Inaugural Phoenix Unknown Will Bring Global Eats to The Van Buren

The Van Buren will host more than 30 local restaurant vendors representing countries and cuisine from around the world.
The Van Buren will host more than 30 local restaurant vendors representing countries and cuisine from around the world. Charles Barth
The inaugural but already heavily anticipated Phoenix Unknown: World Food & Music Night Market will bring more than 30 food vendors to The Van Buren from 7 p.m. till midnight on Friday, September 13. Small bites and drinks from around the globe will be offered, all from Phoenix-area restaurants representing regional eats from Africa, Europe, and South America.

“We have such a diverse culture in our community,” The Van Buren owner Charlie Levy told Phoenix New Times. “Over 160 different languages are spoken in Phoenix alone. This is an opportunity to discover and enjoy music and food from our neighbors. We hope everyone will join us to explore our Phoenix Unknown. It's going to be a great time.”

Here’s a quick rundown of what food vendors are on deck for Phoenix Unknown, presented by Estrella Jalisco.

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Belly, set to open in spring 2020, will be sneak peeking menu items during Phoenix Unknown.
AWE Collective
Chris Bianco will be representing Italy, but you can also grab some savory French food at Curbside Crepes, stop by Cornish Pasty Company for an Oggie, or sample some Ethiopian dishes at Abyssinia Restaurant and Cafe. Other food vendors include Phoenix Coqui, Chang Noi, and Belly — an upcoming, two-story Vietnamese bar and restaurant. It's the first Instrumental Hospitality Group concept, and it's actually premiering at the event.

Wayne Coats, one of Instrumental Hospitality Group's members, says the team is thrilled to start sharing what they’ve been preparing for the Belly menu. “We love doing downtown food events like this. It brings so many people together, and it’s amazing to eat so many new things all in the same place,” he says via email. “And PAO [Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra] is performing!”

And don't forget the Islands. Chris Lyons, one of the owners of Ocho Rios Jerk Spot, says its booth will be serving some traditional island fare — jerk chicken, oxtail, and curry goat. “It gives us the opportunity show what we’re about,” Lyons says. “We’re just spreading some island love.”

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Attendees can also try some flavors of Tunisia at the Habbouz Tunisian Cuisine booth operated by Nabiha Bejaoui.
Jackie Mercandetti
Nabiha Bejaoui, a native of Tunis, Tunisia, is the owner and chef behind Habbouz Tunisian Cuisine, and yet another vendor. Bejaoui ran the restaurant location for two years in north-central Phoenix, but it has now operated as a booth for three. She says she loves having the opportunity to showcase her food to Phoenix Unknown attendees like she so often does at the Open Air Market at the Phoenix Public Market Cafe. “I’d like to share some traditions through quality food,” Bejaoui says via email.

In addition to our global food vendors, there will be four stages of local music situated around the venue. Tickets for this all-ages event are $15 to $17 in advance, and $22 at the door — with a portion of the proceeds going to the International Rescue Committee. And full disclosure: Phoenix New Times is a sponsor.

For tickets and more information, see The Van Buren website.
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Lauren Cusimano was the Phoenix New Times food editor from 2018 to 2021. Joys include eating wings, riding bikes, knowing everyone at the bar, talking too much about The Simpsons, and falling asleep while reading.