It’s kind of crazy to think that we’ve been living in AZ for a year now. It really doesn’t feel like it, especially since I travelled so much last year it kind of seemed like I was never here.
I’ve had company for the last 3 weeks in a row in PHX, and since the best part about having visitors is showing them around and taking them to all your favourite places, I’ve had to do some thinking about what those places are.
What I’ve realized is that I have tons of favourite places, and also places I still really want to try. So I decided to share my list with you all, in case you are ever in the PHX area, and are looking for a good place to hang out, or some really good drinks.
So here they are, not really in any particular order:
Culinary Dropout at The Yard– Culinary Dropout in Tempe is one of my favourite places to go, the food is good, the drinks are amazing (I like the Room Service or the Me Before You) and they have yoga (sometimes) and Party on a Bike (spin class) in the upstairs room all week. It’s just a cool spot. The vibe definitely changes depending on when you go. I’ve been there on a Wednesday night when my sister in town; we snagged a table with a built in fireplace, ordered some delicious appetizers (get the pretzels!) and played lawn games, and I took my mom there for a quiet lunch after the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum. I’ve also been on a Friday or Saturday night when all three bars are open, and it is complete madness and there is no hope of finding a place to sit.
The Duce– Our very first week living in Phoenix we were driving downtown to go skating, and we passed a bar called The Duce. It looked really fun, and I made a mental note to go there, but we didn’t end up going until a couple of weeks ago when my sister was in town. It’s the coolest place I’ve been in awhile. There is an outdoor patio, which is where we sat, but the inside is a pretty big space and it’s divided up into different “themed” sections. There are a couple different bars, and a “Sweet Spot” (pictured above) to get dessert. We went on a Saturday morning for brunch, and it was really chill and relaxing, but I’ve heard it gets pretty crazy at night. They have a boxing ring where you can pay $5 to go 5 minutes against the owner (who is a boxer) and they also do fitness classes on Sunday morning. It is a little bit pricey, the drinks are around $12 each, but they are big, with lots of booze in them, plus they are delicious. We ordered a Bloody Mary, a Berry Side Car and a Margarita, and they were all on the list of the best drinks I’ve ever had. The food was good too, I ordered the smashed potatoes in a jar, and it was basically just butter, sour cream and cheese with some potato, and it was so frigging delicious. D and my sister both got sliders, which are actually huge, and neither of them could finish. Definitely shareable. This is really long, but I have a lot to say. Love this place.
Chanpen Thai– This is a relatively new discovery. We bought a house and moved to a new area of Phoenix in December and we didn’t have a washer and dryer for a long time. Our weekly ritual became Thai takeout and laundromat night, so we were able to try all the new Thai places around our new place. Chanpen was by far the best, it’s a little further away than some others, but worth the drive. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, and there are only about four tables, so it’s best to order pick up, but it smells like heaven as soon as you walk in. I had yellow veggie curry (my fave) and it was the best I’ve had in a long time.
Four Peaks Tempe– Four Peaks is basically a Tempe institution. It’s a popular brewery and restaurant, a good place to watch a game or go with a group of friends. I had the veggie burger here, and it was really good, and the spinach artichoke dip is so good (it has jalapeno) that I actually gasped when I took a bite, and everyone thought I was choking. I’ve mostly been here for brunch for people’s birthdays, they mimosa buckets, it’s around $18 for a bottle of champagne and a carafe of orange juice. Also, the brew master at our favourite restaurant in Montana, The Tamarack, went to ASU and used to be a brewer at Four Peaks. Small world.
Pizzeria Bianco– This place was voted Best Pizza in America. It’s SO GOOD. It’s definitely more of a date spot, it’s pretty intimate inside with only a handful of tables. We ended up each ordering our own pizza, mine was margherita with braised mushrooms and I am not embarrassed to tell you that I ate the whole thing. It is kind of expensive, it was around $20/pizza, and they really only feed 1 person, but it was worth it. They also own the little house next to the restaurant and they’ve turned it into a wine bar/waiting area where you can sit inside or out on the front porch and play board games while you wait. My birthday is coming up in a few weeks, and I’m fairly certain I’ll be celebrating it here.
Pier 54– This little restaurant is a perfect hangout on a sunny, lazy weekend day. It’s all outdoors, on a little patio on The Lakes at Tempe, and they have a great deal on mimosas (buy 1 for $8, each refill is $1 after that), and they have the best hummus I’ve ever had. We go almost every weekend, and we always take people there for a chill happy hour. We’ve never been for supper, but they do have a deal where you spend $25 on food, and get a free bottle of wine, so we definitely need to try that one night.
The Watershed– The Watershed is right next door to Pier 54, but it has a different vibe. It has a huge indoor area with a bar and restaurant, and then an outdoor patio with a view of the lakes and also a game area with darts and corn hole (I hate that name). Some of their outdoor tables have fire pits, but you need to get there early at night to grab one of these. When my sister was here we tried almost every drink on the menu, and I would definitely recommend the Basil Smash.
The Farm at South Mountain– I’ve only been to The Farm once, on a hung-over Sunday morning after a friends’ wedding, about a year before we moved to AZ, but it was lovely. We actually moved to the South Mountain area recently so it’s pretty close, but we haven’t been back yet. The Farm is a picturesque acreage with areas carved out for different things. There are a few different restaurants on the property; we ate at the more casual one, I had a strawberry and goat cheese salad and fresh squeezed lemonade. They grow all their own fruits and vegetables, there are little goats to look at, and people were sprawled out on picnic blankets all over the lawn, eating and watching their kids play. They were also setting up for a wedding when I was there, and it was pretty stunning.
San Tan Flat– We went to SanTan Flats for my dad’s birthday last year. It’s quite a drive from downtown Phoenix, but it’s a fun place to go with a big group. Each table has it’s own fire pit, and you can buy s’more kits for dessert. They have live bands on the weekends and a big dance floor. I didn’t love the food, it’s not very vegetarian friendly, they mostly just serve grilled meat, but I still had fun.
Salut– I went to Salut with a group of girlfriends’ for dinner, and it was delicious. It’s a romantic little wine bar in Tempe, we sat at an outside table on the patio, which was all lit up with string lights. They had a great wine selection, but the best thing about Salut was their entire page dedicated to different types and combinations of bruschetta. Only one person out of our group ordered something different, and I think she regretted it once the food came. The rest of the menu looked delicious as well, but I don’t know if I could bring myself to order anything else.
The Perch– The Perch is in downtown Chandler, it’s an open, outdoor space decorated with cages of brightly coloured birds. The food was good (I loved the hummus) but the best part about this place is the rooftop bar. It has lot of comfortable seating, and misters for those miserably hot AZ summer days, plus it has a great beer selection, including a grapefruit one that tastes like Orange Crush.
Places I haven’t been but really want to try:
Ocotillo– I haven’t been to Ocotillo yet, but I’ve heard from a few people that it’s the best new spot in the valley. Their menus look so delicious, and they also have a little coffee shop that’s open every day. I’ve been thinking of going there on a weekend afternoon to get a coffee to check it out before we head into the restaurant, but we haven’t been home at all lately.
Top of the Rock– Another place I haven’t been to yet but hope to go one day. This is one of the fanciest/most expensive restaurants in Phoenix from what I’ve heard, but the view looks so incredible that it’s probably worth it.
Sweet Tooth Fairy– I only realized recently that this bakery was in AZ, I thought it was only in Utah. I found out a few weeks ago, and then was creeping on their website, and discovered that they make Nanaimo Bars, which are my absolute favourite, and not something I’ve ever seen in America before. I bugged D incessantly to take me there, but when I finally wore him down and he agreed, I called to double confirm that they had Nanaimo Bars, and they were out. They only have them every few weeks. I asked the baker to send me a schedule so I would know when to come in, which is a totally normal and reasonable thing to do.
Mystery Room at the Arizona Biltmore– There is an actual 1920’s speakeasy in the Arizona Biltmore. It’s only open Sundays from 8-11 p.m. and you need a password to get in, but it’s cool that they have something like that in Phoenix.
This post was a lot longer than I anticipated, I’ve been working on it for weeks since I kept remembering other good places and adding them in. Let me know if you have any suggestions for good places to eat or drink in the area, I’m always on the lookout for new favourites!