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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!

      http://endoedibles.com

      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.

          Posh

          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,

            Hunt

            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?

              Cheers.

              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.

                http://endoedibles.com

                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?

                  Hunt

                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.

                  Hunt

                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.

                      http://endoedible.com

                      1. re: ejs1492

                        Eric,

                        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.

                        Hunt

                      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.

                        Hunt

                        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

                          ...plus 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?

                            Hunt

                            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 :-)

                              Go!

                              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.

                                      Hunt

                                    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.

                                      Hunt

                                      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.

                                              Hunt

                                            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.

                                              Hunt

                                              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.

                                                http://endoedibles.com

                                                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.

                                                  Hunt

                                              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.

                                                      Hunt

                                                    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?"

                                                      Hunt

                                                      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?

                                    3. You might try St. Francis on Camelback near Central. Its reasonably priced, especially at happy hour and the rustic preparations of farm-to-table ingredients in their wood fired oven is pretty good. I like the modern, slightly rustic decor, too.

                                      23 Replies
                                      1. re: mwest9

                                        I think St. Francis has been around for awhile. I moved here in 2009 and I recall eating there my first year. I've not had good meals there though, so I wouldn't recommend. It's more of a scenester restaurant. The service was appalling the last time - I had a reservation, was early but was still asked to wait more than 45 minutes - and none of my friends liked anything they got as an entree. And there were 8 of us, and only 2 ppl ordered the same thing, so..

                                        1. re: morninglemon

                                          Yeah, St. Francis was around when I was there but I never got around to trying it. Maybe it was the mixed reviews...I've been tempted to try the happy hour, tho'.

                                          I've appreciated all the responses so far (thank you!) tho' many of them are a little higher price point than I'd hoped. I'm on a pretty "starving artist" budget. Well...better than store-bought ramen for every meal, but not exactly Noca/Kai/Binkley territory either. Still, it's all good information.

                                          1. re: Bax

                                            "I've appreciated all the responses so far (thank you!) tho' many of them are a little higher price point than I'd hoped."

                                            That's really been the focus on this board since you left. To me, the exciting openings of the past couple of years have mostly been in little family-run ethnic joints, and that's usually cheaper if you're going to be budget-conscious for a while, anyway. With the mainstream stuff, everybody's too scared stiff to go out on a limb (not without reason), so all of the new openings have been "upscale comfort food" or Italian-inspired. Some of it's very good. But with the mainstream stuff, it's been one clone after another. I exaggerate a little, but not much. When Phoenix Mag did their 25 best new restaurants last week (completely ignoring some of the best, IMHO), they came right out and called out the local scene for playing it safe. The interesting stuff has definitely been off the beaten path. Some favorite openings of the past two years:

                                            Chou's Kitchen
                                            Down in Chandler, it's a little Chinese joint focused on Dongbei, the food of northeastern China... heavy on buns and breads, pickles, hot pots -- hearty stuff -- with Korean and Mongolian influences. Some of it's really good, and it's certainly unique in town. Ipsedixit will probably chime in with the dissent, but I've really enjoyed the beef pies, spicy noodles, the meatball with napa cabbage clay pot, all of the vegetables I've had -- there's some really good stuff here. They've expanded the menu to add a bunch of non-Dongbei dishes since opening -- I've seen them trying to work the crowd, hooking them with the Americanized dishes and then steering them towards the more accessible Dongbei dishes -- but all of the original menu plus some more Dongbei dishes are still on offer. No website, but I got a good scan of the menu and posted it here: http://bit.ly/OnViWE

                                            Cafe Ga Hyang
                                            It's been around since you left, but about a year ago a couple of cooks left the Takamatsu out near Glendale and took over Cafe Ga Hyang around the corner, stripping all of the Chinese food out of the menu and completely revamping the Korean stuff. I don't like to make it a contest, but I've enjoyed this place a lot more than any other Korean joint in town. BBQ isn't the focus -- no table grills. But the banchan is done with an extra amount of care (and plentiful -- rarely fewer than 10 offered), the haemul pajeon is killer, duk boki is unusually good with pureed fresh chiles rather than just paste, naeng myun is the most awesome thing in the world when it's 115 degrees out... I could go on. And the folks who run the place are awesome. Again, no website, but there's a menu posted here: http://bit.ly/PqnYP5

                                            Khyber Halal
                                            Some really good central Asian coming out of this place (Indian School and 24th St.), focused primarily on Afghani. The kitchen can be a touch slow, but it's because they're really taking care. Most of the grilled items are great, particularly the Chicken Malai Boti, and I flipping adore the Mantoo -- soft lamb-filled dumplings with a spiced tomato sauce, yogurt and lots of dried mint. www.khyberhalal.com

                                            Zaidi's Grill
                                            Some seriously killer Pakistani. It's run by a fellow who left a career in biotech along with his wife, and they've apparently been catering private parties for a few years, and finally jumped on a space when a good one opened up. They're in Scottsdale at Granite Reef and McDowell. Fabulous pakoras, crisp and heavily spiced, very good grilled items, and killer stews and curries. Items like the chicken qorma, beef nihari and goat haleem are *incredibly* intense. Don't do the buffet -- it's tiny, and doesn't get the necessary turnover. Better to pick a dish and come back again to try something else. Love this place. www.zaidisgrill.com

                                            El Rinconcito del D.F.
                                            Not new. Inexplicably, they've been hidden in Sunnyslope for TEN YEARS. But word is just getting out. Really stripped-down D.F.-style street tacos, tortas, etc. I think the reason they might have been flying under the radar is that the carne asada is mediocre. But I've had some killer cabeza and tripe tacos on two occasions now, and they haul out a trompo to do fresh al pastor on the weekends. No website... PDF menu here: http://bit.ly/RdedHY

                                            Hue Gourmet
                                            It's a stand in the food court in Mekong Plaza, and it's my favorite Vietnamese in town, both because man, they pay attention to the details, and also because it's Central Vietnamese, which means it isn't the same old pho, bun, com, cha gio, etc. (not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just really nice to see some *regional* Vietnamese going on). Unsurprisingly, they do a killer Bún Bò Huế, I love the Bánh Canh Cua, which is a really viscous crab soup with noodles and a bunch of other acoutrements, the Cơm Hến is a really cool Central Vietnamese rice dish that's a textural symphony, with all kinds of crunchy bits and crisp vegetables going on, rice in the bottom, moistened with a small amount of clam broth... I love, love, love this place and it's dirt freaking cheap. If you order the Bún Vịt Xáo Măng, you get a huge bowl of duck soup with noodles, and on the side two big pieces of roasted duck, and I think it's $6. CRAZY. They have a website, but it's for the catering... just go. www.huegourmet.com

                                            Beaver Choice
                                            It's a Swedish family that opened a place in Tempe. The matriarch is originally from Poland, I think, and they had a restaurant in Canada before they moved here, so there's a little bit from everywhere -- Swedish specials like Flying Jacob, some killer Danish-style meatballs called Frikadeller (not strictly traditional, I think, but crazy good in a sort of sweet-sour gravy with tons of dill), really good schnitzels and poutine for good measure. There's a lot more. It's a great place. www.beaverchoice.com

                                            There's more, but I should probably cut this off at some point. Good start? Anything in particular you're looking for?

                                            1. re: Dmnkly

                                              That's a great list Dmnkly!
                                              I think all of the food court options at Mekong are worth exploring (and are wallet friendly). I also love the crab noodle soup at Hue Gourmet.
                                              And to add to your starvng artist-ramen-budget, Bax, there's now a ramen-specialty place in Tempe that's better than your package ramen. It's nowhere near the ramen places of NYC, but if you're in a ramen mood, it'll do. It's called Republic Ramen and its between a boba tea place and an Asian-style karaoke place that's also new to the scene since you left.

                                              I've had the crazy hotdog-mashed potato wrap at Beaver Choice. As noted above, there's a lot of crazy mixes at that place that somehow work. Definitely worth a try.

                                              1. re: morninglemon

                                                Thanks, morninglemon... I don't mean to give the wrong impression, I love the good mainstream stuff just as much. The new Crudo and Baratin are a couple of my favorite openings of the past year. It just kills me when a thread like this goes for over a week and nobody even mentions the more downscale family-run scene which, to be frank, has been a lot more vibrant and interesting over the past couple of years.

                                              2. re: Dmnkly

                                                Last P.S., I'm hitting Hue Gourmet for lunch tomorrow with a friend tomorrow (Monday) at 12:15, if any of you can shake free for lunch and would like to join. You can contact me through my profile. I can give you the more extended rundown in person, Bax :-)

                                                1. re: Dmnkly

                                                  Wow, looks like a great list! I've only heard of Beaver Choice but haven't even gone there yet. I also moved back to Phoenix this summer and am trying to get used to less availability of ethnic food.

                                                  1. re: PHXeater

                                                    It's not like some other cities, but there's been a lot of really exciting stuff that isn't getting a lot of play. What we need are people *looking*... it feels like there's been precious little of that.

                                                    Particularly if you're coming back from Chicago, we need to talk. Drop me a line!

                                                    1. re: PHXeater

                                                      Dmnkly, you are wonderful! That's definitely more along the lines of what I'm looking for (tho' heaven knows, if I could afford to eat at all the places mentioned in this thread so far I certainly would). I know some of these have been mentioned elsewhere/previously but it's good to have everything in one place.

                                                      Beaver Choice opened right around the time I left and I'm definitely looking forward to trying it. My brother got married at the Ice Hotel in Sweden a few years ago and although I didn't get to go, it has sparked an interest in the food culture. Even tho' parts of Seattle have a strong Scandinavian heritage, there is very little in the way of Scandinavian food here!

                                                      Despite 17+ years in Phoenix I don't think I've ever eaten Korean there, tho' I've got a favorite place here in Seattle for bi bim bap; it'll be nice to start to discover Phoenix Korean options. Ate some Vietnamese in Phx previously but not a lot; it's EVERYWHERE here so now that I'm used to having it regularly I'm glad there'll be more options when I get back.

                                                      Mexican food in Seattle is largely dreadful (aside from a few taco trucks and fancy Mexican places) -- I will be VERY glad when I don't have to "make do" with Seattle Mexican!

                                                      Two things I get here that I don't think I ever discovered in Phoenix --- Salvadoran pupusas and Tibetan/Nepalese food (there's a place here that does delicious "momo" -- dumplings). Any recommendations, anyone?

                                                      Non-ethnic-but-cheap recommendations are good too. Specifically, sandwiches/lunch in Central Phx (work home base is approx. Roosevelt and 3rd Ave.; I know there's now a Pita Jungle nearby, which is nice, and a bunch of chains at 7th/Roosevelt, which is less nice but still handy in a pinch).

                                                      I'll be back in Phoenix in just over a week -- am already looking forward to eating!

                                                      1. re: Bax

                                                        I *know* I heard of a good pupusa place from somebody recently... damned if I can remember where. I'll try to find out. Tibetan/Nepalese... ehhh... can't say I've seen that around town yet.

                                                        Mexican here seems like it's *starting* to break out of the Sonoran rut, too. Fingers crossed.

                                                        We've got a regular lunch crowd for getting into these kinds of places... drop me a line... would love to welcome you back in person :-)

                                                        1. re: Dmnkly

                                                          I haven't been personally but have heard good things about Eliana's for Salvodorean food, on 24th st and McDowell. Seth Chadwick did a review quite awhile ago http://feastinginphoenix.com/?p=50

                                                          1. re: PHXeater

                                                            Oh yeah! I'd completely forgotten all about Eliana's, despite living just up the street once upon a time. I've been there but it was about a million years ago and I have no recollection of how much I liked it. Guess it'll warrant a return visit. Thanks!

                                                        2. re: Bax

                                                          A whole bunch of chains - five guys, potbelly, etc. - just opened on the corner of 7th Ave. and McDowell. The only nonchain opening there is a breakfast/brunch place by the owner of Tuck Shop. It opens next weekend, so something for you to look forward to?

                                                          1. re: morninglemon

                                                            I knew the Tuck Shop person/people (?) were opening something new but I didn't remember it was there. Nice! That WILL be something to look forward to (what, if anything, has happened with the "My Florist" space? I was always disappointed that I didn't like it more, because it was a beautiful spot).

                                                            Dmnkly -- once I'm back and settled...or at least semi-settled...that sounds great, I'd love to take you up on it. I need more "foodie" friends, I think! I get tired of always being the one who says "We need to go...we need to try...." !

                                                            1. re: Bax

                                                              Add me to the list of people always looking for new pals to dine with. Alas, the lunch group only meets when I'm unavailable.

                                                              http://endoedibles.com

                                                              1. re: Bax

                                                                The My Florist space has been taken over by the burger chain Habit Burger. I havent eaten there but my coworkers have, and their collective opinion was "good and greasy." I don't eat burgers unless it's In-N-Out (and even that's a rare occasion) so you'll have to try it on your own, I'm afraid!

                                                                We should organize a Chowhound meetup for a lunch somewhere in the near fall.

                                                                1. re: morninglemon

                                                                  Provided it is a weekend I think we could get a decent turnout - though the phxfoodnerds seem to do well on their Fridays as well.

                                                                  http://endoedibles.com

                                                                  1. re: morninglemon

                                                                    For dinner tonight I wanted something quick & close to where I'm staying (got into town Wed. night). Tried Habit Burger. The good -- a big new parking lot, and I only spent $7 on dinner. The not as good -- they've changed the building (the space was the best thing about My Florist. There's nothing WRONG with the space now, but why fix what ain't broke? Then again I'm guessing they've managed multiple things in the space that MF used to take), and the food is just eh. I got the mushroom/swiss burger and onion rings. The mushrooms on the burger are salty salty, and that's the main flavor going on. The rest of the burger was just kind of bland (not BAD, just not a lot of flavor). The onion rings were somehow crisp yet a little...um...doughy (for lack of a better word) at the same time. Again, serviceable but not a lot of flavor or interest.

                                                                    I won't say I'll never eat there again, but it's certainly not somewhere I care to add to the active rotation, despite being so close to work.

                                                                    As noted -- that corner is packed with chains now. They'll be handy when we need food fast but certainly nothing to get excited about. I AM looking forward to trying Vovomeena (the new place from the Tuck Shop people), tho'!

                                                                    1. re: Bax

                                                                      I haven't been to Habit Burger, but have heard from others who have told us to avoid, so we do. In & Out is our burger chain of choice. If we're going local, then it's Chuckbox in Tempe or Giant Burgers in Mesa. I think it's Giant Burgers > Chuckbox for me personally, though my husband might disagree...I may be getting too old for the college dive scene that is Chuckbox.

                                                                      When I worked downtown over a decade ago, my favorite lunch spot was Focaccia Fiorentina. They appear to be still in business, but I haven't been there since about 2001. They are only open for lunch, and since I'm way too far away now to go for lunch there during the week, I haven't made it back, so I can't say how it is now, but you might check it out.

                                                                      Have you been to Cornish Pasty Company? They have 2 locations now. The original in North Tempe and a newer one in Mesa near the Tempe border. Great for a low-budget dinner. You can even buy them par-baked to take home and finish in your own oven.

                                                                      Our budget is similar to yours. We have not been to most of the high end places in town. Just not our "thing" - though it really does seem to be the focus of this board - we had to live on so little for so long that it's difficult for us to stomach high end prices, no matter how good it may be. Someday I hope to try Kai though, just because it really sounds unique.

                                                                      1. re: Jen76

                                                                        I know I've been to Focaccia Fiorentina but it was SO long ago that I have no recollection of what I had or how it was. Some sort of pasta something-or-other.... As best I can remember it was good enough, but obviously not something I loved so much that I went back often. Still, I should give it another chance probably.

                                                                        Went to Cornish Pasty once, not too long after it first opened. It took FOREVER to get my pasty and it was too salty (I had the Oggie) so I haven't ever gone back, but since people continue to speak up for it perhaps I should give it another try as well. I haven't made it out to that side of town yet but once I get properly to work I'll be all over the place so that'll be an option.

                                                                      2. re: Bax

                                                                        Hit Vovomeena for brunch today. If I hadn't been driving north on 7th Ave I wouldn't have seen it; it's not visible from the McDowell side (at least not currently). I'm guessing they'll have more signage soon.

                                                                        Was surprised to find that it's of the "fast casual" model where you order at the counter. It was busy, but seemed to be flowing well, and food came quickly. Staff was friendly and efficient.

                                                                        I had the boxty -- "grated apple and potato pancakes, honey mascarpone" -- with bacon. Like sweet hash browns: the potatoes were a good balance of crispy and soft, with fresh Granny Smith (I assume) apple grated on top. At first I thought they'd neglected to give me the mascarpone, but there was a melty smear of it under the apple, and the whole thing was sprinkled with powdered sugar.

                                                                        To be honest it was sort of an unattractive dish but I liked it ok. It was a little sweet, but the bacon helped balance that out. It's probably not something I'll crave or rush back for, but I will certainly go back to try other things (the pork chop/waffle dish they call the B.M.O.C. looked good).

                                                                        I'm a fairly light eater and the boxty proved about the right size for me to eat with no leftovers; bigger eaters would possibly want to supplement with eggs or something. Spent a mere $8.69, which I think is a decent price for a fresh, non-chain breakfast.

                                                                        1. re: Bax

                                                                          The BMOC is excellent and the Boxty also quite nice.

                                                                          http://endoedibles.com

                                                                        2. re: Bax

                                                                          Went to Vovomeena yesterday - tried 5 things - all were really good and the French Toast is outstanding. Great spot. Will ideally get some thoughts up on the blog soon.

                                                                          http://endoedibles.com

                                                      2. Chou's Kitchen

                                                        China Magic Noodle House

                                                        1. Was reminded tonight that the Rainbow Doughnuts on north 7th has Texas-style sausage "kolaches." Must get some SOON! That's something I could never get here before (except for once during the brief life of the Kolache Factory on Tatum/Shea), nor in Seattle (have had to indulge when I visit my family in TX at Christmastime). Yay!

                                                          1. Anything new and exciting in the greater PHX area?
                                                            Will be in Scottsdale area next month..
                                                            Going to the Heard Museum, so a great lunch spot would be fab.
                                                            Durant's is calling my name, which I adore, but I am open.
                                                            Thanks!

                                                            12 Replies
                                                            1. re: Beach Chick

                                                              I highly recommend lunch at the Heard Museum cafe. I live and work right up the street so I ride my bicycle there for lunch regularly. The food is top notch and they have outdoor seating in the courtyard so you can enjoy the weather.

                                                              Keep in mind that Durant's is not open for lunch on weekends.

                                                              1. re: fledflew

                                                                That's great to know that the Heard Museum Cafe is great.

                                                                Maybe I can do drinks afterwards at Durant's..gotta get my fix of Naugahyde booths, rubenesque paintings, cold relish trays and one hell of a strong drink.
                                                                Love love love me an old school restaurant.

                                                                1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                  <the Heard Museum Cafe is great>

                                                                  It surely is.

                                                                  Everytime I'm in Phoenix, usually for the Heard, I get so excited about the food at the cafe. As fledflew mentioned, 'it is top notch'. Everything on that menu is spectacular.
                                                                  Lucky you :).

                                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                                    I had no idea the cafe was so good.
                                                                    I guess Durants for drinks and lunch at the museum.
                                                                    Thanks again latindancer!

                                                                    Can't wait for Encanto in SB to open in a couple of months..

                                                                    1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                      You're welcome, Beach Chick.
                                                                      The food is just wonderful....hope you like it as much as i do.
                                                                      Can't wait to hear what you think.

                                                                      Yes...also can't wait as the anticipation is growing :).

                                                              2. re: Beach Chick

                                                                Lots of good new stuff- check out Pig & Pickle or Davanti Enoteca, both in Scottsdale. While not "new" Crudo has moved into a bigger space and the menu is killer. Also not new, but some of the best food anywhere is Andreoli's. Finally, new and definitely exciting (but not in Scottsdale) is Khyber Halal, an Afghan-Pakistani place on 24th St. and Indian School. Family-owned, amazing grub.

                                                                1. re: cactuschowdah

                                                                  My opinion on Crudo differs from the majority by - well - a lot, but definitely agree on Davanti. Would also consider checking out Binkley's to anyone who has not been - it is definitely 'exciting' albeit pricey.

                                                                  http://endoedibles.com

                                                                  1. re: cactuschowdah

                                                                    Davanti, Andreoli's, and Crudo are a few of my favorites too, along with Posh, FnB, and Shinbay (and I have plans - finally! - with friends for Khyber Halal). Pig & Pickle is on my get-to list, and I need to check out Italian Restaurant and Brat Haus. Haven't been yet, but Chef O'Dowd, formerly of Kai, is at the Sheratown downtown now, and Kevin Binkley will soon be opening a spot in the space formerly occupied by Sophie's Bistro.

                                                                    I've also been enjoying Citizen Public House, Market Street Kitchen at DC Ranch, House at Secret Garden, last week's first-time visit to Rusconi's, and have been to Franco's Italian Cafe three times in the last month.

                                                                    This week our plans include Crudo, old-school Italian at old-timer Avanti, Noca and/or Davanti, and checking out Bice (just opened in the old Michael's at the Citadel location).

                                                                    There are a slew of high-quality chef-driven restaurants that have opened. I have to disagree with some of the above posts. It's absolutely misleading to say that the only new restaurants are steakhouses.

                                                                    1. re: Rubee

                                                                      Recent pics:

                                                                      Paella with mussels and shrimp at Rusconi last week, and grilled calamari, squid ink pasta with crab, and veal (Orrechie Elephante) at Franco's the weekend before.

                                                                       
                                                                       
                                                                       
                                                                       
                                                                  2. re: Beach Chick

                                                                    Heard Museum Cafe
                                                                    Durants for drinks
                                                                    Carolina's for divey cheesy Mex.

                                                                    Need another lunch spot..thanks!

                                                                    1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                      BC, for lunch spots, I'd recommend Carlsbad Tavern, Four Peaks Brewery, and Postino Wine Bar.

                                                                      1. re: globocity

                                                                        Thanks for the rec's.

                                                                        Went to Haji-Baba in Tempe for lunch..fantastic!
                                                                        Wish they would have something like this in SD..

                                                                        It was snowing in Scottsdale.

                                                                        www.yelp.com/biz/haji-baba-tempe

                                                                  3. Wow, what a useful thread for me! I'll be moving to Phoenix in a couple of weeks. We'll be living in the south part of Tempe so the mr. can be close to work. I know, strip mall central, but a commute from Old Town Scottsdale wouldn't have worked out :(
                                                                    Can anyone recommend interesting places in my 'hood? And, Thai is a huge favorite of mine, so please let me know your favorite Thai place anywhere in the city--good Thai is worth the drive :)
                                                                    Thanks!

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: alliegator

                                                                      Try Yupha's in south Tempe at McClintock and Elliot.

                                                                      1. re: ziggylu

                                                                        Thanks. The menu looks good and it'll be close. Great for that first few days when my kitchen is full of taped up boxes.

                                                                        1. re: alliegator

                                                                          I've been in Chandler for the past 13 years. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by local offerings in this end of the valley, particularly if you like asian food.

                                                                          1. re: ziggylu

                                                                            Thank you, and I'm sure I will. The last time I visited Phoenix was 15 years ago, so I shouldn't judge what I don't know. I think somewhere along the way I drank too much of the Scottsdale Kool-Aid. I'm just excited to get out there and get eating :)

                                                                    2. Okay, this does not answer your question, but I laugh every time I think of it.

                                                                      I grew up in Phoenix and had not been back since I was a kid.
                                                                      When I brought my husband to visit the family I requested we go to Rustlers Rooste (http://www.rustlersrooste.com/) My little kid brain remembering it to be a very fancy place, so I wore my best little black dress. I laughed when I entered the and there was a slide to get into the dinning room.