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Crazy long report of Phx, Tuc, Tombstone, Payson

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Had a fun but screwy trip to AZ. The weather didn't cooperate for the northern portion of our trip so no viewing of the Grand Canyon this time but we made due. Started with the choc. chip cookies at the Doubletree Paradise Resort in Scottsdale. Man, those things are good and were basically my lunch before rushing downtown to catch some of the First Fri. art walk. Had no idea it'd be so cold in Phoenix but glad I made it. Then rushed over to Café Boa to meet Rubee and E for dinner which she mentioned already (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/672504).. My two comments would be that I was surprised that the cocktail list had Boston prices ($12) and the pastas, tho fab, weren't warm enough. And our waitress was wonderful but don't ask her for directions. Sat. was a quick trip to Taliesen West and a snack from AJ's market (both cappuccino muffin and ham/cheese croissant were good), plus half an almond brittle cone from the Sugar Bowl which I decided wasn't worth the calories and tossed. After picking up my friend A from the airport, we went to the Los Dos Molinos on Washington St. and split pork adobada tacos. They were huge tacos and pretty tasty, $10.95 plus the chips and salsa were good. Cute place, loud TV with football on. We eventually made our way to Carlsbad Tavern on N. Hayden right before the 6PM cut off for happy hour and had a nice bartender. Tried the prickly pear margarita which was huge, A. had some local beer. The spicy crab cakes on mixed greens with habañero aioli were really good; two mostly crab good sized cakes, lots of salad, and only $4 or 5. We tried to go to both Carolina's and Nogalas Hot Dog cart on Sun. after the Botanical Gardens (where half of Minnesota was visiting before the game) but it was closed so split the chicken, waffles and grits and LoLo's on W. Yuma. Had to wait about 10 min then enjoyed the giant glasses of iced tea and soda with great fried chicken, huge wonderful waffles and decent grits. Thankfully A likes to split everything cuz after hitting the Tempe Arts Fest, we went to Ted's for a dog which wasn't a big deal. I think we were hoping they'd have Sonoran style but it was a good grilled dog in a mushy roll. Later that nite was my "travel agent" dinner and after a cocktail at Kazimierz, we went to FnB. But stupid me thought I was walking into Cowboy Ciao (until I saw the menu wasn't southwestern and our host asked what brought us into this 6 day old restaurant, ha ha). No matter cuz the food was amazing. We sat at the bar watching the chefs and making friends w/ Pavle who from what I've heard is everyone's friend. We split the rock shrimp, perfectly fried with a tasty tartar sauce. He gave us an app of mozzarella w/ rabe that he thought we should try and that was good. I could have easily stopped eating at this point but soldiered on to the wonderful roast chicken with spaetzel. So good, too bad the doggy bag ended up going to waste with all the eating we were doing. A. loved the trout dish with caramelized onions and dill, very rich. We split an apple clafoutis which was just okay but with the quality of food and everything being priced so well, it was a great experience overall.

Next we started the drive to Holbrook, thinking if we went a little east maybe the storm in Flag would be done. Went to Mojo Café on Main St. Payson and split a breakfast burrito. From what we could tell, the place is kind of new and they're getting ready to expand to be more of a real restaurant. There were just 5 tables and I think only a microwave. Not the best but it was fine, the owner was super friendly and two regulars were pretty amusing giving him a hard time. I had read good reviews of the Beeline Café, an old school diner type place on the main highway going thru town so we also stopped there and split a bacon burger w/ guacamale which was okay. The peach pie was good but the bottom crust was a little soggy and I think they mixed applesauce in with the peaches which was odd. Then we started driving into snow and the road was blocked with an accident so we cut our losses and went south to Tombstone. After driving a ton, we had an early dinner in downtown Tombstone, which looks just like every western movie set you've ever seen, at the Longhorn. I've seen some bad Yelp reviews of this place but it wasn't bad and service was friendly. Had chicken fried steak and forgot to ask for gravy on the side but I thought it was tasty, excellent cole slaw, mashed potatoes that I'm not sure were real although A says they were. He had beef stroganoff and didn't seem to have any complaints, meals about $12. After doing a tour in the morning, we hit the OK Café where A had better luck than me. My short stack was very tasteless w/ the thinnest syrup you've ever seen. His breakfast platter of an egg on top of home fries, peppers, onions, ham, was good tho and again, super friendly staff and patrons, everyone joking with each other.

We explored a park in Tucson then stopped at a hot dog cart we saw around Tanque Verde and Grand called Oops. We were hungry and it really hit the spot. It wasn't full on Sonoran, don't think there was bacon, but it had beans and onions, mayo, whatever else it was good. Then we hit happy hour at Chuy's, maybe the one on 22nd St., didn't realize they were a chain (didn't seem like that kind of place). We had very good fried fish tacos for just $.99, decent popcorn shrimp for about $2, and dried out sliders for about $2. More joking with the staff, a good snack. Had a nice drink at the Red Room and saw a show at the Hotel Congress (would have liked to have checked out their restaurant). Other bars we hit were Che, Surly Wench and District (awesome jukebox and 3 pool tables). On the way home we stopped at the In n Out Burger cuz A. had never even heard of them. It was okay until we saw a hair in the fries, he won't be convinced of their greatness. The next day we started with underdone scones and good coffee from Café Passe on 4th Ave. then we got Sonoran dogs and carne asada tacos at both El Guero Canelo and BK Carne Asada & Hot Dogs on S. 12th Ave. I liked BK's better, the dog had more snap and the taco was delicious. They were both fine at El Guero but not as good, each about $4.50 for two items. Then we were going to eat at Barrio Café downtown which was a pretty room and had a great menu but saw WAY too many reviews saying it had gone downhill and they were always out of alcohol (and we knew they had no gin when we stopped in the night before), so we ended up at J Bar at the Westin Resort, pretty far removed from everything. We had a good time but it was a little disappointing after the build up that chef Janos got. Made a needless reservation and ended up at the bar with a friendly worker. . I was a little disappointed in the cranberry habanero margarita which had no spice at all. Split calamari marinated in ginger ale w/ some excellent fried sweet potato. Also an app of lamb and corn tamale pie (both about $8), not a pretty dish but tasty. A. thought the calamari were overdone but tasty. We didn't even need to keep eating but got the sampler platter entrée (bistro filet with garlic mint recado, basil chimichurri on chipotle molasses sweet potatoes; jerked pork with cranberry chutney and smoked poblano crema; Achiote shrimp taco with cilantro chili slaw, salsa fresca, pineapple rikce and jicama orange relish - $18.00). Very nice to split the plates for us and we each got a taco, but it just wasn't that great and way too much food at that point although somehow I did order an excellent warm choc. cake w/ kahlua ice cream (they called it soufflé but not really that consistency). Next morning we went back downtown for breakfast at The Grill on Congress St. They had/have no heat which is a drag, kind of wish we'd gone to B Line or The Cup. Got a single pancake which was very good and A's biscuit and gravy were okay but the gravy wasn't really the light peppery style it should have been.

Now we're back in PHX and start with happy hour at Roaring Fork and a nice citrus mojito, beer and splitting a good sized chicken/pepperjack flatbread which got us ready for the next stop at the bar of Cowboy Ciao. Another beer for A (sorry can't remember all the different ones he tried) and glass of white for me along with a great app of pork belly and cucumber salad plus "duck of the sea", tuna in some duck fat w/ an egg and I can't remember what else. Both about $12, both very good. Loved our bartenders Eric and Sean, gave us some good tips (both Eric and Pavle warned us off Chino Bandido so we never made it there). Eric insisted we try their famous cobb salad made w/ salmon, cous cous, etc. and gave us a little taste of that which was great. And our dining neighbor Steve just wanted a taste of the bread pudding so we got half of that and loved it. It was a great time. Walked around the Thurs. artwalk a little, stopped at Pattie's in Old Town to watch the end of the football game then hit Shady's on E. Indian School. Other bars we hit were Yuka Tap, Hollywood Alley and Gordon Biersch. The last day we had a breakfast sandwich at El Gallo Blanco in our hotel, very tasty sandwich with eggs, pork, sauce. Walked around Heritage Sq. and ran into Marco the bread maker from Pizzeria Bianco so thought about ending the nite there. We took Eric's tip and went to Rito's on 14th St. and split a green burro then off to the Arizona Biltmore to look at the lovely hotel and have a drink on the patio. After some record shopping we had early happy hour at St. Francis on E. Camelback and watched the chefs making their stuff. I had the plum blossom w/ orange vodka, plum wine, basil for $5 which I enjoyed. They offer free bites of homemade chips, nuts and pizza but we wanted to order something. Saw a special app of a little foreign crab, egg, tuna tartare, it sounded interesting but it wasn't quite for me. The egg was done sous vide and a little too cold and gloppy for my taste so A ate that. The crabs were like eating bugs, tuna tartare was good (see pic). On the other hand, the pork we saw looked amazing and the chefs were nice, approved of the eating we had done. After some relaxing, we hit the bar of PastaBar and our very nice bartender Georgia helped with wine choices. Split chitarra alla Amatrician w/guanciale, onion, parsley, hot pepper, tomato. I didn't think it would be tomato sauce as opposed to chunks of tomato which I would have preferred but it was very good pasta and I loved the pork. It was an egg kind of day with a Caesar salad w/ a cooked egg on top and shaved parmesan. I was dying but after walking a bit and a 40 min wait in the friendly bar next door, we managed to eat 2/3 of the Rosa pizza w/ red onion, pistachios, etc at P. Bianco.

Man, that's a lot of eating for 8 days, but I didn't gain any weight!

 
 
 
 
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  1. Fun report, Joanie - I think I gained a couple of pounds just reading it! Next time you're in Tucson, try the scones at Raging Sage, and the breakfast at B-Line (or their fish tacos at lunch).

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    Raging Sage
    Tucson, AZ, Tucson, AZ

    B-Line
    621 N 4th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85705

    1. I was looking forward to your report Joanie. Wow, you did it right. Now I have some new spots to add to my ever-growing list, and I'm jealous you got to FnB before me - serendipitous! Alcachofa is going to be jealous you had a 40-minute wait for Pizzeria Bianco (the Rosa is one of my faves too), as we had a 3-4 hour wait so decided to go to Cowboy Ciao on their last visit from Boston.

      I've been wanting to get to PastaBar, Gallo Blanco, Happy Hour at Roaring Fork, and check out the Arizona Biltmore, so I'm glad you enjoyed those spots. I also like how creative the menu at St. Francis sounds. You just moved it up my list. Those tiny crunchy crabs look like a favorite snack at Sushi Samba when I used go to South Beach - Sawagani or Japanese river crabs.

      Great to see you on this trip!

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      Cowboy Ciao
      7133 East Stetson Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

      Pizzeria Bianco
      623 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

      Pasta Bar
      705 N 1st Street 110, Phoenix, AZ 85004

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

      1 Reply
      1. re: Rubee

        The bartender at the P. Bianco bar was telling us that some people waited 4 hrs and I didn't really believe him. That's insane. I tried to add (but the edit wasn't working) that I thought the pizza was v. good but it's not worth waiting that long altho Marco was so nice, I'm glad we went. Regina and the New Haven places are equal and probably others in Phoenix. Getting there at 9:50 may help for next time.