I'm still dreaming about some of the dishes on this list, in particular the tiny creation pictured above that, as far as I know, I may never have the chance to experience again. That'd be a shame, but sometimes part of what makes a dish special is that you can never exactly replicate it again. That also may be the case with a special cup of coffee I enjoyed last month — but don't worry, there are a few things below that you can find any time you want at metro Phoenix restaurants. From my idea of a perfect winter cocktail to a burger that comes all the way from Memphis, here are the best things I ate and drank in metro Phoenix last month.
I hope you get to try some of it for yourself soon.
Savory Pot Pie from Welcome Diner
If you blinked, then you probably missed this savory offering from last month's Pie Social. But for those lucky diners who got to try Welcome Diner's savory pot pie, it's not likely to be a dish that's easily forgotten. To complement baker Casey Hopkins-Johnson's two sweet options, chef Michael Babcock served a scallion pancake "pot pie" that was really more like a tiny pancake sandwich (not that I'm complaining). In between the two fried, salty pieces of dough Babcock heaped succulent Vietnamese braised pork then piled crisp pickled vegetables and a delicate poached quail egg on top. The combination of rich meaty and bright vinegary flavors would be great on any day, but was a particularly, uh, "welcome" option at a sugar-filled event.
Sangre di Vino from The Parlor
We've already told you that The Parlor's bar manager, Michael Allmandinger, is a big fan of Italian amari. So much so, in fact, that he's made an effort to make a wide variety of the dark, usually herbaceous liqueurs available to consumers. Well, that's great and all if you're looking for a boozy, bitter way to end a meal at the Biltmore-area Italian restaurant. But for those who want a less-bracing amaro experience, I recommend the Sangre di Vino cocktail. With a mix of amaro ciociaro, Slaughterhouse whiskey, lemon, and cabernet syrup, this perfect winter cocktail delivers flavors of baking spices complemented with subtle notes of cabernet grapes. Though ciociaro isn't one of the most bitter amari out there, this cocktail will definitely leave you with an impression of how the liqueurs generally taste.
Soul Burger from Okra
You don't need another reason to visit Okra in Phoenix; the restaurant serves an excellent menu of Southern-meets-Italian fare seven days a week and has a kick-ass happy hour to boot. But if you're still not set on heading down to experience the restaurant yourself, here's yet another worthy draw: the Wednesday night Soul Burger special. Inspired by the dish of the same name at Earnestine & Hazel's in Memphis, the Soul Burger comes topped with onions, pickles, American cheese (yeah, that's right, the gooey orange stuff), and "Soul Sauce." The tightly packed patty is perfectly cooked and the soft yet sturdy bun keeps all those toppings (mostly) intact. It's a simple creation but somehow seems elevated at the same time — but maybe it's just the charm of the vintage plate on which it's served.
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Costa Rican Pourover at Camelback Flowershop
Looking for the perfect backdrop for your next Instagram? Try Camelback Flowershop, the photo-worthy florist on Camelback Road, where, on some weekdays, you can find local barista Perry Czopp making cappuccinos and cups of coffee at a pop-up coffee bar. On a visit last month, I was able to sample a cup of coffee made from the beans Czopp helped harvest in Costa Rica last year — quite the treat. When he returned from his five-week stay in the Tarrazu region of the Central American country, he shared photos and talked about the challenges facing coffee farmers. And when I stopped by to taste the coffee, Czopp was more than happy to explain the differences between washed and unwashed beans, talk about different types of brewing apparatus, and guide me through an informal tasting.
Mesquite-Grilled Shrimp from Ocotillo
Last month, Ocotillo opened for dinner — finally! — and you can bet I made it to the restaurant for one of the first services. The evening menu offers quite a few options not on the lunch menu, including an expanded selection of freshly made pastas and a few large entrées — like a whole grilled fish, which, at $42, is intended for sharing. Of the dishes I tried, all were excellent, but the standout was the mesquite-grilled shrimp. These giant head-on Carabineros are some of the most coveted shrimp money can buy, and with one bite into the sweet, almost lobster-like meat, it's clear why. Prepare to get a little messy as you dig into this dish, and though you don't want to overpower the flavors of the smoke-kissed shrimp, don't be shy about using the accompanying herb aioli either.