
- Casino: I am not a gambler but I have been to the Wild Horse Pass at Gila River Casinos (just south of Ahwautukee) --- and I had fun, though I spent most of my time with my friend learning about the horses over a scotch. Closer to the park, there is the Talking Stick Resort, which is in Scottsdale, roughly 6 miles north of Sloan.
- Artes Imports (Mesa) is a very interesting furniture, accessories, and garden decor place. My wife fell in love with it and we will certainly be back again, You can buy anything from big dining room tables to small decorative items that make great gifts.. Much of it is hand made in Spanish Colonial, Mexican, and Western styles and many of the items can be custom made. They are also fans of Cubs Den, so mention me and the blog and you'll get a 10% discount!
Desert Botanical Garden: A Sonoran Desert paradise. The valley's most visited site.
- Heard Museum: The best Native American museum in the world.
- Hall of Flame (Fireman's Museum
- Commemorative Air Force Museum
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