See below for my Arizona Travel Blog Post Part 1: Phoenix!
Update: I recently returned to Phoenix (there are so many hidden gems) and went to many of the same places because I absolutely loved them. However, thanks to my cool Phoenix friends, I also was able to try new and delicious cocktail bars and vegetarian-friendly restaurants. Check out my new additions to my Phoenix blog post featuring vegetarian eats, lively libations, and plenty of caffeine.
Before coming to Arizona, I was expecting to have a harder time finding vegetarian/vegan food than I do in Chicago and obviously cities in SoCal. But I was astonished by how vegetarian/vegan friendly Phoenix was and even Flagstaff/Sedona had some great options too! While Arizona is still mainly a red state politically, somehow there’s a lot of vegetarian food – which I am really confused by.
For my series on Arizona, I will highlight Phoenix and Flagstaff for coffee, cocktail, and dining destinations! I also want to give a shoutout to our friend who lives in Phoenix and curated an amazing veg-friendly recommendation list for us so we didn’t waste our time at the bad places. We had a delightful time exploring downtown Phoenix and the Roosevelt Row’s Art District but also spent some time eating in Scottsdale.
This specific blog post, Arizona Travel Blog Post Part 1: Phoenix, will be focusing on the fabulous veggie-centric food, beautiful bars, and creative coffee shops I explored in Phoenix.
Neighborhood: Bel Air
Valentine is a magical restaurant that was so damn amazing, I went twice during my most recent trip! We went there for dinner and returned for brunch two days later. It’s in the same building as a furniture store, there is also a speakeasy bar behind it, which feels very PHX. But Valentine is a small plates, global/New American spot with incredible food and cocktails/wine in an airy-plant filled interior! We started with some lovely, funky orange wine and then proceeded to eat a bunch of small plates that were quite large.
The food blew me away! We started off with citrus tomatoes and burrata, then the Sonoran pretzel that usually comes with hen butter and honey, but we substituted it for regular butter, which was delicious. Apparently there is a special grain that you can only find in the Sonoran desert! For a larger plate, we all shared the toothsome elote pasta house-made tagliarini with asiago, crispy corn, and chili pepper. The oyster mushrooms with the mole blew me away, that sauce was perfection. But it gets even more epic, the crispy cauliflower was a veggie-lover’s dream. It was perfectly charred with tahini, and a delicate harissa-escabeche sauce.
As I previously mentioned, Valentine was so alluring we went back for brunch, which offers more of a laid-back vibe where you order at the counter and your food is brought out. We enjoyed the sunny patio while drinking their unique lattes, tea, and eating their brunch snacks such as their breakfast taters with mostarda and their seed salsa with refreshing avocado toast.
For our first night in Phoenix, we were looking for a good late night spot and came across Belly! They serve food till 12am and have such a lovely, laid back vibe with dancy tunes. They also have a “reverse happy hour” where you get discounts on food and drinks from 10pm-12am – my kind of spot! Belly serves flavors inspired by Vietnamese, Thai, and Japanese cuisine. Their vegetarian options were amazing! I fell in love with their jackfruit Bao, which was so flavorful with hoisin and jalapeños. Their pan seared mushrooms with tofu in a Sichuan black bean sauce was also perfection. I would definitely come back here.
Neighborhood: Scottsdale and Northern Phoenix
If you can only have one meal in Phoenix, GO HERE!! Especially if you’re vegan. I wanted to start out with this spot for my Arizona Travel Blog Post Part 1: Phoenix post! There are two locations and we went to the Scottsdale one, which had another misty, dog-friendly patio. Our dog was in a bit of a mood but the server was so nice and patient. We also happened to be here for happy hour so there were plenty of great deals to be had. Dilla Libre started off solely as a food truck focusing on wild quesadillas but they expanded to have two brick and mortar locations in addition to their funky food trucks. Their vegan/vegetarian menu is as vast as their omnivore menu.
As I previously mentioned, it was happy hour so discounted apps such as the buffalo cauliflower and vegan elotes were to be had! The buffalo cauliflower was super crispy with enough buffalo sauce to give it that punch with a delightful vegan ranch for a contrast in taste. The vegan elotes were served in a bowl so we could share it with people outside of our household. The vegan cotija, crema, and Tajin made this roasted corn perfectly flavored to the extent where you didn’t even realize it was vegan.
Now for the quesadillas – oh wow, I haven’t had vegan cheese made that way and my life will never be the same. They fried the cheese so it formed an incredible crispy layer over the tortilla. We ordered the chickpea chorizo Dilla and the vegan Napoleon Dynamite. As the name might indicate, the chickpea chorizo quesadilla was stuffed with a spicy, succulent chickpea chorizo, fried potatoes, pico de gallo, and plenty of vegan cheese. The vegan Napoleon Dynamite had a beyond burger carne asada (something I rarely see on menus), more tater tots, zesty Tapatio crema, pico, and vegan cheese. What pained me was that we weren’t able to take leftovers home since we were traveling and the portions were huge but I am grateful to have tried this gem of Phoenix.
Neighborhood: Scottsdale and all over Phoenix
We worked up an appetite walking around the streets of Scottsdale so we decided to get some savory hand pies. There is no Cornish pasty place in Chicago that I know of so I thought it was worth checking out. They have an assortment of wine, beer, kombucha and were playing some of my favorite post-punk.
What really brought us here was seeing their vegetarian/vegan menu for their hand pies. They seemed like they were out of a lot but we still were able to eat well. I had the veggie chicken tikka masala (British pub vibe) and my partner had the vegan oggie. The pasty itself was magnificent – soft, flaky and everything I could ask for in a Cornish pasty. I really enjoyed how flavorful the veggie chicken tikka masala one was with their red curry tikka masala sauce, peppers, potatoes and Qourn chicken. The vegan oggie was more of a traditional Cornish pasty with portobello mushrooms, potatoes, onions and a fascinating sauce. We ordered a side of their baked garlic mashed potatoes with cheese and were blown away by it. There are multiple locations of this spot all over Arizona so even if you’re not in Scottsdale, you will be sure to find one!
Neighborhood: Central Phoenix and Gilbert
Flirty cocktails and East Asian-inspired cuisine always get me excited and my expectations were fulfilled! Like many other spots in Phoenix, there are multiple locations. We went to the central Phoenix one. They have a dog-friendly patio as well but since we were having a big night out without our dog and are fully vaccinated, we decided to try eating indoors and enjoyed its buzzy ambience.
Being a big fan of Flying Lotus, I had to order the Flying Lotus cocktail, which had mezcal, amaro, agave, and lemon. It was a fun and flirty cocktail with the amaro standing out as the most prominent flavor. Clever Koi is the kind of spot where you want to order as much as you can and share with as many people as possible because there are so many intriguing delights on the menu.
While I tried a lot, here are my favorites: kimchi cauliflower steamed bun – give me more of that gojuchang aioli on top of that crispy cauliflower and the kimchi fried rice – the best kimchi fried rice I’ve ever had with their house-made kimchi, egg, scallion, Tamari, and pickled jalapeños. The vegan Shoyu ramen was a huge bowl of comforting lemongrass broth, tofu, mushrooms, garlic oil, scallions, and so much more. I faced another agonizing situation where we had to waste food because we couldn’t take the leftovers home.
Neighborhood: Roosevelt Row Arts District
We were wandering the streets of Roosevelt Row admiring all of the murals and art. Roosevelt Row Arts District is a delightful neighborhood at the edge of Phoenix’s downtown. It seemed vibrant, burgeoning, and full of coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and cute, pricey boutique shops. Jobot is an eclectic spot because it’s a coffee shop (with loose-leaf tea) but also has ice cream and dim sum! Oh and there’s also a bar inside. I wanted to try everything but we decided to try the vegan chocolate ice cream with some spice. They serve their ice cream in cute take-out boxes, which is perfect for slow eaters like me. It was also a hot day so I wanted some refreshing iced tea and I had a floral, herbaceous red rooibos tea. Next time, I am trying their dim sum!
Before driving up to Sedona for some hiking, we grabbed a quick snack for the road. Unlike other Phoenix spots, there is only one location for Essence Bakery in a cute residential neighborhood called Arcadia. Being a Francophile, I was excited to check out a French-inspired bakery! They didn’t have an outdoor patio and we had our dog so we ate the delicious snacks in our car. We tried their rosemary-kalamata olive croissant and their spanakopita. Both were insanely toothsome and mouthwatering. The croissant and spanakopita were a combination of everything I love in life.
Before driving back to California, we wanted to try another vegan eatery in Phoenix so we stopped at the Coronado, which had another misty, dog-friendly patio. The Coronado is Mexican-inspired with breakfast, brunch, and lunch options. We shared a vegan elote that was spiced really well and right on the cob. I had the California Burrito because I was in Arizona. The California burrito was a perfectly-sized burrito with black beans, mushrooms, guacamole, and a tasty cilantro-lime dressing. I usually don’t eat burritos because they feel overwhelming but I liked how approachable this one was.
I was quite impressed with the assortment of lively cocktail bars in Phoenix – it’s not a sleepy town! Here are my favorite spots from our trip. Many of these are outdoors and dog-friendly too!
Neighborhood: Roosevelt Row
During my return trip to Phoenix, my friends took us to a lovely new cocktail spot that features Southeast Asian flavors. It is tucked away behind Lom Wong, which is an innovative Thai restaurant, but it is not very vegetarian-friendly so I’d stick to cocktails at KHLA. Like many places in Phoenix, there is patio seating because it’s nice and warm year-round but for when it’s scorching hot, they have a hip interior. I had the Devil’s Deal with mezcal, hazelnut, lemongrass, and peanut oil. It was a dream of a cocktail and everything was well-balanced. Their cocktails are incredibly unique and fun to drink. Highly recommend!
In addition to Phoenix having unique vegetarian/vegan snacks, they also have something called a bar complex: multiple bars in one gigantic building. Out of the three dynamic bar options, we decided to go with the New Orleans, apothecary themed cocktail bar. It was small and intimate, but hey we’re all vaccinated. It was my first intimate bar experience since the pandemic and I had to keep reminding myself that it’s okay.
I ordered the Venom of Tranquility and a more traditional NOLA cocktail, Vieux Carré. The Venom of Tranquility had the profiles I usually go for with mezcal but a Thai basil-infused one, souchong tea, Serrano pepper, Korean chili thread, and so much more. It was an intense, yet refreshing and perfectly-balanced cocktail. The Vieux Carré was boozy with vermouth, whiskey, brandy, and plenty of bitters but it went down well. I somehow was not hungover the next day because everything here was fancy. Grey Hen is definitely a distinct and refined cocktail experience worth checking out if you’re in Phoenix. But be sure to make a reservation as it’s not really close to anything else if you get turned away and each bar is pretty small.
Neighborhood: Roosevelt Row Arts District
We took our last hike in Sedona and drove back to Phoenix for the night and we were wandering around Roosevelt Row pondering where to go for our last night on vacation. We checked out the delightful and upbeat, dog-friendly patio of Arizona Wilderness Brewing. While they are known for their beer, I decided to have a tequila cocktail – it was tart and refreshing. I wouldn’t call this spot vegetarian-friendly but they did have a few decent options if you are hungry. We tried their buffalo cauliflower, Bavarian pretzel, and bean taco. The Bavarian pretzel stood out the most with the beer cheese and beer mustard for dipping sauces. The buffalo cauliflower was spicy and saucy but could have been bit crispier. The taco was decent but could have been more flavorful. I would go here for drinks, snacks, and atmosphere, but if you’re a vegetarian I probably wouldn’t have a full meal here.
Neighborhood: Roosevelt Row Arts District
The Churchill is an outdoor food, coffee, cocktail, community hall with small shops like Sauvage to keep you hydrated with organic wine. We tried a cocktail from both of their cocktail bars and they were lovely. I had a refreshing, tiki-inspired one and my partner had an old-fashioned. Both were solid and flavorful. The other thing I loved about Churchill is that it’s indoor/outdoor, but super dog-friendly. It has a fun laid-back vibe for catching up with friends.
Did someone say happy hour? We happened to be in Scottsdale (a neighborhood I don’t particularly love but they do have a lot of food and drink options) and stopped at Blue Clover Distillery for a happy hour drink on their misty, dog-friendly patio. Blue Clover is a vodka AND gin distillery with a refreshing outdoor patio for those hot dessert days – they have mists! My partner ordered the gin old fashioned and I had something akin to a vodka-gin margarita with Tajin on the rim. Both drinks fulfilled their purpose and were very flavorful. I just want more Tajin on the rim!
Phoenix has quite an extensive coffee/tea shop scene, so I wanted to share my coffee/tea highlights for my Arizona Travel Blog Post Part 1: Phoenix!
I don’t care how hot it is, I can always drink tea! Infusion Coffee and Tea has an extensive tea menu and they are serious about their tea! Considering that it was later in the afternoon, I had their China Jasmine tea, which was aromatic and healing. I also bought some green tea to take back to Chicago with me. They have a large interior for those ASU students and friendly patio where you can overhear lively debates from grad students.
Neighborhood: Central Phoenix
Tucked away in a charming casita, Deseo is a dynamic and debonair coffee shop. This was our spot for cold brew and iced lattes as it was close to where we were staying but also offered unique concoctions such as their Canelita Latte with cinnamon, Mexican vanilla extract, and agave. They also give teachers 10% off everyday so that was a nice perk!
Neighborhood: Roosevelt Row Arts District
Songbird is a cozy coffee shop/tea house in a converted bungalow. They have an extensive tea list so I was very eager to have some tea. We had the Thai iced tea without the cream and a smoky black Chinese tea. I was really blown away by the smoky Chinese tea – it’s incredibly hard to find this. The Thai iced tea was a solid beverage but it was overshadowed by that divine, smoky Chinese tea.
Neighborhood: Downtown Phoenix
Luana’s is an eclectic coffee, beer, and snack spot – also in a converted bungalow but a really gigantic bungalow with a nicely shaded outdoor patio. If you are a coffee traditionalist, I’d stick to a more stoic coffee spot but if you want to have experimental lattes and coffee-inspired drinks, this is your spot! Luana’s has menu items that I have never seen before so that was very enticing.
I decided to go with a quirky latte, It’s Not You It’s Me, consisting of honey, lavender, espresso, and almond milk. This was an iced lavender latte where I could actually taste the lavender. It was a very pleasant latte for a hot, Phoenix day. My partner had something more outrageous, the Ex-Gf, which had mocha, hazelnut, vanilla, their decadent homemade black whip, and coco puffs. I liked my latte more – the Ex-Gf was a bit more show than substance, but it was still a fun, sweet latte to indulge in.
Jobot and Churchill
I mentioned these for food and drinks earlier but these are also great spots for coffee and tea. Jobot has an amazing African rooibos tea and Churchill has some powerful cold brew for when you need that afternoon shake-up!
So that’s it for my Arizona Travel Blog Post Part 1: Phoenix from a veg-friendly perspective with plenty of cocktails and coffee sprinkled in. I am so grateful to have gone to this surprising mecca for plant-based cuisine oblivious to what I was getting myself into! Stay tuned for my blog post on the tasty snacks and drinks of Flagstaff next week!
- Hungry for more travel posts? Check out my L.A. blog post here.