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phx : what chowhound faves do you not get?

hey there hounds,

i know everyone's mileage varies in restaurants based on food, service, and a multitude of other items.

i'm curious - what board fave's leave you scratching your head?

i'll go first -

palatte - we tried twice. attitude in full, food marginal, service lacking. i'm on the 'what ev' team for that one.

anyone else??

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  1. Fate and Matt's Big Breakfast. Fate's food seemed Costo-esque at best and the service was horrible. The food at Matt's was just nasty. The memory of the ubergreasy hash browns turns my stomach to this day.

    1. Tradiciones. I've only eaten there twice, but both times the food left me unimpressed. On my first visit, I had their pescado à la veracruzana, which was very pretty to look at but tasted pretty much like fish poached in a thin, unseasoned vegetable stock.

      On my second visit, I opted for lighter fare and shared an order of street tacos and an order of chicken sopes with my SO. The sope filling was pretty blah (reminiscent of my fish experience) and the tacos were OK, but expensive considering that they were no better than standard taqueria fare.

      On the plus side, I did find the service to be friendly and competent.

      I've considered giving Tradiciones another shot, but with so many other less expensive, and IMO tastier, Mexican food options, I've yet to convince myself that I should spend any more of my dining dollars there.

      1. Pita Jungle - It's good, mind you, but I still haven't had anything that makes me want to go "WE HAVE TO GO TO PITA JUNGLE!".

        Delux - Sure it's a tasty burger, but it's overpriced and their sweet potato fries aren't nearly as good as they were when I first tried them (it was still a novelty then).

        1 Reply
        1. re: azhotdish

          I agree with your comment on the sweet potato fries. It's like they used to be a lot more crispy or something. The last time we went (it was a while ago), they were limp and undercooked.

        2. Barrio Cafe -- I tried it once, found it just sort of okay, but nothing seemed special enough to make it worth the price or the wait for the table. I found the food too rich and insufficiently flavored for my own tastes.

          Matt's Big Breakfast -- Fresh, local ingredients + adaptive reuse of historic building; Should be great, but I find it just okay. The menu just has too much of a Nina Planck feel to it. How about some housemade muesli, multigrain pancakes, and more options for those who don't want such an eggy, buttery, meaty breakfast?

          Fate -- I've actually warmed to this place lately. I still don't think it's as good as its reputation, but my most recent visit was actually good. I just wish the portions were more generous.

          Richardson's -- I haven't been in a long, long time, but I don't think this place has changed much over the years. The food is reasonably good, but I just can't abide the many non-food-related objections I have to it: no reservations, pre 5/1/07 smokiness, no high chairs, etc.

          Any restaurant owned by LGO Hospitality -- Again, good food, but I just don't understand how people can put up with the various policies in place at LGO, Postino, Chelsea's, etc. As I recently wrote on another site: "I think a lot of LGO-mania is based on an inferiority complex about Phoenix. Often, glowing reviews of LGO will mention that it makes customers feel like they are in some other city. When specifics are mentioned, San Francisco is most often the city in question; otherwise, it's some ethereal 'other city' or 'real city' that LGO evokes...I chose to live in Phoenix and prefer it to San Francisco. Phoenix is by no means perfect, and I am among the strongest advocates of needed improvements. Nevertheless, it's my home and I appreciate the city on its own terms. If I wished to eat in a restaurant that simulates another place, I'd be more likely to dine on the Las Vegas Strip than in Arcadia."

          1 Reply
          1. re: silverbear

            Could not agree with you more on the LGO comment, particularly to the namesake Le Grande Orange. Yeah, the food is good. But I'd also refer to In-N-Out Burger as good. (err.....maybe great, actually) A lot of places are good and good doesn't cut it anymore. I think that Chelsea's Kitchen is truly excellent; basic food prepared well in a nice setting. But I just don't get Le Grande Orange. The food is barely good. There isn't enough seating. Parking....forget it. Service? There isn't any. And you hit the nail on the head regarding people attributing some sort of "cool factor" (imagine me doing little quotes with my fingers as you read that) to it and feeling like they are in some sort of ethereal "cool place." I lived in San Francisco. I lived in LA. And I've spent a lot of time in NYC. And it's no less "cool" here; it's just different. The only attributes of Le Grande Orange that remind me of San Francisco are the inflated prices and lack of parking; and it doesn't make me feel like I'm anywhere else any more than Kentucky Fried Chicken in Central Phoenix makes me feel like I'm in Lexington, without the humidity....

          2. For me it is Pizzeria Bianco. I know it is a CH fave and I might get booed. I think the pizza is good but in my opinion not worth waiting 2 + hours for.

            2 Replies
            1. re: sunshineinaz

              Agreed, but I deliberately omitted that so as not to start another "Is PB worth the wait" thread that goes on for 50 posts and resolves nothing. Let's stop this one in its tracks.

              1. re: silverbear

                Good call! Let's not start that. To each their own.

            2. I don't understand the fascination with Durant's. I love the ambiance, the entrance through the kitchen and the old school rat pack vibe. It is a great place for a Martini. However, in terms of a steak place I would rate it as mediocre. Mastro's, Donovan's, Drinkwater's, etc. have better quality steak and better preparation. Even chains such as Capital Grill and Morton's do a better job with beef.

              1 Reply
              1. Rancho de Tia Rosa in Mesa.

                I have been twice and been totally underwhelmed by everything, especially the laughable cheese crisp. Friends have gone as well as have sworn off ever going again.

                On several occasions, I have asked what the draw is and the best answer I get is that it is the only Mexican food in that area.

                1. mama mia's pizza not sure if anyone thinks it's good but I hate it everytime. Also slice of sicily.

                  1. i don't know about "chowhound faves" but being in central phx, i constantly hear about the wonder that is "fez" and on the two visits i allowed, i found it wretched. the waitstaff was clueless, the drinks bad and terribly overpriced, and the food uninspired and overpriced as well. bleh. never tried ticoz because of my experience with fez.

                    with ya on pita jungle... why bother when sabuddy's is across the street (in scottsdale) and so, SO much better?

                    i'm sure there are others that will occur to me with time.

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: hzp

                      Speaking of Sabuddy's, that's one I forgot to put in my post. We've tried it a few times and have always been underwhelmed.

                      1. re: Firenza00

                        seriously, you are literally the only person i've ever spoken to who has a bad thing to say about the place (not to discount you, by the way, just shocked).

                        1. re: hzp

                          No problem, we're used to it. Seth has chastised us about it on more than one occasion. :)

                          1. re: Firenza00

                            I'm just wondering if you know of someplace on the west side that serves decent hummus. :o)

                            1. re: Seth Chadwick

                              I have to agree on Sabuddy's. Both my wife and I lived in Israel for a time and were extremely unimpressed with Sabuddy's, even more so given the raves. In my opinion, Phoenix is truly lacking in great Middle Eastern. Best I have had is Haji Baba in Tempe.

                              1. re: avandelay

                                try al-hana at baiz marketplace. best. baba ganouj. ever.

                                1. re: winedubar

                                  Hate to be the voice of negativity but I tried it and was similarly unimpressed. I did not get the baba ganouj so I can't comment on that. but what I got was disapointing. I had high hopes because I loved the atmposhere but the food wasn't up to par. The pita was pretty mediocre. It was neither the common pocket bread nor the flat, but thick, Iraqi pita. It reminded me instead of tortillas. The hummus was all wrong--not nearly enough lemon and garlic and too much tahina. The texture was also off. The chicken was fine but nothing great. All in all, not a great experience.

                                  1. re: avandelay

                                    You're 100% correct on the hummus Al-Hana, it's not right. What is it that you like at Haji Baba? I used to live about a mile from there and stopped on several occasions and couldn't bring myself to go back.

                                    1. re: azhotdish

                                      I have seldom encountered any food with more finely differentiated individual preferences than hummus. I think a lot if has to do with hummus being as much about texture as about flavor.

                                      I happen to love the hummus (and everything else) at Sabuddy. I also like Haji-Baba a great deal, yet I've heard people whose opinions I respect express discontent with both. I also like the hummus at Pita Jungle, Phoenicia Cafe, and Yusef's.

                                      On the other hand, I thought the hummus at the old Green Leaf Cafe on 19th Ave was the worst, but I know people who swore by it.

                                      Haven't been to Al-Hana yet, but I hope to like it.

                                      Somehow, I don't think we'll ever see consensus on this, and I'm just glad we have so many good choices for our varying preferences.

                                      1. re: silverbear

                                        You're not gonna hear any argument from me, silverbear. Just as everything served in a martini glass isn't a martini, everything served with pita bread isn't hummus.

                                        1. re: silverbear

                                          Preaching to the choir, SB. One of my first ever blog posts was on hummus. Sometimes I think Tara and I live in our own little hummus bubble. We've tried most of the places that people have said have good hummus only to be disappointed. Our theory is once you find a place that consistently serves hummus to your particular tastes, stick to it. :) SKH's hummus always tastes great, even though its consistency (texture, viscosity, etc) varies from time to time since it's homemade.

                                          1. re: Firenza00

                                            First, let me say that this thread is great for this exact reason--a group of people who collectively take food, and good food, very seriously yet have some many diverse opinions.

                                            That being said my standard order at haji's is the chicken kabob plate. I really like the spices on the chicken, the rice and the dressing for the salad. I also get the falafel which is exceptional. The pita is fine although the only pita in the city that I would rate highly is at the Persian Room in Scottsdale.

                                            As for Hummus I think my problem is I am still trying to find Hummus like I used to buy from a stand in Jerusalem that has been making it since the early part of the 1900s. That stuff was out of this world.

                                            1. re: avandelay

                                              Oddly enough avandelay, we may have similar tastes when it comes to hummus - my introduction to the stuff was from a 40+ yr Baghdad resident, and will forever be my benchmark. Cheers.

                                              1. re: avandelay

                                                Is the falafel sandwich at HajiBaba still only $1.99? We havent been in quite some time...but that's always been one of the best deals in town!

                                                Try the hummus at Spices at McClintock and Ray and see what you think.

                        2. Great question!

                          Barrio Cafe - I lived in Coronado when it opened and wanted to love it. The food had me running back down 16th Street for Hacienda's mole.

                          Pita Jungle - There's much better out there without the ADHD service. Love the lemonade though.

                          1. Los Dos Molinos - we were taken here when we first moved to Phoenix. The food was so hot we coudln't taste a thing(and we like spicy). Service was abysmal. Didn't help that we were a group of 8 and all of us were having digestive issues the next day. Won't set foot back in one.

                            Lola's Tapas - husband isn't a wine drinker so we'd never been. Met a girlfriend there recently...the food didn't overly impress me. It was nice to sit and catch up with her over a bottle of wine but as a food destination it's not my choice

                            98 South and 56 East - so popular here on my end of town. Again, a great happy hour deal for a glass of wine but foodwise? A big meh. Nothing I've eaten here has every impressed me.

                            Quiessence - one of the most disappointing meals we've ever had in Phoenix - particularly given the cost. Disappointing in every way: food and service. Probably should give it another try but there are so many other good options we haven't been able to convince ourselves to do so.

                            Patsy Grimaldis - expensive and burnt tasting(at least the two times we've tried it).

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ziggylu

                              Totally agree - never been to 98 South but I've been to 56 East a few times and the happy hour is great but the food really is extremely mediocre - it's a shame because they should be able to pull it all together.

                              PG would be good (albeit expensive) coal-oven pizza if the sauce wasn't so sweet.

                            2. Delux and Fate. Delux - dry, over-lean beef and servers with attitude. Fate - small portions of mediocre greasy food and servers with twice the attitude of Delux. So what if they have a dj...the noise doesn't cover-up culinary mediocrity.

                              1. Rito's! Totally don't get it -- I even think it's a little below average. The vaunted green chile is no better than canned and I'd rather chew my burrito than tilt it and drink it. Only a gringo would go out of their way to eat there.
                                Los Dos Molinos -- at least the south Phoenix and Springerville locations -- rather ordinary, given the hype.
                                Richardson's -- not bad, but not nearly worth the raves. Carlsbad Tavern and even Arriiba are better.
                                Durant's -- great place, good steak -- I "get it," but the food is not nearly as good as the prime steakhouses, and it stopped being a bargain some time ago.
                                Postino -- nice building, but that's it. Nothing else there is nearly worth the hassle.
                                Matt's -- good food, but pricey for what it is -- who would stand in line for it?
                                Cibo -- I "get" Cibo, and I like it, but face it -- the pizzas are soggy, either out of balance or underdone.

                                1. Maestro's (N. Scottsdale location). I've been underwhelmed on several visits. Eddie V's (is it still open?), is in the same boat, and not just because it's a seafood restaurant.

                                  Otherwise, I tend to agree with most of the recs. here, provided that I have dined there.

                                  I'm not a fan of Richardson's, the restaurant, but love the food - so we always dine at Dick's. No biggie, I just do not like the dark atmosphere. I like to see what I am eating, regardless of how good it is.


                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    Hunt - This must be the first time that you and I disagree! The last steak I had at Mastro's was so good that I couldn't stop talking about it for weeks. In fact, I cut out a picture from a magazine of a steak that looked like it and put it on the refrigerator to pay homage to that fine piece of beef. Yes, my wife thought I was completely insane...

                                    1. re: ejs1492

                                      You know, it had to happen. Our visits have been flawed to a very great extent. After the first, I saw all the positive comments on CH, so we tried it again - same thing. Guess I know how to pick the bad nights, or something.

                                      In our cases, it was not just the food, but the food service, and the wine service. Everything was a real bummer. Maybe I should give them a third opportunity (like a real food critic does), and see what might have changed, or what happens, when all goes well. I think I even have a $250 gift certificate to it, but have not used it.


                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                        Let me know if you want to give it a third try; would love to go dutch and post a review here!

                                        1. re: ejs1492

                                          It would have to be in the Spring, as we are traveling for most of what is left of Winter. If I can talk my wife into it, I'll post an invitation to the board. I can also, always be reached at: info@huntphoto.com.


                                      2. re: ejs1492

                                        I agree with you, their beef is VERY good

                                        1. re: Molto E

                                          Even though it's not $5400 per lb, like the alleged truffle expense.... ;-)

                                          1. re: ejs1492

                                            the price was right if something could have been found but the truffle man did not deliver this past week as this year's crop was tough :(...I could be wrong but the white truffle was in the filling not shaved on top? Also, food cost-wise to serve 120 folks and spend 5400 on one pound would not make sense at the price point that the dinner was offered at.

                                            1. re: Molto E

                                              No clue. I drank way too much wine!

                                              1. re: ejs1492

                                                then a Happy New Year's it was ;)

                                    2. Fusion in Scottsdale. I had bizarre service (overly attentive and confused at the same time), and our food just wasn't that good. Odd pairings together, if I remember correctly--we haven't been back.

                                      1. I completely agree with Fate and Pita Jungle naysayers. I found Fate's waitstaff to be unhelpful and snotty, bordering on rude. Even though there may be a lack of Asian fusion food in the valley, Fate isn't the answer. Pita Jungle was...bland. Just bland.

                                        1. I'd give a big HI-5 to all most all of the responses except somehow three of my favorites landed there.

                                          1. Los Dos Molinos - Anyone that tries a restaurant once with a party of 8 (especially a place that us usually busy) and complains about the service automatically becomes NULL. The food there is awesome. There adovada ribs are quite possible the best New Mexican style Mexican dish i have ever had.

                                          2. Richardson's - Great food and never bad service. Bill nailed it. If you don't like the madhouse, head around the corner to Dick's. And never, EVER compare Richardson's Arriba's. Richardson's is New Mexican food, the same as Carlsbad Tavern, but much better. Arriba's is New Mexican style Mexican, and in the same boat as Los Dos, but once again no where as good.

                                          3. Durant's - I love it, but if you don't get it, that is your loss. Durant's is irreplaceable. For old man steakhouses, Pink Pony and Cork N Cleaver run a distant 2nd and 3rd. Durant's is the pinnacle.

                                          Like I said though. UP HIGH on the rest of 'em. You hit all the big ones, but I think some people just got a little overzealous and started swinging for the fences.

                                          My list?

                                          I'll steal Fate and LGO entities from you guys.
                                          Malee's - Like the PF Changs of Thai
                                          Carlsbad Tavern - Eat somewhere else, then go for dessert.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: ValleyFever

                                            "Green" in Tempe. the one time I went there it was disgusting.

                                            1. re: ValleyFever

                                              Some time back, we tried Malee's, and I felt the same way. It was not bad, in any respect, but just did not "get it." We usually get or Thai "fix" in Honolulu, and have not been back. Like I said, it was OK, but not worth the drive for us. We actually had better food at the Pink Lotus (Pink something?), in the Target shopping center on Bell at about Central. Have not been there is some time, so it might not be open any longer.


                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                Pink Pepper.

                                                The original local Thai chain. There used to be a few around town.

                                                1. re: mamamia

                                                  Thanks! I recalled the "pink" part, but was at a total loss for the rest. Do not ever get old - this happens all too frequently.


                                            2. I know this entry will not be well received, but here goes anyway...

                                              I don't get Binkley's. It was among the top 5 most expensive meals we have ever eaten (and we are not afraid of paying for good food).

                                              We did the 5 course tasting menu. They brought out a lot of amuse bouche tastes (at least one between each course, and sometimes 2 between each course). It was too much. I got tired being bombarded with all the tastes throughout the meal. The service wasn't exceptional either.

                                              While the meal was definitely good, it simply wasn't amazing enough to justify the high price, and difficulty getting reservations etc. I can name a dozen restaurants in the valley that I would rather go to for a special occasion.

                                              I should mention, that we were seated at a small two-top right next to the hostess stand, which was a terrible table. In hindsight, we should probably asked to be moved, but we didn't. This definitely had a negative influence on our experience.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Booger

                                                I'm a big fan (as you can probably tell from my other posts) but agree that it has some drawbacks. Agree that the table you were seated at was not a good one...too much traffic in and out. They are closing for a week to expand the waiting area which should solve that problem. The service is not Mary Elaine's slick....the kind where bread magically appears and your iced tea glass seems to refill itself. But I've always found the service to be competent and - most importantly - the servers actually know something about food which I really, really appreciate. What I love about the place is that you can truly feel the passion for food there; yes, the amuse bouches can be overwhelming but I think they do it because the chef loves to experiment and a traditional dinner menu doesn't give him enough latitude to do that. It's like culinary Attention Deficit Disorder.

                                              2. I'm not sure if it's considered a "Chowhound fave" or not, but I really disliked Chelsea's Kitchen. Firenza and I took a lot of heat over that, and that's okay (we're used to it for Sabuddy's) :). I had the fried chicken and it was practically inedible. Service wasn't great, and the noise level bordered on deafening.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: tara17

                                                  No, Honey, the chicken WAS inedible. :) Yeah, I truly had high hopes for CK, but man, that was a huge letdown.

                                                2. I agree about all the LGO places. Had rotisserie chicken at Chelsea's a week ago. Very overcooked. Place was packed with families-all seemed to be enjoying themselves. Liked the burgers at LGO when they first started serving them but noticed a decline in texture and flavor some time later. I don't get it-the popularity, I mean. I have not tried Radio Milano yet. Not a fan of Sabuddy but I'm not sure how popular that place is since he moved it to Scottsdale. I think he did just fine with the ASU crowd when in Tempe. I like one dish at Fate (the Hong Kong noodles) but find it "annoying" that all the dishes come with the same combo of veggies. I agree that Patsy Grimaldi's is a poor runner up to other pizza parlors in town. Pita Jungle? I like the Morroccan gazpacho but that's about it. I think people just like the huge portions and the fresh food. It is fresh, after all. Palatte. Nice outdoor area. Yuck from me on the food. Cibo? Undercooked pizza. Not a fan. Love Pizzeria Bianco but hardly ever go unless we are six people and I can make a reservation in advance. I admire Chris Bianco's attention to detail and I do love the freshness and flavors but I'm not good at waiting. Delux. I go up and down, in and out about that place. Sometimes the burger is good and other times, not so good. Sometimes the bun is dry. The fries? Eh. Nothing to write home about. Binkley's? Ate there twice. Food was good. Crowded. Also sat at the tiny table by hostess. Agree that extra food was overkill for us. It's certainly not the kind of place I would go to regularly or long to go back to unless someone else was paying the bill.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: bonita

                                                    Oh, yeah. I forgot Chelsea's was part of LGO. And here I thought I was coming up with a new one!