I'll be in Phoenix tomorrow night and want to eat someplace that typifies the area? I'm open to anything good but would prefer to spend less than $50 for 1. I'm used to (and like) dining in places that specialize in fresh local ingredients (I live in Portland, OR) but again, anything goes....THANKS!
Phoenix is so large and diverse that no particular type of restaurant is really typical, but if I were to think of classic Phoenix food experiences, they would fall into two categories: Sonoran-style Mexican food, which is everywhere, and retro-chic steak-and-chop places like Durant's, the Stockyards, El Chorro Lodge, etc.
As for local ingredients, keep in mind that the Phoenix area, despite having some local crops like citrus, is not a huge agricultural region. There are a few restaurants such as Tarbell's and Rancho Pinot, which procure local produce when possible, but they are the exceptions.
It might be possible to make more specific recommendations if you can post the general part of town in which you'll be staying and how far you are willing to drive.
This is a hard one to pick.For older "Phoenix" haunts The Original "Big Apple" on Van Buren was a place I loved when I was much younger,haven't been there in awhile but in the 70's it was a great place to go.Handlebar J's in Scottsdale was another fun place I liked, also Ernie's which is in the same general area of Scottsdale.(Scottsdale and Shea).
Durant's would have to be up there on the list,it's kept that same atmosphere for years(not to mention the busboys and waiters).
For contemporary Arizona chow,I would highly recommend Lon's at the Hermosa Inn in Paradise Valley.
For an experience that you won't forget go to Tradiciones at the Ranch Market at 16th. and Roosevelt.It's a newer place,but has great food and won't be like anyplace in Portland.
I guess the way I would look at it, is not so much what food is local, meaning made from local ingredients vs. a meal that is unique to the desert southwest. For that I would recommend an authentic Southwestern Mexican food experience. For a cheaper price and a more family feeling type of atmosphere, I would second the recommendation above for Tradiciones and would add that for a more "street" mexican food experience, go inside the market to their food court. You will be one of maybe three total gringos in the place. For a more "Gourmex" experience I would suggest going to Los Sombreros or Richardsons for some excellent southwestern mexican food (meaning, don't expect just the regular tacos, enchiladas and burritos).
I have been to Oregon a lot and I think that our Southwestern mexican food is to Phoenix, what microbreweries are to Oregon!
Barrios Grill, is a good solid fine Mexican food experience.
Finding a good resort restaurant (there are too many to list) would be a good "Phoenix" experience, since that is definitely an important characteristic of this town.
Roaring Fork is good, and represents AZ culture, but it isn't super cheap (they have a great happy hour, which keeps costs down).
I've been wanting to try this place and it's gotten some great reviews: Quiessence Restaurant
They actually do use local fare and it sounds similar to what you describe. Here's a recent review:
You might also be interested in Kai. It's on a reservation and thus a little journey out of the metro area (but not too far), but it's been racking up a load of recognition for its Native American influenced fare. You might exceed your budget, but I thought I'd throw it out there.