It’s not hard to appreciate a burger. And like many fine restaurants before it, The Herb Box in Scottsdale’s DC Ranch made the wise decision to include a burger on its menu surrounded by dishes like steak and free-range chicken. Often, the burger represents a cheaper alternative, but with the burger running $17 at The Herb Box one could hardly be called cheap for ordering it.
I love old school greasy Mexican places. The types that have been around from years, have a stable menu and don’t try to introduce something crazy to the menu (I mean I like those too, but there’s a special place in my heart for the former). Ajo Al’s in Scottsdale is one of those old school places. Maybe it hasn’t been around since some of Phoenix’s older spots, but it opened in 1986, which is like 100 years ago in Arizona years.
Sometimes a burger comes along with an innovation worth screaming from the mountain tops. Or, at least from a meat blog. This time, that burger can be found at Paradise Valley Burger Co., which is in Paradise Valley, which is some sort of a hybrid of a neighborhood thingy in Phoenix. The spot can be found in mini mall reminiscent more of Los Angeles than your typical Phoenix and is divey enough to have been visited by Guy Fieri.
Another year, another move. This time, the year was split between LA (Pasadena) and Phoenix (Scottsdale). While LA is certainly more of a melting pot of cultures, Phoenix certainly has its fair share of good food driven by transplants from all over the country, if not the world. And what year would be complete without a bit of travel as well? As is usual, I’m keeping the travel out of the Best of, but you can see it all here (including some amazing food from a trip to Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan). So without further adieu, bring on 2017.
Once upon a time there was a sub-genre of movies called Spaghetti Westerns. They were Western movies that were produced by Italians, making them look and feel different from your more traditional Westerns. Old Town Scottsdale is kind of set up to look like the old west. And in Old Town Scottsdale is an old school Italian place called Italian Grotto. It’s like spaghetti in the west, but there is good, bad and ugly about it.
The Mekong Plaza in Mesa is a great place to get real, authentic Asian food to bring people back to their roots or at least to get them away from crappy Americanized Asian food. And among those more traditional restaurants is something that doesn’t fit the mold at all. It’s called Kingo Bowl, and it has taken the concept of rice bowls with molecular sous vide.
I’ve probably never thought that Middle Eastern food is the type of food that needs innovation and modernization. Give me some well-executed schwarma nearly any day of the week and I will be a happy man. Yet, Pita Jungle not only exists in the Phoenix area, but it has multiple locations that demonstrate a pattern of success. Oh, and it just oozes modern Middle Eastern.
There is no denying that much of my heart belongs in the state of Wisconsin, where I spent many summers of my life. So when Michigan loses a football game to Wisconsin, I may hate it, but I’m also weirdly more okay with it than I am with losing to just about any other team. But what does this have to do with food? Well, Wisconsin produced a fast food place called Culver’s, which is actually in Phoenix. So afters years of not being in Wisconsin, I revisited the Scottsdale location of Culver’s to see if it could bring me back to my days in Wisconsin.
As the world’s foremost meat blogger (according to myself), I am generally of the notion that vegetables need to be avoided and subbed in for meat or animal products at almost all times. Yet, when I was given the opportunity to head to The Counter in Phoenix and try out the Impossible Burger, I could not pass it up. But here’s where it gets weird, you see, the Impossible Burger is completely vegan.
The James Beard Awards may be a big deal nationwide, but in my years in LA and Pittsburgh, I didn’t feel like there was enough official recognition of local talent. Not so much in Arizona, which just had its Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame Awards. The event was at the snazzy Wrigley Mansion in the Phoenix Biltmore area and had some light apps to go with the awards.