Matthew and I were lucky enough to get away to sunny Phoenix for a week, and though I posted on my social media while we were there, I thought a recap of the best places we went and the best food we ate might be a great resource for those Nebraska snowbird types that spend the cold Omaha nights in the desert sun. (I can’t say I blame them.)
Hush Public House, Scottsdale
As you might know, I rely heavily on Eater when we travel, and Hush Public house sounded great on one of the site’s most recent Phoenix 38 lists. I’ve grown a little tired of Brussels sprouts, if I’m honest, but the ones on Hush’s menu are standout: fried to a crisp crunch and topped with blue cheese, loads of bacon and a touch of balsamic, I’d get them again. The chef’s special country pate is absolutely gorgeous, but I wished for more depth of flavor there; the locally baked Noble Bread is enough to make me want to check out their deli while I’m here, too.
I wished for more depth again in Hush’s takes on Asian, for both the duck fried rice (though the duck itself was tender and tasty) and the cold Dan Dan noodles. Both had plenty of “heat” and nice vegetables, to be sure, but not much in the umami department. If you like a classic Chicago Beef, the restaurant’s high-end take is interesting and fun, and something I haven’t seen anywhere else. The spicy giardinara, cut into a perfect dice, is wonderful.
Barrio Cafe, Phoenix
A college friend recommended we check out Barrio Cafe, and I have to say, he nailed it. This Mexican spot opened in 2002 and since then has become a standard; while it almost closed during the pandemic, I’m happy to say it is still open and bustling.
I have to say, Barrio Cafe serves the best cochinita pibil I have ever tasted, and it’s not any kind of contest. The dish, named one of Phoenix’s most iconic, is stunningly good. A huge pile of pork gets cooked for 12 hours with bitter orange and achiote, and then gets served with a small packet of handmade corn tortillas and a side of surprisingly delicious papas fritas and sweet roasted carrots. Don’t sleep on the spicy homemade ketchup, which puts every other homemade ketchup I have ever tried to absolute shame.
We also tried their take on shrimp tacos, which comes on a giant tortilla topped with petite shrimp, two salsas (a spicy green and a fresh pico) and sliced avocado. It, too, is fantastic.
Barrio is known for its massive bowls of guacamole, and even I, a publicly stated person who does not really like avocados, liked this one, heavily spiked with lime juice, cilantro and jalapeño, and beautifully topped with a heavy layer of in-season pomegranate arils. Well worth the $18 price tag.
Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix & Scottsdale
We’ve eaten at both locations of Bianco, which is one of those kind of places that gets so much buzz, you think it can’t possibly be as good as people say it is.
Well, it is as good as they say it is. Also, if you can, check out the original Phoenix location, we thought the pizza there was better, and the atmosphere is so cute, you’ll love it as much as we do.
But the reason anyone goes here is the wood fired pizzas, and they are truly some of the best I’ve had anywhere, in all my travels, period. The crust has that crisp-stretchy consistency that’s just irresistible, with big blackened bubbles around the edge, and a center that can hold up to the toppings.
And those toppings: choose from one of the pre-curated selections if you know what’s good for you. None of them come overloaded; they’re all unusual in the best way.