I've become one of those people that I have criticized for years. I'm leaving Phoenix. I'm bailing. I'm moving away. Insert boos and hisses here. Unlike some of the people I cajoled over the past few years for going, though, I am not going to say the city has no culture and I'm not going to be throwing the middle finger up as I drive out of town. I love this town and the people that work hard to make it great.
Here are the 10 things that I am not looking forward to living without:
Watching eggs fry at Welcome Diner There's a strange sort of zen that washes over me on weekend mornings when I go to Welcome Diner and sit at the counter elbow to elbow with other patrons. The bartenders mix up cocktails, shouting "Hurricane!" every time one is ordered, and everyone is moving. Looking past the hustle and on to the griddle, I sit and watch eggs cook sunny side up one after another, going from gooey and translucent to white with browned fry markings.
Shims at Clever Koi There are a lot of great cocktails in the country right now. There are a lot of great cocktails in Phoenix, too. However, when I'm looking for something light, balanced, and full of unique flavor pairings, Josh James' low ABV cocktails (a.k.a. shims) really hit the spot. Artfully using herbal liqueurs, amaros, and more, James is doing something in town that most other people aren't. If you can get over the fact that it doesn't pack a boozey punch, I promise you won't be missing out on any flavor.
My annual treat of ordering half the menu at FnB I don't have the cash flow to go to FnB often, but when I do, I do it up. I know that no matter what I'll order chef Charleen Badman has done pretty much the best iteration of that dish known to man. I remember the first time I tried the restaurant in its old location I was just shocked at how she made, without a doubt, the best roast chicken I've ever eaten. I didn't even know chicken could be that good. Since then, I've been back about once a year, each time ordering a starter or two, a few veggie plates, a couple entrees, and a dessert or two for me and a friend. Admittedly, it's always too much, but it makes equally delicious leftovers.
Drunk trips to the La Frontera truck Sometimes I find myself desperately searching for good food late at night. Luckily for downtowners, La Frontera posts up on Van Buren and 16th Street to sling late night Mexican food off the truck. On one recent visit, I had a goat and green chile burrito, which I'm still fairly certain was the best burrito I've ever had. Plus, it's dirt-cheap and filling, meaning you'll have hangover leftovers the next morning when going outside in the sun is just not an option.
Devoured and AZ Cocktail Week 2015 When it comes to food events in town, Phoenix nails it. It seems like we have more and more every year, but I know not to pass up Devoured and Cocktail Week in the spring. Devoured gives me the opportunity to try new spots I haven't been to and sample pricey spots I rarely get to visit, all while mingling with chefs and chatting about their creations. Similarly, Cocktail Week is a unique and essential opportunity of booze enthusiasts. Competitions, seminars from industry experts, and, of course, many liquor-centric dinners and parties make the week one of the best weeks to drink in town.
Jeff Kraus' impossibly little tiny plates at Crepe Bar While the Crepe Bar menu is packed with tasty crepes, the real stars of the show are the exciting, creative small plates that accompany those main dishes. Nordic spices hot cocoa with rose and a chicaronne, beautifully blistered shishito peppers, tiny tableside smoked smores with a cold brew coffee pairing, and thinly-slices radishes paired with in-house cultured butter are just some of the flavor-packed options flying out of Kraus' kitchen at any given time. Committed to all of those food things that matter, like local, seasonal, and organic, Kraus' ever-changing line-up of tasting dishes always impress.
Crudo -- All of it Oh, Crudo. Whether it's Micah Olson's cocktails or Cullen Campbell's refined Italian cuisine, you know it's going to be absolutely amazing. It honestly baffles me that this place is the kind of spot you can walk into any given night and get a table because it rivals top spots in other cities--places you have to make reservations for weeks or even months in advance. Maybe it's the tucked away locale or maybe it's the humble attitudes of the people that make this restaurant and bar great, but either way, this place is destined for greatness and I'm sure there are big things on the horizon.
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The smell of Cartel roasting Before I was ever a downtowner, I was a Tempe kid. Biking around the Maple Ash neighborhood was always a treat because Cartel's Tempe location is where all of the roasting happens. From a block or two away, you can smell the nutty, smoky notes of whatever the crew is roasting that day. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), that also makes it impossible to not stop in for a cup.
Pickle shots at Palo Verde Lounge Sure, no matter where I go I can always pair bottom shelf tequila with pickle brine, but there's something so specifically great about when PV's longtime bartender Chuck pours it for you. Between trips to the jukebox and the pinball machine, pickle shots made taking shots in my college years much more tolerable.... Not that I haven't done it since.
Weekend trips to Singh Farms When I was craving a getaway and didn't have the money or time to actually get away, a Saturday at Singh Farms was definitely the next best option. A stroll through the farm and gardens is a relaxing way to connect with your food. You can then buy said produce, along with baked goods from Vogue Bistro's Aurore de Beauduy and more recently coffee from Nom de Plume. Plus, I swear it's a couple degrees cooler there when it matters.