Taste the West: Phoenix
A foodie desert no more, Arizona’s capital city sizzles with farm-to-table cuisine, craft cocktails, and hidden Southwest gems
Hidden behind—of all things— a Taco Bell, the tiny Mi Comida Restaurante Latino serves fabulous Ecuadorian tamales filled with delicate braised pork. What makes them so special? “Ecuadorian tamales are…wrapped in banana leaves as opposed to corn husks,” explains local chef (and Mi Comida fan) Kevin Binkley.
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The friendly staff at Rum Bar—a handsome tippling nook stocked with more than 100 varieties of the Caribbean elixir—can steer you toward the good stuff. Depending on your mood, that could be the daily punch special or a jigger’s worth of Zaya, a 12-year barrel-aged rum from Trinidad with hints of vanilla and toasted orange peel.
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Cake-meister Tammie Coe was among the first people in the valley to lay a winning bet on Roosevelt Row, downtown’s hopping new ‘hood. Nine years later, her playful bakery/cafe, Tammie Coe Cakes—now with two Phoenix outlets—is still going strong. Her red velvet cupcakes, insanely moist concoctions topped with addictive cream cheese icing, are Roosevelt jet fuel.
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Realizing their dream of pouring craft beer for thirsty Phoenicians, real estate broker Mat Englehorn and wife Sharry, a property manager, converted their midcentury office into the city’s hottest taproom. Angels Trumpet Ale House pours 30-plus rotating brews and complements them with haute pub grub like the bison BLT hot dog with seasonal greens.
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Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza serves Euro-Mex fusion dishes at her colorful, high-energy Barrio Café. You won’t find burritos, but you won’t miss them with such comforting, robust Southern Mexican fare, like polbano chiles stuffed with chicken, apples, nuts, and cilantro. Don't forget a margarita—the cafe carries 250 different tequilas.
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Housed in an old engraver’s shop on the south edge of Roosevelt Row, FilmBar, a one-screen, 70-seat micro-theater, specializes in foreign films, documentaries, and outer-fringe indies plus live entertainment. The hook: The lobby doubles as a coolly underlit craft beer and wine bar, done in stained-glass lamps and Moroccan poufs. Concessions include snacks like Middle Eastern pastries. So pour your Chimay and soak in some French New Wave.
Less than 10 minutes from downtown, The Farm at South Mountain has 12 acres of pecan groves, grassy lawns, picnic tables, and three restaurants, including Quiessence, with a local menu. An antique shop and small spa mean you could easily spend an entire day—or vacation—here.
At pocket-size Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles, sample family-style Southern cooking like crisp-tender fried chicken, cinnamon-dusted waffles, and grits and eggs. Or get extreme with fried chicken gizzards and rice smothered in gravy followed by a big wedge of red velvet cake—you can always work it off later with a hike in the nearby canyons.
Culinary superstar and James Beard award–winner Chris Bianco’s Pizzeria Bianco pies have been praised by everyone from Monday Night Football announcer Joe Theismann to media goddess Oprah Winfrey, who slapped the title of Best Pizza in America on his thin-crust masterpieces.
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The self-roasting ethos is embraced by the java Jedis at Cartel Coffee Lab. With specialty beans, coffee-brewing equipment for sale, and classes and cuppings to further your coffee education, this is one cartel you might not mind joining.
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