Some restaurants in Phoenix seemed to be ahead of their time. Others were good in theory but just didn't pan out to be regular stomping grounds for local diners. Still more restaurants just simply couldn't stay open just because we wanted them to, no matter how many times we ate there. Come take a trip with us down culinary memory lane and check out these 10 defunct metro Phoenix restaurants that we wish we could have just one more meal at, but be warned that after reading this you might get a craving for an old favorite that you won't be able to satisfy. Trust us, we know your pain.
Lola Tapas Chef Felicia Ruiz's legit Spanish tapas joint in Phoenix near Seventh Street and Camelback Road closed for good over four years ago, but we can't help remembering her legendary small plates. Although Eric Gitenstein ran the kitchen when the place finally shuttered, Ruiz's passion and tradition is what we remember most about this hip little restaurant. Dishes like garbanzos con espinacas a la Andaluza, tortilla de patatas, and creamy, tangy goat cheese medallions just aren't available in town since Lola Tapas closed, and it's a bummer. We can't even drown our sorrows in the house sangria, and though a Lola Tapas and Wine Bar opened at the Yard, it really isn't even remotely the same without Ruiz.
Brookshire's On one hand, it was just another chain of local breakfast houses. But in a sea of Hobo Joe's, Humpty Dumpty's, and Coco's, Brookshire's was, well, a little different. Its bottomless cup of coffee was French-roasted long before anyone cared about such things, and its all-night menu included entrées like deep-fried burritos and all-you-can-eat biscuits and gravy. Three locations, most of them launched in the early 1970s, served uptown, downtown, and midtown neighborhoods looking for a little burger or pancake action at 2 in the morning or afternoon.
Treulich's Steak and Seafood It was like Durant's, only grungy. This dark, banquette-busy, old-time supper club of the 1950s lasted well into the middle '90s, serving strong martinis to vaguely sinister-looking dudes and their pretty young "nieces." Steaks and spaghetti and loads of atmosphere were the order of the day or night at this once-swanky, now-long-gone page out of time.
Trader Vic's Growing up in Scottsdale in the 1970s, nothing said glamour like a trip to the original Trader Vic's. The local outpost of the Polynesian-themed restaurant resided in Old Town from 1962 to 1990, and what a run it was. Pu-pu platters and mai tais for everyone (who wasn't terrified of the puffer fish hanging from the ceiling). Trader Vic's opened a sleek, updated iteration at the Valley Ho more than a decade after the first one closed, but the 21st-century version just wasn't the same as the original. What is? We drowned our sorrows in the new TV's mai tais and are still pining now that the second one has closed, too.
China Doll There are places for dim sum-style in the Valley, but none so fun or so tasty as this now-gone Chinese restaurant, formerly at Seventh Avenue and Osborn. How we miss the trays of tuna toast and laminated shrimp, pushed round and round in a nonstop circle in a large, noisy, and very authentic dining room set aside just for the pleasure of eating Cantonese finger foods. Come back, China Doll!
Digestif Bad boy chef Payton Curry ran the kitchen, and Stinkweeds' Kimber Lanning curated the music. What's landed since in the restaurant spot located just east of Barrio Queen in Old Town Scottsdale, we can't recall -- we can only remember Digestif. Right before the Phoenix food scene opened up, in 2008 this sweet spot lured us in with absinthe (celebrating the fact that it had recently been legalized in the U.S.) and kept us there with some of the most innovative cuisine in town at the time -- dubbed Cal-Ital, a casual but high-spirited mix featuring house made charcuterie, unusual meats like rabbit and a range of creative salads. Tracy Dempsey made dessert -- enough said? When it faltered, Digestif moved across the street to smaller digs, but then it floundered completely and closed. We've missed it ever since.
Navarre's Even locals who never made it "all the way" into town to this super-stylish nightclub/dinner palace knew about it, thanks to Navarre's notorious television ad campaign. Featuring moody, lingering shots of the restaurant's whacked-out, hyper-60s décor, those TV commercials made us all want to head to Uptown Plaza for fried fish dinners, Metropolitans, and of course serenades from Bob Lloyd and his wife Olympia in the Madmen-styled lounge.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
PastaBar We wish we could apologize to Wade Moises, the initial chef behind downtown Phoenix's PastaBar. We should've gone there way more when we had the chance to get perfectly prepared cacio de pepe and chitarra alla amatriciana . But it's true that you really don't know what you have until it's gone, and what we had at PastaBar was handmade pasta lovingly cooked by one of the greatest chefs to grace the Phoenix scene. Now Moises runs a kitchen in New York City, and we just have a giant hole in our heats the size of his giant meatballs. Come back to visit us, Moises! We miss you.
Picadilly Back before comfort food became a cuisine, there were some really great cafeterias in town -- and none so wonderful as Picadilly, with its long gleaming row of entrées (Fried chicken! Chicken-fried Steak! Fried zucchini!) and amazing dessert bar featuring no fewer than a dozen kinds of pie, spinning round and round in their own glass case. We miss cafeteria ladies, sneeze guards, and mashed potatoes from a box, served Picadilly-style.
Barmouche This casual, French-inspired eatery was owned by chef Mark Tarbell of Tarbell's, and we miss its perfect Caesar salad, its magnificent croque monsieur, its delicious au jus. Half boutique bar, half gourmet restaurant, Barmouche was one of a kind and probably about five years ahead of its time.