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.
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.
Sauce has been a staple in the Phoenix area for a good amount of years now. And it’s a good thing that it’s established itself, as other fast casual pizza spots have been sweeping the nation. And while Sauce is about more than just pizza (they have pasta and salads too), it’s the pizza that drew me, and presumably almost everyone else in.
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.
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.
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.