Diners delight at Phil’s Filling Station’s Coca Cola collection

Coca Cola memorabilia at Phil’s Filling Station decorates nearly every nook and cranny of three entire rooms in the diner-style Fountain Hills restaurant. The collection of bottles, tins, serving trays, abstract art, and large framed puzzles depicting scenes and logos from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, is courtesy of owner Phil Rodakis, who has been collecting the memorabilia since the restaurant opened in 1997.

Phil vividly remembers when he first fell in love with Coca Cola. He was five years old.

The New York native said he was spending a summer in Greece visiting relatives, where the food was distinctly different. The popular soft drink, along with french fries and the fresh bread he bought daily from a local baker, sustained him until he returned home. There he has fond memories of spending time in diners and restaurants owned by relatives, who decorated with the promotional items they received from the Coca Cola company.

“I like Coca Cola,” he said. “It reminds me of growing up in New York. I want to give others the same experience of going back in time.”

And it does. In fact, for the past five or six years, Phil says locals have been bringing him Coca Cola memorabilia they’ve found in their attics and garages, asking him to hang it somewhere on the restaurant’s walls. Sometimes he says yes, such as to the collection of Detroit Tigers commemorative Coca Cola cans one customer brought him years ago. Although the patron has since passed away, the collection still hangs on the wall, eliciting fond memories from other Detroit natives who often reminisce about collecting the cans as youngsters themselves.

Phil said he finds the art at big box stores, flea markets, and art fairs, buying things he likes without concern for its historical value.

“A lot of these are just modernized antiques — replicas,” he said. “People ask me all the time how much I think my collection is worth and I have no idea. “I’m not doing it to make money, I’m doing it because I love it.”

And while he won’t admit to having a favorite piece of decor, the framed Coca Cola puzzles that hang on his wall do have enormous sentimental significance. They were assembled by his father while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for cancer. In three years, his dad put together nearly 100 puzzles and had them framed for display before passing in 2019.

During the holidays, the regular memorabilia is replaced by Christmas-themed pieces, including decorated trees and ornaments, many depicting jovial Santa Clauses holding bottles of Coca Cola.

“I just enjoy it,” Phil said, with a casual shrug. “Whenever I see something that I like, I pick it up. I have enough stuff in storage I can probably decorate another restaurant, but one restaurant is enough.”


A unique dining experience for every palate in Fountain Hills

With more than 60 eating establishments in town, the majority of which are locally owned, you clearly won’t go hungry when you visit Fountain Hills. But why just eat when you can have something a little extra with your meal? Here are a few of the restaurants our residents recommend to their out-of-town guests… and why you might want to visit one or two while you’re here.

Views of the World-Famous Fountain
EuroPizza Café*
12645 N Saguaro Blvd. #11
Locals like Jack S. call this restaurant “very Fountain Hillsy” for the “awesome patio and view” of Fountain Park. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner is served daily except on Tuesday, along with occasional musical entertainment on the weekends. The popular restaurant has been in business for more than 20 years and is a great place to experience the Fountain Hills vibe while having a great meal.

Grapeables Wine Bar*
12645 N Saguaro Blvd. #9
Stop by Grapeables if you’re in the mood for a leisurely glass of wine and some good conversation. They have a limited menu of appetizers on site or a reciprocal agreement with Arrivederci if you want something more substantial. Order from your Grapeables’ server and the restaurant, located just a few doors away, will deliver.

12645 N Saguaro Blvd. #1
Enjoy authentic Italian cuisine at this local favorite. If you sit at the bar, be sure to ask about the “bar special,” a dish only served to bar patrons. In the evening, don’t be surprised if the waiter offers you a complimentary shot of their homemade Limoncello after your meal -- no matter where you sit.

Resort Dining
Cielo at Adero
13225 North Eagle Ridge Drive
Jessamyn C. says Cielo has the perfect combination of “upscale décor, delicious food, and natural beauty.” Patrons appreciate mountainous views from inside the dining room and outside on the spacious patio. If you’re lucky, you might also get the chance to catch the Star Dudes onsite, giving guests a unique look at the Fountain Hills protected dark sky through their powerful telescopes.

Pietros at Eagle Mountain
9800 N Summer Hill Blvd.
Tom L. says this restaurant has great ambience, superb service, and excellent food. Reservations are required.
International Specialties

International Specialties
Oka Sushi*
16725 E Avenue of the Fountains R104
This made Vicky D.’s list of favorites because, as she puts it, it’s the only place where you can dine under a giant indoor cherry tree! Don’t let the name fool you. Sushi entrees are plentiful; however, there’s a menu item to please just about everyone.

1648 E Avenue of the Fountains
Amy A. recommends this restaurant for its authentic Puerto Rican/Latin cuisine. Sitting on the patio under the restaurant’s signature thatched straw umbrellas and listening to the Latin music adds to the ambience. Even the bathroom gets an approving nod from locals like Denise C.!

Sapori D’Italia
11865 N Saguaro Blvd
Local resident Carl L. says this restaurant is “seriously Italian” and Lisa V. says it’s the atmosphere and quality of food that makes it unique. Dining begins at 4:00 p.m. If you want dessert, we recommend dining early and ordering dessert with your meal. The homemade selections, written on the big chalkboard in the main dining room, are crossed off the list as hungry patrons eat them up.

More than just food…
Batchelor’s Pad BBQ
13407 N La Montana Dr.
Vicky D. calls this “the restaurant with a fun event calendar.” Tuesday is chess night, courtesy of the Fountain Hills Chess Club. Wednesday is Trivia Night and Thursday is BINGO. Enjoy live music with your meal on select weekend nights.

Fountain Hills Food Cart
If it’s too nice to sit inside, do what many locals do and grab a hamburger, hotdog, taco, or protein bowl from the award-winning Fountain Hills Food Cart. Most days the truck is parked on Avenue of the Fountains near Chase Bank. The plentiful tables and chairs lining Avenue of the Fountains make a great place to sit outside and enjoy the complimentary great weather.

Phil’s Filling Station*
Locals gather at Phil’s for more than just good food and the display of ‘50s flash back Coca-Cola memorabilia that covers the walls. Some like to bring friends to watch the game on one of the many televisions in the bar area. Families gather on the other side for a good meal and casual conversation. Car enthusiasts park in the back with vintage rides on Saturdays (October – May).

*dog-friendly patio


Grapeables Wine Bar: Wine drinking with a view

When you’ve finished your leisurely stroll around Fountain Park, stop for some liquid refreshment at Grapeables Wine Bar, owned by Jo and Bill McKellips and their son, Sam.

In addition to stunning patio views of the World-Famous Fountain, you’ll find more than 150 different bottles of wine from all over the world from small production wineries, often family owned. If you’re hungry, nosh on charcuterie boards designed to pair with reds or whites, or order a full meal delivery from Arrivederci, an authentic Italian restaurant conveniently located four doors down.

Wine reps help the McKellips choose which varietals to carry, which Jo says often comes down to what they think the regulars will enjoy. “We know our customers, so we try to cover the gamut,” Jo said.

As a result, their selection offers choices for every palate and pocketbook. If you’re feeling extravagant, order the Tuscan Bolgheri Sassicaia from Tenuta San Gido in Italy ($250 a bottle). If not, order a glass of your favorite varietal from the menu. And if you don’t know what you’re thirsty for, ask Jo for a recommendation. She’ll likely introduce you to something you didn't even know you wanted.

“When people walk into my bar and say, ‘I don’t recognize any of these wines,’ I say ‘thank you’! she said. “We are a small, family-owned establishment and we try to find small, family-owned wines that you won’t find anywhere else.”

That might explain her affection for the wineries the family has visited in Willamette Valley in Oregon. There, the winemakers work in community without competition, producing organic wines in a sustainable manner. “It reminds me a lot of our wine bar,” she said.

The McKellips, who are the third owners of Grapeables, purchased the wine bar in 2014. The original owners opened the space as a retail wine and cheese shop — he was a cheese monger and she was a sommelier. The next set of owners, Dave and Diane, introduced the bar aspect and started a wine club, which is still incredibly popular with the locals. Jo and Bill, along with son Sam, embraced the wine bar atmosphere and will celebrate their tenth year in business in 2024.

Locals enjoy a monthly wine club, where sommeliers introduce wines from small production wineries. In addition to the wide variety of wines available, visitors will appreciate live music on Friday and Saturday nights and every fourth Wednesday (on the patio, weather permitting), as well as amazing views of the World-Famous Fountain. Grapeables also offers a small selection of popular beers, some of them locally produced, for those who prefer drinking a cold brew.

“Our tap handle beers always feature Arizona produced beers, but we also have German- and American-style beers in cans and bottles, too,” Sam said.

Open Tuesday through Sunday (closed on Monday), Grapeables has hosted numerous community events, from bridal showers and anniversaries to end-of-life celebrations. At least one couple met at Grapeables, married, and now brings their “bar baby” in for regular visits with the wine family who introduced them.

But visitors will feel like part of the family, too, because the McKellips create an environment where all are welcome.

“We have hard-to-find wines at really good price points, so stop by for a visit when you’re in town” Jo said. “Wine, food, and community. It’s all meant to go together.”


Chocofin Chocolatier: Handmade chocolates from scratch plus a whole lot more

What happens when a local pastry chef begins dabbling in chocolate making? When he’s married to another pastry chef, it creates a perfect blend of sweetness called Chocofin Chocolatier, a unique Fountain Hills confectionery offering handmade chocolates, freshly baked cakes and pies, and regionally sourced ice cream.

You’ll find Chocofin on the corner of Palisades Boulevard and La Montana Avenue, but that’s not where it all started.

Owners Louis and Denise Mirabella worked in some of Arizona’s largest resorts for twenty years before Louis began teaching himself to make chocolates. When he realized the resorts were buying chocolates abroad, he began selling his chocolates to them wholesale. The results were so successful, the couple opened a wholesale location in Fountain Hills in 1998.

Originally, the Mirabellas thought they’d only be selling wholesale, but the reaction they received from Fountain Hills residents to the small retail component they added to the shop convinced them otherwise.

“We were overwhelmed on the holidays,” Louis said, still in amazement. “Once word got out, we grew every year. After our lease was up, we moved into our current location. We’re still pleasantly surprised we can make a living like this.”

Their small batch chocolates, made with natural ingredients and great chocolates such as Callebaut, Valrhona, and Scharffenberger, are a Fountain Hills favorite.

Denise says the salt and whisky and butter toffee truffles, along with the chocolate mousse cake, are Chocofin’s most popular sellers. But the most unique product they sell is likely their “bean to bar” chocolate made entirely from scratch on site, beginning with the raw cocoa beans.

“We’re really excited about it,” Louis said. “It’s much more intensely flavored. It’s not a huge part of our business but people who are really into a more intense dark chocolate experience will like it.”

And don’t forget the ice cream. On vacation one summer, the couple visited Napa Valley chocolate shops and were intrigued with those which also carried ice cream. Once they tasted gelato from a Phoenix-based maker who uses heavy cream, the Mirabellas added it to their menu. Louis says they do well in the summer but sell twice as much ice cream in the winter.

For the most part, Denise handles the baking aspect of the business and Louis focuses on chocolate production. When you visit, make sure you buy enough to take home for friends and family. Due to their high volume of sales, Chocofin no longer offers mail order.

“There aren’t many artisan chocolatiers in Arizona who’ve been around as long as we have,” he said. “Everything is fresh and made from scratch. The more you taste chocolates and pastries, the more you appreciate what we do.”

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