15 Biggest Metro Phoenix Food Stories of 2015

From Shake Shack coming to Scottsdale to Okra opening in Phoenix, the last year has been chock-full of exciting food news. 

Read on to see what news made the biggest splash this year. 

15. Ocotillo Restaurant: Walter Sterling, Sacha Levine to Open Restaurant in Central Phoenix

Considering how popular Ocotillo has been since opening about two months ago, it should come as little surprise that our story announcing the plans for the Central Phoenix restaurant, bar, and coffee shop was one of the most-read stories of the year. When we first shared details about Walter Sterling, Sacha Levine, and Dave Johnson's plans for the complex back in July, Sterling called Ocotillo "an opportunity to make Phoenix a better place," 

See also: 10 Best New Metro Phoenix Restaurants of 2015

14. The Ostrich: Brandon Casey to Open Craft Cocktail Bar in Downtown Chandler

Craft cocktails in the East Valley? Yeah, that was big news. In July, we told you popular local bartender Brandon Casey, formerly of Citizen Public House in Scottsdale, was taking his talents to — of all places — downtown Chandler. Back then he told us about his plans to turn a hotel basement into a sleek craft cocktail destination, and in the passing months he's succeeded in opening The Ostrich, an underground bar below the historic San Marcos Hotel where guests can find speakeasy classics such as  the aviation, the vesper martini, the sazerac, and the Singapore sling.

13. Pizza Hut's Hot Dog Bites Pizza Is the Worst

Remember when Pizza Hut debuted a pizza that had hot dog bites around the edges instead of crust? Well, we do. Because we tried it. Apparently, we weren't the only ones curious about the new creation since thousands of people clicked on our review — we might, however, have been one of the only ones dumb enough to try what ended up being the "worst pizza invention ever in the cheap chain pizza world."

12. Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza to Open Restaurant on Grand Avenue

In October, the queen of Mexican food in the Valley, chef Silvana Salcido Esparza, announced that she'd set her sights on a new territory: Grand Avenue. Just weeks after the closure of Bragg's Factory Diner, Esparza told us she'd be taking over the restaurant space, and though she couldn't share many details about her plans for the new Barrio Cafe, the one thing she did know was that she wouldn't be serving tacos. "I'm a little sick of tacos, to be honest," Esparza said. "They've saturated the market. McDonald's is going to start selling them next!"

11. Angry Crab Shack to Open in Ahwatukee, Goodyear, and Peoria

And East Valley residents weren't the only ones to get good news in 2015. West Valley seafood lovers had plenty to celebrate in June when Angry Crab Shack owner Daniel Sevilla told us about his plans to open three more restaurants in Ahwatukee, Goodyear, and Peoria. The South Phoenix restaurant opened in the Ahwatukee restaurant about a month later, and the Peoria restaurant (located at 7608 West Cactus Road) opened its doors just last month. The Goodyear location has yet to be completed, but will open at  310 North Litchfield Road soon. For updates on that location keep an eye on the restaurant's Facebook page

10. Not Your Father's Root Beer: Small Town Brewery's Alcoholic Root Beer Comes to Arizona

At 5.9 percent ABV and with a flavor that's closer to soda than beer, Not Your Father's Root Beer was an understandably intriguing addition to Arizona liquor store shelves this year. Brewed by Small Town Brewery, a not-so-small brewery with ties to Pabst Brewing Co. owner Eugene Kashper and the company that makes Four Loko, this brew could be considered controversial — but nevertheless tastes great in a frosty mug with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

9. Wok Away: Cantonese Food in the Valley Soon May Be a Thing of the Past

Our August 2015 cover story "Wok Away" brought attention to a disturbing trend — disturbing, at least, to anyone who loves authentic Cantonese food. As explored in the long-form report, Valley Cantonese Chinese restaurants are on the decline, part of a national trend that's related to changes in Chinese-American immigration among other causes. There's hope, however, as increased immigrants from northern China introduce new types of Chinese cuisines to American diners, but the face of Chinese food in America may never be the same again. 

8. 5 Signs Your Bartender Is the Real Deal 

These days it seems like every watering hole in town is bragging about offering "craft cocktails," but when it comes to making above-average drinks you usually also need an above-average bartender. That's why we came up with this list of five signs that make it easy to tell when you're dealing with a serious beverage professional, or just some guy who may or may not know a Manhattan from an Old Fashioned. 

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria