Phoenix-Area Restaurants Featured on Food Network's Mystery Diners Find a Mixed Bag of Reactions

Amaro Pizzeria exterior.jpg
Courtesy of Amaro Pizzeria
Amaro Pizzeria in Cave Creek wins new fans via Mystery Diners
Mystery Diners, the cheesy new reality TV show on Food Network, has been focusing its high beams on metro Phoenix for the past month, featuring Haus Murphy's in Glendale, The Groves in Gilbert, Caffe Boa in Tempe, Blue Moose in Scottsdale, Big Earl's Greasy Eats in Cave Creek and Amaro Pizzeria and Vino Lounge (also in Cave Creek) in endless loops of restaurant drama.

And, apparently, people are watching. This can be a very, very good thing or a very, very bad thing, depending on the premise and details of the episode.

Frank Vairo of Amaro Pizzeria couldn't be happier about Managing Disaster, the episode that spotlighted his Cave Creek restaurant.

In that episode, a creepy, horn-dog manager hired a pretty woman over a plain-looking one, then sexually harassed the new hire. Vairo says Mystery Diners has brought him customers from New York, Georgia, and Louisiana, as well as locals who've driven up from Gilbert and Apache Junction.

He even got a call from Sir Mix-a-Lot's right-hand man, saying the famous MC and producer wanted to rent out Amaro for a Sunday night. Apparently, Mix-a-Lot is a Food Network fan.

Vairo swears his episode was based on reality and given little embellishment, adding, "In the restaurant business, sexual harassment is rampant. You're always going to have attractive women and douchebag managers."

But that's not how it went down for the citizens of Cave Creek, who are mad as hell over the way their town was portrayed in the Big Earl's Greasy Eats episode. And they've got a point.

In Big Earl's Gone Wild, a bartender lets staff members and customers stay to party after-hours, telling them to help themselves while she retires to the restroom with a random male customer.

In the June 20 issue of the Sonoran, a Cave Creek businessman (name withheld by request) writes an outraged open letter to Big Earl's owner and Cave Creek city councilwoman Kim Brennan , saying the show made the town "look like white trash" and surely couldn't have done any favors for other local businesses, who have now been tainted with Big Earl's special brand of sleaze.

The columnist who re-printed the letter went on to say that he'd learned from Big Earl's ex-employees that the supposedly longtime bartender "Claire" had been hired two days before the episode, and that all the partiers in the episode were hired actors.

It's certainly a strong possibility. Commenters on Chow Bella's previous Mystery Diner post were quick to point out that the show seemed completely fake, and the tip-off was the painfully stilted dialogue. No surprise there. If the show is 100 percent scripted, then restaurant owners are required to be pretty convincing actors.

I've called a few of the local restaurants who've been on Mystery Diners, and the employees I've spoken to all have been very guarded. They say they can't speak for the owners, and, conveniently enough, I can't seem to reach the owners.

But here's my conclusion. Whether Mystery Diners is reality or fiction, it's still lousy TV.

Check Mystery Diners for upcoming local episodes.

If there's something new to add to the story, we'll keep you posted.

Location Info

Haus Murphy's

5739 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale, AZ

Category: Music

The Groves

323 S. Gilbert Road, Gilbert, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Caffe Boa on Mill

398 S. Mill Ave., Tempe, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Blue Moose

7373 E. Scottsdale Mall, Scottsdale, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Big Earl's Greasy Eats

6135 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Amaro Pizzeria and Vino Lounge

28234 N. Tatum Blvd., Cave Creek, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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My Voice Nation Help
jb3842 PLGB go it w God, no 'fraud' Lord Willing, no 'violence', no 'light use' of terms like 'd'vl' or 'h'll' etc. Lord Willing Lord Forgive thanks n thank GOD Amen


I knew it was fake when I would see ear buds in the ears of the people they had to watch under surveillance. The actors had them and the so called real people they were doing surveillance on. Pretty easy to spot.


Y'know, I tried to give the show a way out in convincing everyone it was real, but yeah, I can't. I just wonder why, having already experienced bad employees, restaurants like The Groves decided it was a good idea to exploit the bad events. If they've got a bad eye in hiring practices, how does it benefit them to see their bonehead moves exploited?


I also question Food Network. Shows like this detract from their brand and make them seem cheap.


It's interesting that people are saying this show is fake and staged. I also know for a fact that the show is a fraud, but the show is based on reality. Everything that is being portrayed in the show I have witnessed in my hospitality experience. It happens all over the country. 


@cubd1 That website was set up by one of the criminals that Mystery Diners has exposed.  Give me a break.


@cubd1 Really a lawsuit ?Wow just when I thought lawyers couldn't get any lower they prove mr wrong.A lawsuit for what? Who is hurt by this if it is fake? As the old joke goes, what do you call 2 million lawyers at tthe bottom of the ocean,a good start. 

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