Welcome to The Essentials, our catalog of indispensable and quintessential Phoenix food and drink. From now until May, we'll be sharing 50 dishes, drinks, and food experiences that make up the culinary backbone (and personality) of metro Phoenix. This list is highly eclectic, mixing classics with newer and lesser-known favorites. But all The Essentials have one thing in common: We think they're required eating (and drinking) in metro Phoenix.
49: "Dragon" dumpling burger (paired with the latest "it" cocktail) at Bitter & Twisted.
Can you believe that Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour in downtown Phoenix is not yet even three years old? Ross Simon's temple to mixology, located in the historic Luhrs building, was in the works for many years. But once the doors finally opened, the stylish haunt ascended to the pantheon of classic downtown Phoenix food and drink venues in no time flat.
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There may not be a more classic, and indulgent, way to experience Bitter & Twisted than with a late-night supper consisting of executive chef Bob Tam's "Dragon" dumpling burger. Whet your appetite with an order of the Hurricane Popcorn first, though — the buttery, extra-crunchy corn mix is aggressively seasoned to delightful effect. Then fill out any gaps in your appetite with Tam's dumpling-inspired burger, which aspires to the soupy, savory, rich flavors of a classic sheng jian bao pork dumpling.
The heart of the dish is the seared, juicy beef-pork patty, adorned with ribbons of caramelized onions and draped in melted white American cheese, and delivered in a well-buttered, griddle-crisped English muffin. The smallish burger contains a world of meaty, pork-scented flavor, and tends to disappear shortly after initial contact. It's great on its own, but it's probably best enjoyed with the latest seasonal break-out cocktail from Bitter & Twisted's revolving "Book O' Cocktails." Maybe you'll finish the night sipping gin out of a small, novelty white-porcelain bathtub through a straw. Or maybe drinking citrus-spiked whiskey out of a bear-shaped honey jar, or boozy punch out of a tea cup. No matter what it is, it's bound to be interesting.
The Essentials so far:
50: Tequila Sunrise at the Arizona Biltmore.