9 Things That Make Phoenix a Better Food (and Drink) Town than New York City
I've done it. I've committed to living in Phoenix again after spending years in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I was a student at NYU in a self-constructed program of Food and Environmental Studies, sourcing from personal experiences of discussing, working with and (mostly) consuming food in New York. I tromped around that town for a few years, spending the majority of my time succumbing to all the foodie stereotypes and enhancing my academics through experience that "only New York City can offer" . . . and now I'm back in Phoenix. And, yes, it is by choice. So to all those people who feel the need to ask (all the time) "Why would you move to Phoenix from Brooklyn?" may this list help you to ponder no longer.
Somehow, there is this idea that anything from New York is automatically spectacular -- an unfortunately untrue concept, especially when searching for a particular item inspired by growing up here in the Valley. There are some things that are simply, wonderfully, and quintessentially Phoenix -- and New York doesn't have them.
The sunshine, visible horizon, and mountains were just a few of the things that made me homesick while I was away and lured me back to Phoenix. But let's face it: It wasn't just about scenery. I was hungry for this town when I returned. These are nine edible perks of Phoenix that beat out NYC.
Pita Jungle's Taboule
Generally, the first stop home from the airport was at Pita Jungle to sit in the sun and enjoy a plate of their cilantro-jalapeño hummus with taboule, accompanied by a few Greek pitas. The freshness and sheer quantity of food on this plate would make any college student happy, especially one who is used to spending the same amount of money on a midday snack.
I know margaritas are everywhere, but to find one like AZ88's is very hard, especially at that price ($7.50). A perfectly tangy and sweet combination with a pleasant alcoholic finish, this fine cocktail is something you could easily pay double for in NYC and it wouldn't be half as tasty. Sitting on that sunny patio with this drink in hand could inspire many people to stay here.
Jerri Parness Photography
Prickly Pear Fruit
I mean, how fun is it to drink a tasty tea flavored by a cactus? Or have local honey spun with a bit of this subtle fruit? Beyond these classic ways of eating the purple "pear," chefs around the Valley are taking advantage of this unique fruit and adding a true taste of our beautiful desert to their menus. Take that, NYC!
Clunky Monkey tSoynami
As a vegetarian, Green was a favorite restaurant of mine growing up. A one-of-a-kind restaurant here in the Valley at the time, became a common discovery in New York, a place that is filled with vegetarian-friendly eateries. That said, I never found anything quite like a tSoynami in New York, particularly my favorite, the Soy Capitan. Crispy bits of Cap'n Crunch blended with strawberries and soy ice cream? Yes, please. And since I moved away and back again, Green has opened another spot in Phoenix, with Nami next door. More tSoynamis for the masses.
Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza is responsible for the guacamole at Barrio Cafe. Well, the avocado gets some credit, too.
Barrio Cafe's Guacamole
If my now-former city had a guacamole cart like the one at Barrio Café, New Yorkers would be a much happier group of people. A fresh cut combination of avocados, onions, peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, lime and the beautiful pomegranate seeds that many Phoenicians know well is something impossible to find in the big city. New Yorkers, please note: There is no sour cream in real guacamole. Stop doing that.
This is the line into Trader Joe's on a typical Monday morning.
Space to breathe in Trader Joe's
Lines to the register. Lines to the cheese refrigerator. Lines to the wine shop. Lines to get in. Lines to leave. The Union Square Trader Joe's, no matter when, is always filled with lines. There are people employed to hold up signs showing where the register line ends, which is often close to the front door. After a few years, one becomes adept at shopping while waiting in line, but shoot, it's pretty nice to breathe when you go grocery shopping.
A hot plate (in more ways than one) from Los Dos Molinos.
Los Dos Molinos
Yes, New York once actually had its own Los Dos Molinos, but it did not compare to the raging spices that can be found at the South Phoenix location. Northasterners evidently have more sensitive taste buds, and the result is a disappointing birthday dinner my freshman year at NYU. No sweat was broken that first cold New York November I experienced. Alas, the NYC iteration of Los Dos has since closed down, which makes it even more suitable for this list -- a truly special and unique Phoenix location that New York simply can't handle.
You won't find this in New York City.
Drive-Thru Mexican Food
Walking up to the Taco Bell on 14th Street simply will not do. Nope. I need a good -berto's drive-thru restaurant, late night, with real tortillas and questionable ingredients. To think that some people didn't grow up with this staple.
Four Peaks' Kiltlifter
New York has its fair share of breweries and, not to mention, plenty of hipsters to pour and pout about them. I enjoyed some of them and drank ample amounts from my neighboring Brooklyn Brewery, but nothing compares to my tried-and-true favorite: Four Peaks' Kiltlifter. Say what you will, but this amber beer is tasty, easy to drink, not just an intense hop juice and it's made here in town. Cheers to that!
So as I complete this list, I do not dare to think about the New Yorker's rebuttal, but this doesn't take away my satisfaction with these wonderful and distinctly Phoenician experiences. Yes, you may still ask "why?" but my answer will be to suggest spending a few years in New York City, then try to convince me (and yourself) that you don't miss these things.
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