15 Dishes to Help You Stay Cool This Summer in Metro Phoenix

In New Times' 2016 summer guide, we're all about keeping cool — from eating and drinking to staycationing. Here's your guide to dining in style. 

Surviving summer in Phoenix is easier than you think, and even though a bowl of hot soup may sound oppressive, we’ve got science to back us up on this one, folks. Eating spicy foods helps cool you down (thanks, of course, to the unavoidable onset of sweating) and around here, food doesn’t get much hotter than at Los Dos Molinos. The New Mexican eatery is known for its sweat-inducing red and green chile. The Adovada Ribs are one of the most popular dishes, and features tender pork ribs smothered in a flavorful sauce made with chili powder, chile flakes, garlic, and cumin. A giant, hot stone bowl of spicy tofu soup at Chodang is also likely to get your pores producing. The Korean eatery serves bubbling stone vessels of soft tofu soup loaded with everything from beef and mushrooms to kimchi and clams. The soup is so hot when it arrives at your table, a raw egg dropped into the broth cooks itself in a matter of minutes. And then there’s BP Street Cafe, the family-run Malaysian restaurant in Tempe where house-made sambal hot sauce makes its way into many a spicy meal. For a straightforward infusion of flavor, try the sambal fried rice. It may not burn at first bite, but it builds to a steady heat by the time you’ve finished eating.

You could also go the usual route for handling the heat and avoid putting anything in your mouth that’s not served cold. For this, try the chicken salad sandwich at Central Phoenix’s Pane Bianco. Made with Ridgeview Farms chicken, mustard, apples, and arugula, it’s a sweet and savory combination that’s filling but still light, a necessity when battling oppressive summer heat. And as proof that you don’t have to go boring to keep things cool, look to China Magic Noodle House, where a plate of cold marinated pig ears delivers both flavor and heat relief. Each slice of chewy porcine goodness offers a pleasing contrast of spicy and cool.

Seafood lovers also have plenty of options when it comes to cold plates, and almost anyone can admit there’s nothing better than kicking back with a platter of ice-cold oysters on a hot summer day. Little Cleo’s Seafood Legend makes this easy and affordable during happy hour, when for one blissful hour, you can order as many fresh oysters as you can slurp for just $1 a piece. There’s also value to be had at Scottsdale’s new Ahipoki Bowl, a fast-casual spot where you can build your own Hawaiian-style poke bowl with raw fish, sauces, and toppings ranging from avocado and seaweed salad to fish roe and fried onions.

Post-meal relief from the summer weather is even easier to find, since just about every Valley neighborhood has its own well-loved ice cream spot. For the moment (another location is coming to downtown Phoenix), there’s only one Snoh Ice Shavery, though, and it’s a worth-the-drive destination for Taiwanese shaved ice. Creamy like ice cream but so light it disappears as soon as it hits your lips, this dessert comes in both familiar and exotic flavors including Thai tea and taro. Top yours with mango, mochi, or Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and then glaze it with butterscotch, chocolate, or sweet condensed milk. And that’s not the only rare frozen treat to be found in metro Phoenix. We’ve also got a destination for Thai-style ice cream rolls, a treat already popular in cities such as Los Angeles and New York. The roll frees ice cream from its usual scoop-shaped constraints with a flattening-then-rolling technique that makes one of summer’s favorite desserts even more fun to eat. To see for yourself, head to Gateway Park in El Mirage, where you’ll find the Nomadic Ice Cream Rolls cart on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 4:30 to 9 p.m. and on the weekends from 2 to 9 p.m. And don’t worry, dairy-averse diners, we didn’t forget you. For a frozen snack that leaves out the milk, there’s Nami in Phoenix, where soy-based soft serve can be swirled with any number of healthy and not-so-healthy add-ins.

But if a single plate isn’t enough of an escape, head underground to cool off at The Salt Cellar, a longstanding seafood restaurant in south Scottsdale. Found one story below street level, this tucked-away eatery puts you well beyond the reach of the desert sun, where you can dig into bowls of halibut ceviche and ice-cold shrimp cocktail. Durant’s also makes a great getaway from the weather. This classic Central Phoenix steakhouse is dark and cool enough to make you forget about the heat while you enjoy familiar fare such as prime rib, broiled steaks, and lamb chops in a vintage atmosphere. And there’s hardly a more obvious hideout than Dick’s Hideaway, a cozy bar and restaurant specializing in New Mexican-style cuisine. Here you’ll find brunch served every day until 4 p.m., and a dinner menu that includes enchiladas, chile rellenos, and grilled pork chops stuffed with spicy chorizo. 

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