If you’re a hardcore foodie, you’re constantly in search of your next great meal! The who, what, when, and where of that next epicurean adventure often begins before you’ve finished the last one, the excitement as palpable as opening presents on Christmas morning.
One of the things that many people don’t know about Phoenix—other than its denizens, of course—is that the metropolitan area is an amazing culinary destination. From James Beard award nominees and winners, to incredible mom ‘n pop joints, authentic ethnic establishments, A-List upscale restaurants, quaint neighborhood bistros and everything in between, your palate will find it here.
There are so many great options its hard to mention only a few, while also leaving so many out. So instead I’m taking a small but no less delicious bite into the outstanding vegetarian and vegan fare (with a few meat, fish and seafood options thrown in) offered here.
Located on 7th Street just north of Bethany Home Road, Otro Café serves up incredible traditional and new world cuisine using fresh, local ingredients peppered with flavor and flair. For starters, try the Ceviche de Camaron made with shrimp, pico de gallo, lime, cucumber, cilantro, avocado, or the Spring Rolls with your choice of veggies, shrimp, or pork belly and served with peanut and sweet chile dipping sauces. The Posole Blanco is also a popular dish, crafted with white hominy, shredded pork, cabbage, oregano, white onion, chile pasilla, cilantro, and lime.
Plenty of Forks Over Knives Adventures
Downtown at Vegan House even your carnivore friends wouldn’t know their delicious creations were bereft of any meat or dairy products. Plant-based eater favorites include the Veggie Rolls, deep-fried mixed vegetables and glass noodles wrapped in flour paper served with plum sauce, and the Spaghetti Basil with Seafood, spaghetti noodles with vegan shrimp and fish, onion, ginger, bell pepper, mushroom and basil.
Then there's the Orange Soy Chicken or Tofu, tempura soy chicken or tofu topped with fresh orange sauce and sesame and served with rice; Sweet Potato and Taro, fried sweet potato and taro dipped in coconut milk tempura batter and served with tangy peanut sauce; and the Veggie Soup with clear glass vermicelli noodles and soy chicken in clear broth. A large portion of their dishes are also available gluten-free.
Green New American Vegetarian in Tempe is kind of a misnomer, in that everything here is both vegetarian AND vegan. Focusing on classic twists of your traditional comfort foods these primarily organic, healthy options are, as the restaurant says, “sure to please any palate whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, or omnivore.” Think Karma Curry made with organic coconut milk, madras curry, potato, and a hint of maple, or the soy-free Dagobah Jungle - jerk spiced fried brussels sprouts over fresh greens tossed in Jamaican jungle dressing with carrots and crunchy tortilla strips. (Ya Mon!).
The Secret BBQ Sammie is made with mock chicken with caramelized onions n' peppers in an espresso BBQ sauce with bacon and mayo, served with the West Coast Fries: their classic thyme fries smothered with melted cheese, grilled onions, and 1K island sauce. Shut the front door! The first time I went (yes, I went twice in the same week!) I ordered the special Monster Burrito—taco meat, fresh tomatoes, lettuce, guacamole, spicy salsa, roasted potatoes, sour cream, melted cheese, and fried pickles in a fire roasted tortilla.
Among their most popular items are the Rice Bowls - house or fresh organic, sprouted tofu, mock beef or mock chicken resting on a bed of organic brown rice and fresh, sautéed vegetables. Even their veggie patties are made here from scratch. And oh yeah, don’t forget the daily house-made vegan soft serve ice cream!
Another great place to enjoy incredible eats in Phoenix is at The Churchill. Located downtown on North First St. and Garfield and situated in a 9,000 square foot indoor/outdoor courtyard, The Churchill is more than just a place to eat, rather a collection of established proprietors and start-up entrepreneurs.
Here you’ll find Foxy Fruit, serving delicious organic, vegan, local and gluten-free “healing food & edible art through acai bowls & smoothies,” The Brill Line Beer & Spirits featuring a wide selection of local and craft beers with 24 rotating draught handles, plus classic twists on traditional cocktails, and Provecho (for which I give an honorable mention!) which dishes up outstanding, authentic, Central Mexican fare from the Jalisco and Michoacán regions (think classic, family recipes of chilaquiles, molletes, tres leches French toast, esquite, elote (on the cob or in a cup and amazing!), jericalla, and several different varieties of tacos, just to name a few.
At Commander Hamburger their burgers made from farm-fed, humanely raised cattle; and So Far, So Good is described as an “approachable neighborhood cocktail bar featuring fresh, straightforward and never-fussy cocktails.”
Last but certainly not least here is my second honorable mention, Freak Brothers Pizza, where all of their 12” personal pizzas—the Sriracha Chicken (grilled chicken, fresh jalapeños & a drizzle of sriracha hot sauce), Spinach Artichoke (artichokes, grape tomatoes and spinach), Pepperoni (as classic as it gets), Margherita (their unique take on the time-honored tradition), Pesto Madness (a pesto base with grape tomatoes and tangy banana peppers), and La MiaBella (an olive oil base with kale, grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, and finished with sliced almonds and a drizzle of MiaBella traditional balsamic (Oh. My. God.)—are made with 100% organic fresh dough, organic produce when available, and natural meats.
Moreover, all pizzas can be made gluten-free and, wait for it, in vegan versions! So, every diner gets the same great tastes in a creation that suits their particular dietary needs and desires. They also offer a tabouli salad (weekends only), a Lebanese family recipe hummus with pita bread, and from hometown fave Sugarloaf Lane Bakery their chocolate chunk cookie and vegan sea salt brownie.
Popular food tours in Phoenix offering a buffet of tastes and experiences include Arizona Food Tours, with Lunch, “Sip ‘n “Sample” (Happy Hour Time) and Dinner tours to Scottsdale and Tempe favorites and hidden gems, as well as a Scottsdale Progressive Dinner Tour.
Taste it Tours covers Downtown Phoenix, Old Town Scottsdale and Downtown Gilbert. Here, participants spend three glorious hours sampling a variety of food specialties and signature drinks from over half a dozen restaurants. They also offer a self-guided wine tour in Old Town Scottsdale.
If you want to graze (no plant-based pun intended) for hours, all in one place, then the annual Phoenix Vegan Fest is for you! Held in the heart of downtown every February at Margaret T. Hance Park and drawing over 6,000 people, the festival (celebrating its 5th anniversary on February 29, 2020) features over 100 vegan and vegan-friendly food trucks, restaurants, and food purveyors, presenters and cooking demo chefs, artisan vendors, over 25 live musical acts on two stages, a kid's activity area and community-based activities.
Before you delve in with your knife and fork, get a good overview of the city in Escape to Phoenix - The Valley of the Sun.