I have visited Shake Shack in Boston, Chicago and now Phoenix. Shake Shack got their start in 2004 in NYC and has expanded to over 130 stores in under 15 years. Sometimes when these restaurants explode like that they lose some of the qualities that originally made them so great. I actually had a nice evening at this location. This Shake Shack is in the downtown Phoenix Uptown Plaza which is becoming a little mini foodie paradise with all the killer eats moving in. I went with my go-to item the SmokeStack burger. You can’t go wrong with a burger topped with cherry pepper relish, applewood smoked bacon and yummy ShackSauce. They use 100% all-natural Angus beef and are served on a non-GMO Martin’s Potato Roll. I love the crinkle fries and got mine with cheese sauce on it. Shake Shack makes a killer burger and the shakes and concretes are pretty amazing too. Tonight I got great customer service and lots of welcoming smiles from the employees.
Ike’s Love & Sandwiches is a sandwich shop that started in San Francisco’s Castro District in 2007 and made its way all through the Bay area. Now we have them here in Arizona. Ike Shehadeh (whose cartoon face is plastered on every restaurant) opened his first restaurant after being nearly homeless. Ike’s are known for their variety of sandwiches that are named after well-known celebrities. They use a bread popular in the Bay area called Dutch Crunch bread (or Tiger bread). The sandwiches are unique because of “Ike’s Dirty Secret Sauce” – a creamy, garlic aioli that is baked into the bread and smeared onto the sandwiches. So far I have tried the Manage a Trois and the Meatless Mike (Vegan meatballs). The sandwiches are pretty large and the bread is very soft and moist. I have had great experiences both times I visited them. They have many vegetarian options and very order comes with a free caramel-green apple lollipop for dessert.
While attending a film screening of Elements at FilmBar for Devour week, all in attendance received a Bite Box. These wonderful little boxes of Arizona-made goods were a small sample of the Bite Boxes you can subscribe from Bite magazine. Bite Boxes share goods handpicked by local chefs and artisans. The Elements movie showcased six local chefs and they each contributed something to the box we received.
Adobo Dragon offers a menu consisting of Asian-Latino cuisine and is located in the heart of downtown Phoenix at DeSoto Market. The head chef is Allan Inocencio and he is the one who combined the Asian and Latino flavors. Adobo Dragon offers a variety of noodle bowls, tapas and baos. I ordered the curried noodles and a side of albondigas tapas during my first visit. The noodle bowl was pretty flavorful. I felt it was a good-sized portion and the shrimp was nicely prepared. The albondigas tapas were also very tasty. I ordered a chicken and albondiga boa the second time I visited. The boa was perfectly steamed and had a nice texture to it. I also ordered Plantain mojo and found it surprising light and delicious. It came with a side of chips to scoop it up with. Both my experiences were met with great customer service. I really enjoy sitting at the counter and watching the cook fire up these creations while soaking in the fun atmosphere of DeSoto Market.
I started Arizona Restaurant Week off with a bang by eating at Southern Rail Restaurant. I had the pleasure of dining at award-winning Chef Justin Beckett’s restaurant Beckett’s Table during Restaurant Week in 2012 and really enjoyed that experience. I recently sat in on one of his cooking demos and was looking forward to eating at one of his establishments. Southern Rail is his most recent kitchen that opened in 2014. Located inside The Newton (former home of The Beef Eaters) and right off the Valley Metro light rail path, SR has become a popular dining destination for Valley foodies. The Newton is a mixed-use concept space where you can shop, read or dine. In addition to Southern Rail, there is a Changing Hands bookstore, Southwest Gardener and First Draft Book Bar.
Southern Rail is a beautiful restaurant with lots of open space. It has an open kitchen and a large size patio/bar area. Its rustic-style, nostalgic decor that gives off a warm, hospitable feel. The food has an American Southern theme to it with flavors inspired by dishes from Georgia to Alabama to Mississippi. They also have an award-winning wine list along with a selection of local craft beers. With the Restaurant Week menu, you have the option of choosing from three different menu items for each of your three courses for dinner. Because it was my first time, I went with some of their signature dishes. The cup of Gumbo Ya-Ya for appetizer, the Cider Brined and Slow Roasted Pork Loin for my main course and their delicious Red Velvet cake for dessert. Also included was a local beer (I got one my favs – San Tan Kiltlifter). I was met with great service and enjoyed every bite.
Southern Rail was a wonderful culinary experience for me. The Gumbo soup was full of flavor and delicious. The Pork Loin was nice and tender and you can’t go wrong with the Red Velvet cake. I’m a huge fan of Chef Beckett and his influence on the growing food culture here in the Valley of the Sun. I highly recommend either one of his restaurants. I look forward to stopping in again on the popular Fried Chicken nights on Wednesdays.
Owner and architect DJ Fernandez owns this little restaurant as well as a couple other favorite’s of mine – Tuck Shop and Vovomeena. Astor House is located within the heart of the Coronado District. This cozy house-turned-eatery (next door to Tuck Shop) is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a focus on BBQ. They smoke their beef, pork, turkey and chicken over hickory wood. I got the Combo plate (Brisket & Pulled Pork) and the yummy gooey butter cake. I had a nice experience here and enjoyed the neighborhood feel to this place.