Fuck the chain restaurants. Gimme local.
I love those independent, locally owned and operated places that kick the giant's asses. The ones that you discover by accident, or through a friend, or just because it was on the way and smelled too inviting to pass up.
There are four in particular that, if I could arrange the world to my liking, I'd plunk down right next to my house. Or possibly live in....
Taj Mahal, Prescott, Arizona: I've been going to this one since my college days. It's one of the few things I was grateful to my vegan ex boyfriend for - I'd never even considered Indian cuisine until he dragged me in for dinner. Instant addiction. I ended up there for the champagne brunch regularly on Sundays the whole time I lived in Prescott, and it's the first place I hit whenever I'm in town. They make a great chicken tikka masala, but their butter chicken is absolutely to die for. I never walk out of Taj Mahal: I waddle, stuffed to the gills with some of the best Indian food this side of India.
Pita Jungle, Tempe, Arizona: Another thing I can thank the ex for. He discovered this hip little college town joint and convinced me to yet again expand my culinary horizons. It's a loud, bohemian little place that serves some of the best Mediterranean food ever cooked. Their shawarma weighs nearly a pound: a thick pita stuffed full of rotisserie chicken, onions, lettuce, and pickles, finished off with the best garlic sauce in the known universe. Add a side of garlic new potatoes and a slice of baklava for dessert, and this is another place I have to loosen the belt for. Ye gods. It's the only thing I'm looking forward to when I go back to the Valley next week, aside from friends and family.
Pike Place Chowder, Seattle, Washington: Located right by Pike Place Market, this place doesn't look like much. It tastes like a billion dollars. I'm an inveterate chowder hater - I've never been a soup person to begin with, and chowder was one of my least favorites. I tagged along with a couple of visiting friends who are chowder fanatics, and got suckerpunched by the seared scallop chowder. Seared fucking scallops! They serve it up in a sourdough bread bowl, and it's one of those flavors I dream of on a regular basis.
Pagliacci Pizza, Kirkland, Washington: This was one of those wonderful discoveries made by poking through the intertoobz in search of something a little better than Papa John's when we first moved up here and our dishes hadn't arrived yet. I rely on them to keep me fed and happy most weekends. Their pizza is fantastic - really premium Italian American goodness, with a ton of fresh and exotic ingredients to choose from. Top it off with some sweet cream gelato, locally made, and heaven is at hand, delivered to my door by some of the nicest delivery guys and gals ever. And calling in the order is painless: they've hired smart and fun folks who always make me feel like their most cherished customer. As if they weren't already awesome enough, their pizza boxes are currently printed with voting information.
So there ye go. Just a few of my favorite local establishments. What're yours?