The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Phoenix: Day 1, Part 1

view from the airplane
It's the ZONA!

I was very, very grateful when we finally landed in Phoenix about half an hour ahead of schedule. One, I kind of had to pee but figured I could hold it until I got into the airport; two, I had been sitting next to a mother and her fidgety, screaming baby for the entire flight. It wasn't unbearable (baby needed to take a nap every now and then) and obviously the mother had a much worse off time than anyone sitting around her, but I wondered if I would've gotten more sleep on my 6:30 AM flight if I had sat more than a few inches away from the source of terrifying screechings and wailings and such.

My favorite Alex (you know, PARIS ALEX!) had the task of picking me up from the airport and entertaining me for the few hours before we would meet Lee Anne after church. He succeeded at both tasks by 500%. Yes, that's like 5 times the maximum. Because Alex can do that. He has powers that stretch beyond those of normal maaaaan.

on the road

While we drove towards the city center I was struck by the flatness of...everything. It is flat. It is flat and spread out, with few buildings taking advantage of vertical space. Many roads were five or seven wide with the center road being a wild card for turning either direction. Alex called it the lane of death, or something to that effect. Flowers and trees neatly lined the roads, not too many that you felt like you were in a jungle (something that New Jersey sometimes feels like), but enough that made you think that you weren't in the middle of a flat desert.

"You wanna get pancakes?" suggested Alex. Wait, you mean there are people who wouldn't want to get pancakes?

I replied with a "yes," or more possibly happy shrieks of pancake joy.

But our pancake trek was not meant to be. We pulled into the parking lot of a Motel 6 attached to some wonderous pancake house, so wonderous that a hoard of people were waiting outside for a pancake brunch of wonderous pancake-ness. Crap. We didn't have enough time to wait. Back to the car we went, hanging out heads in pancake defeat while Alex clutched his gurgling stomach.

COME IN! people eeexcellent
La Grande Orange

Next stop was La Grande Orange Grocery, an empire of tasty foods catered to yuppies and people who like...good food (I'm half joking about the yuppies). We entered through the back, walking past stacks of freshly baked goods and chefs bustling through the kitchen making freshly baked goods, and stopped in front of the display of breads and viennoiseries.

"They're out of croissants!" gasped Alex. Indeed, the croissant basket was empty. Like our souls. There was hardly a trace of any croissant existence. I could hear Alex's heart break at the sight of the empty croissant void and simultaneously curse the earlier croissant-hungry patrons who denied us of such buttery joy.

The line in the store was too long to get anything and waiting in it probably would've exceeded the 19 minute parking limit, so once again we left empty handed. Alex suggested that we make our own pancakes, a foolproof way to satiate our pancake desires figuring the supermarket hadn't run out of pancake mix.

Time to make PANCAKES
pancake time!

The supermarket did not fail us; PANCAKES WERE A-COMIN'!

let's try the fat pancake
pancake number 1

Unfortunately, our batter was a little too thick and our first pancake came out mildly obese. When Alex flipped it over (after letting it cook for a preeeeetty long time), it hit the pan with an un-pancake-like thud. Damn. But it tasted like a regular pancake. I guess an obese pig would still taste like a non-obese pig.

it bubbles! WEE, pancake!
ah, better pancake

We modified the pancake mix by adding more milk. Now the bubbles of done-ness actually came to the surface of the pancake while it cooked, unlike the first pancake whose thickness was unpenetrable by the gassy orbs. Finally, the golden whole grain pancakes were ouuuurrrsss.

moar, moar food!

Our next stop was Barrio Cafe where we would soon meet up with Lee Anne for lunching.

bread and olive-y salsa

While we waited for her to arrive (we were early), we munched on thick soft bread chunks and very olive-y salsa.

my drink of some sort

I also ordered a drink—a drink that WASN'T WATER. I tried the jamaica (hibiscus flower) flavored water, which was fruity, sweet an slightly tangy, a bit like cranberry juice. Alex said it was also a little spicy, but I couldn't tell until I tried his tamarind drink.

tamarind drink

I don't remember what the drink tasted like, but it was definitely missing some kind of kick that my drink had. At the bottom of the bottle lay the muddied remains of the tamarind that gave its life to the drink. Alex looked slightly afraid by the thought of imbibing himself with the cloudy tamarind matter.

pork tacos!!
pork tacos!

It wasn't hard to decide what I wanted when I saw the description, "slow roasted pork tacos" for the tacos de cochinita pibil. Not having eaten many tacos in my life (or Mexican food), I don't know how to rate them,, I like them. I mean, I like most things with slow roasted pork, right? Those soft, juicy shreds of pork flesh are magical. MAGICAL. I've never gotten used to the messiness of the taco eating experience (pork and tomato liquids running down my hand)—perhaps I would've been better off getting a sandwich—but aside from the tactile sensation I was pleased with the porkness and the...pork...and thick, soft tortilla...and the pork.

shrimp tacos
shrimp tacos

Lee Anne, who is much more well versed in Mexican foods than I am, gave her shrimp tacos many enthusiastic thumbs up. I mean, at least two thumbs, since she has two thumbs.

eggs n stuff!
eggs and stuff

Alex ordered the pastel de calabazas con queso, an omelet filled with sauted zucchini, cheese and roasted sweet and spicy peppers finished with a tomatillo sauce. I assume he liked it since he ate most/all of it. I would've finished my tacos but my stomach was on the verge of 'sploding. [insert sad face]

chips for guac guacamole!
guacamole! stomach was on the verge of 'sploding partially because of the bounty of guacamole and chips we ordered. Oh man, those chips. They weren't like any other chip I had, I think because they were less like chips and more like deep fried corn saucers. Their heavy crunch satisfyingly rattled in my brain and continued to do so as I chewed on the shards of fried corny goodness. Guuuuh. Of course, it was even better with the chunky guacamole smooshed on top, in which dried cranberries wallowed amongst the folds of avocado mashings.

And then we were...quite full. Now what? MOAR FOOD? No, even I'm not that insane. You'll find out in part 2.


La Grande Orange Grocery
4410 N 40th St, Phoenix, AZ

Barrio Cafe
2814 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ


Jeanne / August 8, 2007 4:18 PM

If you make it to Tucson you must eat at Beyond Bread. It is full of deliciousness because they make all their bread, pastries, etc. AND they have their own brand of chips! WOO! I can't wait to read more reports of your Phoenix fooding (I grew up in Chandler, suburb of Phoenix, before I became a foodnut, so I memories of good places.)

Geggie / August 8, 2007 7:02 PM

Just happened upon your blog. I just moved away from Phoenix in March after 10 years there. Do not miss Richardson's at 16th Street and Bethany Home Rd. Enjoy the heat!!

Jannsimon / August 8, 2007 7:40 PM

I have been in Phoenix for three years and am from Chicago. How I miss the food in Chicago! I am curious to see what you think of Phoenix. Me, I cannot wait to move elsewhere. It's too spread out, and everything is strip malls....But I love your site...I am still wondering how you can eat so much great food and not be 300 pounds!

santos. / August 9, 2007 3:01 AM

Alex said it was also a little,

a little...?

also, totally awesome way to reuse the mexican coca cola bottle. do you drink sodas? because if you haven't tried mexican coke, you're missing out on some cane sugar goodness.

roboppy / August 9, 2007 3:29 AM

Jeanne: I don't think I'll be going out there, but if I ever do...YAY BREAD! Or BEYOND BREAD! Whoa. I went to Chandler the other go to Lollicup. I think. Uh. WEEOO?

piccola: AHAHA're not the only person to point that out to me (okay, you're just one of two!) but yeah, you know what the Robyn likes. :D Thanks!

Andrea: I'm going today! Thursday I mean. Ehehehe.

Geggie: Ooh, I don't know if I have enough time to go there...gaaah. I NEED TO STAY HERE LONGER! Or come back another time. Yeah, maybe that. :)

Jannsimon: You're right, it is verrry spread out. I don't know what it'd be like to live here, but I like being here on vacation! :) Cos people are feeding me, bwahaha. As for how I'm not 300 pounds yet, I really have no idea. As fat as I am now, I have no idea why I'm not fatter

santos: Aiee, thanks for (proof)reading, which I obviously didn't do. The missing word was "spicy."

I've never had mexican coke, but that cafe sold it, I think (hence the bottles). Then again, if I don't really like regular Coke, is there much reason I'd like Mexican Coke? .__. I'm not a fan of colas. I like...uh...ORANGINA though! Yeah.

B / August 9, 2007 3:55 AM

It all looks SOOO good. I love the mini-ness of the tacos, each one is jam-packed with deliciousness, and yet its smaller then your hand. They're like tiny flavour explosions.
I really covet places where mexican food is any kind of good (cause is london its all kinds of bad).

Hand to Mouth

The Home Cook / August 9, 2007 11:58 AM

OMG, this all looks so amazing. I really need to get to Phoenix. After reading Feasting in Phoenix and now seeing this post I think I'd have to plan for a month-long trip just to eat at all the restaurants I want to try. Gah! Now I'm drooling over the pork and shrimp tacos.

But what's up with cranberries in guacamole? I'm not down with that AT ALL!

Marsha / August 9, 2007 12:55 PM

Everything was fine until the dried cranberries appeared in the guac. That should simply not be allowed. I am unmoving in this position: it should not be allowed.

By the way, the first pancake is always a renegade.

Enjoy Arizona!

Heather / August 9, 2007 1:38 PM

I used to live down the street from Barrio's my favorite Mexican in Phoenix. The shrimp tacos are yummy!

skiwi / August 9, 2007 2:16 PM

oh I hate that starving feeling whenever I'm travelling in a busy city that I've never been to before! My family is REALLY picky so when we're travelling we'll literally be walking for 2 hours to find a decent restaurant only to find some packed full, or not to our liking. All while my stomach shuts off temporarily because of the lack of food.
and i have to point out, that "19 minute parking" sign is hilarious. why 19 minutes? how about just rounding it up to 20.. ;)
btw those chips with the guacomole dip looks delicious!

Phaedrus / August 9, 2007 5:54 PM

Marsha, It is NOT dried cranberry in the gauc, it is pomegranate seeds, which are quite authentic, not to mention delicious -- better yet, the make it tableside!

Barrio Cafe is one of my two favorite Mexicans haunts in Phx, -- the other is Carolina's (Mohave at 12th St) don't let the ambiance deter you they have the best 'homemade' tortillas in town!

Marsha / August 9, 2007 6:20 PM

Whew, Phaedrus, I feel better now. I've never had pomegranate seeds in guac, either, but they make more sense than cranberries! I usually just stick with avocado, a whisper of onion juice, lime juice, chopped tomato, and salt, but my mind is not closed on this matter as long as it doesn't become some sort of sweet salad. Thanks.

roboppy / August 10, 2007 2:04 AM

B: Hehe, I never even though of what Mexican food would be like in London...or...that it existed there! Aw.

The Home Cook: Yeah, no one is down with the cranberries...well I thought it was pretty tasty to have just one time. It would've been good without the cranberries too, though.

Marsha: Oh, I'm afraid those ARE dried cranberries, although from afar I guess they might look like pomegranate seeds. Nah, I'm pretty sure it was dried cranberry. They were kinda just smooshed on top, not mashed throughout the guac. So...DON'T BE AFRAID!!

Heather: I think the waiter said the shrimp tacos were his favorite, or...he liked them a LOT! They were yummers.

skiwi: I know 19 minutes isn't serious, but then I wonder how long they would let you park before...chasing you out. Maybe 30 minutes? Ehee...

Phaedrus: I heard they put pomegranate seeds in the guac, but those were definitely dried cranberries. Eehehe...uhoh. Maybe they put it in to make up for the pomegranate seeds. But that's really not the same thing. Hm. Well. I was cool with it. The dried cranberries weren't necessary, but I think it tasted alright because the chips were so thick. Otherwise it could've tasted too heavy.

tom / August 10, 2007 5:30 AM

You brave soul, heading to Arizona in the middle of the summer!!! I almost died when I was there in the end of May a few years ago...I can't believe what August would be like (it was already 110 degrees in May). And I don't care what they say; no matter how dry it is, you still feel it (the heat, that is!).

The national park around Tucson is beautiful; hope you make it there.

BTW, tamarind juice has a soporific effect, they be careful of drinking too much before driving...I personally love the taste!

roboppy / August 11, 2007 1:52 AM

Tom: It's not that hot here, honest! I mean, I'm not standing outside all the time, so it's no prob. It was above 100 degrees today. Yay for air conditioning, hehe...

I didn't get to go to any national parks, but I made a short trip to Sedona. Verry pretty yes.

Christine / August 14, 2007 2:02 AM

I had a similar reaction when I first visited Phoenix last year, its FLAT and man that sky! And though we ate at some pretty neat places (a hole-in-the-wall Italian place with great pizzas and a Hawaiian fusion place called Roy's), I wish I had known about Barrio Cafe and those shrimp tacos! :)

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