Scooptopia

As an archipelago of over 7,500 islands, the Philippines is no stranger to diversity in its plants, people, and languages. Add the impacts of migrations from other Pacific Rim nations and the influences of Spanish and American colonialism, and it’s no surprise that Filipino food has levels of variety and nuance beyond what first impressions might suggest. There are a few local restaurants where main dishes and snacks from the island nation can be found, but in Uptown Phoenix, Scooptopia fills a niche as a purveyor of Filipino frozen desserts. Continue reading “Scooptopia”

Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles

Combining fried poultry with leavened breakfast food has become a trend so widespread that chicken-and-waffles is seen on even normally cautious hotel restaurant menus. Fans debate the dish’s place of origin, most often claimed to be either Baltimore or Los Angeles, and its cultural background, whether Pennsylvania Dutch or soul food. In Phoenix, the chicken-and-waffles pairing has decidedly been influenced by the latter, and Lo-Lo’s has been the restaurant to popularize the combination, even as so many other places have added it to their menus. Continue reading “Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles”

El Portal

Anyone familiar with downtown Phoenix knows the presidential streets that run east-west within the city core. The northernmost is Roosevelt, well known for the arts district transformed into a corridor of new apartment buildings. The southernmost presidential street, however, is not as well known. It’s named for Ulysses Grant, the commander of Union forces during the Civil War and the nation’s 18th president. Just south of Downtown and the Warehouse District lies not only Grant Street, but also Grant Park, which is both a recreational facility and a neighborhood. Continue reading “El Portal”

The Duce

The word “deuce” can have so many meanings. Long before Doug Ducey became Treasurer and then Governor of Arizona, the Deuce was an old name for the south end of Phoenix’s downtown. It was often viewed as a notorious place where speakeasies coexisted with warehouses situated along the freight railroad tracks. In fact, the word “produce,” which describes much of what was stored in those warehouses, can be shortened to “duce,” suggesting that proximity to Second Street isn’t the only possible explanation for the name. Continue reading “The Duce”

Taco Boy’s

How far is the average diner willing to walk for a really good taco? It depends on a lot of factors, including ability, weather, and the character of the neighborhood. Half a mile is generally considered the upper limit of walking distance around a transit station, assuming a favorable environment. At the east end of Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row, Taco Boy’s (Yes, the unnecessary apostrophe is part of the restaurant’s name.) is offering carne asada and other Mexican specialties good enough to justify a half-mile trek from the Roosevelt / Central light rail station. Continue reading “Taco Boy’s”

Barrel & Bushel (temporarily closed)

There comes a time in every hotel’s life when it’s time for renovations. In downtown Phoenix, the Hyatt Regency has been a mainstay of the city’s convention business since its opening in the 1970s. Its construction was part of a wave of urban renewal also responsible for Symphony Hall and the original convention center buildings. With the convention center much larger now and designs from over four decades ago looking dated, the Hyatt’s latest round of improvements are welcome, and the hotel’s ground-floor restaurant and bar has been one of the visible priorities. Continue reading “Barrel & Bushel (temporarily closed)”

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”

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