In New Times' 2017 Summer Guide, we're exploring why we love the season — and why you should, too, whether you're looking to party, get outside, or eat and drink your way through metro Phoenix.
Rolling into summer means you’ve just experienced spring in the Valley. You vividly remember Cactus League traffic and waiting in some restaurant lobby, squinting menacingly at a table full of rowdy Cubs fans enjoying appetizers. You well recall not even bothering to eat out when the Final Four was in town, and maybe avoiding central Phoenix altogether.
But by now, the middle months have shooed these Midwesterners and California day-trippers away from our highways and better-known eateries. Now’s your chance.
With summer in full swing (assuming you’re quite used to the temperatures as a seasoned Phoenician), walkable restaurant hubs like Old Town Scottsdale, the Gilbert Heritage District, Downtown Mesa, Historic Downtown Glendale, and even Mill Avenue are virtually deserted.
Old Town Scottsdale features virtually no wait or crowds (though we can can’t speak for Friday and Saturday night, okay?) for the usually packed places like Virtu Honest Craft (3701 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale, 480-946-3477), Citizen Public House (7111 E. Fifth Ave., Scottsdale, 480-398-4208), FnB Restaurant (7125 E. Fifth Ave., #31, Scottsdale, 480-284-4777), and other restaurants along Scottsdale Road. This also means you can walk over and actually get a booth at the Sugar Bowl (4005 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-946-0051) for dessert, or maybe a nightcap at Pattie’s First Avenue Lounge (7220 E. First Ave., Scottsdale, 480-990-0103).
The same goes for Mill Avenue in Tempe. Of course, you’ll still have a small crowd of ballers clogging the streets on the weekend, but with the Arizona State University students gone for the summer, places like Cornish Pasty Co., C.A.S.A. Lounge (5 E. Sixth St., Tempe, 480-557-8226), and Rúla Búla Irish Pub (401 S. Mill Ave., Tempe, 480-929-9500) definitely still want your business. The patio may not be as pleasant as other times of the year, but the food is still good.
The crowds have receded in other areas of town like the Gilbert Heritage District, meaning there won’t be lengthy lines at Joe’s Real BBQ (301 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert, 480-503-3805), or long waits at Postino East (302 N. Gilbert Road, #102, Gilbert, 480-632-6363), Liberty Market (230 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert, 480-892-1900), and even Snooze an A.M. Eatery (310 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert, 480-664-4488), if you can believe it.
And what’s more, many restaurants in town are offering “sizzling” (forgive us) summer specials to combat the summertime lull. For example, J&G Steakhouse (6000 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale, 480-214-8000) at The Phoenician is offering the reduced-price Three-Course Culinary Countdown Menu, half off bottles of wine, and even some art-focused events.
Moving on to the backyard vibes summer can bring, especially if you plan on eating. Cookout food is also a summer staple, and there are plenty of places to pick up meat for a backyard barbecue. Neighborhood butcher shops in Phoenix include Butcher Block Meats (4015 S. Arizona Ave., #11, Chandler, 480-426-8080) in Chandler, Butcher Bob’s (11663 W. Bell Road, #2, Surprise, 623-933-1518), uptown’s Hobe Meats (6044 N. 16th Street, 602-604-2333), and Schreiner’s Fine Sausage (3601 N. Seventh St., 602-265-2939) or The Meat Shop (202 E. Buckeye Road, 602-258-5075) in central Phoenix.
And for dessert, find flavors like coconut cream, lemon meringue, and the All American Apple at Mamma Toledo’s (15414 N. Seventh St., #6, 602-332-7346). Other local pie experts include Pie Snob (3630 E. Indian School Road, 480-635-2425), Pies-N-More (6671 E. Baseline Road, #117, Mesa, 480-500-5330), and PIEfection (6731 E. Brown Road, Mesa, 480-218-7437).
But no, you don’t actually have to be cooking out of doors to enjoy some outdoor-style food. Hot dogs are an obvious summer food, and the Valley has plenty of them. Find your favorite arrangement at Short Leash Hot Dogs (110 E. Roosevelt Street, 602-795-2193). They have a physical location on Roosevelt Street, and their food trucks are at just about every food truck-worthy event. Joe’s Farm Grill (3000 E. Ray Road, Gilbert, 480-563-4745) offers its “Dog Days of Summer” 12-item menu every September, and there is always the D-backs Dog at Chase Field offered during those summer nights at the ballpark. You can also grab a dog at Jimmy’s Hot Dogs (4022 E. Broadway Road, #101, 602-759-8357), Nogales Hot Dogs (1945 E. Indian School Road, 602- 527-0208), Simon’s Hot Dogs (4280 N. Drinkwater Blvd., #200, Scottsdale, 480-426-9218), a vegan-friendly stop (more on that later), and longtime favorite Ted’s Hot Dogs (1755 E. Broadway Road, Tempe, 480-968-6678).
Maybe more of a picnic item (but a summer food nonetheless), fried chicken — and good fried chicken at that — is found on the menu at a number of Valley chicken joints. There are the many delicious chicken combos and incredible sauces at Welcome Chicken + Donuts (1535 E. Buckeye Road, 602-258-1655), and don’t forget the fried chicken at Mrs. White’s Golden Rule Cafe (808 E. Jefferson St., 602-262-9256), and “Our Famous Fried Chicken” at The Horny Toad (6738 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, 480-488-9542).
Now, let’s say you’d like to keep that bikini/trunks bod locked down. Maybe hot dogs and fried chicken aren’t exactly appealing during the 120-degree days of June and July. Here’s how to stay trim this summer in Phoenix.
First, the salad game has really gone up a notch, and Phoenix is home to more than a few worthy salad orders. Try the chicken feta salad at George’s Kitchen (6102 N. 16th St., #1, 602-441-3030) — avoid the fresh pita bread if you can — the broiled chicken salad at Pita Jungle, the Feeney’s Steak Salad at Feeney’s (6314 N. 12th St., 602-274-9700), and the organic Tuscan kale at True Food Kitchen.
Eating salads also brings to mind low-carb diets, and there are several ways to stick to this lifestyle in the Valley. Try anything from the lettuce-wrapped Delux burger at Delux (3146 E. Camelback Road, 602-522-2288) to the Low-Carb Pizza Bowl at Venezia’s Pizzeria (27 E. Southern Ave., Tempe, 480-858-1660), the Broccoli & Cauliflower Cheese Bake at Cornish Pasty Co., and pretty much any order of hot wings. Many breakfast items are high protein, a.k.a. low in carbs, so find eggs, bacon, and sausage (but hold the toast) at first-meal joints like Ranch House Grille (5618 E. Thomas Road, 480-946-1290), Over Easy, Harlow’s Café (1021 W. University Dr., Tempe, 480-829-9444), and Matt’s Big Breakfast.
But no matter your diet, cold desserts are always in order during the Phoenix summer.
For the local frozen pop place, try AZ Pops (5050 N. Seventh St., 602-279-0026). They have flavors like strawberry watermelon, chocolate banana, peach, and tropical, but also some inventive offerings like prickly pear lime, tiramisu, sesame cucumber, and goat milk balsamic fig. Other ice-pop people in town include Paletas Betty.
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For ice cream, try Sweet Republic, Melt PHX (910 N. Fifth St., 602-472-3246), and Churn (5223 N. Central Ave., 602-279-8024), Nami (2014 N. Seventh St., 602-258-6264) for soy ice cream, and that classic Phoenix after-dinner stop, Mary Coyle Ol’ Fashion Ice Cream & Yogurt (5823 N. Seventh St., 602-626-5996). You can also find in-house slushies at quick stops like LA Milk Depot (1626 N. 87th St., Scottsdale, 480-990-9017) in Scottsdale, or go to Rita’s.
Eat up, and have a neat summer.