happy hour Archives

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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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  Photo by Leah LeMoine   THE SCENE  Have you ever put off trying a restaurant because you thought it was far from your house? No? Just me? Well, as I’ve mentioned before, my partner is loath to leave the 5-mile bubble he’s mentally constructed around our house, even for good food. I will drive damn near anywhere for a delicious meal – and I do, in “normal times,” trying new places all around the Valley with foodie friends. During the pandemic, though, I’ve found myself...

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Bruschetta trio | Photo by Leah LeMoine THE SCENE  North Phoenix’s 32 Shea is both the worst and the best place to drink and dine during a pandemic. Its famously cozy (OK, a bit cramped) interior is anathema for social distancing, so only a handful of people at a time can be seated inside. The petite coffee shop and eatery’s idyllic patio is another story. Outdoor dining is easy, breezy and beautiful (CoverGirl ref intended) in the lush outdoor oasis, which boasts gobs of greenery, a Buddha statue, a constellation of string lights and plentiful umbrellas. It’s dog-friendly, too.  ...

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THE SCENE  Wine country meets North Scottsdale at this bright and sleek wine café. Rhythm + Wine is an airy yet sophisticated bistro – lots of cream– and latte-colored upholstery, bright tiles and light wood with understated pops of red – that also boasts a wine market with an impressive collection of global bottles. A spacious, light-strewn patio allows for distanced outdoor dining in a pretty Pinnacle Peak setting.  THE FOOD  Rhythm + Wine bills its fare as “traditional comfort meets traditional...

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THE SCENE  As a pretty patient introvert, I’m much more likely to get JOMO (joy of missing out) than FOMO (fear of missing out). I get excited about new restaurants – and in “normal times” I am grateful to visit them during media previews – but I’m not someone who has to be among the first to try a place. I’m OK with waiting until the buzz abates, because crowds and lines made me itchy even before COVID-19.  My chill approach has held throughout the pandemic, even...

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THE SCENE The Peoria outpost of this local Mexican chain is situated in the Park West shopping complex off the 101 and Northern Avenue. It’s modern, bright and airy inside, with blue and yellow chairs and bench cushions popping against pale neutral wood, breeze blocks and dangling geometric light fixtures. A decent wraparound patio has twinkling lights, fans and space heaters. Jalapeño Inferno’s Scottsdale locations (Pinnacle Peak and DC Ranch) boast even more spacious and charming outdoor dining.  THE FOOD Owners Terry and Laura Craig are...

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THE SCENE These irreverent, British pub-influenced bars (locations in Old Town Scottsdale and Uptown Phoenix) draw raucous patrons for sports viewing, bar games, off-track betting and general merriment. A wooden bar, plentiful barstools and plush banquette booths set the stage for lingering at both Bevvy locations.   THE FOOD Our go-to at the Old Town location is the juicy Bevvy burger, topped with American cheese, tomato, arugula, red onion, pickles and red relish on a buttermilk bun. It’s way better than your average bar burger. The...

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THE SCENE Warm, glossy wood and industrial touches dominate the décor at this elevated brewpub. A North Phoenix outpost joined the original Scottsdale location in January 2019 under new ownership. Newer ownership held a grand re-opening in September 2020. Abundant TVs make it a destination for sports fans.   THE FOOD Everything on the happy hour menu is $6, and since most dishes are carb-y, it’s easy to fill up quickly and inexpensively. The soft and chewy brewery pretzel is...

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When you grow up in the Valley, your experience of it is greatly dictated by which part you’re from. Phoenix and its sundry suburbs and surrounding cities are so spread out that if you grew up in Mesa, say, you’d have absolutely no reason to go to Avondale – at least not in the course of your daily life. We largely live in our own little community bubbles and only venture out to go to an event (pre-COVID) or try a new restaurant (and even then, it’s only people...

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Trying new restaurants is a big part of my life – for work and for personal pleasure. This year, though, I’ve made an effort to patronize (via takeout; I’m still quarantining) restaurants that are older, but new to me. I’ve especially made a point to try beloved Valley institutions I’d somehow missed in my dining adventures. Now I know that I, too, love Los Sombreros and Rusconi’s American Kitchen!   This time I thought I’d finally try Roaring Fork and its wood-fired Southwestern cuisine, made famous by former chef/owner Robert McGrath. When I was 12, I started religiously reading The Arizona Republic’s...

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I haven’t sat down in a restaurant or bar since my birthday dinner at Angry Crab Shack on March 10. Who knew my seafood boil and hurricanes would be my last tastes of restaurant life for five months and counting? To me, it still doesn’t feel safe – for me or the employees of restaurants – and I’m listening to my intuition and not feeling bad about that. I’ve still been spending a ton on takeout to support local throughout this mess, but we all know it’s...

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