Tonight was fancy night at Mowry & Cotton. I met up with my long time foodie friends Andrea and Merichelle in a sort of reunion night. Mowry & Cotton opened up at The Phoenician in 2007. I was able to attend a fun Yelp event here last year. It is named after two businessmen (George Mowry and James Cotton) who came to Phoenix in 1872 and opened the first fine liquor establishment in downtown Phoenix. They were trying to create more of a community feel instead of the typical saloons that were around. Chef Tandy Peterson has created a nice rustic menu of comfort food that pays homage to meals that were cooked over a fire back then. The concept here is a shared dinner menu that you mix and match with the people at your table. They have several choices of meat and fish to choose from like salmon, sea bass, steak and ribeye. They also have a variety of popular flatbreads (thin pizzas). Other choices are salads, vegetables and appetizers. They have several cocktails to choose from like their signature Washington & 1st drink (named after Mowry & Cotton’s distillery location in downtown Phoenix). They are also open for breakfast and serve brunch on the weekends. The staff wears button down shirts, suspenders and leather boots to reflect the times. For decor, there are old distillery bottle all around the restaurant that plays off the lighting that comes in to create an ambiance feel of the Old West.
Mowry & Cotton
Mowry & Cotton has been running a special Summer Culinary Countdown menu that includes a Bottle and Board for $25. It comes with a choice of a bottle of wine and a flatbread. We tried the Roasted Squash Flatbread and the A to Z Wineworks Pinot Gris bottle of wine. For dinner, I ordered the Grilled Pheasant. It was tender and smokey and comes with lots of fixings like almonds, onions, broccolini and cherries. Others at my tabled ordered the Chicken Pot Pie, the Corn and Chorizo Dip (with Chicharrones!) and Grilled Potatoes. We enjoyed trying one another’s food over good conversation. This is a great new addition to The Phoenician. The rest of the evening was spent in The Phoenician Cactus Garden and enjoying the beautiful views of Phoenix from the lounge area.
The newest edition to downtown Gilbert is nicely squeezed in between Bergie’s Coffee and Joe’s Real BBQ. Topo is a small walk-up food stall with a huge gopher on the roof (Topo means gopher or mole in Spanish). Leave it to owner Joe Johnston to add a little something fun, unique but weird to the growing downtown Gilbert area. This place draws you in like many of the weird roadside attractions do if you were driving on the Route 66 in northern AZ. What I like most is its very simple menu – burrito, beverage and ice cream. What else do you need in life? You can order a regular burrito (chicken or pork) or have it loco style with elote corn, fritos chips, tomatillo cream and hot sauce. They offer a small bowl of elote for a side. For dessert, they have vanilla or prickly pear ice cream cones that you can dip in chocolate, lime or prickly pear. That’s it – very quick and simple. I came on opening day and it took about 15 min waiting in line to order my food (I’m sure that will decrease over time). Food came out in a few minutes. Joe Johnston greeted people in line and offered us gopher stickers. The kitchen space is small and systems-based. I noticed they weigh every burrito that is made before they serve them. There are a few tables off to the side, but most people use the larger picnic tables next to Joe’s BBQ. This place is unique and fun and opens late. They should get quite a good crowd that just want a quick bite to eat.
I love tacos. I especially love Taco Tuesdays! It has become such a big concept and everyone who serves up tacos puts out great deals for this day. Backyard Taco is a popular spot here in the Valley that serves up tacos al carbon. “al carbon” means to cook over charcoal and are very popular in Mexico. I was introduced to this place when I ate here with my foodie group a few years back. Backyard Taco was started by Ruben and Maricela from Mazatlan. Their business was birth from cooking tacos in their backyard for friends and neighbors. So hospitality and making customers feel at home is a big part of their business. They use fresh simple ingredients along with their amazing selection of meats to create the authentic taste of Tacos al Carbon. I love it when you walk into the lobby and get a glimpse (and smell) of the meat grilling on their mesquite grill. I came by for lunch and sampled a few of my favorite tacos – Carne Asada, Pollo and Al Pastor. Of course I grabbed a horchata to wash it all down. They also do quesadillas, burritos, tostadas, gorditas and a crazy potato. My favorite thing about Backyard Taco is the condiment bar which has a variety of salsas, onions, limes and jalapeños for toppings. Lunch was delicious and affordable as always and made for another fun Taco Tuesday.
This is one of those sad reviews. After more than twenty years of serving the Valley, Coup Des Tartes is closing their doors. This local French-inspired American bistro (Phoenix’s longest running french restaurant) is the perfect spot for a romantic night out or any type of special occasion. It reminds me of Paris and makes me feel like Roaring ‘20s, Paris-style The tall shady trees and the pretty lights over the large open patio make for a nice hideaway from the busy surrounding area. They also have a private dining space like the Rendezvous Room that can host meetings and they can also accommodate weddings and other outdoor events. What I always loved most about his place was the friendliness of the staff. My experiences here were always met with a warm greeting and excellent service. Sadly after being forced out of their previous location, Coup Des Tartes wasn’t able to fully recover due to labor laws. I’m going to miss their exquisite seasonal menu that included some of my favorites like the Chicken Cordon Bleu, Duck a l’Orange and the Three Onion Tarte. My best memory will always be a fun Yelp event in which we were encouraged to dress in French outfits. I stopped in for one last visit and ordered their delicious French Onion Soup as I mingled with the staff. Thanks Coup Des Tartes for the memories and I hope a day comes that you make a return. Au revoir.
French Onion Soup
Coup Des Tartes fans are the best and we love each and every one of you. Over the years we have served many many thousands. We have helped celebrate everything from births to weddings and everything between. We have been honored to be part of your life’s events. Because of that we wanted you to be the first to know, it is with great sadness and deepest regrets that I write to inform you of the closing of the restaurant at the end of January 2018. Although business has been steady, financial pressures from the new labor laws, increased competition, and debt from the restaurant’s relocation, has forced us to this end. Don’t be sad, we are still here for 2 weeks so we would love to see you one more time and say goodbye. We are not sure what comes next but like us on Facebook and add your email to our list to be the 1st to know. Thank you again for your patronage.
Florencia Pizza Bistro is one of those locally owned neighborhood eateries. Ahwatukee has a lot of these little hidden gems because most of them are located in strip malls. This one has been around for quite some time and resides next door to the popular Melting Pot. They offer three types of pizza – Traditional, Olive Oil (Garlic, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Mozzarella Cheese with no tomato sauce) and Pesto (Basil Pesto Sauce with no tomato sauce). You can create your own with toppings (over 40 topping choices) or choose from one of their popular specialty pizza creations. Some of the names include the Snow White, Pomodora, Valentinos, Winchester, Clevenger, Malanzane, Bo-Be and the Green-Eyed Chicken. There are many more creations to choose from and they have vegetarian options as well. The dough is house made and their pizzas are thin-crust. I’m more of a thick crust person myself but actually found their thin crust quite enjoyable. They also have panini, calzones, salads and sandwiches if pizza is not on your radar. Their appetizer menu is not incredibly large but they have a nice variety to choose from. I got the mozzarella sticks and felt they were just average. We ordered the Clark’s Classic pizza which consisted of pepperoni and chicken marinated in buffalo sauce. I was a little worried the sauce would soak through the thin crust and make it soggy but it actually held up (even eating it as a leftover the next day). There is a small bar area to the side where you can order a glass of wine or beer. The owner is a Wildcat fan (boo…) and they’ve had fun fundraisers in the past during the annual ASU/UA football game to benefit the local high schools in the area. It wasn’t very busy when I visited but service was pretty good.
I love this location because it’s always close by when I’m either running an errand in Tempe or at something related to ASU. They are about a mile south of the 202. My Dad once lived in Ashland, OR years ago and I vaguely remember going through the original Human Bean drive-thru there. That’s where this company got their start. They are known for their hand-crafted espresso drinks and fruit-infused smoothies. And of course every drink is topped with a white chocolate espresso bean. They have a program called the Farm Friendly Direct that allows them to work directly with the farming communities that harvest their beans so that they can build long-term relationships with them. This location has a double drive-thru or you can walk up to the window. You order directly from the barista and not through some intercom which I love. The baristas are usually high energy and very friendly. I haven’t tried one of their teas yet, but I really enjoyed their popular Granita drink. During the holidays they do holiday style cup that is pretty festive.
When I was visiting New York City, I had the opportunity to eat at a halal cart. It was pretty amazing. The Halal Guys are the most popular of the halal carts. Three partners opened up a hot dog cart on West 53rd & 6th Avenue in New York City in 1990 and then switched over to Mediterranean food to cater to Muslim cab drivers. That’s how Halal Guys were formed. They are pretty well known all over Manhattan and have expanded outside the Big Apple. Now they are here in the Valley of the Sun with a few locations planned. I had a chance to visit their Tempe location which is in the perfect spot because nearby Muslim community. The menu consist of platters (with salad and rice) and sandwiches. You can either get chicken, beef gyro, a combination of both or falafel. I got the beef gyro sandwich and really enjoyed it. The white and red sauce are a must and really add some spice and flavor to your meal. I’m excited to made a return visit!
I had a fun evening eating and meeting new foodie friends. Two long time friends Erika and Kaylyn of Sip So Good hosted their first event at Arizona BBQ Company in Gilbert and invited me to come. This place just opened recently (not too far from where I used to live). This was a fun media event with a bunch of food bloggers and Instagram influencers. My first impression when walking in was that this place pays a nice tribute to Arizona. The decor is southwestern with a fun board listing Arizona facts and history. The restaurant itself is very simple and comfortable (great for kids!) with counter order service and a bar located to one side. The owners are longtime Gilbert residents and they opened this place to give back to the surrounding community. I was here for a buffet style dinner so I don’t have a lot of info on portion sizes of their platters, but their menu prices seem very reasonable to other BBQ restaurants. I felt very welcome here and Colette was great at sharing her passion for this place to us. Even though I came here for BBQ, I was immediately drawn to the tray of green chili bacon mac n’ cheese. I’m huge mac n’ cheese guy and I thought it was fantastic. Not too spicy but nice and cheesy with lots of flavor. We also tried their black bean and corn salad, brisket and pulled pork. These guys definitely know their BBQ and do a great job of capturing the flavors of the southwest. The BBQ comes naked as they have a condiment bar with different flavors of BBQ sauce. My favorites were the sweet and tangy and habanero sauces. Overall this was a great experience and I wish this place was open back when I had a house in the adjacent neighborhood. AZ BBQ Co. accepts non-perishable foods that they donate to a local food bank. Just another way they try to give back.
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!
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.