Arizona Stops on the Way

Gilbert’s Farm to Table to Trail Oasis Near Phoenix

In the heart of Arizona's Sonoran desert you’ll find a vibrant farm-to-table dining scene, gorgeous green spaces and more in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert.

While other Arizonan cities have lost their agricultural roots to development, Gilbert has held onto its connection to the land. It even pioneered Agritopia, the nation’s first “agrihood,” a neighborhood surrounding a farm where residents and visitors alike can walk to farm-to-table restaurants, a winery, brewery and independent artisan shops, all located on-site.

“It pays homage to the area’s agricultural history in a time where so much of our green spaces has been swallowed by development.” says Katie Critchley, director of The Farm. “It’s a breath of fresh air.”

To really get a taste of Gilbert, you’ll want to head to its heart. The Heritage District encompasses the original town site and still displays the 100-year-old water tower. Today, it’s a charming downtown area where food is key—it features more than 30 local restaurants.

Start your day at Liberty Market at 230 N Gilbert Rd. It’s a favorite local meet-up housed in a former grocery store and now serves amazing breakfast, lunch and dinner. The green chile pork scramble is a perfect way to get a taste of Arizona and it’s never too early for dessert when the market’s famous Salt River Bar is on the menu. Named after the river that keeps the Phoenix metro area hydrated, this dessert features saltine crackers, caramel and chocolate.

Don’t miss the year-round Saturday Farmers Market featuring local products. For more local goods on other days of the week, stop into Studio 223, which features local artisans.

Riparian Preserve

After breakfast, rent an e-bike from Pedego and ride the beautiful Western Powerline Trail three miles to the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch for a major dose of green.

On the 4.5 miles of shaded trails, you’ll see some of the preserve’s nearly 300 species of birds as well as a plethora of mammals, reptiles and amphibians. The flat trails are perfect for a leisurely pedal with the whole family.

Shaded trail through Gilbert's Riparian Preserve
Shaded trail through Gilbert’s Riparian Preserve (Photo: by Chris Barr courtesy of Discover Gilbert)

Lost Dutchman State Park

Looking for a quintessential desert hike? Lost Dutchman State Park in the Superstition Mountains just 30 minutes from Gilbert is a great place to take in the views. Hike the scenic, 4-mile round trip Siphon Draw Trail. If you’re a strong hiker, you can add on 1.8 miles with a hike to the top of the Flatiron for incredible views. Be sure to start early as the desert sun gets hot midday.

Lost Dutchman State Park in Arizona
Hike or bike the trails in Lost Dutchman State Park (Photo: Depositphotos)

Back in the Heritage District, enjoy a night out at Sotol Modern Cocktail Kitchen at 313 N Gilbert Rd. This rooftop eatery brings the surrounding desert into its cocktails and cuisine, only enhancing the stunning views. Sip cocktails made with ingredients like local mesquite whiskey and prickly pear and dine on house-made fry bread served with barbacoa or nopales fritas, which are crispy cactus paddles.

Explore the Country’s First “Agrihood”

When the first forkful of The Uprooted Kitchen’s savory buckwheat crepe enters your mouth, you’ll taste a lot of things: the ever-changing flavors of chef Erin Romanoff’s imagination, the local produce picked that morning from the farm outside the window and the history – and future – of Gilbert, Ariz.

A hundred years ago, Gilbert, Ariz. was the hay shipping capital of the world. Its fields were filled with crops like sugar beets, alfalfa and cotton. As the area grew and agricultural land was increasingly sold off for commercial use, members of the Johnston family, whose 400-acre farm is now the Agritopia neighborhood, were desperate to hold on to the roots that connected them to the land. Joe Johnston, an engineer by trade, dreamed up the Agritopia neighborhood, the first so-called “agrihood” in the country. The community that emerged from Johnston’s imagination surrounds an 11-acre certified organic farm. With a de-emphasis on vehicular traffic, residents and visitors walk to farm-to-table restaurants, a coffee shop, winery, brewery and independent artisan shops, all located on-site in a collective marketplace called Barnone. One of the restaurants is even housed in the Johnston’s family former home.

The Farm at Agritopia in Gilbert, Arizona
The Farm at Agritopia (Photo: Courtesy Discover Gilbert)

The 11-acre farm is the heart of the community. More than 60 varieties of crops are organically grown there each year such as blackberries, peaches, citrus, Medjool dates and market vegetables. It’s hyper-local, with all produce sold within five miles of its grounds to Gilbert’s vibrant restaurant scene, including The Uprooted Kitchen.

“It’s this oasis in the desert,” says The Farm’s director Katie Critchley.

Critchley, like so many of the neighborhood’s makers, lives in Agritopia.

The Farm’s fields sit right outside of The Uprooted Kitchen’s windows. The plant-based restaurant, which started as a food truck, is about as hyper-local as you can get. Owners Erin and Chad Romanoff were always interested in whole, organic and locally grown foods, but they were having a hard time finding those things in Gilbert. So, seven years ago they opened their own food truck. The response in the community was overwhelming, leading them to expand to their brick-and-mortar location in Agritopia in 2016. That same year, they moved to the neighborhood with their sons. They can see their house from the restaurant.

Most of their produce is sourced from The Farm. Their menu reflects the locality and seasonality of their ingredients, with five items on the menu rotating each week. For instance, some weeks the buckwheat crepes have a Southwestern flair. Some weeks, the flavors are more Mediterranean, with sweet potato hummus and quinoa tabbouleh. You’ll find plant-based dishes like house-made granola paired with house-made coconut yogurt and the rotating plant-burger, with variations like an oregano white-bean patty topped with kale-walnut pesto and tomato sauce on the menu. In every bite, you’ll feel Gilbert’s connection to the land and its agricultural roots, and the ways in which the community is committed to the future.

“Owning this restaurant, in this community, is like a dream,” shares Erin Romanoff. “We get to share our love for things that come from the earth with a city full of people who love to eat.”

Buckwheat crepe from the Uprooted Kitchen in Gilbert, Ariz.
Buckwheat crepe from the Uprooted Kitchen (Photo: by Chad Romanoff courtesy of Discover Gilbert)

For more information:
Discover Gilbert
480-503-6000
90 E Civic Center Drive, Gilbert, AZ 85296
www.discovergilbert.com/adventure

Find The Uprooted Kitchen at 3000 E Ray Rd, Building 6