Burgers and brews go together like Forrest and Jenny, which is why my eyes generally shoot to the burger menu when I check out a brewery. It’s also why they always have burgers on the menu or, well, I question judgment. I did not have to question any judgment about burgers when I paid a visit to Four Peaks in Tempe, at least not at first.
I grew up spoiled when it came to Greek food. I mean, Detroit even has a Greektown and I’m not sure you can say the same for any other city anywhere. Recently, though, I found myself picking up some Greek food from Saba’s Mediterranean Kitchen in Phoenix and and was intrigued not just by the classic stuff, but by the unique twists I found there.
Getting outside of your bubble is tough. But one very easy way to get out is the knowledge that your bubble just doesn’t have everything you want. So when it comes to good old fashioned Asian food, it’s easy to break out and make my way to Mesa and the Mekong Plaza. On this occasion, the journey led me to Thai Spices.
Americanized spins on Asian food scares me. There. I said it. Maybe it makes me seem like a spoiled brat, but I need the real authentic stuff. So, with much trepidation I made my way to Ling & Louie’s in Scottsdale. But, what makes Ling & Louie’s different is that they own up to the fact that they know they are not authentic and fully embrace making food that is more of a fun spin on Asian-inspired than any real attempt of authenticity.
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.