We’ve been living in a rental in Phoenix since we sold our house in Scottsdale in May. Although renting comes with its own set of challenges, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy my new neighborhood. We’re right on the edge of Paradise Valley so we get the benefit of some high-end amenities — the state’s fanciest Fry’s Marketplace, complete with covered and valet parking, across the street from a Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, for instance — but the multimillion-dollar homes along Tatum are only part of the story. It’s a much more eclectic neighborhood and I feel really at home amid all it has to offer. I love that I’m just as likely to see a Prius with a Grateful Dead sticker on it as I am a Bentley. It just feels more like home to me.
Some new favorite haunts …
Bombay Spice: This charming little restaurant at the corner of Tatum and Shea touts Fresh, Healthy Indian food. I am sold on the fresh, and I don’t really care how healthy it is, because it is delicious. I was already a fan of the chickpea, but Bombay Spice’s chickpea ceviche has taken my appreciation of the bean to a whole new level. I could eat it every day. A decent happy hour from 3-6 p.m. and 20 bottles of wine priced at $20 also make it a good value.
Sala Thai: I’ve only eaten here once, but I can’t wait to go back to this hidden strip-mall joint on 32nd St and Shea. The spicy pumpkin basil was one of the best Thai dishes I’ve tried. Now, I love really spicy food, but I’ve been burned (literally and figuratively) a time or two when I brazenly requested my food to come out “Thai hot”. My experience in Arizona, however, has been that even a 5 on the heat scale is tamed down for scaredy-cat American palates. So I ordered my dish at a 4 on the 5-point scale, expecting to have to add a generous portion of Sriracha to my plate. But I was sweatily surprised by the beads of moisture on my brow as I devoured my dinner. As good as it was and as much as I ate, I still had enough for three meals. Yes, I really need to get back to this place ASAP.
Yasu Sushi Bistro: I’d driven past this place, which is in the same shopping center as our local Target, a number of times, but it wasn’t until Phoenix Magazine named it the best Japanese restaurant in Phoenix that we decided to check it out. We had grown quite fond of our former local sushi spot, Sushi Brokers, but truthfully, we went there more for the cheap beer and happy hour specials than quality sushi. Yasu is pricier than Sushi Brokers, but it’s in a whole different stratosphere. I feel really lucky to be so close to such a gem.
Uncle Sam’s: No offense to the owners of this fine establishment, but Uncle Sam’s isn’t going to win any dining awards any time soon. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome. Everything bad for you, and so cheap! Their “bailout plan” (aka happy hour) features $4 pitchers and personal pizzas, among other things. And they have tabletop Ms. Pac-Man. It’s seriously tough to beat that.
Bomberos Cafe & Wine Bar: The delightful patio and interesting range of South American wines make Bomberos one of the best wine bars in Phoenix. And their bruschetta rivals that of Postino — another one my faves. They have live music Saturday nights and even flamenco dancing from time to time. ¡Olé!
The Vig Uptown: It attracts a little different crowd than its older sister in Arcadia, but The Vig Uptown — on 16th St and Bethany Home — still has a fun vibe and benefits from a large outdoor (albeit covered) space. It’s housed in a 1961 Arizona Bank building, which just adds to its mid-century modern cool cred. And it’s just a stone’s throw from the Rokerji and the soon-to-be new Richardson’s — a perfect combo for a full evening out.
Floyd’s Kitchen: Tim came across this place on Restaurant. com and bought a gift certificate based on the Yelp reviews and its close proximity to our house. It took us a while to get there, though, as the price point is a bit higher than a casual night out. The place was packed full of regulars on our only visit there (so far) — always a good sign, especially surrounded by the chain restaurant madness around PV Mall. And while it’s not cheap, I can see why it attracts such a crowd. The food was yummy, the service was very attentive and the vibe was friendly and lively. Floyd’s Kitchen is the quintessential local restaurant, which, unfortunately, is all too rare in Arizona.
Close proximity to old favorites …
I was already a fan of these places, and it was a stroke of luck that our new abode has brought us closer to them.
Z’Tejas: I know it’s a chain, and I avoid chains as much as possible. But for some reason I just love this place. Maybe it’s the deliciously dangerous chambord margaritas, the Sunday Bloody Mary bar, the skillet of cornbread or the unbeatable chopped salad. Or maybe it’s all of those things. Either way, I will never apologize for frequenting this chain.
Rokerji/Richardson’s: In my mind, it just doesn’t get better than Richardson’s of New Mexico. Words cannot express my love for this place and its spicy, sweet-potato-poblano-peppered goodness. Never had a bad meal here. Getting hungry right now…
Spinato’s: I’m not going to call it my favorite pizza, but it’s definitely my favorite pizza on certain occasions. Like watching football games, hangovers, after a 20-mile run, after the Phoenix/FBR/Waste Management Open…
All my needs met around the corner …
I lead a pretty simple life. I work hard, I like to eat and drink and see movies and spend time with friends, and I am committed to meeting Lisa to run as close to every weekend of the year as schedules will allow. So it was another windfall that moving didn’t increase my commute (it stayed exactly 22 minutes) AND I am able to do all of these things within minutes of my home.
The Arizona Canal: Lisa and I have been meeting here (almost) every weekend since 2003. It used to take me precisely 15 minutes to get to our parking spot at Granada Park. Not bad. Now I get there in 5 minutes. The ritual of the weekly long run on the canal has truly saved my sanity on more than one occasion, and I couldn’t be happier to be so close to it. I know that wherever we lie our heads next, it won’t be more than 10 minutes away.
Roadrunner Park Farmers Market: Aside from my proximity to the canal, being one mile from this bustling and abundant farmers market is the best thing about my neighborhood. I know I will come across as a self-righteous Eat, Pray, Love kind of person, but I don’t care. It gives me great pleasure to buy goods so lovingly tended to by Arizona farmers and artisans. I like supporting my community, and I especially like the delicious produce. This food tastes the way it’s supposed to, and I am so happy that I’ve been able to make it part of my Saturday routine.
Phoenix Mountains Preserve: Tim and I enjoyed hiking Pinnacle Peak, but it was a bummer that we couldn’t bring the pooch. Now we have access to miles and miles of dog-friendly trails, literally a block from our house. It’s relatively quiet, but there’s typically a friendly collection of bikers, hikers, dog walkers and runners out and about. There’s also a cool access road trail off 32nd Street bordering the preserve that’s great for medium-distance runs. It is the best perk of the neighborhood.
The Picture Show: Okay, so there are movie theatres everywhere. But after the disappointment of our favorite I’ll-bring-a-date-I-don’t-want-anyone-to-see-because-nobody-else-goes-here theatre, United Artists Sonora Village, closing down earlier this year, we were thrilled to find an even snazzier version of the “down-low” at Paradise Valley Mall. I don’t know why this theatre doesn’t get more business. It’s got comfy stadium seats, a nice little arcade in the lobby — it even has the disgustingly fake powdered cheese sprinkles we love to put on our popcorn. But for some reason it’s pretty much a ghost town every time we go there. This is fine by me. I don’t need the Cine Capri, nor the having to get there a half-hour early to secure a parking spot and seat. I just want to waltz in as the movie is starting and still have time to sprinkle my corn. Thanks, Picture Show, for making that happen. Now please don’t go out of business.
I’m sure we’ll enjoy plenty more neighborhood treats as the months wear on. This will no doubt only add to my fondness for my temporary neighborhood and increase my desire to make it permanent. Keep your fingers crossed that the right house comes along so we can stay here for the foreseeable future.