Many had high hopes for the first-ever Arizona Bao Fest, held on March 24 at Unexpected Art Gallery, so much so that people were lined up for samples of steamed buns, noodles, takoyaki, rice bowls, skewers, boba, and desserts from more than 10 local eateries. To stave off long waits, organizers implemented staggered admission, with half-hour entry times throughout the day. But lengthy delays ensued, as did sunburns. More than 3,000 people tried to attend, cramming into the parking lot on Polk Street. People complained on social media about the long lines, the lack of food, the number of actual bao vendors, the parking, the way tickets were presold, and so much more. However, we don't mean to be entirely bitchy. We sincerely mean it when we say better luck next year, because bao are the bomb.

Singh Meadows

For a few seasons now, Sacha Levine has been translating the earth's bounty into some unforgettable food at Singh Meadows. She has used an orange blossom gastrique to sweeten a deconstructed Napoleon, teetering with layers of peak-season strawberries and whipped goat cheese. She fries herbaceous falafel for sandwiches, fritters charged with jalapeno, leeks, and green garlic. She imbues nuanced tang into a bowl of Anasazi, cranberry, and runner beans, the fine zap coming from pickled fennel and escabeche. Her menu rotates with the seasons like an out-of-control airport door. And that's a good thing, because if you've eaten at Singh Meadows even once since Levine took over, you know that you'll have to be back again in a few weeks, when half the menu has morphed into a new set of enchanting creations.

This year, we've tried our hardest to highlight how food waste is a big issue. And in the spirit of offering solutions along with problems, we've written about what regular folks can do — both at the restaurant and household level. Phoenicians may choose from a couple of new habits to reduce food waste, including smarter grocery shopping, practically ignoring expiration dates, and loving leftovers. These are all forms of waste diversion, and part of the Reimagine Phoenix initiative — a Phoenix Public Works Department program designed to increase the city's waste diversion rate to 40 percent by 2020, then, hopefully, to a big fat zero by 2050. The Reimagine Phoenix program hopes to do this through educational outreach on the five pillars of waste diversion (some of which may sound familiar) — reduce, reuse, recycle, reconsider, and reimagine.

You'd balk if your grandma told you she invented the apple pie or your cousin said he came up with the first bite of sushi. But Julio César Morales, curator of the Arizona State University Art Museum, takes his grandfather's accounts of helping to make the first Caesar salad, along with notorious gangster Al Capone and a chef at the Caesar's Hotel in Tijuana, Mexico, to heart. Family lore says the trio put the salad together one night during Prohibition, using what was left in a hotel restaurant kitchen after an onslaught of tourists practically wiped them out. He's visited the hotel, shared his family's oral history through art, and still makes the salad today for friends and family. Morales knows food lore can be tricky, but credits his grandfather's stories with helping to fuel his shared passion for art and culinary creations. Every family tale should be so inspiring.

Anhelo Restaurant

The old Rose & Crown building in Heritage Square recently morphed into Anhelo, a playful restaurant helmed by 28-year-old Chef Ivan Jacobo. Until he rewired the lighting and relaid the floors of this spot, refreshing the structure while preserving the old charm, Jacobo helmed a cult pop-up called Hidden Kitchen. The whimsical vibe of that bygone endeavor carries over to the space of the old building, made new by some of Jacobo's uncommon ideas. Giving to charity. Operating with almost no fridge space. Going way out of his way to compost. Plating a ceviche that features not marine life but cubes of watermelon. Coating Caesar salad in a blanket of cheese. Plating a cluster of scallops on one point of a sweet potato ring tracing the rim of the dish. And crafting some of the more surprising desserts you can find these days, like granitas and pavlovas with pickled strawberries, and a cold quenelle of salted caramel ice cream striped with honey surrounded with fixings to turn you into a kid again.

Fate Brewing Company
Heather Hoch

Fate Brewing opened in Scottsdale in 2012, but there was an issue: There already was a similarly named brewery in Colorado. So, in 2016, Scottsdale's Fate Brewing Company had to reopen as McFate Brewing, a nod to founder Steve McFate. Eventually, a second Scottsdale location opened. But actual fate intervened. The Boulder, Colorado-based FATE Brewing Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2018, and McFate jumped on the chance to reclaim the original name. McFate Brewing Company was rebranded as Fate Brewing Company just in time for the opening of its third location and beer garden, this time in Tempe. The new name couldn't feel more appropriate.

The Farish House
Lauren Cusimano

Few restaurants in Phoenix have ever gotten as much bad publicity as The Monocle. The restaurant and bar was set to open in 2017 until Phoenix New Times revealed that co-owner Arthur John Bachelier was a convicted sex offender who served six years for having sex with a minor. That prohibited him from obtaining a state liquor license. Bachelier went on the lam after he was convicted of probation violation. Law enforcement officials finally caught up with him in Seattle, where he was working at another restaurant, and he is back behind bars. But there's a happy ending for the historic Phoenix building, at least. It finally reopened this year as The Farish House, taking the original name of the 1899 brick home near Roosevelt Row. And early reports on the neighborhood bistro are quite promising: Our food editor called it "ideal for a date night or a quiet family dinner."

Jobot Coffee
Heather Hoch

Jobot is why God created coffee shops. It makes the Friends gang's episodic hangouts at Central Perk look juvenile and tame. The long-standing Roosevelt Row establishment has grown into its new location at Third Street, and has beat all the odds to maintain the inclusive and unpretentious vibe of its old bungalow setting on the Row (perhaps accomplished by simply not turning half of the lights on). With excellent espresso alongside great craft beer selections, a full bar, a gated patio, an ice cream stand, and a full kitchen with vegan options, even the pickiest of your friends will find something to love here. Especially if it's bingo night. Or karaoke night. Or open mic night. Or, it's First Friday and the place is packed full of happy people watching the teenage nu-metal cover band across the street. Jobot is the place to take anyone and everyone.

El Charro is more than a coffee shop experience. Husband-and-wife owners Francisco and Azul Peralta, former workers in STEM fields, have drawn from their world travels and aimed for more of a salon vibe. They hit that target. Sit at the bar, and unbidden, Francisco may pour you high-end mezcals, just so you can taste. This friendly duo source coffee blends from Mexico and mix some fascinating brews with them, including horchata-coffee hybrids and lattes fortified with marigold liqueur from Guadalajara. There is food (though there's no kitchen). There are folks hanging out, typing, reading, or talking under a mural of Frida Kahlo painted by the couple's daughter, Geraldine. There are group painting sessions, open mics, and musical artists. This could easily be your office. This could easily be your playground.

MacAlpine's Soda Fountain and Espresso Bar

MacAlpine's is an iconic spot on the boundary of downtown Phoenix that seems never to have aged in 60 years. There are red booths, jukeboxes, and an antique store (you can buy saddle shoes!) attached to the restaurant, along with endless syrup options and ice cream sodas available to order with fun names referencing pop culture. The staff wear those pink dresses you won't see anywhere else; essentially, this dessert haven is like living in the moment when Tobey Maguire arrives in Pleasantville, except it's not black-and-white — it's full color, but just as beautiful a thing. So pop a quarter in the jukebox, order soda and a pie, chat up the friendly staff, and forget what year it is. The '50s are just around the corner.

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