Delicious destinations: A look at some of Pinal County's restaurant options

Nicole Underwood

By Nicole Underwood / NewsBreak — Pinal County, AZ

(Pinal County, AZ) In the center of the Grand Canyon State, home of over 7 million people, resides one of the Southwest’s most prominent mining regions — Pinal County — part of the copper boom of the late 1800s.

Since then, the region has grown to offer numerous reasons to visit, its desert beauty being one. Restaurants offer another.

Hidden rural restaurants worth exploring abound. Florence, just 61 miles southeast of Phoenix, is one of the oldest towns in the county and home to 25,000 people. Plan to spend time exploring its deep history before you dine. But while you are there, be sure to grab a seat at Valentino's Eatery, a casual, family-oriented restaurant with authentic Italian fare. Chef Rob and his wife Jennifer welcome guests with open arms, sharing the love of life with every dish. Plus, the story of their restaurant is as rich as their homemade alfredo sauce — three generations of Valentino family members celebrating their Italian roots. Pictures of the owner’s grandparents and great-grandparents — Joseph, Pasquale, and Maria — adorn the walls.

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Lidia’s Cocina at Old Pueblo's saucy enchiladasLidia’s Cocina at Old Pueblo Facebook

While you’re in Florence, a fabulous staple not to miss is Lidia’s Cocina at Old Pueblo. This location has been a locals’ haven for nearly 30 years, best known for its authentic Mexican dishes and memorable margaritas. Old Pueblo Restaurant & Catering serves Florence, Arizona, and surrounding areas. Fill up on their made-from-scratch tortillas, chips, and tamales, and wash it down with a classic Cadillac margarita. Their menu includes popular items like enchiladas, chimichangas, carne asada, and options for American cuisine if you need a burger fix.

Halfway between Phoenix and Tucson rests the city of Casa Grande, known best for the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument near Coolidge. Twice the size of Florence, options expand from classic Mexican flavors to sensational southwestern dishes with a Mediterranean twist and steakhouse favorites. Enjoy all these options at BeDillons Restaurant, which serves everything from Monterey chicken to Guadalajara salad to slow-roasted prime rib served daily. New York steak strip with garlic and herb-infused butter is another tempting choice. The ambiance includes a charming outdoor courtyard. Sometimes you can enjoy a musical accompaniment to your meal with a performance by a live act. Great for a date night while you explore Pinal County.

With over two dozen small rural towns in the Pinal region, you discover something special in Marana. While significant farming and ranching have dominated the area with vast farmlands and open spaces, agriculture has brought many local restaurants and craft breweries worth exploring. From barley to local greens, many popular dishes or drinks you enjoy can be sourced from this region due to their reputation for quality farming.

One must-try location is Li’l Abners Steakhouse, a vintage, authentic steakhouse home to Hollywood hangs and dude ranchers in the 1940s. This authentic cowboy-style service offers mesquite-grilled Porterhouse steaks, ribs smoked for seven hours, ranch-style beans, and Texas toast among its menu items. Get lost in the rustic charm of this local restaurant, named after the owner’s dog Abner. Nothing beats their famous pecan pie, topped with two huge scoops of vanilla bean ice cream if you need to end on a sweet note.

End your journey at Button Brewhouse to celebrate the local ingredients of Marana. Considering ingredients in a dish are just as sacred as ingredients in a beer, wash down your Pinal County journey at this popular microbrewery just 10 minutes north of downtown Tucson. Button Brew House is a community-focused location where you will truly get a sense of the region and maybe connect with a local on some stories that pair well with your second pint.

The warm and inviting atmosphere accompanies an eclectic array of world-class craft beverages, like their famous Whiskey Del Bac Barrel-Aged House Arrest blend that is perfect to pair with a tasty dessert.

The owner’s collective experience in brewing while also being self-professed foodies allows their popular craft beers to be considered an extension of food. Pour yourself a large glass and enjoy.

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