Don't worry, you don't have to be a Valley native to be considered a true Phoenix foodie. It's not how long you've lived here that gives you real culinary cred, but things like knowing where to find edible seafood and when it's peach picking season. Or knowing that a restaurant with Schreiner's sausages on the menu is probably legit.
Do you wake up early on Saturday mornings to get produce at Singh Farms?
Do you think hot dogs should come off a truck, be bacon-wrapped and topped with beans, mayo, onions, and tomatoes?
If you answered yes to any of these questions then you might be a Phoenix foodie. Here are some other important criteria.
10. You identify the four seasons thusly: Pumpkin Porter, Citrus, Patio, and "When all the restaurants close."
We love our city for the near constant sunshine, but that doesn't mean we don't consider the seasons. During the fall, we know to rush to Four Peaks Brewery to get a pint or growler of Pumpkin Porter and while the rest of the country endures Arctic Freeze, we know winter means an abundance of locally grown citrus. Grapefruitcello and lemon bars, anyone? By springtime, we're already wearing shorts and enjoying brunch on our favorite restaurant patios -- trying to experience it all before summer hits and some of our favorite restaurants take their annual hiatus.
9. You know a taco should never cost more than $2.
Fancy tacos are nice and all, but you know that the best kind of tacos are the street variety, and they should never set you back more than a buck or two. You can find them at favorite spots like Asadero Norte de Sonora in Central Phoenix, Restaurant Atoyac in North Phoenix, and Taco Mich on 16 Street. Everyone has their own favorite spot, but if it isn't loaded with chopped onions and cilantro it doesn't count.
8. You know what the C. stands for in C. Steele.
For those who've been around the Valley for a while, Carol Steele is as big a name as they come. Though she's run her B&B at Aravaipa Farms for many years, true Phoenix food lovers will know that she's the grandmother of our entire dining scene. Long before "organic" and "farm to table" were cool, Steele had C. Steele & Co. and a number of other ventures in Scotsdale, all of which focused on or related to celebrating farm-grown produce and artisanal foods. Her legacy includes a linage of some of the city's best chefs including Chrysa Robertson and Chris Bianco. You can buy her jams at FnB's Bodega.
7. You plan your weekend around going to the farmers market.
In some cities, you don't have to plan ahead if you want to pick up fresh produce and local eggs. But since there's no permanent food market in this town, we do. You know to strike while the iron's hot, whether that means heading to the Old Town Scottsdale market or Gilbert Farmers Market on Saturday morning, or stopping by the Downtown Phoenix Public Market on Wednesday nights.
6. You're willing to drive 20 miles (or more) for dinner.
It's 43.6 miles from Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue in Cave Creek to Joe's Real BBQ in Gilbert. Chances are, you live somewhere in the middle. That means you're probably driving about 20 miles to get to either restaurant. You can get just about anywhere in Phoenix in about a half an hour, but that doesn't mean it's "close." Want good Korean? You're probably driving out to the West Valley's Cafe Ga Hyang. And for northeastern Chinese? You'll want Chou's Kitchen in Chandler.
5. You know there is good seafood in the desert --- and where to find it.
Contrary to popular belief, you know that Valley chefs and restaurant owners who are dedicated to procuring top-quality seafood are fully capable of doing so despite being located in the desert. Consider Noca's owner Eliot Wexler, who's seafood sources have included Ingrid Bengis Seafood, a company that also supplies such restaurants as The French Laundry in Yountville, California, and Le Bernardin in New York. We also have James Beard Award semifinalist Shinji Kurita's ShinBay, widely regarded as one of the best Japanese restaurants in the whole country.
4. You don't think eating cactus is weird.
Oh, and you probably don't call it "cactus," but rather, "nopales." The rest of the country might be just figuring out that cactus paddles are delicious, but in Phoenix, we've been eating nopales for years. When in season you also like to enjoy cactus fruit, or pickly pear, preferably in an ice cold margarita.
3. You know how and where to get Chris Bianco's food -- without waiting three hours.
Some people might wait for a table at Pizzeria Bianco at Heritage Square, but you've known for a long time that you can also enjoy the chef's food at Pane Bianco. And if you're really craving one of the chef's famous pizzas, you can always get them at his restaurant at Town and Country Plaza. You also know that's where you can get his mom's desserts, including her amazing flourless chocolate cake.
2. You save the date for the Devoured Phoenix Culinary Classic months in advance.
For hardcore Phoenix foodies, this two-day fest is as good as it gets. You know it's where chefs serve the best food and take the time to mix and mingle with each other and devoted diners. If you don't buy your tickets as soon as they become available in the winter, it's only because you need a few days to weight the pros and cons of which restaurants will be in attendance on each day.
1. Even though other Southwest cities get more love, you know that Phoenix has one of the best dining scenes in the region.
Arizona may have only had one chef make it to the final round for this year's James Beard Best Chef Southwest award -- compared to Texas' four -- but we all know that our city has plenty to offer diners. And things are looking up. This year we had three semifinalists in the category, including Charleen Badman or FnB and Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Cafe. Plus, chef Gio Osso's Vitru Honest Cafe, which was nominated for Best New Restaurant after making Esquire's 2013 Best New Restaurants list. We may not be considered a culinary mecca just yet, but we're well on our way.
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