100 Tastemakers in Phoenix

Michael Babcock of Welcome Diner on the Chinese Burrito and What He'd Be Doing If He Wasn't a Chef

From now until we publish the 2016 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times is naming 100 Tastemakers — members of our local culinary community who help shape the way we eat, drink, and think about food in Phoenix. Some you'll know, and for others, it'll be a first introduction, but each person on our list deserves a nod for helping make our city so delicious. Oh, and while you're here, be sure to check out our list of 100 Creatives.

60. Michael Babcock of Welcome Diner and Welcome Chicken + Donuts

If you've ever sat on the patio at Welcome Diner with a cold beer and a biscuit sandwich, then you know the historic diner offers plenty charm and some excellent grub. Well, you can thank chef Michael Babcock for the latter; he opened the restaurant with partner Sloane McFarland in early 2013, quickly turning the spot into one of downtown Phoenix's favorite late-night hang outs.

Before that, the Phoenix native spent years working various jobs in the Valley restaurant industry, eventually opening a food truck called Old Dixie's four years ago. After reopening the Welcome Diner, Babcock and McFarland opened a second concept, Welcome Chicken + Donuts on 16th Street and Buckeye Road. In the coming months, he'll open a new Welcome Diner in Phoenix's Garfield neighborhood. 

Today, he dishes on what he'd be doing if he wasn't a chef and what he'd name his next restaurant. 

My go-to place for a Reuben sandwich in Phoenix is Pomeroy's

The best-kept secret in Phoenix is ... hmmmm ... that's hard to say. I feel like you should keep a good secret ... but maybe I'd say Mekong Market. I say that because I don't think people realize how diverse the products are at Mekong. Every time I leave that market, I'm left with more questions than answers. For any food or culture freak, it's a place you should spend a lot of time in. I love the food court. Heng's Chinese Burrito is so goddamn tasty. It's like a scallion pancake taco, really but who cares ... it's delicious.

If I wasn't a chef, I'd like to be probably a touring musician of some kind. Or I'd like to be involved in some kind of environmental work.

The three songs that best describe me are "The Stallion Pt III" by Ween, "Broke Down Palace" by the Grateful Dead, and "The Taker" by Kris Kristofferson.

If I opened a new restaurant tomorrow, I'd name it after my grandmother Sonja and I'd serve simple, old-school Japanese comfort food. 

The 2016 Tastemakers so far: 

100. Aaron Chamberlin of St. Francis and Phoenix Public Market Cafe
99. Ross Simon of Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour 
98. Debby Wolvos of DW Photography
97. Anibal and Salem Beyene of Café Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant 
96. Bo Mostow of Uptown Farmers Market
95. Julian Wright of Pedal Haus Brewery
94. Stephen Jones of The Larder + The Delta
93. Eric Glomski of Page Spring Cellars
92. Richard Bock of Giuseppe's on 28th
91. Walter Sterling of Ocotillo 
90. Daniel Sevilla of Angry Crab Shack
89. Doug Robson of Gallo Blanco and Otro Cafe
88. LaDawn Driscoll of Liberty Market
87. Jason Calhoon of The Shop Beer Co. and Side Kick Cold Brew
86. Tim and Kim Cobb of United Lunchadores Street Gourmet
85. Micah Olson of Bar Crudo and Okra Cookhouse and Cocktails 
84. Paola Embry of Christopher's + Crush and The Wrigley Mansion
83. Jared Porter of The Clever Koi
82. Diane Corieri of Evening Entertainment Group
81. Erich Schultz of Steadfast Farm Shares His Go-To Place For Beer That Tastes "Like Arizona"
80. Jeff and Leah Huss of Huss Brewing Company
79. Aaron Pool of Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soup
78. Diana Santospago of The Maine Lobster Lady food truck
77. Gio Osso of Virtu Honest Craft and Nico Heirloom Kitchen
76. Lauren Bailey of Upward Projects
75. Rodney Hu of Arizona Distilling Company and Yucca Tap Room 
74. Jacob Cutino of Homeboy's Hot Sauce
73. Country and Sergio Velador of Super Chunk Sweets and Treats
72. Dean Thomas of Cornish Pasty Co.
71. Jennifer Caraway of The Joy Bus
70. Scott Holmes of Little Miss BBQ
69. Jared Allen of Proof Artisan Breads
68. Steve McFate of McFate Brewing Company  
67. Mel Mecinas of Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
66. Jessa and Dan Koppenhofer of Gilbert Farmers Market
65. Todd and Kelly Bostock of Dos Cabezas WineWorks
64. Ryan Probst of Odelay Bagel Co.
63. Diana Brandt of AZFoodie
62. Benjamin Butler of Hayden Flour Mills
61. Jim and Maureen Elitzak of Zak's Chocolate
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Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria