One of the most frustrating cliches heard about dining in Phoenix is the claim that “You can’t get good seafood in the desert,” or its variant, “Don’t eat fish so far from the coast.” Have people making those statements not considered the impact of modern refrigeration and transportation? Is there a mistaken assumption that residents of coastal cities are pescatorial locavores, eating only species caught in local waters? The reality is that most fish is caught in one place and eaten in another with refrigerators, freezers, trucks, and planes playing crucial roles in between. Continue reading “Chula Seafood”
There’s one sure way to tell when any nation’s cuisine has become mainstream in the United States: It occurs the moment the cognoscenti start differentiating between the cuisines of the country’s various regions. With Italian food, those distinctions have existed for decades. Popular “red sauce” Italian has its roots in immigrant traditions from Sicily and southern Italy, while northern Italian fans might celebrate risotto and osso bucco. The same has happened more recently with Chinese restaurants branching out beyond familiar Cantonese classics. Continue reading “Hue Gourmet”
Follow the light rail tracks west along Camelback Road from Central to 19th Avenue, and a rapid transition occurs. Uptown, the area centered around Central and Camelback is predominantly white and a magnet for upscale businesses, both local and national. 19th Avenue is a multi-ethnic corridor with some of the best bargains to be found in local dining. The area in between is transitional, and one restaurant located there, PT Noodles, seems to fit well in that zone with an approach halfway between Americanized familiarity and Vietnamese authenticity.
The unassuming Tempe Towne Plaza shopping center has long been home to restaurants serving foods from all over the globe. Indian, Somali, pizza — all those cuisines and more are crammed into this strip mall, which is just a block north of the University / Rural light rail station. The Vietnamese food niche here is filled by Pho Nhat, or maybe it’s just Nhat, given that the word “Pho” is part of the restaurant’s name on the menus but not on the outside sign. Let’s just call it (Pho) Nhat and acknowledge that its speciality is indeed pho, the rice noodle soup of Hanoi. Continue reading “Pho Nhat”
In diverse communities like Tempe, it’s not uncommon to have restaurants and grocers of entirely different geographic origins coexisting side-by-side in the same shopping center. Khai Hoan, a small Vietnamese restaurant, occupies a small retail plaza with a Mexican carniceria and a Middle Eastern restaurant as its neighbors. The location is on Apache Boulevard between the Dorsey / Apache and McClintock / Apache light rail stations. Although the restaurant is almost exactly halfway between both platforms, the walk is more pleasant from Dorsey. Continue reading “Khai Hoan”
In late 2008, an old Target store in west Mesa, approximately a quarter mile from the Sycamore / Main light rail station, was reborn as Mekong Plaza, a shopping center targeting the large southeast Asian community along the Dobson Corridor. In the years since, a lot has changed in the restaurant lineup there. After a few false starts and some turnover in tenants, the food court has settled into a steady, bustling state. There have been at least two iterations each of bakeries, bahn mi shops, and boba tea purveyors within the center’s walls. Continue reading “unPhogettable”
Back in 2010, Pho Thanh replaced Pho Bang in the mostly Vietnamese shopping center at 17th Avenue and Camelback. That was itself a remarkable improvement. Where the previous restaurant had suffered a long decline into messy conditions and unresponsive service, Pho Thanh came in, scrubbed the walls, improved the food, and brought new life to the space. Since then, things have gotten even better with a subsequent expansion into an adjacent storefront and the recent opening of an adjoining ice cream shop. The result is a big, bustling dining room where steaming bowls of noodle soup are delivered to an appreciative clientele. Continue reading “Pho Thanh”