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Sep 8, 2012 05:51 PM

Return to Phoenix

I've been away from Phoenix for 2 years (Seattle) but will be moving back at the end of this month. I've been keeping up with this board but I hadn't really expected to be back in Phoenix so soon, so I'm sure there's a lot of info that has slipped past me or that I don't remember.

So I'm asking you, kind Phoenix 'hounds, to help sum things up for me: what places have cropped up in the past two years that are worth checking out? I'm going to be fairly poor for a while following the move (tho' I won't rule out an occasional splurge) so inexpensive-to-moderate places preferred. I'll be living in Central Phoenix but my job takes me all over the Valley so anywhere goes, and am open to pretty much any type of food.

The new (or newish) places I tried before I left in 2010 were Nobuo (terrific, tho' a bit of a splurge; I look forward to trying it for lunch) and Maui Dogs (am sad that it's already gone; I was looking forward to going back).

And heck, even if it's not new, if there's somewhere you love (esp. if it's somewhere that doesn't get a lot of mention here on the board) that you feel deserves mention, I could probably use a few reminders.

Thanks, all!

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  1. Welcome home, Bax.

    Not been a fan of Nobuo lately, the quality has declined IMHO. It was good when it first opened.
    You'll be in my hood, so I think these places opened since you left: Bigger Lux now serving hot food and alcohol; expanded Pane though now it's on summer menu/hours but during the rest of the year it had been serving pastas of the day and pizza; froyo place Twist, and Citizens has replaced Lola's Coffee. I haven't tried it yet because my hours never seem to coincide with theirs. Sochu House opened on Central/Thomas but I'm waiting for it to work out kinks. Its opening means Sens has closed. And the Public Market has closed as well, though food truck wednesdays (dinner) and fridays (lunch) appear to be popular and every time I go, more trucks show up.

    1. I've been here 2 months now - moved from Ohio - and have found the dining scene to be quite good thus far. Having traveled extensively and dined at some of the best in the states I will comfortably endorse Dottie's True Blue (SF import) as a top-10 in the US breakfast spot while also throwing all sorts of praise at all three Bianco spots (Pane, Pizzeria, and Italian Restaurant), noca, Distrito, Binkley's, Kai, Davanti Enoteca, Christopher's, and Citizen Public House.

      Spaces where you can selectively work through the menu and do nicely include Parlor, Pomo, La Condessa, Morning Glory Cafe.

      Glad to have another hound back in the area - trying to breathe some life back into this board!

      1 Reply
      1. re: uhockey

        I've missed Pane Bianco! I'm excited that he's expanded his Phoenix offerings (new hours, new dishes, new restaurant). But looking at the Pane menu online it looks like there are specific "Market" sandwiches for specific days now? If so that's good because you know you can "x" sandwich every Tuesday (or whatever), but bad because I don't see my favorite (sausage) on there! I'm hoping he changes things up from time to time.

        I was sad to read that the Public Market had closed -- I had some good sandwiches, etc. there before I left town (figured the grocery part probably wouldn't make it, tho'). But I believe it'll be re-opened as a restaurant at some point?

        Uhockey, I have enjoyed reading your reviews (both Phoenix & Seattle) and look forward to more (it HAS been dead around here lately!). Alas many of the places you've mentioned are a little above my current budget but maybe after I work and save a while.... I did enjoy Parlor before I left, had a couple of good visits to La Condessa, & had one delightful visit to Noca (back before all the chef changes & such. They were just getting ready to roll out lunches when I left, so I look forward to being able to try 'em for lunch).

        I'm looking forward to getting back to some of my favorite Phoenix restaurants/dishes. And I've gotta say, as great as dining/drinking in Seattle has been, there's nothing here quite like a Chino Bandido jade red chicken quesadilla (ha!).

        Thanks you two; looking forward to more recommendations!

      2. In addition to the excellent recs above, I'll add Crudo to the list. I dined there a few weeks ago when I was in Phoenix. It is my understanding that they used to be located in Scottsdale but relocated to 36th street and Indian School a few months back. The multi-course offerings were priced reasonably. Good food with my only gripe being their (liberal) use of truffle oil.
        Aiello's closed a while back, but I have heard rumors of them planning a new location somewhere along Central.
        Not sure if it was here when you left, but the Posino guys opened a new place a couple years ago across the street from Postino on Central called Windsor. The drinks and setting are great and although the food isn't spectacular, it's not bad. I would be there more often if it was a few blocks closer to me. Good casual neighborhood spot.
        Astor house is also a neighborhood spot that opened a little while back. Located in Coronado and owned by the same guys that run Tuck Shop. It's right next door to Tuck so should be convenient for you to pop in there since you mentioned that you'll be living in Central Phoenix.

        1. Nobu at Teeter House.


          1. Bax,

            Some things have changed. Not sure of the exact timing, relative to when you were here, and now, but I have seen many chef-driven restaurants fade away, to be replaced by absentee "noted" chef steakhouses. It now seems that if one is looking for something but a Las Vegas steakhouse, they are almost out of luck.

            Though I have not done the very latest chef's fare at NOCA, it sounds like it is still doing well. Need to rectify things a bit.

            I still like Deseo at the Westin Kireland, and the Roy's at the Marriott is one of the best in the US chain (I like more in the US, than in Hawai`i).

            Still, the restaurant "scene" here has changed, and I do not feel that it is for the better. Some old favorites, like Vincent's on Camelback, T. Cooks, and Lon's, have reinvented themselves, and our "jury" is still out on each.

            Sorry to be so dour, but we are not happy with how things have shaken out.

            Kai's is still great, and though we have not been up to Binkley's recently, the reports are still good.

            We used to hate that we were flying off to wherever, and missing the food in Phoenix, but not so much anymore.

            Things change, and not always for the better. If one loves Las Vegas steakhouses, there will be no shortage here now. Other than that, pickings are rather slim, IMHO.

            Welcome back though,


            33 Replies
            1. re: Bill Hunt

              That's too bad. It was looking like Phx's food scene was filled with so much talent and innovation.
              Do you attribute this to a "brain drain" (in terms of chefs, of course)? And/or a lack of demand for top-notch fare?


              1. re: globocity

                Lets just say there are those of us who disagree with Mr. Hunt and find the local scene to be quite exciting and full of great chef's, fantastic local produce and proteins, and interesting cuisine.


                1. re: uhockey

                  Oh I DO seek out local chefs, and try to support them, when in town, but see many not doing so well, though they should.

                  I hope that I am very wrong, but, given the trend to "absentee noted chef's," and their steakhouses everywhere, I just do not observe patrons supporting chef-driven locations, as they once did. Many have passed into history.

                  Nowadays, people are flocking to a BourbonSteak, or similar, and are missing some great chefs, and great restaurants - though fewer, than in a couple of years past.

                  Heck, I can do BourbonSteak (and I do enjoy Chef Mina's fare elsewhere), in at least four major cities. Why would I dine there in Phoenix, unless all other chefs have been phased out?


                2. re: globocity

                  Personally, I attribute it to a major change in what patrons want - cheap, very casual dress, and little care, beyond what one is comfortable with - say Morton's in PHX, or Chicago, or NYC, or, really anywhere.

                  Phoenix is becoming a wasteland of "corporate steakhouses," and the individual chef is not getting much love.

                  I hope that I am wrong, and that there ARE some, who appreciate a chef with great talent, but I am just not seeing it.

                  Phoenix is not unique. I see similar on many other boards. People would rather dine at restaurants, that are just like what they have in Boston, or Tulsa, and do not care for local cuisine, anymore.


                3. re: Bill Hunt

                  "...and the individual chef is not getting much love."

                  They're getting plenty of love, Bill, just not from you. I think what you misidentify as a decline in the quality of local dining is no more than a shift in the style and diversity of where our chefs are focusing their efforts. Just because they're not serving the kind of food you want to eat in the kind of room where you want to eat it doesn't mean it isn't excellent, and doesn't mean those chefs don't exist and aren't being appreciated by plenty of others. Places like Kai and Binkley's are outstanding, but they haven't cornered the market on outstanding food. There's great stuff happening at all levels of refinement, at all price points, in all kinds of styles, in all kinds of rooms, and I think the willingness of the crop of up-and-coming chefs to embrace that diversity rather than always adhering to a rigid concept of what a "serious" chef does and letting their importance be defined by their glassware and flatware and napkin color is to their credit.

                  If I presume too much, then I apologize. I'm just forced to conclude that if the Vincent's and Lon's and T. Cook's of half a decade ago are the gold standard against which the current state of Phoenix cuisine is a grand disappointment, you're either not looking very hard or dismissing an awful lot of stuff out of hand.

                  1. re: Dmnkly

                    Amen Dominic. I gave up on Chowhound - same responses to the same questions about a food scene that evolved but Chowhounds were stuck in a time warp. I started a blog and killed my blog. And in that time the Phx food scene has taken on a life of its own. Will there always be a time and a place for the Vincent's, Kai's, Lon's etc of the world? Sure there will. But the vibrancy in the Phx food scene resides almost EXCLUSIVELY with the smaller chef driven restaurants. Dominic NAILS it. Years ago people routinely lamented that Phx didn't have the "cool" places that "felt" like SF and NY. Sure, it's spread out here but those places ARE here now and it's people like Dominic who have sought them out and given them the exposure they need. "Little care" Hunt? You've GOT to be kidding me. These chef-driven places that allegedly don't exist or don't qualify care more than anyone...their entire life savings depends on the success or failure of the joint!

                    The train has already left the station, Hunt. People don't eat like they used to. And the market has responded accordingly. And just because that market isn't full of high end multi course wine-heavy extravaganzas (with a pedestal for my wife's purse) any more, it doesn't mean that the food scene has in any way lost its luster.

                    IMHO, it's better than ever. 10 years ago it was hard to fit a mobile phone in your glove compartment. Now you can fit it into your pocket and it does more than ever. Things change, and different is good.

                    Just my $0.02.

                    Eric aka EricEatsOut

                    1. re: ejs1492

                      While I tend to agree with both Eric and Dominic here it would still be hard to say that Phoenix lives up to the likes of Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Philadelphia - but with that said, in terms of diversity and small chef driven spots it certainly trumps many cities its size and larger.

                      While I am all for the big, extravagant meal and very much down on the corporate Steakhouse it isn't like those big corporate spots are any less dominant in the major cities - no matter where you go one has to look to find the gems.


                      1. re: ejs1492


                        That is fine.

                        As I said, most want the comfort of what they know at home. If that is Morton's, then so be it.


                      2. re: Dmnkly

                        Not sure where you are coming from, as we attempt to support the local chefs, when in Phoenix. You must have confused me with someone else?

                        While I have done glowing reviews of meals at Vincent's on Camelback, and also T.Cook's, with recs. in many threads, I have not been so pleased with some of the menu changes, and recent visits.


                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          "It now seems that if one is looking for something but a Las Vegas steakhouse, they are almost out of luck."

                          "If one loves Las Vegas steakhouses, there will be no shortage here now. Other than that, pickings are rather slim, IMHO."

                          ^^^ That's where I'm coming from.

                          Josh Hebert
                          Shinji Kurita
                          Cullen Campbell
                          Charleen Badman
                          Lan Ha
                          Matt Taylor
                          Matt Carter
                          Chris McKinley
                          Nobuo Fukuda
                          Giovanni Scorzo
                          Sun Johnson
                          Nick Rocha
                          Chris Bianco
                          Peter DeRuvo
                          Lori Hashimoto
                          Syed Zaidi
                          Justin Beckett
                          Hanna Gabrielsson
                          Keenan Bosworth
                          Joshua Riesner

                 scads more I'm going to be embarrassed to have omitted in my haste to post this, plus scads more whose food I haven't even managed to try yet despite eating myself into oblivion since arriving here, are just some of the young chefs and older chefs with new projects over the past few years who are given the billing of "slim pickings" above.

                          I understand that you're trying to express your disappointment that local independents aren't better supported. But when you do so by speaking of a list like this -- even hasty and heavily abbreviated as it is -- as nothing worth mentioning, that's an awful lot of exciting fresh talent and an awful lot of outstanding food coming out of restaurants that have just opened in the past few years to be writing off as a tragic paucity of non-steakhouse fare.

                          I'm just completely flabbergasted that somebody could look at the openings of the past few years and think to himself, "Oh, yeah, ho hum, some corporate steakhouses, not much else, sorry to disappoint you." For somebody who is a self-professed supporter of the local scene, you do a remarkable job of routinely speaking as though so many of its recently unearthed treasures don't even exist. What I can't figure out is whether that's because you don't think they're making noteworthy food, or because you haven't even bothered to try them. Either way, I find that both wrongheaded and sad. I would hope that Bax or anybody else reading here checks some of these places out rather than accepting your truly baffling assertion that, gosh darn it, the restaurants in this town just ain't what they used to be.

                          1. re: Dmnkly

                            Well, when most of the more recent openings are "cookie-cutter," "absentee chef," "expense account" steakhouses, where many local, chef-driven places have been closed, what is one to think?


                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              In that situation, I'd say one should probably check his GPS to make sure we're talking about the same city, here.

                              Maybe all these places are just completely off your radar, Bill. I don't know how, since they've all received extensive press -- even mainstream press -- but either you're reading about places and thinking to yourself, "Oh, well, THAT doesn't count," or we're working with two completely different data sets here. If half of the names on that list above don't look familiar to you, perhaps that would explain it. Make you a deal. Take restaurants that opened in 2010-2012. For every absentee chef corporate steakhouse you name, I'll name five local independents that opened or retooled under a new chef in the same timeframe that are serving great food, making Phoenix a more exciting place to eat, and entirely worthy of the attention of somebody who's been away for a few years. Pretty sure I could do ten per, but I don't want to over-commit :-)


                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                (P.S., I'm wondering about the dearly departed restaurants you refer to... which closures of the past three years do you feel have been a great loss?)

                                1. re: Dmnkly

                                  i think Marquesa and Mary Elaines come to mind, but they're more than made up for by the new local chef's listed above, and even a resurgence of local stalwarts like Tarbell, Gross, Matney, May, etc. The new clusters of independents along Indian School, along Central and Downtown, and even out in the east valley are fantastic. the big guns open here because it's the 6th largest metro area in the country with a major resort scene, but the local flavor is so enjoyable and vibrant. I think Bill's viewpoint was valid a couple of years ago, but as the economy has started to come back the chef driven independents are springing up everywhere.

                                  1. re: kmarg

                                    Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Marquesa and Mary Elaine's both shut down over five years ago?

                                    Bill, when you talk about so many great local restaurants closing and "mostly" absentee chef steakhouses taking their place, are we really talking about one great local restaurant (Mary Elaine's) closing down and one absentee chef steakhouse (J&G) taking its place, and using that (and maybe one or two other examples) to generalize about the entire city while completely ignoring the scads of interesting openings of the past few years?

                                    1. re: Dmnkly

                                      I just added another one to Kmarg's list.


                                    2. re: kmarg

                                      Another quick one would the Arizona Room.

                                      There might be an influx of chef-driven restaurants, over what we have seen (a very good thing), but when the vast majority of higher-end restaurants ARE famous-chef steakhouses, I still wonder.

                                      Actually, I felt badly for the various investors, as those steakhouses probably sounded like a good thing, at the time, but most came on line, AFTER the crash. Glad that I did not sink money into any of them.


                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                        "...but when the vast majority of higher-end restaurants ARE famous-chef steakhouses, I still wonder."

                                        Aaaaaahhh, see, this is what I was wondering, above. There's that pesky "higher-end restaurants" qualifier.

                                        So when you talk about how disappointing the Phoenix restaurant scene has been the past few years, and how everything is getting crowded out by steakhouses, what you're *really* talking about is one *narrow segment* of the city's restaurant scene, and you're using that to generalize about the vast, diverse combination of restaurants of all types and all styles at all price points. You have not stated it directly, but there's a crystal clear implication there, Bill:

                                        What matters most when judging a city's food scene is its upscale and fine dining.

                                        Nevermind creative chefs making wildly creative, refined food in casual surroundings. Nevermind those running irregular pop-ups. Nevermind those embracing the minimal, simplifying process and technique as a matter of philosophy. Nevermind those running food trucks, focusing on making perfect versions of three or four soulful items. Nevermind those bringing stunning renditions of traditional international foods to us for the first time. Nevermind restaurateurs working to capture their neighborhoods rather than capturing John Mariani. Nevermind growers, cheesemakers, and ranchers providing our restaurants with ever-improving ingredients.

                                        Nevermind that all of those pieces of the Phoenix food scene have become more diverse, exciting and vibrant over the past three years. In your estimation, there's been a downtick in the handful of restaurants that represent the most expensive and picturesque part of the spectrum, therefore the past few years have been a big disappointment, and when somebody asks what's new and interesting, the answer is not much, sorry to disappoint you.

                                        Subtext: What MATTERS is upscale dining. The rest? Whatever.

                                        Whether that's what you intend -- whether you even realize it -- THAT'S what you're saying, Bill. And it's an embarrassingly narrow lens through which to misrepresent what is, if you'd been paying attention, a rich and diverse food culture that's getting more interesting every day. And to be clear, this is absolutely NOT some anti-upscale manifesto. I wager I get just as excited by an amazing fine dining restaurant as you. But if multiple courses of high process, carefully plated, probably European-rooted expensive food with fine glassware and the proper color napkins is the *only* thing that gets you excited, I personally think that's absurd, but fine, we all have our preferences. Understand, though, that when you routinely speak of your preferred slice of the pie as though it's the only one that exists, and blithely gloss over the hundreds (thousands?) of talented people who have, despite your insistence, made Phoenix a far more interesting and delicious food city than it was three years ago, you're not only grossly misleading those who aren't so laser focused, but you also, quite frankly, insult all of those extremely talented cooks and chefs and food producers whom you arrogantly dismiss as "slim pickings."

                                        I don't work in the industry, but every day I see that passion and excellence to which you're inexplicably blind, and I can't just let it go without a response.

                                        THAT'S where I'm coming from.

                                        1. re: Dmnkly

                                          This has all been fun reading. Thanks Dom! The kinds of restaurants Bill misses/laments are the kind at which I can't afford to eat anyway, so it's certainly nice to get another view of the matter.

                                          1. re: Bax

                                            Funny thing is, nostalgia is a seductive liar. For me, many of the hottest restaurants of the past, are not nearly as interesting or good as what is offered today.
                                            I have watched the local dining scene evolve and greatly improve over the last 5 years.
                                            The quality of ingredients, and the skill set of the culinary workforce is unsurpassed. Change is a good thing, it brings in new ideas and POV.... "you can't have a better tomorrow if you are thinking about yesterday all the time".

                                            1. re: mdietrich

                                              Oh, I agree. Things change.

                                              This is an on-going conversation on the New Orleans Board too.

                                              What worked when, might not work now.

                                              While I get the opportunity to sample various culinary diversions, around the globe, I still have many, more traditional favorites.

                                              I do admit to having favorites, but such is life. I enjoy, what I enjoy. To win me over, one needs to do something special. Some do, but most do not. Being "new," having the "buzz," and being featured in the latest edition of ___, is just not enough, at least for me. I need to encounter something real, far beyond the "buzz." Others, however, flock to the "buzz," like moths to a flame.


                                            2. re: Bax

                                              The price-point is an issue, but great food, in a chef-driven restaurant is another.

                                              Losing great restaurants, to corporate dictates, and decisions, is what I rail against.

                                              OK, so some new folk come in, with a concept to go against Chili's, I am not likely to follow along, unless they are close to me, and fit into the cuisine that I enjoy.

                                              If a high-end restaurant, with a vaunted reputation, is replaced by a "cookie-cutter steakhouse," then I take notice.

                                              It is very, very seldom, that a high-end, chef-driven restaurant is replaced by a Houston's, or similar. They are usually replaced by a high-end steakhouse, and that is where I have an issue.

                                              Some seem happy to have a Morton's of Chicago on every corner, or a Ruth's Steakhouse every three blocks. I lament the loss of great, chef-driven restaurants, and no one seems capable of understanding that. Guess that they just want a few dozen expense account steakhouses, with famous names attached. I question is, how many of those does a city, like Phoenix need. Obviously, from the responses, many more than we have.

                                              What I decry is the loss of great, individual restaurants, for some corporate idea of what each restaurant should be.

                                              Still, many do not see that as a problem, as they bow to the corporate mentality that some chef's name is greater than the product served.

                                              They are welcome to their opinion, but I share a different one. That is life.


                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                ...I'm confused - Dmnkly is clearly pointing out that the scene is evolving TOWARDS great, chef-driven restaurants and that the trend is actually moving away from the Morton's, Ruth's, etc.


                                                1. re: uhockey

                                                  I just have not encountered that trend, but maybe have been in the air too much? While there have been some strides in that direction, those that I have tried, have been rather disappointing.

                                                  Hope that I am wrong, and just one who harbors doubts. Will keep trying, when in Phoenix.


                                              2. re: Dmnkly

                                                The availability of fine dining is a perfectly legitimate concern for the local scene. The comfort food scene is very over done lately, as most people point out we could use more high end ethnic and differing regional foods to round out the mix in town, I struggle to find destination restaraunts for special occasions or even just something nice for my girlfriend's birthday. as Bill rightly laments, we end up at BLT when we'd like to be at something like Marquesa used to be.

                                                1. re: kmarg

                                                  I said the same myself in this thread three months ago, kmarg (before pointedly suggesting a great many restaurants of other types), and if it had been phrased that way from the get go there'd be no argument here. The issue is this absurd laser focus on fine dining, and the inherent implication that everything else is less "serious" or less valuable, or less meaningful to the local scene. The question was what's new and interesting since I left, and the answer given was basically nothing, sorry dude.

                                                  It's also telling that many of those who lament the supposed decline of fine dining here make no mention of ShinBay. Absolutely stunning, refined food, impeccably sourced, extensive omakase, elegant room, plenty expensive for those who mistake expense for "seriousness"... so why mum on ShinBay? Because it isn't French?

                                                  It's a really tired, antiquated, narrow, and ultimately destructive way of looking at food that sells this city short (as it would in any city) and makes it that much harder for great stuff to take root. The health of the fine dining scene relative to how it was five years ago, as you say, is a perfectly legitimate topic. But that wasn't the question, and I think you misrepresent Bill's response.

                                                  To recap, the question:

                                                  "...what places have cropped up in the past two years that are worth checking out?"

                                                  And the answer:

                                                  "Things change, and not always for the better. If one loves Las Vegas steakhouses, there will be no shortage here now. Other than that, pickings are rather slim, IMHO."

                                                  Flat out absurd. And insulting.

                                                  1. re: kmarg

                                                    P.S., though I agree that "comfort food" is frustratingly over-represented at the moment, some of the places producing it are fabulous. One would do well not to simply dismiss them, either.

                                                    1. re: kmarg

                                                      While I live in Phoenix, I have to admit that I now dine in San Francisco and London, more than back home - Phoenix.

                                                      While sad (to me), that is how reality works.

                                                      What I once knew, has been changed, and changed greatly. The chefs, who I followed have, too often, moved one to one coast, or another.

                                                      Do I care who the "chef du cuisine" is at the McDonald's up the road? No. Do I care who the "chef du cuisine" is at A Different Pointe of View, about the same distance as the McDonald's? Of course I do.

                                                      Do I care if a long-standing Phoenix restaurant becomes an "absentee chef, expense account steakhouse?" Yes.

                                                      Now, if the entire world wants nothing but "absentee chef, expense account, steakhouses" everywhere, and nothing else, that is the vote of the buying public, and they are welcome to them.


                                                    2. re: Dmnkly

                                                      Well, as you seem to have focused on "five years," do you not see a major issue with the chefs, that you have listed?

                                                      I mean that if a chef has been in the Valley for 10 years, but has only recently moved, or changed restaurants, does that qualify?

                                                      Personally, I think that you are over thinking this, to support your point of view, but that is typical.

                                                      Yes, there ARE new, and very accomplished chefs, who have recently come to the Valley, but then, there are many, who have left, for "greener pastures." I lament some of those.

                                                      If you factor OUT, the chefs, who have just move around, who do you recommend, in this "new" trend?"


                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                        I took that five years from you, Bill. Mary Elaine's and Marquesa both closed over five years ago. You're the one who's referencing things that happened *half a decade* ago. The OP actually was asking about the last TWO years, though I mistakenly referenced three at times.

                                                        "I mean that if a chef has been in the Valley for 10 years, but has only recently moved, or changed restaurants, does that qualify?"

                                                        Exactly. You're the one saying they're leaving or closing. If they've simply moved on to a new project, that isn't leaving, is it?

                                                        "If you factor OUT, the chefs, who have just move around, who do you recommend, in this "new" trend?""

                                                        Off the top of my head in about 30 seconds, I already gave you a starting list of 20 people who, in the past 2-3 years, have opened great new places or taken on new projects for which "worth checking out" is a gross understatement. But if you're willing to help out a bit, I'll name a whole lot more if you like!

                                                        You have yet to name one steakhouse. I stand by my earlier suggestion. For every steakhouse opening of the past 2-3 years you name, I'll name five great new local independents making our food scene more interesting and delicious, and I'll shoot for ten. You said "if one is looking for something but a Las Vegas steakhouse, they are almost out of luck," and "most of the more recent openings are 'cookie-cutter,' 'absentee chef,' 'expense account' steakhouses," and "other than that, pickings are rather slim." If that's so, I have to go at least 5:1, and this should be incredibly easy for you, right? So let's hear 'em. Let's hear about this massive glut of imported steak that's crowded out all of the worthwhile new offerings in a metro area of 4.3 million people and turned the local food scene into a big disappointment. Which steakhouses?