The oldest, historic restaurants in metro Phoenix: Durant's, Macayo's – The Arizona Republic

Corrections & Clarifications: A previous version of this article gave an incorrect reference to ​​the ownership of Macayo’s Mexican Food as well as an incorrect location. 
The Valley’s oldest restaurants have all carved their own special niche in not only the metro area’s history, but in Arizonans’ hearts as well. And this combination, along with sheer grit, may very well explain how they’ve survived for so long
One notable omission in the list that follows is the landmark MacAlpine’s Diner and Soda Fountain, the cherished throwback diner, ice cream shop and antique store that Fred MacAlpine opened in 1929. MacAlpine’s is temporarily closed due to the death of one of founders and staff shortages, according to a statement on the website, though they plan to try to reopen in the spring of 2022. The restaurant is selling gift cards online to help fund the reopening. 
All the restaurants on this list have all held their own for more than half a century, surviving natural disasters, the ups and downs of the economy, a global pandemic, rising food costs and labor shortages. So if you’re in the mood for a meal with a side of history, check out one of these storied spots.
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Year opened: 1967
A Tempe mainstay for more than half a century, La Fonda moved into its current spot in Chandler earlier this year following the retirement of Ray and Janet Pedraza, the second generation to run this family-owned spot. The third generation keeps the tradition alive by using Eloise Franklin’s recipes. While the location has changed, signature dishes such as the pollo fundido burro, steak and chicken fajita combo and chile con carne simmered in homemade green or red sauce and served with tortillas, remain true to the original. 
Details: 2051 W. Chandler Blvd., Chandler. 480-966-8001,
Year opened: 1964
This cozy and welcoming downtown Phoenix southern comfort food haven has served its famous smothered pork chops, southern fried chicken, catfish, black-eyed peas and freshly made cobblers and pies to the likes of Jesse Jackson, James Brown, Devin Booker and John McCain, all of whom were regulars. While customers now represent all walks of life, when founder Elizabeth White first brought her recipes from Texas to Phoenix, parts of the city were still segregated. Yet, the single mom of four welcomed all. White retired in the ‘80s and now her son Larry Sr. is at the helm. 
Details: 808 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix. 602-262-9256.
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Year opened: 1962
Low-key, rustic and very homey, this Mexican eatery in the heart of downtown Buckeye continues to draw diners with family recipes that date back several generations. Founders Manuel and Nellie Amabisca opened their doors way before urban development moved west of 51st Avenue and I-10 was the only freeway that touched the West Valley. Many of the original recipes remain on the menu today, including enchiladas and the green chile crisp — called GCC by those in the know — which has become a legendary staple. The spin on the Arizona cheese crisp stuffs an ample dose of green chiles and loads of cheese into a folded flour tortilla that’s grilled to crispy-on-the-outside-goey-on-the-inside perfection. 
Details: 424 E. Monroe Ave., Buckeye. 623-386-4632.
Year opened: 1958
Walking into this third-generation run family business is like stepping back into the olden days of Old Town Scottsdale. The classic spot still features heart-shaped tables, pink booths and the original soda fountain, all encased in a building bathed in bubble gum pink. Ben Huntress took over the endearing spot from his father Carroll, who bought it from his uncle Jack, the original owner. The menu is a playful balance of old school ice cream parlor flavors and throwback options like sundaes, malts, ice cream sodas, and diner fare like tuna melts, jello and even a diet plate of sliced turkey, fruit and cottage cheese. The Sugar Bowl was immortalized in a number of the late Bill Keane’s Family Circus cartoons. It was also a regular stop of the late Bill Thompson, also known as Wallace of the iconic Arizona children’s show Wallace and Ladmo, which he created.
Details: 4005 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale. 480-946-0051,
Year opened: 1950
The speakeasy vibe at Durant’s starts with the clandestine rear entrance through the kitchen and continues with tuxedo clad servers, dim lighting, plushy booths and red wallpaper. The feel of old school Vegas is no coincidence. In the ‘40s Jack Durant worked as a pit boss at the Flamingo Hotel for legendary gangster Bugsey Siegal. His biography was also adapted into a movie, “Durant’s Never Closes” starring Tom Sizemore as the larger than life namesake. Durant, the audacious and colorful original owner of the central Phoenix restaurant created a place that is still known for the vibe as much as for the martinis and steaks. 
Details: 2611 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. 602-264-5967,
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Year opened: 1946
In the ‘30s, original owner Tomas Corral built a structure that would be a chapel, bar, pool hall and bakery before it became the restaurant that it is today, still serving home-style Sonoran plates. Corral and his family left Mexico in 1919 because his mother did not want her sons working in the mines and sought a better life for them to the north. The restaurant survived condemnation during the 1970’s redevelopment of what was referred to as the Scottsdale “barrio,” thanks to former senator Barry Goldwater’s intervention. It was the only business to do so. Safely in the hands of a third generation, Los Olivos remains a historic draw for old and new patrons alike who flock for Corral specialties like steak, chicken or shrimp fajitas, machaca and the Mexican Flag combo of three enchiladas topped with red sauce, sour cream and green chile sauce. 
Details: 7328 E. Second St., Scottsdale. 480-946-2256,
Year opened: 1946
When founders Woody and Victoria Johnson opened their little Mexican cuisine spot Woody’s El Nido in central Phoenix, they likely had no idea their family business would boom into a Valleywide chain with eight restaurants. They also probably didn’t predict how an accident would make Arizona culinary history. According to legend, Woody was playing around in the kitchen when he accidentally dropped a meat-filled burrito into a fryer. And voila — the chimichanga was born. Many others claim the chimichanga as their own inventions, but wherever it originated, Macayo’s continues to turn out a classic version. Though it’s no longer family owned, as it was sold in 2019, you can still order the old school Mexican comfort food it’s offered for decades, along with newly added vegetarian and gluten-free versions of favorites like fajitas, tacos, enchiladas and nachos.
Details: 650 N. Scottsdale Road, Tempe. Other locations at
Year opened: 1947
How does a fish and chips joint find a home in the desert?  Founder Peter McLane Grant Jr. contracted malaria and rheumatic fever in the jungles of the South Pacific while serving in the military in World War II. Doctors told the Indianapolis native to move to a hot, dry climate to recover. With $900 in his pocket, his pregnant wife Ruth in the passenger seat and everything they owned stuffed into a trailer towed behind their car Grant made the trek to Phoenix with the intention of teaching history at a Phoenix elementary school. Call it cold feet or a wild hair, but Grant chucked the teaching gig and instead poured his cash into a restaurant inspired by the fish and chips shops he saw in Europe during the war. He started with a 6-foot by 8-foot shack with no running water near 31st and Van Buren streets, offering a one-piece fish and chips meal for 35 cents, two burgers for 25 cents and soda for 5 cents. Today, eight locations span the Valley from Tolleson to Mesa. In addition to fish, the cash-only eatery has added shrimp, crabettes, scallops and even chicken nuggets to its “chips” duo offerings.
Details: Multiple locations at
Year opened: 1947
This Phoenix steakhouse has origins as a packing house that supported “Cattle Baron” Edward A. Tovrea’s growing beef operations in 1919. Fast forward three decades and The Stockyards restaurant and saloon officially opened and became a favorite gathering spot for cattlemen, bankers and politicians alike. While cattle fortunes faded by the late ‘50s, making way for urban growth, Arizona’s Original Steakhouse stood strong. It withstood a devastating fire and yearlong closure and underwent an extensive restoration in 2004.
The Stockyards’ role in the state’s cattle industry and architectural style earned it a spot on the Phoenix Historical Register. Today, the menu remains true to that heritage with aged steaks and prime rib. There’s also the calf fries, their version of rocky mountain oysters, which have graced the menu since it opened. Oh, and good authority has it this spot is also haunted. So if you see lights flickering or a chandelier shaking for no apparent reason, or a woman mysteriously appearing and disappearing in the restroom, you’re probably not imagining it.
Details: 5009 E. Washington St., Phoenix. 602-273-7378,
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Year opened: 1949
Josh Garcia was 12 when he started working at the eatery his grandfather founded in central Phoenix. He needed a milk crate to stand on so he could see over the counter and serve coffee to customers on Saturday mornings. Today, Miracle Mile’s vice president represents a strong third generation that keeps Brooklyn native Jack Grodzinsky’s classic deli going strong.
After years of serving sandwiches and burgers from various locations in malls or shopping centers, Miracle Mile now operates from a stand-alone structure a few blocks from the original spot. Over the years, it has not only kept pace with an unpredictable restaurant scene, but the substantial menu has evolved to accommodate contemporary tastes with health-conscious renditions of recipes, like the Turkey Straw, a leaner version of the beloved Straw’s hot pastrami, melted Swiss and sauerkraut sandwich. One of the classic orders is The Triple Decker made with two layers of pastrami, swiss and Miracle Mile dressing that’s stacked high on three pieces of rye.
Details: 4433 N. 16th St., Phoenix, 602-776-0992,
Year opened: 1937
Originally built as a girls school in 1934, new owners converted the structure into a restaurant and lodge three years later. The picturesque spot in the center of unspoiled, idyllic desert at the foot of Camelback Mountain quickly began drawing local and national celebrities. An intensive 2009 remodel resulted in a 2010 debut of a refreshed historic favorite. New indoor and outdoor dining areas and Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED)-certified materials were among the contemporary touches. The renovation also made El Chorro the first Arizona restaurant to earn the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Gold Certification. The menu touts  “Arizona cuisine with a Southwestern flare” with items like flash fried lobster bites with spicy chipotle lime sauce and other traditional dishes like beef stroganoff and red wine braised beef short ribs. And per tradition, a basket of the signature sticky buns comes with entree orders.
Details: 5550 E. Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley. 480-948-5170,
Year opened: 1935
Its roots date back to 1935, when owner Johnny Walker opened a bar to serve the workers building Bartlett Dam. Fifteen years later, Harold Gavagan purchased it, gave it his name and began the evolution of the landmark bar and restaurant. Gavagan’s friends helped spark countless tales about lions and tigers caged in the back of the restaurant and legends about the owner firing gunshots into the air at closing time. Over the decades movie stars came to see for themselves, raising glasses as country singers played a set or two. It’s standing room only during football season as Harold’s is the official home of “Heinz Field West,” hosting one of the biggest Pittsburgh Steelers watch parties outside of Pennsylvania. The lengthy menu remains a something-for-everybody hodgepodge with legendary pleasers such as Arizona wings, Italian-style baked stuffed hot peppers and the 14-ounce ribeye, which should be ordered with sauteed mushrooms and scallions, just like the establishment’s namesake would have. 
Details: 6895 E. Cave Creek Rd, Cave Creek. 480-488-1906,


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