Lists

Five of the Top Food Pop-Ups Across Greater Phoenix

The Kaeng Hang Lay from Alex and Yotaka Martin’s Lom Wong pop-up.
The Kaeng Hang Lay from Alex and Yotaka Martin’s Lom Wong pop-up. Lom Wong
Under the warping pull of the pandemic, our food scene has changed. It has changed in a whole lot of bad ways, yet also in a few good. Now, we can start to really assess these changes, as we navigate the weird transition back to living more uncontained lives. One of the absolute best changes: local popups are surging right now.

In recent months and years, an impressive generation of food popups has risen. They prepare a variety of cuisines in a variety of styles, served in places like parking lots and restaurant backrooms, and commercial kitchens. So many have launched lately. So many are taking risks, brimming with soul, and doing things that restaurants just can't.

Though there are others, here are five interesting popups that we highly recommend seeking out.

click to enlarge Alex and Yotaka Martin run the pop-up Lom Wong. - LOM WONG
Alex and Yotaka Martin run the pop-up Lom Wong.
Lom Wong

Lom Wong

Though they don't have fancy awards or a restaurant (yet), Alex and Yotaka Martin's wide-ranging Thai food is some of the most rewarding and thoughtful eating in Arizona. Their cooking, marked by care, rigor, and eye-widening flavors, channels Thai cities, villages, and communities from the center of the map and its jungle and seacoast margins. Everything is from supreme scratch. They stuff the sausages, pound the curry paste, make the coconut milk, spending days making dishes you delete from the universe in minutes. Check out our full review, and sign up for their email list for more on takeout and in-person pop-up meals.


click to enlarge Phx Lechon Roasters serving up a whole pig, roasting over charcoal. - BRIAN WEBB
Phx Lechon Roasters serving up a whole pig, roasting over charcoal.
Brian Webb

Phx Lechon Roasters

Margita and Brian Web, another wife-and-husband team, prepare homestyle Filipino food out of a commercial kitchen in downtown Mesa. Cartoonishly purple pillow-soft rolls of ube pandesal pull apart to molten cores of ube jam and melted cheese. Lumpia crackle, crisp from the fryer and rich with pork from The Meat Shop. The highlight, though, is lechon baboy: crackly-skinned meat hacked from a whole pig turned for hours and hours and hours over a charcoal fire. Note: in the commercial kitchen and when playing away games and cooking elsewhere, the Webbs might serve a fraction of this menu or another.

click to enlarge Lawrence Smith and Aseret Arroyo run Chite Tacos. - JACKIE MERCANDETTI PHOTO
Lawrence Smith and Aseret Arroyo run Chite Tacos.
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Chilte Tacos

Lawrence Smith and Aseret Arroyo's taco popup serves far more than tacos, both channeling and bending the traditions of Arroyo's Sinaloa or cooking YOLO mashups that go their own way. They've served up hot chicken tortas and fufu birria, bulgogi tacos, and chapulin tamales. They've tucked perfectly tender beef quesabirria in hand-pressed tortillas dyed black with squid ink. What they cook varies with the weeks. So does where they choose to light their grill, ranging from the east Valley to North Phoenix to downtown.

click to enlarge The Vanna White from the Hungry Homie. - CHRIS MALLOY
The Vanna White from the Hungry Homie.
Chris Malloy

The Hungry Homie

One at a time. That's how Ryan Moreno blazes his pizzas at high heat. He brings them to life in an oven not much bigger than the boxes they soon enter. This hungry homie has worked at several pizza joints all over the Valley. His dough is puffy, soft, with rollicking fresh-from-the-heat bready lightness. His Vanna White, a sauce-less pie utterly rained with mild garlic cloves, is a stunner. Moreno will chat you up as you wait for your one pie, turning it as he juggles orders and conversation. In our great pizza city, his pies and style deserve to be part of your rotation, even if he only cooks a day or two a week.

click to enlarge Chef Justine and Misael Trujillo recreate recipes from Trujillo's family - JACKIE MERCANDETTI PHOTO
Chef Justine and Misael Trujillo recreate recipes from Trujillo's family
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

TruTacos

In back of Jewel's Bakery & Cafe, you can order tacos and a few other Mexican specialties from TruTacos. Here, chef Justine and Misael Trujillo recreate recipes from Trujillo's family. The al pastor, carne asada, and nopales tacos are traditional but for a touch here, a touch there, a bit of Flamin' Hot Cheetos in the tortilla. Weekend specials rotate into favorites like posole and carne asada fries. Margaritas are juice-forward and tropical, more backyard barbecue than mixology. The best bite? A special taco that combines peppers and cream cheese. 
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.
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