Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Phoenix >
Nov 14, 2009 09:49 AM

2 nights in PHX, first time ever in the SW

On our way to the Canyon and Vegas we'll be in Phoenix Thur thru Sat.

Having never traveled in the Southwest, I was hoping to gather some recommendations that fellow hounds from the area consider "quintessential Phoenix food." My guess is that would be Mexican-inspired/influenced cuisine (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

In any event, having only 1 lunch and two dinners in town, I'd love to make the best of it WITHOUT spending a whole lot of money (that's being saved for Vegas).

Tell me about your favorite places in town! Any type of food, as long as we can stay under $100 for two people....

THANKS Phoenix hounds!!!!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Umm. OK. Perhaps I need to rephrase (?).

    Judging from _relatively_ recent posts, T. Cooks sounds like a good candidate. Not sure what the price level is, but it didn't sound haute cuisine...

    I also wrote down Dick's Hideaway and Postino Winebar.

    I'm not sure whether any of these would be considered particularly PHX-ish, but they sounded nice. I'd really appreciate anyone who'd like to chime in... pwetty pwetty pweeze. With sugar on top.

    Dick's Hideaway
    6008 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016

    9 Replies
    1. re: linguafood

      Phoenix is a large and diverse city, so there isn't any single type of food that is our signature. Nevertheless, the usual tourist cliche is to seek out Mexican or Southwestern food. There's a right way and a wrong way to do that. The wrong is to go to a highly Americanized chain. Those are amazingly prevalent since many visitors and transplants might find the real thing to bold for them. The right way is to seek out a place with a fresher approach, maybe with either creative touches or more emphasis on interior Mexican food. The recommendations provided in that department might be influenced by where in our large metro area you are staying. No need to send you on a 30-mile trek if there's an equally good place across the street.

      Beyond the somewhat tiresome cliche of "I'm in Phoenix, so I have to eat Mexican food," Phoenix has really good restaurants of almost all types. Again, the recommendations hinge largely on where you'll be staying. Tell us more about that, and I think the recommendations will start to flow.

      1. re: linguafood

        T.Cooks, located in The Royal Palms Hotel, is uniquely Phoenix. An old home was transformed into a quietly, understated elegant hotel-cum-restaurant. I will admit to having a very special plave in my heart for this lovely spot -- I was married there ten years ago. Sentiment aside, it is, as Michelin says, "worth a detour". I should also add that it is everything that Las Vegas is not -- real.

        Because the grounds are so lovely, you might want to make this your lunch stop. Walking around, finding the secret gardens, enjoying the ambience is particurlarly lovely in daylight. You would be remiss not to explore the grounds here.

        As Silverbear points out, Phoenix "is a large and diverse city". Where are you staying? Do you have a car? The West is often a sprawling surprise to many visitors and we are no exception. From your avatar, I see that you are coming from Berlin. Please understand that our distances are great and our public transportation system is inadequate.

        Tell us some more about what you like, don't like, et al. We're likely better able to provide good recommendations.

        1. re: Sherri

          Thank you both, sherri & silverbear. We'll be staying at the Hyatt Regency downtown on 122 N. 2nd St., which -- I am guessing -- is fairly central... for whatever that's worth in a big, sprawling city '-)

          I've been to L.A. and realize being in the center of the city doesn't mean anything, and can often be where there are mostly businesses and shops, but not a hell of a lot of nightlife, or dining options. We won't have a car, but would certainly be willing to walk or cab it.

          Frankly, given the lack of (uh-oh, here comes that dreaded word) AUTHENTIC Mexican food both in Berlin and Central PA (can you say Chipotle?), I'd be very happy about a great suggestion for Mexican food, be it cliché or not.

          That said, I'd be just as happy about Middle Eastern (Greek, Turkish, et al) or Italian suggestions, which is also something I can't get much of in Happy Valley. There is no cuisine I dislike, really. I'm not interested in Asian food, as we'll be going to Lotus of Siam and Raku in Vegas, which should quench that craving.

          Berlin is a very large and diverse city as well, with many culinary options and a good variety of ethnic cuisines (and a fantastic public transportation system). That said, were someone to ask me about a place that emulates typical Berlin, I could come up with a few; most likely, it'd be German food & good beer in a rustic atmosphere, or a crazy hipster hangout with Korean food....

          I just want to say that I am very thankful for any recommendations you feel strongly about, and we'd be willing to travel (though maybe not 30 miles). T. Cooks so far sounds lovely... I'll have to check their website.

          1. re: linguafood

            One good thing about your hotel is that it is close to the light rail line. Check out Silverbear's blog. And, I'm sure you'll get more suggestions on Monday, if this thread gets bumped.

            1. re: linguafood

              Thanks for the detail. I apologize if it sounded like I was accusing you of being cliched. If you genuinely want Mexican food, that's great. I just didn't want you to think that's what you had to eat due to a lack of other options.

              Strangely, there is little in the way of authentic Mexican food in heart of Downtown within a few block of your hotel. It's a gap that needs to be filled and I'm hoping a new restaurant due to open soon will do just that. Los Dos Molinos, mentioned elsewhere in the thread, is a place to try for fiery New Mexican food. It's hotter than the typical Arizona-Sonora style of Mexican food, but LDM is a Phoenix institution. It's just under a mile from your hotel. You could walk all the way along Washington St. or take light rail to 12th St./Jefferson and then walk two or three blocks to the restaurant.

              Gallo Blanco is an excellent choice for interior Mexican food. It's about a 1/2 mile walk from the Osborn/Central light rail station through a fairly safe (although not very lively) office district.

              Taking the train to 19th Ave / Camelback, you can walk a few blocks to Pepe's Taco Villa. Despite the name, this place is more than just tacos. It's Monterrey-style Mexican food. Try the #14 combo with chicken enchiladas in a mole sauce. For 50 cents more, upgrade from the refritos to the olla beans. I'll be honest in saying the area around 19th Ave / Camelback is a little sketchy -- not enough that you should avoid it, but maybe a good reason to go during the day or with a friend.

              The Pro's Ranch Market at 16th & Roosevelt, also suggested in this thread, is a good option. It's not on the rail line, but you can get there via cab or bus route #10, which stops a few blocks from your hotel. If you choose to get around via rail and bus, I strongly recommend that you buy a three-day pass, which will provide you with unlimited rides for one price (around $10). You can obtain one at Central Station, Central & Van Buren, at one of the fare machines there.

              Beyond Mexican, there are some other places I can recommend for being "typically Phoenician" in other ways. Postino, mentioned elsewhere in this thread, is a winebar that might very well be in any city -- except just the other day a friend of mine was saying (complaining, really) that he thinks every restaurant in town is serving mix-and-match bruschetta these days. If that's true, why not go to the place where it all started (at least started in Phoenix), which is Postino? You'll find the Postino Central location easy to reach by taking light rail to Central Camelback and then walking 1/4 mile north along Central Avenue.

              The mention of Postino makes me think of a way to take this thread in a different direction. A lot of this thread is shaped around the idea of typically Phoenician food, but what if we look at it more in terms of typically Phoenician atmosphere. Lately, we've seen a lot more restaurants open with patios, big garage doors that connect the interior to the patio, etc. Combine those attributes with restorations of mid-century buildings, and you have what I'd consider the best of contemporary Phoenix restaurant design. You'll be here at the perfect time of year to enjoy patio dining, too.

              Some good choices along those lines:

              The Parlor -- craft pizzas, daily pasta specials, etc. -- located at 20th St. & Camelback. Take light rail to Central/Camelback and then transfer to the 39 or 50 buses, or take a cab.

              St. Francis -- modern American food with an emphasis on items roasted in a wood-burning oven. Just two or three blocks east of the Central / Camelback rail station.

              Postino Central -- as mentioned above

          2. re: linguafood

            Agree with others it would be helpful to know where you are staying. Nevertheless, here are some places to start with and some commwents:

            Postino is very good but it could be in any city.

            Second T. Cooks.

            Lon's at the Hermosa Inn is a good choice. Excellent food and the ambiance is wonderful. It's in a historiic ranch house with beautiful grounds. Could be dinner or lunch.

            Los Sombreros is good but I am partial to Barrio Cafe. Others on this site have mixed opinions.

            A good, funky Mexican lunch spot near the airport is the original Carolina's on Mojave St. Chowers love the food. If you didn't know it was great, you'd never try it from the neighborhood and the exterior.

            Another fun Mexican is Amreica's Taco Shop in a small remodeled home on 7th St. North of McDowell. They claim to have the best carne asada in Phoenix. Another lunch spot.

            Vincent's on Camelback is worth a dinner. Chef Vincent Gueritault really was at the epicenter of the southwestern food movement when he married French technique to southwestern ingredients and recipes. Place remains excellent.

            Thke Mission in old town Scottsdale is worth considering.

            Consider a visit to Phoenix Ranch Market. There are many of them but the mother ship on 16th and Roosevelt in central Phoenix is my favorite. It is a fun, friendly and large hispanic market with great prepared food choices around the market. Inexpensive and great variety and a place you'll talk about when you get home.

            At T. Cooks, Lon's, Vincents and even Barrio Cafe, you can spend alot of money on dinner but it's still not in Las Vegas league. You can also eat well for a relatively modest price. There are better restaurants in Phoenix (Binkley's comes to mind of course) but these I think reflect our region best.

            1. re: Phoenix99

              I am bumping up this thread to ask: when you say 'second T. Cook's' do you mean second it as a recommendation (and if so, why?) or do you mean that it is also something that could be in any city?

              I will be in Phoenix in mid-December for a special occaison celebration for some of our dearest friends (who live in Phoenix). We'd like to take them out to dinner one night, somewhere special and celebratory and a bit out of their normal price range, which would be on the lower end. I checked out Binkley's but think that is a bit more than I can spend this time. All of us love food, but the others besides me prefer somewhere that isn't too formal (I am ok with formal service). I love wine, one doesn't drink at all, and two would be just as happy with a great cocktail, so nice drinks and wines by the glass would be a good idea. I'd like great food and lovely atmosphere, with excellent service, but preferably on the casual side.

              I have been interested in Kai in Chandler, but my friends live close to T. Cook's (though I am fairly sure they've never been); and having spent a lot of time in Phoenix I know I won't feel like making the drive to Chandler and back for this dinner.

              I've eaten at Roaring Fork and Cowboy Ciao in Scottsdale and wouldn't necessarily return to either. Los Sombreros was a favorite in the old days but is way too casual. My friends love Durant's for a special occaison but I'd really like to take them somewhere they wouldn't otherwise go. Definitely want quieter than Cowboy C!

              Is T.Cook's the answer, or is there somewhere less obvious to recommend? American, Southwestern or Italian preferred, though I am open to anything if it will hit the right notes of being both very special and not overly formal. Thanks!

              1. re: susancinsf

                I think T. Cooks is a good fit for your criteria. There have been some specific reports about it, lately, all good. I've never been to Kai, but, I think it is more than you want to spend.

                1. re: susancinsf

                  Check out Marcellino's. Italian restaurant that gets a lot of accolades on this board.

                  Marcellino Ristorante
                  7114 E. Stetson Dr. 85251, Old Town Scottsdale, AZ 85251

            2. As a recent visitor, I really enjoyed Los Sombreros on Scottsdale road. Not a fancy-schmancy place, but lots of atmosphere and great mole. Also had huitlacoche (corn fungus) crepes, which I have not seen on the menu before.

              1. Los Dos Molinos on baseline is a great authentic Mexican HOT HOT food...
                I would check out Pizzeria Bianco due to your location and it's only rated the BEST pizza in the nation.
                He has a great lunch spot called Pane Bianco- great sandwiches!
                Lux Coffeebar if you drink coffee.
                Dick's Hideaway for brunch or dinner but very small- New Mexican cuisine

                Pizzeria Bianco
                623 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

                Dick's Hideaway
                6008 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016

                Pane Bianco
                4404 N Central Ave Ste A, Phoenix, AZ 85012

                2 Replies
                1. re: drewb123

                  I would consider the Los Dos Molinos at 1010 E Washington, as it is much closer to your hotel, and probably not as busy. I've heard it's as good as the other locations, but, haven't been there, myself. I have very much enjoyed the Baseline and Mesa locations.

                  1. re: drewb123

                    If you end up at Lux Coffee Bar and are a bran muffin lover, they have the most amazing one I've ever tasted. It's honey glazed and incredibly moist - almost like a desert.

                    Lux Coffeebar
                    4404 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85012

                  2. Gallo Blanco at The Clarendon Hotel/downtown (highly recommend this and definitely budget friendly)
                    Pizzeria Bianco/downtown (if you're a patient person and don't mind waiting)
                    Barrio Cafe ( (less budget friendly but excellent food and atmosphere and not too far from downtown

                    Gallo Blanco Cafe
                    401 W Clarendon Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85013

                    2905 E Skyline Dr Ste 246, Tucson, AZ 85718

                    1. If you decide you really want Middle Eastern, there are a bunch of places in Tempe near Arizona State University that are pretty easy to get to by light rail. My favorites for "standard" items are Phoenicia and Med Fresh (slightly more Turkish influenced), and I also like Tasty Kabob (Iranian, mostly kabobs but some interesting other dishes too, I really like the meatballs in walnut and pomegranate sauce). The first two are in a busy walking area, the third in a boring strip mall. Cafe Istanbul (across the street from Tasty Kabob) has pita sandwiches with various types of sausage and other meats.

                      (The place links aren't working terribly well: Phoenicia is 616 S Forest Ave, and Cafe Istanbul is at 1310 E Apache, NOT in Albuquerque...)

                      Med Fresh
                      414 S Mill Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281

                      Tasty Kabob
                      1250 E Apache Blvd Ste 116, Tempe, AZ 85281

                      Cafe Istanbul
                      1415 Wyoming Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87112