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The Girls Sweets and Sandwich Shoppe

Had it up to here with bloated menus and prices to match, pseudo swanky decor and stuffy waitstaff? Then hop in the car and head northwest to The Girls Sweets and Sandwich Shoppe, where the food, service and ambience are as bright and unpretentious as the cheerful red door that beckons diners inside.

Tucked away in a tidy little strip mall off 99th Avenue in Sun City, this busy hub does a swell bit of business from the time the first cinnamon rolls and crumb cakes of the day roll out of the oven at 8 a.m. The caf serves breakfast and lunch on weekdays and Saturdays in a warm, folksy environment.

We visited on a Saturday afternoon, when most of the 10 tables inside the teeny restaurant were already full, it being a bit too chilly to enjoy the half dozen outdoor tables. We had settled in and browsed the decor (wall shelves stuffed with teddy bears, framed samplers, tin memorabilia and dusty black and white prints). Soon the waitress bustled over with weak coffee (the eatery's sole slip-up on the menu) and a big smile, along with a recommendation to try the Reuben ($6.49).
We followed the tip and ordered our meal at a self-serve counter; servers bring items out when they're ready.

The Reuben was right on target: tender corned beef, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and plenty of oozy cheese melted together nicely on the dark rye. The sandwich is one of half a dozen panini offerings. There's also a nicely done turkey and Havarti version ($6.49), served with a spicy mayo sauce, roast beef, honey ham, and a patty melt. Instead of a side dish, we opted for the soup of the day, hamburger cabbage stew, which tasted a lot better than it sounded. Firm hunks of beef, potatoes, mushrooms and tomatoes rode together in a spicy beef broth. Antipasto salad ($5.99) made a good accompaniment. We dunked chunks of green leaf lettuce, pepperoni and salami into the homemade creamy Italian dressing that had a pleasantly sweet and salty tang of basil and garlic.

Dessert was the Girls' famous bread pudding ($2.49). The treat is served plain, with "spirited" sauces including caramel apple brandy, tequila sunrise and Irish cream, or nonalcoholic toppings (we chose lemon meringue). A single order, served warm, was massive. The dense, raisin-studded cake had a wonderful cinnamony aroma and taste, aided by the citrusy tang of the topping. This isn't a dainty pastry, but it's definitely a satisfying one.

As we left, I noticed my favorite sandwich, meat loaf, was available only on Mondays, so the following week I returned for a quick visit. The still-warm hunk of meat loaf was nearly two inches thick, nestled on slices of fresh, soft whole-wheat bread and topped with the works - lettuce, onion, mayo, mustard and ketchup. A cup of peppery fresh coleslaw served alongside and a garlic pickle said "diner food" at its best, and at $3.99 for a half sandwich and salad, the price was right, too. Paired with a cup of chili ($2.69), a mild version with plenty of beef and beans, the meal was complete. I picked up a couple of slices of peanut butter and butter pecan fudge, one of a dozen housemade varieties, on the way out. The buttery candy was fresh, without the telltale grittiness from too much sugar.

The eatery also serves breakfast items such as the eggle sandwich ($3.99), made with Chompie's bagels, bacon or ham and cheese. There's also cinnamon french toast with bacon ($3.49) and down-home style biscuits and gravy ($1.99).

The Girls are moving to a larger space at the north end of the same strip mall sometime in February. If the food and surroundings are as good at the new digs, count me in.

Source: AZ Central.com

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