happy hour Archives

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THE SCENE I almost can’t believe my eyes when I walk into CHAR Pizzeria Napoletana in Peoria. There’s a sleek, clean and downright Euro feel – silvery tin tiles on the ceiling, modern black light fixtures, gleaming wood and metal chairs congregated around marble-topped tables, brown leather banquettes and booths, a contemporary wooden bench and a clean white counter.   I grew up in the West Valley and went to high school just minutes away from this pristine pizzeria at the corner of Lake Pleasant Parkway and Happy Valley Road. Let me tell...

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THE SCENE  I am a lot of things, but two things I certainly am not are a beer drinker and a vegan. I often wish I could be both! Life – especially concerts, dive bars, festivals and my alcohol budget – would be so much easier if I loved beer. While I can find merit in a porter or stout redolent of chocolate, coffee or caramel, or in a fruity light beer like Papago Orange Blossom, I’d always rather skip the brew in favor...

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plantain latkas | Photo by Leah LeMoine   THE SCENE STOP. Stop driving by restaurants and shops you’re curious about. Pull in, park and go inside. Try as many new things as you can. At worst, you’ll spend a little money and be disappointed. At least your curiosity will be satisfied, and you’ll know not to go again.   At best, you could discover a new favorite – a neighborhood haunt, a regular spot for meals with friends, a haven with your kind of people, art, vibe, food and drinks. You...

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Avocado and tomato bruschetta | Photo by Leah LeMoine   THE SCENE My love for The Hermosa Inn and its stunning on-site restaurant, LON’s, is no secret. I love it so much I broke my pandemic “dining-out” fast there in April, when my partner and I celebrated our anniversary on its perfect patio. I’ve rhapsodized about it in print and in this very happy hour blog, where I wrote about LON’s Last Drop’s happy hour two years ago.  Ah, but the times, they are a changin’ – and so is the happy hour...

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THE SCENE Oh, I forgot how wonderful it is to visit a new restaurant. To sit down at the bar and really drink the place in. To try a smattering of dishes to truly get a sense of the chef’s headspace. To actually feel the vibe, not just observe it from the takeout counter before rushing home.  I rediscovered this pleasure this week at a media happy hour at the week-old Campo Italian Bistro and Bar, the newest incarnation of James Beard Award-winning chef Alex Stratta’s space in The Village at...

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THE SCENE Is anyone else having crowd anxiety as we return to restaurants? I can’t be the only one. It’s simply natural to be a little jittery around gaggles of people after the past year and a half of social distancing, quarantining and fearing the physical proximity of others, lest we infect each other with a horrific virus. It’s challenging to rewire your brain and body to accept closeness – especially for someone like me, a social introvert who thrives in small groups but is easily...

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THE SCENE  Photo by Leah LeMoine This week, I returned to the office for my first full workday there in a long time (nearly all pandemic, though I did come in for a few days here and there). It was nice to see my colleagues, to be in their presence and to share my baking experiments with them again (my pampushki, aka Ukrainian buttermilk rolls, were a hit).   It was also nice to revisit the part of town our office is in – the fringes of Arcadia, close to Old...

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THE SCENE It’s a blessing and a curse when you specialize in something and do it so well that people struggle to think of you doing anything else.   Nobody knows that better than Daily Dose Kitchen & Bar owners Matt and JenLyn Long, who have been killing it at the breakfast and lunch game so long that most people don’t realize they now offer dinner at their Midtown location. And not just dinner – a traditional happy hour (3-6 p.m.), as opposed to their Mid-Day Happy Hour I wrote about last year. I...

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All the news that’s fit to nosh.  Chino A-Go-Go: Long-time fans were shocked in March when Chino Bandido owner Eve Lee Collins announced the restaurant would be leaving its original location after 31 years. It officially closed on Mother’s Day weekend, and the new location at Bell Road and Third Avenue is slated to open in June. In the meantime, Chino’s devotees can get their jade red chicken fix at a food truck set up outside the new spot. The truck opened yesterday and will operate Monday-Friday from...

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Photo courtesy Diego Pops   THE SCENE I don’t know about you, but I’ve been reuniting with a lot of old friends lately. The vaccine rollout has finally made it feel safe to see friends and family in person, to watch their expressions, to hug them, to share food with them – in restaurants, if you can imagine.   Some of these reunions have been with the eateries themselves. I know I’m not the only one who feels bonds strong enough with the...

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THE SCENE You know what I’ve missed during the pandemic? Chips and salsa in real time. Sure, I brought some home from local Mexican restaurants to enjoy with my takeout tacos and tamales from time to time, but those were not – and will never be –the same as a bowl of crunchy shards of fresh corn tortillas still hot from the fryer and glistening with flecks of salt, sided with ramekins of bright, cool and colorful salsa. Something is lost in transportation.  When I found out Habanero’s Mexican Grill, a North Valley institution with two Scottsdale locations, had a happy hour, I got excited. My...

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Monger’s Board | Photo by Leah LeMoine   THE SCENE   Charcuterie businesses are all the rage now – I feel like five new ones pop up every time I open Instagram – but my friend, Mahfam Moeeni-Alarcon, was one of the first charcuterie queens to make a big splash here in the Valley.   I met Mahfam nearly a decade ago (!!!), when she was working as a wine buyer at Whole Foods in Chandler. She emailed me out of the blue and invited me and a friend to the store...

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Photo by Leah LeMoine   THE SCENE I am embarrassed by how many times I have driven by locations of Picazzo’s Healthy Italian Kitchen without giving it a second thought. I think for many years I assumed it was a gluten-free version of Panera Bread – an unremarkable chain bakery/cafe. Why would I go out of my way to eat there when I could support our homegrown bakery/cafe, Wildflower?   Then my friend Elaina started working with Picazzo’s. She told me it was locally owned...

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Though many people don’t know that Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, they are familiar with the parades, music, food and drinks that accompany this day of Hispanic heritage. Honor history by indulging in a few drinks and traditional dishes at these local haunts.   Los Sombreros pollo fundido | Photo courtesy Elaina V. Public Relations   Los Sombreros Though Cinco de Mayo falls...

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Italian meatballs | Photo by Leah LeMoine   THE SCENE Sometimes it’s nice to reconnect with an old friend. I surmise I’ll be doing a lot of that as the vaccine rollout speeds up in Arizona, and I’m looking forward to seeing old pals in person – especially when those pals are restaurants.   North Italia is one such friend. I remember visiting its West Valley location (since shuttered) for the first time in high school. I was besotted by a deconstructed chicken lasagne on the menu at...

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