On a whim…or maybe it was a dare?….we drove to Phoenix recently to check out what all the shoutin’s about. (Turn’s out, there ain’t much shoutin’ at all.)
Five hours down the highway, we found ourselves in the middle of a downtown that has everything Vegas (and Vegas politicians) want: culture, art, shiny new streets, museums and sports stadiums.
Unfortunately, we also found it deader than Julius Caesar.
Really? You ask yourself. That dead? On a weekend?
Just how dead was it, ELV?
It was deader than a doornail.
It was deader than a dog’s bone buried down a blind alley off a dead-end street in a ghost town.
It was deader than Kelsey’s nuts.
It was deader than Lindsay Lohan’s career.
It was deader than 4 am.
It was deader than Charlie Sheen’s chances of ever becoming Dad of the Year.
Yeah, it was dead.
ELV asked a few people more acquainted with the Valley of the Sun than he, and found out that, even when the Suns and Diamondbacks are playing in town, no one hangs out downtown before or after the games. We pretty much confirmed this with our own eyes since a quick cruise around the area found almost nothing to eat or drink anywhere near the stadiums.
One place we did find was Pizzeria Bianco. Twice. The first time around eight o’clock at night, when there seemed to be at least fifty people waiting for a table, and the next day, an hour before it opened, when there seemed to be even more. Informed by many that a two hour wait for a table was the usual under these circumstances, we repaired directly across the street for a small plates tasting at Nobuo at Teeter House — an izakaya-type restaurant/James Beard Award winner — and were delighted with its charming setting in an old, nineteenth century house, and plate after plate of Nobuo Fukuda’s sparkling creations. His Japanese beer selection was also a winner — displaying a dozen bottles from the Land of the Rising Sun that we’ve never seen nor heard of in our humble burg.
After a day of cruising Scottsdale Old Town (forgettable unless you love western wear and tacky tourist shops) and then Taliesin West (worth the trip alone, whether you’re an arch-ee-teck-shure fan or not), we checked out the Arizona Biltmore for some more of Frank Lloyd Wright’s inspirational designs, before heading to the Barrio Cafe for a definitive posole and pollo en (Oaxacan black) mole.
As much as we’d like to trash all things Phoenix, we have to give quesadilla credit where it’s due. Vegas has nothing approaching this tiny, stylish Mexican restaurant — featuring the classic cuisine of Mexico, given a modern twist or two by chef Silvana Esparza.
Every dish tried had a certain snap, originality and personality behind it that doesn’t exist in any of our Mexican restaurants. We can still taste that posole, the deep, rich, haunting darkness of the mole and that almond sauce on the stuffed poblano peppers…all of which made us rethink the title the title of this post.
So maybe the architecture and food of Phoenix don’t suck…but we wouldn’t give two cents for your chances of having fun there on a Saturday night.