Some BBQ places have a reputation that precedes them. Others, you just kind of drive by a bunch and decide it’s time to pay a visit. Porkopolis in Scottsdale is the latter, and I finally decided to pay that visit. I was greeted by possibly the friendliest waiter a BBQ restaurant has ever seen and the scent of smoke and meat juices.
You probably wouldn’t expect Phoenix to be the most Italian of cities. After all, there is not Little Italy and the Mafia is more of an East Coast thing. Yet, Phoenix definitely has some homegrown Italian favorites and Babbo is one of these. Babbo invited me out to its Scottsdale location for a hosted dinner and I took them up on the chance to check it out.
Everybody just looooves the Fox Restaurant Group in Phoenix. But can there ever be too many Fox restaurants? I headed to The Greene House in Scottsdale’s Kierland Commons in my continuing quest to find out. The Greene House is a modern American restaurant showcasing things like salads, sandwiches, fish and chicken. As in most similar situations, my eyes went right for the burger.
Last week the Phoenix area hit 100 degrees for the first time this year and it was the fourth earliest date on record. Thus, one would think that the season for outdoor events would be coming to an end. One would be wrong, as this past weekend brought in the Scottsdale Culinary Fest and the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, an outdoor Taste of Chicago-esque festival showcasing food from all over the area and of all types.
Some were household names with tons of locations around the Valley of the Sun, like Grimaldi’s and Zoe’s, but others seemed a bit more special and I sought them out (along with some booze, of course).
The Italiano – Aioli Burger
I’d been hearing murmurings of how great this place was for a while now, and its victory at Burger Battle 2018 further cemented my desire to get there. This burger wasn’t perfect, nor would I expect it to be in such a situation, but the combination of mozzarella, bacon, basil garlic aioli, balsamic reduction and a discarded tomato made me more eager to seek out the real deal.
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 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.
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.
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.
It would have been much more convenient to go to Blue Tractor BBQ in Ann Arbor. After all, I seem to get there about once a year. The trouble is that every time I’m there I can’t help but stop at Zingerman’s, with an occasional other restaurant thrown in once every blue (or maize) moon. Instead, I went to the location a number of hours further away in Traverse City, Michigan, not far from Sleeping Bear Dunes.
At 8 miles around, Mackinac Island is known for a few things. A beautiful hotel, horses, bikes and even some food. That food is fudge, so I’ll not bother with writing about how Murray’s Fudge is the best, but the island is not without other restaurants catering to the throngs of tourists that make their way and need something to eat. On this visit, we left the main drag and found Ice House BBQ.