Mesa pushes to offer more culinary options

Arizona Restaurant Week began on May 19 and as places like Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Gilbert fire up their ovens, the city of Mesa is looking to attract more dining options into town.

City Council member Alicia Goforth says she doesn't know why the city hasn't yet performed a dining identity like neighboring cities of Gilbert, Tempe, or Scottsdale, but it's something they're working to change.

At Zona Cantina + Cocina near McKellips and Alta Mesa Drive, owner Victor Alvarez says, "It's Friday night here, and in a little bit, you usually see a line out the door."

Alvarez says his business is as hot as their fusion menu of tacos, burgers, and sushi.

"We have a great following, the community seems to be really supportive."

Goforth says the crowds prove there is a hunger for restaurants just like it in the city.

"We have a few pockets. The challenge is that we need more."

She says Mesa still hasn't quite figured out its culinary identity, leading residents to spend their dollars elsewhere.

"We want to keep the residents here. A lot of times our residents are going outside of the city. I do it, too, to get these restaurant experiences, so we want them to come here, and we want our residents to stay here."

Which she feels will serve residents in more ways than one.

"We don’t have a primary property tax. Our major source of tax revenue is sales tax. So we want to bring people to the city of Mesa, and great restaurants are one way to do it."

To do that, the city is ordering business consultants, hoping they will dish out strategies to lure more trendy foodie hot spots into town.

"Hopefully with this new initiative to hire some consultants, they can help us tell our story, that we are open for business, we have people and residents that want a great dining experience, and they are getting tired of driving to other cities to get it."

And in downtown, Alison Brooks with Visit Mesa says there are already incredible experiences for business owners and customers alike.

"We’ll have the most breweries here in the southwest here in downtown Mesa very soon, which is a secret that I’m probably just now letting out."

With opportunities for young restaurateurs, she says, unlike other cities in town.

"It's unique and special, and that you won't find anywhere else."

We asked Goforth if there's a plan to create a master plan location like a downtown Gilbert for a food spot in town. She says she's open to what the consultants say, but with Mesa's large location and population, she imagines the plan will look different for each district.