Lists

Nine Phoenix Food Popups Worth Popping Into

Nine Phoenix Food Popups Worth Popping Into
Photo-Illustration by Tom Carlson. Source photos: Getty Images.

Since the pandemic first closed restaurants in spring 2020, hamstringing indoor dining, Phoenix diners have seen a new crop of food popups emerge. Many are excellent — some of our favorite places to eat in the Valley. Here are nine. (And read our feature story about this local trend here.)

click to enlarge Brian Webb of Phx Lechon Roasters. - CHRIS MALLOY
Brian Webb of Phx Lechon Roasters.
Chris Malloy

PHX Lechon Roasters

Brian and Margita Webb are cooking old-school, full-on, lechon baboy. For hours, Brian turns whole pigs over charcoal until the skin turns mahogany and develops a deep snap. This is PHX Lechon Roasters' staple when it pops up around town. The Webbs sell other to-go Filipino food out of their Mesa commissary kitchen, though, including whole Kamayan meals centered around foods like lumpia, lechon manok, and ube pandesal.

click to enlarge Alex and Yotaka Martin of Lom Wong. - COURTESY LOM WONG
Alex and Yotaka Martin of Lom Wong.
Courtesy Lom Wong

Lom Wong

One of the great Phoenix food experiences. Lom Wong, the region-trotting Thai popup from Alex and Yotaka Martin, continues to wow the Valley’s most intense foodies. The duo prepares peerless sai oua, all kinds of curry, and other thrilling hyperlocal Thai specialties, every component down to the coconut milk and pork cracklings made from scratch.

Shameless Burger

“Vegan burger” is a phrase that might turn away a certain subset of burger fans, and in the case of Shameless they’d be missing out on one of the most impressive burgers in town. Izzy Salazar treats the Impossible Burger with love and skill, making it taste just like meat. Salazar also serves up specialty burgers loaded with guac, melting onions, and vegan cheese.


click to enlarge Chilte Tacos - CHRIS MALLOY
Chilte Tacos
Chris Malloy

Chilte Tacos

This new-school Mexican-at-heart popup recently upgraded to a food truck but aims to keep its popups going in some capacity. These days, though, catch them mostly at the truck. Lawrence Smith and Aseret Arroyo dish out remixes like a chorizo al pastor burger and hot chicken tortas as well as plates that lean more traditional. The Chilte menu changes all the time.

click to enlarge Sabor a Mi. - COURTESY SABOR A MI
Sabor a Mi.
Courtesy Sabor a Mi

Sabor a Mi

At this popup complete with canopies and ample seating, Stephen and Desme Estrada cook the same birria they served on their wedding night, the same recipe Desme learned from her mother. In a local birria scene that seems to expand with each passing day, the version at Sabor a Mi is one to put near the top of your list.

Toduken

Saturdays at the Uptown Farmers’ Market, John Cornelio offers a rotating menu of to-go dishes that range from classic Filipino food (kilawen, a Filipino ceviche) to riffs (a chorizoburger). Toduken's offerings change greatly from week to week. You can’t go wrong with Cornelio’s barbecue offerings, like yakitori and lechon baboy. Sometimes he even does to-go omakase.

Falaf.A.Lot

Miles Palmer’s popup Falaf.A.Lot has a tight focus: falafel, stuffed pita, and Middle Eastern sides like dolmas, couscous salad, and muhammara. Palmer soaks chickpeas and shepherds them from raw form to finished, crackly, brown-fried spheres. Recently, Palmer has even moved into delivery.

click to enlarge Shorty's steak sandwiches are served. - COURTESY SHORTY'S CHARPIT
Shorty's steak sandwiches are served.
Courtesy Shorty's Charpit

Shorty’s Charpit

Locally celebrated James Beard Award-nominated chef Cassie Shortino has turned from the high-end Italian kitchen of Tratto to steak sandwiches. At Shorty's Charpit, she slides thin cuts of ribeye over charcoal onto buns, the steak topped with the meat-heavy “ground beef hot sauce” of her native Rochester. Shortino also plates mac salad, cucumber salad, and other mains like smoked chicken leg.

click to enlarge James Piazza of Bad Jimmy's. - TOM CARLSON
James Piazza of Bad Jimmy's.
Tom Carlson

Bad Jimmy’s

Former Pizzeria Bianco chef James Piazza griddles double cheeseburgers made from his own blend of Rovey Dairy meat that he grinds by hand the day of events. He slots five ounces into a potato roll with American cheese, pickles, grilled onions and special sauce. The vibe at Bad Jimmy's is very ‘70s. Vintage cars. Root Beer floats with scoops of vanilla. It's all good. 
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Chris Malloy, former food editor and current food critic at Phoenix New Times, has written for various local and national outlets. He has scrubbed pots in a restaurant kitchen, earned graduate credit for a class about cheese, harvested garlic in Le Marche, and rolled pastas like cappellacci stuffed with chicken liver. He writes reviews but also narrative stories on the food world's margins.
Contact: Chris Malloy