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.
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.
Harbor Springs is a lovely little town up in Northern Michigan, and yet between it and Petoskey (another lovely, somewhat bigger town), there isn’t much beyond trees, condos, lakes and a couple of ski mountains. Oh, and there’s also Teddy Griffin’s Roadhouse, which has been situated there as long as I can remember. They serve up a combination of bar food, fancier European-style food, Great Lakes food and some of the most delicious bread in the world.
Anyone who knows me knows that I hate mornings. Yet, I love breakfast food with all of its bacon and eggy goodness. It’s a conundrum that I am coming to terms with in the Phoenix area, which I believe to have the highest per capita breakfast restaurants. My latest was Snooze in Scottsdale, which is inappropriately named as far as I’m concerned, but the line of people waiting to eat there didn’t seem to mind.
Perhaps one of the most underrated songs of the 90s was “Ecstasy” by Rusted Root. And while none of the lyrics are really related to eating at a breakfast spot called Eggstasy in Scottsdale, I nonetheless found myself unable to get the song out of my head for the duration of my meal there, and also it is stuck in there now, as I write. But I digress, what matters is the food, and actually the service for once.
Fast food is an amazing thing. And what’s more amazing is that soup is kind of the original fast food. Sure, it has to be prepared way in advance, but once that is done a meal is just a scoop away. Pho 24 has elevated the combination of fast food and soup to an art. It can be found in Vietnam, a number of Asian countries and even as far away as Australia and I paid a visit to one in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).
It’s really hard to get enough of hot pot, especially when you live in a place with a ton of hot pot options. Element is a shiny and semi-new spot in Alhambra that offers all-you-can-eat and the divided hot pot that almost always seems necessary when I am eating with people who can’t handle heat.
Greasy spoons are some of the greatest restaurants in the country – giving people access to hearty food and the gamut of surly to humorous waitstaff. One place you may not expect to find such a place is Ojai, California – which is more known for a level of spiritual pretentiousness than greasy food, yet I found myself at Bonnie Lu’s – a quintessential greasy spoon right on the main drag. Of course, it was next door to a paleo-vegan-gluten-free vomit factory, so I knew I was still in Ojai.
In a city filled with all kinds of fun events, one event (aside from a plethora of farmer’s markets) can be counted on every week. It’s Smorgasburg, which originally started over in Brooklyn, and it’s kind of like a miniaturized, hipster version of 626 Night Market. On my first venture, I made my way to Ugly Drum Pastrami.
A lot of the time, a burrito is just a burrito. Fillings vary in quality and variety, but they are generally the same basic thing. Not so much at Burritos La Palma in El Monte. These burritos came straight from Jerez, Mexico and if you didn’t know any better you might think of them as enchiladas. Burritos La Palma specializes in birria and so that’s what I got.