I went into Cold Beers and Cheeseburgers expecting to get some cold beer and a cheeseburger. And pretty immediately, I knew this would not be the case. It started with a delay to my beer because they were out of what I wanted. That was fine, because places run out of beer all the time and so I went ahead and ordered a new one. But then, I was told that it was Monday and that meant $12 build your own mac and cheese with basically whatever the hell you want in it.
There’s something about state fairs that brings out the best America has to offer in terms of food creativity. Screw molecular gastronomy, I want to know what the latest in fried, bacon-wrapped and Flaming Hot Cheetos is in the world. And while the Arizona State Fair isn’t known as well as some others, there was still room for some interesting bites. One thing I didn’t bite, by the way, was a turkey leg, because, well, booooring.
There are certain aspects of the Phoenix area that are tough to get used to. Not in the sense that they are bad in any way, just that they are different. You see, I spent much of my life thinking that good food is a pretty rare find in a strip mall or as a standalone building in the parking lot of a strip mall. But, when a city is basically all strip malls, the good food simply has to be there. Thus, while my expectations of BBQ spots are generally a bit less pristine than a strip mall, I couldn’t pass up the chance to check out Naked BBQ in Scottsdale.
Salt. It’s a substance that inherently makes other substances taste better. Sow. It’s lady pig that, well, tastes good regardless. Combine the two and you have Salty Sow, a gastropub in Phoenix looking to bring some very gastropubby fare, drawing upon all sorts of classic American food, to the desert.
We can all agree that Phoenix is not LA. Good, now that that’s settled, Phoenix does appear to get an event or two on occasion, and the first since I made the big move was the 8th Annual Arizona Taco Festival, which converged at the Salt River Fields in Scottsdale. While the place is better-known for MLB spring training, the vast field was put to good use in hosting dozens of vendors pushing mostly tacos, but also drinks, desserts and the occasional t-shirt.
Creating Jewish deli meat is like a perfect combination of art and science. Some delis have found the ideal balance, while others are more content to satisfy the science part of it all and move on from there. I paid a visit to Chompie’s in Scottsdale to see how it would measure up against my admittedly high standards for Kosher-style delis.
It’s hard to make BBQ trendy. It is inherently something that people have very specific expectations for, and anything “new” and good is almost always a minor tweak that makes a real difference. So where can innovation come from? Booze. At least that’s what Bootleggers BBQ in Phoenix was thinking, offering a pretty snazzy modern divey bar that also serves up BBQ. It’s like a gastropub meets a BBQ spot and I was eager to see how the meat would hold up.
There was a weird time in history when revolving restaurants became popular. Only one of these, at least as far as I understand, also was a Playboy Club back in the day, and that was the Compass Arizona Grill on top of the Hyatt in Downtown Phoenix. Today, it serves as kind of a throwback steakhouse, there to remind you how cool rotating restaurants once were, while trying to adapt to the modern palette.
Like in LA, food trucks are a thing in the Phoenix area. And it makes much more sense here because everything is so damn spread out. Pasadena spoiled me. But I digress. The good news is that my office is all about bringing food trucks in every month (not for free, of course) to mix things up and to keep us from driving literal miles to the nearest food. This last time, it was Sweet Magnolia Smokehouse, serving up BBQ.
Good food is always made better if it’s found in a strange place. You know, like the Cheetos you find in the couch cushion. No, but seriously, like BBQ at a gas station. Such is Tom’s Thumb in Scottsdale. And while it may be more of a restaurant that happens to have a gas station attached than the other way around, that shouldn’t take away from the fact that this is literally a gas station and BBQ place.