Five Food Fixes Phoenix Desperately Needs

For the most part, I try hard to heart Phoenix. Really. This city and I have a long history together, long enough that I remember the days when Bill Johnson's Big Apple was considered a night out on the town.

I even remember when we had a Sambo's. I appreciate how far we've come and what we have -- heck, there are other cities that don't even have a Trader Joe's, let alone a restaurant that serves lion or one offering the Easter Bunny on the menu.

But even for a reformed Phoenix basher, July is an awfully tough time to appreciate this neck of the desert. It also happens to be the height of "Best of Phoenix" season at New Times -- and the irony's not lost on me as our staff and I trudge the town, looking for choice morsels that haven't shriveled in the sun.  

Lately, I've gotten out of town quite a bit, and I've noticed there are a few things this city desperately needs. Nothing on my list is high-concept or haute cuisine, none would be hard to provide, though I'll admit some wouldn't necessarily be particularly lucrative. Earlier this year, we made a desperate plea for a Pie Lab. Hasn't happened -- yet -- though Chow Bella and Roosevelt Row will be sponsoring a Pie Social in November. (Details coming soon.)

Really, people, here's a hint: Open a pie shop. Pie is big. Or it will be, anyway.

Look, I'm not asking for a Balthazar or even a Papabubble candy shop, or the indoor, multi-story all-Vietnamese mall (with escargot in the food court!) I visited in Artesia, California last month. But a freaking popsicle would be nice. In case you haven't noticed, it's awfully hot out.

So forgive my crankiness and indulge me. Here goes. If you have an item of your own to add -- or if we haven't noticed that an incredible salt shop that opened just around the corner from New Times last week, do tell.

1. A Salt Shop

I'm sure there are examples across the country (world) but the salt shop I happened upon, The Meadow, is in a funky neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. From floor to ceiling, the dozens of salts are daunting -- but the staff is helpful. And they sell chocolate and flowers. 'Nuf said.

2. Healthy Fast Food Chains

The smoothies at McDonald's don't cut it, and while I was pleased (and more than a little startled) to learn recently that Pita Jungle actually has an outpost in the Scottsdale Fashion Square food court, I'd still love to see the kind of health chain options that line the streets of Denver. Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill (think fresh-made pita, shwarma, hummus, veggies -- build your own sandwich or salad, with quick take-out counter service) has seven locations in the metro Denver area, and more in a couple other states. None in Arizona. But here's the franchise info.


Spicy Pickle (panini, subs, salads, soups, even breakfast) has 16 locations in metro Denver. Good news: There is one in Chandler. How about some more?!

(get 3,4 and 5 after the jump)  

3. Gourmet paletas

OK, not only does Los Angeles have gourmet paletas (Mexican popsicles), they have enough for our sister paper to do a Top 10 Paleta List. And us? Nada. There are rumors that a popsicle shop will open in the Valley soon. Let's make it very soon.

Popshop is a farmers market regular in the LA area -- with flavors like Mexican Chocolate and Horchata -- and I was lucky enough to bump into the owner and her cute green cart at a wedding in Culver City last month. Her popsicles are as tasty as they are cute. Funny, she said, when I suggested she open an outpost in Phoenix. Someone from Tucson keeps bugging her to do the same there.  

4. Bowling & BBQ

Or bowling and something. Something other than really bad pizza. This spring in Denver, we hit up Moe's -- a vintage bowling alley in a seedy-ish part of the city. The bowling was great (a teeny tiny spot, but more than enough room for our group of 8) and the BBQ was super, supplemented by several trips to the bar. The place also hosts live music. We were reminded of how much we'd like to see Phoenix more fully embrace another trend: movies and beer.

5. Pinkberry

Please?!?! Yes, soon there will be a yogurt store on every corner in this town, but still, no Pinkberry. I don't care what anyone says -- the others are inferior. In fact, I have no proof but am convinced that all the other yogurt stores buy their mixes from the same manufacturer. It all tastes the same -- not as good as Pinkberry. Isn't it hot enough here for you, PB?