9 Things That Make Phoenix a Better Food (and Drink) Town than New York City

Categories: Top Lists

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Nina Gruber

I've done it. I've committed to living in Phoenix again after spending years in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I was a student at NYU in a self-constructed program of Food and Environmental Studies, sourcing from personal experiences of discussing, working with and (mostly) consuming food in New York. I tromped around that town for a few years, spending the majority of my time succumbing to all the foodie stereotypes and enhancing my academics through experience that "only New York City can offer" . . . and now I'm back in Phoenix. And, yes, it is by choice. So to all those people who feel the need to ask (all the time) "Why would you move to Phoenix from Brooklyn?" may this list help you to ponder no longer.

Somehow, there is this idea that anything from New York is automatically spectacular -- an unfortunately untrue concept, especially when searching for a particular item inspired by growing up here in the Valley. There are some things that are simply, wonderfully, and quintessentially Phoenix -- and New York doesn't have them.

See also:
- Laurie Notaro's 8 Food(ie) Terms Past Their Expiration Dates
-10 Best Burritos in Metro Phoenix

The sunshine, visible horizon, and mountains were just a few of the things that made me homesick while I was away and lured me back to Phoenix. But let's face it: It wasn't just about scenery. I was hungry for this town when I returned. These are nine edible perks of Phoenix that beat out NYC.

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Pita Jungle
Pita Jungle's Taboule

Generally, the first stop home from the airport was at Pita Jungle to sit in the sun and enjoy a plate of their cilantro-jalapeño hummus with taboule, accompanied by a few Greek pitas. The freshness and sheer quantity of food on this plate would make any college student happy, especially one who is used to spending the same amount of money on a midday snack.

AZ88's Margaritas

I know margaritas are everywhere, but to find one like AZ88's is very hard, especially at that price ($7.50). A perfectly tangy and sweet combination with a pleasant alcoholic finish, this fine cocktail is something you could easily pay double for in NYC and it wouldn't be half as tasty. Sitting on that sunny patio with this drink in hand could inspire many people to stay here.

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Jerri Parness Photography
Prickly Pear Fruit

I mean, how fun is it to drink a tasty tea flavored by a cactus? Or have local honey spun with a bit of this subtle fruit? Beyond these classic ways of eating the purple "pear," chefs around the Valley are taking advantage of this unique fruit and adding a true taste of our beautiful desert to their menus. Take that, NYC!

Location Info

Pita Jungle

4340 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Barrio Cafe

2814 N. 16th St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Az 88

7353 E. Scottsdale Mall, Scottsdale, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Los Dos Molinos

8646 S. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Music

Green

2240 N. Scottsdale Road, Tempe, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Four Peaks Brewing Company

1340 E. 8th St., Tempe, AZ

Category: Music


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26 comments
opinionatedbutright
opinionatedbutright

Welcome back. As an "ex pat" New Yorker who loves the food scene in Chicago, San Francisco, NYC, Los Angeles and just about any place with good food, I appreciate your comments about our unique local eats. And I agree with a lot of your choices. We are, indeed, the land of chains but we also have a lot of very wonderful locally owned restaurants. In fact, we have a lot of them!When I moved here 36 years ago from NYC, I found some pretty great food without much trouble. And it wasn't all chimichangas (although I have to admit I was smitten with them when I first tasted them). Our local chefs have been recognized by the most prestigious organizations. And, who, among us does  not love fry bread. And let us not forget that Fry Bread House was recognized by the James Beard Foundation! That many food writers consider Pizzeria Bianco the best pizza restaurant in the United States is something to be proud of (take that, NYC). We have our own style, here, so no sense attempting to compare to Chicago or SF or NYC or any place else. No, our bagels don't taste like the ones I got when growing up in NY but not sure NY bagels taste like that any more anyway. But I've come to like our bagels. I've come to enjoy our style of Italian food. So, people, please don't compare us to any place else. We are what we are. Thank goodness for that. Honestly, if I moved back to NYC (which I do contemplate occaisonally), I'd probably miss what we've got here.

Francisco Cortez
Francisco Cortez

What? I'm still trying to find that Mexican Food restaurant that makes me want to keep coming back. There's too many pizza joints in my area that serve up the same stuff, and don't get me started on all the chain restaurants in town.

Paul Jasso
Paul Jasso

justfinised reading your article. You SO hit the nail on the head! Having moved to the east coast from Phoenix recently, I was stoked to get to try the food. So disappointing! Currently in the TriStates area missing my spicy Arroz from Los Dos Molinos and the man sized Margarita from Arriba. Great Article.

Evan C. Paul
Evan C. Paul

Instead, it smells like racism and dirt.

Evan C. Paul
Evan C. Paul

Apparently you are unaware with how many hundreds of square miles Phoenix is.

Dbacksfangirl
Dbacksfangirl

I knew there was going to be someone from Chicago trying to say the food there is better and how they don't care for the food here. Haha! We all have different tastes. In my opinion, "Chicago style" is nothing special. It's pretty bland and boring for my taste buds. Food in California and Arizona is amazing to me. So much fresh and interesting! I love this article!

David Corpus
David Corpus

The only point this article has is Kiltlifter. The rest is best taken as a joke and was as bad as saying he misses his mom's Kraft Mac n cheese. A counter-article would be titled "150 things that make NYC a better food and drink town than Phoenix."

Mary Doe
Mary Doe

Hilarious. Also, pathetic.

Stephen Jackson
Stephen Jackson

'To think that some people didn't grow up with this staple.' That made me chuckle.

Joe Rollins
Joe Rollins

One thing is for sure, Phoenix doesn't smell like urine and dead fish. That's a plus.

Jason Wilbur
Jason Wilbur

ok, those are some big words. I will however completely agree with 4 peaks over Brooklyn Brewery.

danzigsdaddy
danzigsdaddy topcommenter

I have to disagree with you on Phoenix having better food. Both Chicago and New York are culinary mecca's that are unrivaled. In Phoenix, you are getting transplants from Chicago and New York that bring foods that are "Chicago style" or "New York style" foods (and they quickly lose the Chicago or New York touch and adopt a California touch instead). I have found some good food out here, true, but, not like you do in Chicago or New York. A prime example of food losing the flavor of the area they are from would be Portillo's. I knew Portillo's in Chicago, but when i tried an Italian beef at the one out here........it fell severely flat. It was dry and the Gardinare peppers were sadly lacking. And you also can not find a pizza out here that is comparable to either Chicago or New York. (You find me a Lou Malnatti comparable pizza out here, and i will buy you one). The closest I have been able to find Chicago or New York style food would be Rosati's (the Italian beef and Gardinare peppers are heaven sent) or Fatso's pizza.  I grew up in the Chicago area so I am very picky on my food since I was lucky enough to grow up experiencing it. I just find it sad that you cant find a single place out here that knows how to properly cook and serve a Brat. 

Kit Hunn
Kit Hunn

Muahaha. Holy lord PNT is hilarious sometimes; this is like an Onion article. If you really want to show pride, don't compare yourself to something else. Comparisons look petty, not prideful.

Evan C. Paul
Evan C. Paul

Too bad you can't get anywhere by foot, though.

JuliePeterson
JuliePeterson

I am sure you'll get a lot more crap from Arizonans about coming back than you will from native NYCers. (I understand Brooklyn hipsters are a separate animal.) All they ever asked me in the '80s was, "Who moves from Arizona to New York?" because they figured it was the equivalent of Florida, where they all dreamed of winding up.

Jason Fimbrez
Jason Fimbrez

Hey Chow Bella: Can you help the Phoenix Street Food Coalition spread the word about an important meeting tonight? They've shown they can compete and be just as creative as the food trucks from around the country.... even like those in NY: http://on.fb.me/11OrQQS

terezib
terezib

@Joe Ploskonka actually, it DID smell like dead fish for a while, when all the fish died in Tempe Town Lake. Okay, that's Tempe, NOT Phoenix, for the purists here. Still...


JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

@danzigsdaddy Chicago is "unrivaled"?  Not really.  Chicago is fine for a steak, but nothing like San Francisco and the wine country for a true meal.  Chicago has some wonderful ethnic food like polish (and not polish sausage but real polish like pieogies) but New York is still the best for the absolute variety - ethnicities that I didn't even know existed - of food available.    Phoenix is good and getting better with each new creative restrauntuer and we have some wonderful and unique items and localles, but 10 places or items unique to Phoenix doesn't put Phoenix ahead of NYC on the map.  Enjoy and appreciate what we have, but lets not go overboard. 

BornAndRaised
BornAndRaised

@danzigsdaddy I think the point of the article is that there are things that are uniquely Arizonan that don't exist in a place like NYC. Similar to what you are saying about "Chicago style food" not being as good here, the author was stating that NYC can't offer the same options a well. This is also just a mild critique of the common view point held in NYC is that they can offer you every type of food there and it will be as good, if not better, than you'd find it anywhere else. This is a common NYC pretentious thought that is often FAR from the truth.

danzigsdaddy
danzigsdaddy topcommenter

@BornAndRaised  i did say there is good food out here, there are just certain styles of cuisine that dont set well with me or influences in cuisine that i dont care for, but again, yes there are certain dishes out here that are not available elsewhere (fry bread for example is not something you find out in the Chicago area, and as horrible as it is for you.......i just cant seem to stop eating the stuff). if you know of any Az specific dishes you would like to recommend however (as does the article, and i do intend to try them) ....please, make me some recommendations. I at not point inferred that I was not game to try them or open to suggestion. I merely intoned that I am picky and particular about my tastes. i do not talk to many people native to Az so i dont hear many recommendations on the Az dishes.  just as i am telling you to try restaurants that cater to my tastes.....i would love to hear more recommendations than were included in the article.  (and as for the touting Chicago cuisine over Az cuisine.........thats just home town pride kicking in its two cents worth)

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