Phoenix-What culinary delights are you known for?
Some colleagues and I are traveling out to the Phoenix area for a week. One of them asked me what Phoenix is known for to which I could not answer.
So I ask the experts--For which culinary delights is Phoenix known? Is there a restaurant that should not be missed?
We will be staying in the Kierland area.
Best known local treats are Mexican food (although there's been some dispute in another thread about what that really means in terms of border food vs. interior Mexican cooking) and Native American fry bread. Unfortunately, the best options for these types of food are not particulary close to Kierland. There are also some board favorites that prepare somewhat upscale Southwestern food. Here are some recent threads:
Phoenix is probably more known, on a culinary note, for "who," rather than "what." It is currently home to several James Beard award-winning chefs, most with eponymous, or stand-alone restaurant.
Because of the culture of Phoenix, it is a melting pot of the Southwest - Native American, Border Mexican, some California and Cal-Mex themes, and many of the chefs have incorporated some aspect of the SW influence into their signature cuisine.
This board is replete with mentions of Nobu’s (not THAT Nobu) SeaSaw, Robert McGrath (just sold Roaring Fork), Vincent Guerithault’s SW take on Classic French cuisine at Vincent’s On Camelback, and the list goes on.
Because Phoenix is more of a “resort” town, and has been for many, many years, it has offered many chefs the opportunity to spread their wings and create a personal style, often based on the cuisine of their heritage, but with influences of the American Southwest. They have been able to perform in varied dining venues. These chefs have created some dishes, that bear their trademark touches, but each is as varied, as are the venues.
Even Denver probably has more regionally-specific dishes, than does Phoenix, but that doesn’t mean that the food in Phoenix is in anyway inferior to most other cities in the world. Matter-of-fact, I rate it very highly, even compared to New Orleans, San Francisco, London, and NYC. You will not find a Philly (insert Phoenix) Cheese-steak (except that several Philadelphia ex-patriates do Philly Cheese-steaks in Phoenix), or a similar geo-centric dish - just great food at many levels.
That probably doesn’t help, if one is looking for a quintessential Phoenix dish (there is not one), but does open up the possibility of dining at some heavily awarded restaurants, most run by equally awarded chefs. One thing that took me a while to realize, is that some of the better venues ARE in resorts, unlike many other cities, where one ALWAYS leaves the resort to experience really good dining.
re: Bill Hunt
Agreed. It's common for visitors to want unique regional dishes, and that's fine, but my suggestions of Mexican food and fry bread, as tasty as those foods are, only go so far in highlighting what's good to eat here. The true measure of an area's gastronomic strength lies in its diversity, and you've made a good case for Phoenix in that regard.
For the OP, if you have specific interests not addressed in the threads linked to above, post in a little more detail and I'm sure some additional suggestions will emerge.
Very true that its hard to define Phoenix by a specific type of cuisine. Also hard because Phoenix/Scottsdale is so spread out - you really could spend lots of time here driving around visiting good to great restaurants. Here are some suggestions near Kierland none-the-less:
La Parilla Suiza: Authentic Mexico City food, managed, staffed by the warmest most welcoming people you can find. Not the traditional "burrito buried in cheese" but rather flavorful,casual food. Try the Tortilla soup - and forget the calories and go for it with the avocado and sour cream. Its in a strip mall near Paradise Valley Mall (15 minutes from Kierland) - not fancy or exclusive, but great. Hidden gem.
Greenhouse: (at Kierland) is fresh, light cooking with great wine list. Upscale prices, but true to PHX form, you will find patrons dressed in everything from shorts to "shi-shi".
Zinc Bistro: (Kierland) check out some posting on CHOW. French influenced food. Love the pomme frittes and cheese offerings. Nice wine list - heavy on the French wines. Food is a little heavy and I usually skip in the hot summer months.
Lots of resort dining near by and as suggested, most of it pretty good. Enjoy your stay in Phoenix/Scottsdale - and thanks for coming. Let us know about your culinary visits.