Common Grounds

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While visiting Rim Country, I yelped best coffee in Payson and this little gem popped up. I pass through many times a year and didn’t recognize the name Common Grounds. I figured I give a local place a shot instead of going to the nearby Starbucks in town. It is a fairly new coffeehouse that neighbors nearby Expedition church (who actually started it). Common Grounds seeks to establish meaningful community in the Payson area. The coffeehouse is cozy and very welcoming. The bar is made of a beautiful dark wood and the décor consists of historical photos and a wall with a large painting of the Arizona flag. Outside is a nice shaded patio area with plenty of seating. On the menu, they have a nice selection of coffee, espresso drinks and tea. They also have pastries on hand and free wi-fi. We stopped in for a bit and really enjoyed our time here. The staff was friendly and our drinks were made just right. One of things I like about this place is that they donate their profits to local charities and organizations within the Payson area. They are all about giving back to the local neighborhood and I’m always a huge fan of businesses that invest in their surrounding community. I love that their cups say “neighborhood coffee house” on them. My only gripe was that we came on a Sunday afternoon and parking was very limited because of church going on. But overall this is a really nice addition to the Payson area.

Common Grounds Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Tempe Public Market Café

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I am such a fan of the Phoenix location and St. Francis that I was pretty stoked to hear that chef Aaron Chamberlin was putting a location in the East Valley (closer to home for me). I thought the decision to put a location in a quiet residential part of southern Tempe with no restaurants within a mile was pretty bold for them. They are essentially sending a message that they are going to own this area and be a cafe for the surrounding neighborhoods. I’ll be honest that my first couple of visits during opening month had its issues. The lines were super long and the customer service was working through many kinks. But after a few months, Tempe Public Market is quietly settling in and becoming a staple in this area. The patio area is dog friendly and very spacious. They have plenty of misters for the hot summers and a killer fireplace for the colder winter evenings. I like that beverages (non-alcoholic) are self-serve. They have counter service for ordering your food and seating is open. These are some of those things that makes this place feel like home. So far I’ve had breakfast and dinner here now. The Blue Corn Pancake is fantastic. It’s pretty large but not too filling for a pancake. The Steel Cut Oats are good but a little on the pricey side for me for oatmeal. They also do a community night for dinner on some nights. It’s a 3-course dinner for around $13 that includes salad, entree and dessert. Overall I can see this as a regular stop for me (especially in the mornings on that patio). I love the Farmer’s Market at the Phoenix location and hope that is something that gets incorporated here someday.

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Steel Cut Oatmeal

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Blue Corn Pancake

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Tempe Public Market Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Helio Basin Brewing

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Quality Crafted in Phx

Helio Basin Brewing has become one of my favorite local breweries. Their slogan is Quality Crafted in Phx. They took residence in an old pool hall that I used to hang out at in Arcadia. Helio Basin is founded by Mike Conley and brewmaster Dustin Hazer. Chef Tamara Stanger creates the amazing food that is served here. It’s the perfect pairing of top quality brews with simple but innovating food. Many of the dishes here have some sort of representation of Arizona in it. For beers, their IPA and Blackberry Wheat are the big sellers. I think my favorite thing about this place is the sense of community they have created here. They have a few large tables for large parties and have the ability to open up the patio for outdoor events. From talking to many guests that I sit next to, Helio Basin had become a popular neighborhood favorite. I came here for their one year anniversary party with a buddy and my son. I ordered a beer flight got a nice variety of beers as my selection. The Robust Porter is one of my favorites. Chef Tamara put together some delicious roasted pig tacos with banana cornbread and Sonoran rice. We had a great time and enjoyed our beers and food. Hello Basin is a great addition to the Arcadia food scene and definitely check out their great happy hour and Taco Tuesdays!

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Helio Basin Brewing Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Black Rock Coffee Bar

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I just found out recently that this Portland-based coffeehouse opened in Chandler. In fact, we currently have three locations in AZ. Black Rock Coffee offers a variety of drink options, from drip coffee to mochas to espresso to hot tea. So what makes this coffee chain different from other ones? They really strive on connecting with people and creating an atmosphere to craft those stories. This location is very spacious and located in the southern part of Chandler. They have both walk-up and drive-thru service. The latte I got was pretty good and I thought the staff was really friendly. Black Rock seeks to build connections with the local community and were donating their proceeds of the day to a family of a local teacher that had been killed recently. I love hearing stories of local businesses seeking to make a difference and thought I’d stop in and show my support.

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Black Rock Coffee Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

2017 Elite Badge Celebration

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Well … my rookie year of being a Yelp Elite is officially behind me. This event was a great way to kick off the new year for all of us Yelpers that got badges for 2017. This was also my first time checking out Bevvy and they did a great job of hosting us. I grew up in Scottsdale and can’t believe how much this area has changed over the years. Bevvy is in the heart of the downtown area. They are a neighborhood gastropub run by Evening Entertainment Group (RnR, HiFi Kitchen + Cocktails) and one of the only licensed off-track horse racing betting pubs in AZ. I really enjoyed their spacious patio area, leather booths, wood-paneled walls and the variety of TV screens and yard games throughout the bar. My only knock is that they are the headquarters for the New England Patriots during football season. I attended quite a few Yelp events last year and made a lot of new friends. So this event for me was about getting reacquainted with everyone and congratulating them on their 2017 badges. It was nice to see most of my Yelp family all under the same roof. They had Yelp backdrops for us to take photos in front of and Yelp filters for us to post on Snapchat. Props to the photo booth guy for killin’ it as always, to Chandon for the champagne and of course to our awesome Yelp staff for the fun evening out!

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Bevvy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Provision Coffee

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Provision Coffee seeks to build community through quality coffee. Founders Lawrence Jarvey and Dan Suh (along with designer Kyle Cesmat) have a passion to serve and connect with people. Provision connects with their farmers and helps with the basic needs of their communities. The coffee is roasted here in Tempe and sold through subscriptions and partnerships with local businesses and churches. I visited their full service coffee, beer and wine bar inside the Palette Collective in Gilbert. The Palette Collective is a pretty cool space with various suites that host several businesses. Most of the businesses are independent beauty salons. I’m a big fan of nitro cold brew and ordered the Southwest Sunrise. This cold brew combines a simple syrup, bitters and an orange twist. I also ordered the Havana Nights cold brew on my second visit. It is similar but adds a smokey taste to it with the smoke released from aromatic burned tobacco along with mint leaves for garnish. The combination of the favors with the nitrogenated coffee was crisp and smooth on both drinks. The coffee shop itself is nice and spacious and our barista was very welcoming. I love coffee and especially love it when there is a good story behind it. I look forward to following these guy’s journey and supporting their good endeavours.

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Southwest Sunrise

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Palette Collective

Provision Coffee Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Urbanspoon -> Zomato

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Today is a sad day. Zomato officially transitioned Urbanspoon into Zomato. They acquired them back in January. I’ve been using Urbanspoon for a few years now and ended up becoming a Prime. I initially used them to time-stamp my restaurant visits for this blog and to help keep me organized. But after I became a Prime, I started to build community with other fellow passionate foodies. I personally put many man hours into posting photos, writing reviews and editing mis-information about different restaurants on Urbanspoon. I’ll be honest, I’m not exactly a big fan of this new platform. But Zomato is continuing to keep my reviews, photos and will let me use the spoon back feature for my blog. I have decided to transition to Yelp (not a huge fan either) but will occasionally use Zomato when I can. Thanks for the good memories Urbanspoon and for getting me out trying new places to eat.

Long Live the Spoon!

From Wikipedia: Zomato’s intention, based on information from its CEO, Deepinder Goyal, as reported by John Cook of GeekWire, is to give the company “a nice footprint” as it expands in preparation to “battle industry heavyweight Yelp.” Goyal is reported to have said: “‘The biggest challenge and most fun part of this move, however, is the fight we’re going to be picking with Yelp, … [i]n the market they have dominated for so long. After all, like Mark Twain famously said, it isn’t the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Zomato reportedly will integrate the Urbanspoon app and Web site over the next few months [of early 2015], “meaning the Urbanspoon brand will be phased out.”

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From Zomato Blog: Needless to say, the road ahead is a long one, and there are big challenges to overcome. For one, we’ll need to ensure that Urbanspoon’s website and app are integrated into Zomato smoothly over the next couple of months, without sacrificing the usability or utility of either. Urbanspoon has built vast legions of faithful followers over the years, and we’ll need to work extra hard to ensure that the finished product is one that users and merchants alike will love and enjoy using.

Sadly, Zomato alienated the Urbanspoon Primes and they all faded away to other food apps. I’m not sure what the future will hold for Zomato, but they ended laying off tons of U.S. staff members after their start and thus far have not replicated what Urbanspoon did here in the U.S. Zomato may be big overseas, but Yelp continues to dominate the market here in the States. There is a Facebook group for former Prime members (pending approval) if you ever want to connect with us.