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If I go to Phoenix, AZ what kind of foods are the known for? Thank you.

I am a director at a food service company and I enjoy teaching children and clients about U.S. cities and the foods that they are known for. Any information would be gladly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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  1. The cliche is that if one comes to Phoenix, one must eat Mexican food. That's somewhat true, but there are many nuances to that aspect of our food.

    Phoenix has traditionally been represented by a style of border food known as "Sonoran," named after the Mexican state that borders Arizona. That means flour tortillas, refried beans, melted cheese, etc. Quintessential dishes found in old-school Mexican restaurants here would include chimichangas (deep-fried burritos) or burritos served enchilada style (covered with sauce and melted cheese). It's also quite common in Arizona to refer to burritos as "burros."

    More recently, migrations of populations from other portions of Mexico (Jalisco, Oaxaca, DF, etc.) have broadened the base of Mexican restaurants here to include more seafood, tortas, corn tortillas, whole beans, etc. As a result, we have more authentic interior Mexican restaurants existing side-by-side with old-school border restaurants.

    We also have a significant Native American tradition here. The most popular manifestation is fry bread, a food originally made from rationed commodities and now ubiquitous at fairs and festivals. There are a few restaurants that serve it all the time, most notably the Fry Bread House and Sacred Hogan. At the higher end, some restaurants like Kai serve food based on native traditions and ingredients but with a lighter preparation and more formal presentation.

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    Fry Bread House
    4140 N 7th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85013

    Sacred Hogan
    842 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85014

    1. As a native I'll comment more on what really grows here and the type of food I think is influenced although exit2lef is spot on about the mexican and native cuisine.

      Anything that grows well in the Mediterranean grows well in AZ too. Olives, Citrus, etc are very abundant and we have our strongest growing season when the rest of the country is dormant. I've noticed alot of Mediterranean (i.e. Greek, Lebanese, etc) type restaurants and markets pop up over the last decade and many of them are quite good.

      Also worth noting is we have a burgeoning wine growing region - two in fact. The varietals that seem to do well are also Mediterranean grapes.

      This may not be what AZ is known for but anyone who lives here would notice the abundance of it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: desertdweller

        Very well spoken Exit2Lef and DesertDweller. Since it's been on TV and written media all over, I have to add Bianco's pizza. I've never had it nor will I since I have no desire to wait in line for pizza, but maybe the OP could get some inspiration out of that direction. (S)He is obviously a teacher.

      2. One thing that seems somewhat peculiar (although by no means "exclusive") to Phoenix is machaca -- both by itself, with eggs and other accompaniments, or in a taco or burrito.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit

          Oh ya! One interesting thing I read recently about Machaca is its a pretty ancient recipe. Although back before modern times the meat was stewed like it is now but then laid out in the sun to dry - kinda like a shredded beef jerky. It traveled across the hot desert really well when horseback/wagon was the preferred method of transportation.

          Oh and Carolina's has my favorite!

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          Carolina's Mexican North
          2126 E Cactus Rd Ste 100, Phoenix, AZ 85022

          1. re: desertdweller

            Carolina's does indeed have the best machaca. The one on East Mohave is better than the one on East Cactus - in SO's humble opinion.

        2. No Sonoran hot dogs? Or do you guys think of that as a Tucson thing?

          2 Replies
          1. re: Dmnkly

            I don't think the Sonoran dog belongs to Tucson. Isn't there a place on E Indian School in Phoenix that makes them? It's been awhile since I've been there.

            1. re: JerryMe

              Nogales Hot Dogs. Corner of Indian School and 20th St.

              I didn't mean to suggest that Tucson might have *ownership*, per se... just wondering if it's more closely identified with Tuscon. I'm making no suggestion, I'm genuinely curious.

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              Nogales Hot Dogs
              1945 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

          2. Well, there are several AZ "cuisines." First, and has been well-chronicled by others, there is the indigenous cuisine. One probably needs to add in some New Mexican influences, as well.

            Then, there is a more modern cuisine, that borrows from other regions and other cultures. Early restaurants were designed for either a local trade, or a resort trade. As the major resorts grew, they brought in chefs from around the world, as they had the budget, and the clientele to support them. Some of these chefs stayed, and opened up their own restaurants. Some, like Chef Vincent Guerithault added the Southwest cuisine and treatments to his classical French cooking, winning a James Beard Award along the way.

            Many other chefs stopped into the Valley of the Sun, on their way between coasts, and contributed to the scene, as well.

            Over the years, Phoenix has become a great city for dining, but much is different than the indigenous cuisine.

            My answer is that you will need to define which you are asking about.

            Good luck,

            Hunt

            1. Prickly pear cactus. Can be used in food and in drinks. A really cool native plant that indigenous people have used for a long time. Is it time for margheritas?

              8 Replies
              1. re: danieli10

                Any versions of prickly pear dishes or drinks that you'd recommend? Extra points if near downtown.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Nopal tostadas at la Tolteca, just east of Downtown.

                  1. re: exit2lef

                    Cool beans, does the nopal tostada at La Tolteca use the cactus paddle or the prickly pear fruit?
                    http://latoltecamex.com

                    The website does not indicate hours, and the phone number listed rolled to a fax line when I tried to call now. Is it open on Sundays?

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                    La Tolteca
                    1205 E Van Buren St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Cactus pads, I believe. It looks like strips of bell pepper, but with a tangier taste. Last time I checked, La Tolteca was open Sundays from 9 AM until 7 PM. It never ceases to amaze me how many restaurant Web sites omit or hide hours of business.

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                      La Tolteca
                      1205 E Van Buren St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

                      1. re: exit2lef

                        Thanks, sounds like the cactus paddles. Would love to hear about any places using the fruits too.

                        Any words of wisdom for Sacred Hogan?

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Nopales are the paddles. Las tunas are the fruits. Except as jelly, I've never seen tunas in a restaurant.

                          1. re: noshoes

                            Thanks, just had a prickly pear margarita at the Cafe at the Heard Museum, made with prickly pear syrup and 100% agave. It was tinted pink so I believe made with las tunas.

                            -----
                            Cafe at the Heard Museum
                            2301 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004

                  2. re: Melanie Wong

                    Prickly pear is usually seen in some abundance in the Summer - love the Margaritas... !

                    Not sure exactly how "seasonal" the dishes might be. Unfortunately, I do not have any downtown PHX recs., but will bet that others will. I'd post that to your other thread, as quite a few subscribers seem to get out, much more than I have, at least lately, when I have dined more in London, than PHX.

                    Good luck, travel safely and most of all - ENJOY!

                    Hunt