Gus’s Fried Chicken

One of the biggest food trends of the past few years has been Nashville hot chicken, fried poultry with a spicy coating. Now that so many local restaurants offer that Tennessee treat, it’s worth thinking about that state’s other major city. Memphis, with just about the same population as Nashville, offers its own culture and traditions 200 miles to the west. While the cities differ in music, with Memphis being known for the blues and Nashville for country, they both share a fondness for fried chicken, and Gus’s is bringing its food to territory beyond its Memphis base.

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Trapper’s Sushi

Although sushi is strongly associated with Japan, most accounts of its origins trace the fish-and-rice combination to China or southeast Asia, where it began as a means of preserving fish by combining it with rice and vinegar. With sushi having become so popular outside of Japan in recent decades, it’s sometimes unclear if the elaborate rolls being served in American restaurants are really Japanese at all. Trapper’s Sushi in downtown Phoenix is the type of sushi place that embraces an Americanized approach without any shame and with some success.

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Tacos mi Ranchito

A sometimes exaggerated and romanticized version of cowboy culture is often part of the draw for tourists visiting Arizona, and many Western movies were filmed in the Grand Canyon State during the genre’s heyday. Underlying the stereotype of the American cowboy, however, there’s an earlier tradition of Mexican cattle wrangling embodied in the idea of the vaquero, a skilled horseman adept at managing a herd of cows with a lasso. Today, a South Phoenix restaurant known as Tacos mi Ranchito recalls vaquero life through its decor and its beef-oriented menu.

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Wren & Wolf

There are two trends in restaurant branding that have been apparent for at least a decade. The first is the use of an ampersand to join two words, with bonus points if there is alliteration involved. The second is the use of taxidermy as a decorative element in dining rooms. Perhaps it’s an effort to present a more attractive vision of meat than images of factory farming. Regardless of the motivations behind the trends, Wren & Wolf combines both of them to create its own identity as a recent arrival in the core of the downtown Phoenix business district.

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Rough Rider

The name Roosevelt Row has become prominent in the lexicon of Phoenicians describing the lively and quickly gentrifying neighborhood at the north end of downtown Phoenix. Chances are most people using the phrase think it’s based on Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but it’s actually named for his fifth cousin and fellow president Theodore Roosevelt. After years of ambiguity and misconceptions, there is now one office building, Ten-O-One, and its restaurant tenant, Rough Rider, that not only acknowledge, but also embrace, the image of Teddy Roosevelt.

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EZbachi

There seems to be no limit to what kind of food can be prepared on a truck. While mobile operations might traditionally have been associated with hot dogs, tacos, and other hand foods, chefs and entrepreneurs seem to thrive on finding ways to prepare items like pizzas or lobster rolls in the cramped space of a kitchen on wheels. Along Central Avenue, EZbachi has created its own niche with a food truck version of teppanyaki, the Japanese method of hot iron plate cooking that is a longstanding, if somewhat Americanized, tradition at chains like Benihana.

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El Zaguan

In Spanish, a zaguan is a passage that typically leads from a building’s entrance to an interior courtyard or central patio. On Adams Street in the downtown Phoenix business district, the small storefronts lack that architectural feature, but that has not stopped one new restaurant there from using the word to create the sort of welcoming atmosphere that might be associated with walking through an actual zaguan. El Zaguan has joined the small restaurant row on Adams, catering to populations of workers returning to offices, as well as those who never left.

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Lylo Swim Club

At so many local hotels and resorts, the poolside restaurant is an afterthought, a snack bar that offers only a subset of the menu found in a more substantial indoor dining area. For the most part, that makes sense since people spending time by the pool may be more concerned with swimming or sunbathing than eating. Nevertheless, one recently refurbished Phoenix hotel has made its restaurant and bar by the pool the biggest culinary offering on the property. The appropriately named Lylo Swim Club is the breezy main restaurant for the Rise Uptown Hotel.

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Pop Stand

Checking in at most hotels, a guest is lucky to receive a bottle of water. If a visitor is spending a lot on a suite or has attained a top tier in a frequent stay program, maybe there will be a fruit basket waiting in the room. One exception is Doubletree hotels, which provide their signature chocolate chip cookies in an edible act of hospitality. In Phoenix, the Rise Uptown Hotel has created its own approach to making arriving guests feel welcome: a complimentary popsicle. Fortunately, those popsicles are also available for any to purchase, hotel guest or not.

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Nanny’s

It’s not uncommon for restaurants to begin as food trucks, operating with a mobile model before settling into a permanent location. Sometimes, the transition can be as simple as parking the food truck and continuing to use its kitchen to prepare food to be served inside the new restaurant building. Nanny’s, which specializes in fried chicken, French fries, and fish and chips, has followed just that approach with its move from a Laveen-based food truck to a small restaurant on Washington Street, about two blocks from the 12th Street light rail platforms.

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Adams Table

For decades, the wedding cake design of the Hyatt Regency hotel has been part of the city’s central business district and convention center. More recently, the Hyatt brand has been extended more broadly with the mid-priced Hyatt Place concept, including a newly built property just a few blocks away at Second Avenue and Adams Street. With a moderately priced hotel, there is also a need for a more casual restaurant. Adams Table, named for the street named for the nation’s second president, is now filling that role at the new hotel in downtown Phoenix.

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Pedal Haus

Trends in restaurant branding are always changing and seldom boring. Two current ones include associating a business with bicycling and using the German word “haus” to describe a building. Combining the two, Pedal Haus started as a brewery and restaurant in 2015 in the big “haus” of the Centerpoint development in downtown Tempe, an area known for its widespread use of bicycles. Since then, it has expanded to multiple locations, with the latest to open being in the Monorchid building on Roosevelt Row at the north end of downtown Phoenix.

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