Heng’s Kitchen

Almost every mall food court is guaranteed to have one stall serving Chinese food (or an Americanized approximation of it). Often, it’s an outpost of the big chain that is threatening to sue a local enterprise over its name. Sometimes, it’s an independent operation that is locally owned but still adheres to a menu of American Chinese crowd pleasers like General Tso’s chicken and sweet-and-sour pork, all served from steam trays. When a mall specifically caters to a clientele of east Asian ancestry, though, chances are the food court experience will differ. Continue reading “Heng’s Kitchen”

Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa

When a great taco shop comes to mind, it’s usually a taqueria that’s associated with a beef speciality like carne asada or maybe pork prepared al pastor with meat sliced from a trompo. Most taco joints also offer pollo asado, marinated grilled chicken, as a taco filling, but often it seems like an afterthought — not badly prepared by any means, but seldom the business’ signature dish. What makes Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa so interesting, then, is that it deliberately and proudly specializes in chicken tacos, with poultry dominating its short menu. Continue reading “Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa”

Taqueria La Hacienda

 

When should a food truck make the transition to a fixed, bricks-and-mortar location? That’s a simple question with a complex answer that may be different for each individual case. In some situations, it happens quickly, within just a few years. Other mobile operations never settle into one place, and once in a while, owners go in the other direction: closing a restaurant and switching to a food truck. With taquerias, however, there often seems to be a middle ground that involves operating in a truck but keeping the vehicle parked at the same location every day. Continue reading “Taqueria La Hacienda”

Roll Avenue

Ice cream is one of those foods that has a specific place of origin but has been embraced throughout the world, often with distinct variations for specific countries. The earliest ice cream is thought to have been created in the ancient Persian empire, but the frozen dessert is now consumed on every continent, even in cold environments like Antarctic bases. A much warmer place, Thailand, is responsible for the innovation known as rolled ice cream. Also called stir-fried ice cream, this trend has taken hold in cities like Boston and Los Angeles in recent years. Continue reading “Roll Avenue”

Lenny’s Burger

Long before light rail traveled along Central Avenue through the high-rise business district known as Midtown, that stretch of the city’s spine was known for its cruising culture. Cruising meant not only showing off cars and socializing, but also stopping for sustenance. The foods historically associated with cruising have been burgers, fries, and shakes. While cruising now occurs only as part of occasional special events, some semblance of the old cruising culture endures at Lenny’s Burger, a retro-themed hamburger restaurant in the heart of Midtown. Continue reading “Lenny’s Burger”

Basilic

The word “basilic” is French for basil, but it also has a meaning of “kingly” or “royal” in certain contexts. Basilic, a Vietnamese restaurant across from the Phoenix Art Museum, seems to incorporate both senses of the word. Of course, there’s plenty of basil since that herb is often used in the cooking of southeast Asia. The restaurant also has a somewhat more upscale feel compared to most Vietnamese restaurants around town, perhaps leading to a slightly regal vibe. The combination of both meanings results in Vietnamese food adapted for the museum district. Continue reading “Basilic”

Thai Spices

With a name like “Mekong Plaza,” it would be easy to assume the shopping center in west Mesa is all about Vietnamese retail and dining. The Mekong River is best known for its delta in the southernmost reaches of Vietnam near Saigon, but the reality is that the Mekong River flows through six nations on its way from Tibet to the South China Sea. Among those countries is Thailand, so it should not be surprising to see a little Thai food inside Mekong Plaza. Filling that niche is Thai Spices, which serves exactly the type of food described in its name. Continue reading “Thai Spices”

Fez

Dr. Who, the Eleventh Doctor to be precise, once responded to a question about his tasseled red felt hat by saying, “It’s a fez. I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.” That particular fez was immediately vaporized, but other versions of the same headgear have appeared throughout the series. It’s doubtful that fezzes will ever experience the same hipster resurgence as fedoras, but the Phoenix restaurant named Fez is celebrating its two millionth customer, having grown in popularity since its relocation from an original home in Midtown to its current space Downtown. Continue reading “Fez”

The Stockyards

Students of Arizona history have no doubt encountered the concept of the five C’s: copper, cattle, cotton, citrus, and climate. These items were traditionally viewed as the pillars of the state’s economy. Their relevance has changed somewhat over the years. It might be argued that call centers and credit cards are more relevant C’s today, and climate may become more negative than positive if the worst predictions come true. Nevertheless, the five C’s are worth remembering. On the east side of Phoenix, the Stockyards is a reminder of the role of one of those C’s, cattle. Continue reading “The Stockyards”

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