AZ Hot Spot: The Porch

To state the obvious: Phoenix is a hot place.

(I’ll interject here to point out the irony that I am actually writing this blog on a rainy, cool October day. But I digress.)

Besides the weather, Phoenix is also a simmering spot for cuisine. It seriously seems like there’s a new restaurant popping up on every corner. We’re a city full of patios, bar games, and delicious, indulgent food.

The Porch in Arcadia brings together the best of all three.

Recently, I had the opportunity to head to The Porch and try out a few new menu items.

First off, let’s talk the space itself. If you’ve never been to The Porch and are looking for a great place for a Sunday Funday, I’d recommend it. There’s cornhole, a slew of big televisions, and pool tables and skee ball in the back. Safe to say, no matter what you’re into, you won’t be bored.

Also, it’s so Instagrammable. As a blogger, you know that I know the importance of that feature. 😉

However, I’d suggest a rideshare, or at the very least carpooling. There isn’t much parking, but I have a hunch that might be designed that way on purpose. When you sell such delicious libations, limiting parking for the sake of safety might be a wise choice.

Speaking of delicious libations, take your pick off their menu. You simply can’t go wrong.

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The fig mule? Refreshing, and not overly figgy, which, for me, was plus. The “My Ex-Wife’s Secret”? A hilarious name and a delicious drink.

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The “Big Trouble in Little Shanghai”? Well, it comes in a takeout carton, so that should tell you how fun it is. Also, it’s made with RedBull, which I’m not a fan of, but you can’t taste it. Or, more dangerously, the alcohol. It’s basically a grown up Capri Sun.

Whatever drink you get, you can pair it with a number of menu items. While I didn’t have them during my most recent video, I can confirm that the fries are top notch. However, I got to get a little taste of some potentially new menu items, which offers a strong promise of what’s to come:

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The black & white Ahi poke was divine. Granted, it does feel a little weird to be having poke at a place that you’re meant to be up and about at, playing bar games and lingering with pals, but the dish was good nonetheless. I’ve never had poke with beets in it, but I have to say – I’ll be having it with beets much more often.

The chicken stir fry, also not on the menu yet, was good. However, be prepared for a bit of a bang for your buck. It’s quite spicy.

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The salmon salad was, hands down, my absolute favorite. I’m keeping all of my fingers and toes crossed that it makes its way to the menu because, if it doesn’t, I’ll have to track down the chef and ask for the recipe.

Oh – and don’t forget the donut holes!

My only disclaimer – besides the parking and the spice – is that you shouldn’t be in a hurry when you come here. The service is leisurely… which gives you more time to enjoy all the takeout-carton drinks you desire, I suppose.

The Happiest Hours Around Phoenix

I’m a happy hour girl. I owe a lot to whoever invented the concept. Half priced appetizers and five dollar wine? What’s not to love?

Besides, I think there is a lot to be said for getting all of your socializing in and then being able to be home with a book (and a cat and a boyfriend) by eight.

In honor of my love of happy hours, and partially because it’s just fun, I’ve rounded up my favorite happy hour spots in metro Phoenix:

North

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This one’s a given, and will top the list every time. Ask me anywhere I ever want to go for happy hour, I will pick North without fail. In fact, my friend Makenzie and I are such regular visitors to this establishment that we have our own table. Granted, we deemed it as such, but it is nice that there’s enough regularity to my appearances here to have something like that.

North has a board and bottle offering that rivals Postino’s. Actually (and I mean no offense to Postino’s here, because they also have a large part of my wine-loving heart), I think North’s is better. You get to pick between a pizza, bruschetta, or a chef’s board, and I almost always pick the latter. I’d recommend getting some extra bread, though. Mainly because the bread is delicious.

The Montauk

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For a spot smack-dab in the middle of Scottsdale, the Montauk has the greatest New England island vibes. With clapboard walls adorned with fishing nets, the nautical vibe can transport anyone to the world of Blair Waldorf and Hampton lifeguards on… well, Montauk.

I had the opportunity to check out some of the Montauk’s new menu items earlier this summer, which is when I first experienced their happy hour items. Before that, I’ve only ever brunched here.

In addition to a great range of appetizers, the Montauk offers full meal options that are delicious and unique, like their new bowls! Plus, they’ve got a full bar and some delicious cocktails to keep you… wait for it… happy all hour.

(Okay, sorry. I know. That was bad.)

Gwin Wine and Beer

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This is another recent discovery. I’ve been saying ever since moving to Scottsdale that I want to become a regular somewhere, and not in the way I’m regularly at North. I want to be a regular here in the sense that Ted, Robin, Marshall, Lily, and Barney were regulars at MacLaren’s. Now, I’ve only been to Gwin once, but this seems like exactly the sort of place that could make that oddly specific dream of mine a reality.

Gwin’s bar takes up most of its dining area, but that’s what’s great about it. You feel like you’re really there to get to know the staff, to learn from them, and to look up at the really impressive chalk map of their wineries and specials. There is live music every weekend (and occasionally on Monday, which is when I saw Jaty Edwards perform). The food offered ranges from the best baked Brie I’ve had in a long time to Cornish Pasty Co.’s pasties, with a charcuterie board in the middle. While this might not be the sort of spot I’d go if I was ravenously hungry, I do plan on returning for plenty more Chardonnay and finger foods… and then walking across the parking lot for dessert at The Baked Bear.

Blanco Tacos & Tequila

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Yes, I do drink things that aren’t wine. I also like margaritas, and Blanco has some of the best. They also have a delectable queso dip that I could eat as an entire meal… and I have before, because it’s what tops their nachos. Blanco also has probably some of the best options for sharing plates out there, between their aforementioned dips and their gigantic cheese crisps. If you’re looking for a place to take a group, I’d definitely give Blanco a top-notch recommendation.

Phoenix Public Market

img_1639Oh, how I greatly miss living within walking distance of this gem. (Let’s start a petition to convince the boy to move back downtown so I can relive those happy hour glory days? Just kidding. Kind of.)

Phoenix Public Market is certainly one of the most recognizable spots downtown, partly because food trucks fill up its parking lot every Friday during lunch. But it’s quickly becoming one of the most recognizable happy hour haunts, too, and to that I say — of course it is! Their happy hour menu includes two of their best food offerings: Downtown Devil fries and a soft pretzel. Plus, they’ve got 5 dollar wine and beer and sangria, and a 5 dollar signature cocktail — the Lee Trevino, which is both gloriously refreshing and surprisingly spicy in the same sip.

Combine that with the fact that PPM is within walking distance of all the major sports and concert venues, just so long as it’s not five million degrees out, then you’ve got the perfect spot to get a quick bite and a drink before heading out to a game.

So, there you have it, my own little opinionated round up. And, granted, I part with the disclaimer that this is no way a comprehensive list, but rather the five spots that I frequent most often.

What are your favorite happy hours around the Valley? And for those of you checking in on this blog from out of town, I would love to hear your favorite local spots too… we can add it to the list of Things To Do for whenever I come visit. 😉 Until then… cheers! After all, it is 5 o’clock somewhere.

The Sweetest Thing

Millennial friendship is such an anomaly, if you ask me. On one hand, we still very much have the “keeping up with the Jones’” competitive attitude of generations past – look at my new job, new fiancé, new baby, new dog (but no new house, as we are too busy buying avocado toast). On the other hand, we’re the generation throwing convention to the wind, and known for being excruciatingly supportive of it – oh, you want to quit your job to go drive around the US in an air stream trailer? TOTALLY, I’m so into your free spirit!

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Photo taken at the Art of Ice Cream Experience.

That said, millennial friendship can be hard to strike a balance… to find the sweet spot, if you will.

Friendship is a balance of giving deep life advice with an edge of realness, and advising that you buy plane tickets you can’t afford just in the name of life experiences.

It’s a sweet spot somewhere between chatting about work over wine and charcuterie, and diving into a ball pit a The Art of Ice Cream Experience for the sake of an Instagram.

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Photo taken at the Art of Ice Cream Experience.

It’s being real when it counts, and offering to take a million photos to get the “picture perfect” shot when it doesn’t.

It’s about showing up when you’re expected, and even when you’re not, while also respecting the inevitable boundaries of our always-on, career-driven millennial culture.

Friendship knows when to blindly support and when to offer a word of caution. That said, it’s also respecting where and when your opinion is warranted.

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Photo taken at the Art of Ice Cream Experience.

It’s a game of chance. It’s not easy, but relationships between humans inherently aren’t. It’s just as much about finding the sweet spot and recognizing our own humanity and humility, and that of others. It’s knowing that we are all going through life, which is full of twists and turns and mistakes and glorious moments, and knowing how much sweeter it is to do that with a few good friends by your side.

Basic Brunchin’: My 5 Fave Spots in Phoenix

Basic (as defined by Urban Dictionary)
only interested in things mainstream, popular, and trending

Okay, guys, let’s face facts: being basic these days is not always looked at as a good thing. It’s usually used sarcastically, or, worse, not as a compliment.

Well, I’m here to tell you: it is totally okay to fly your basic flags high. In fact, I’d even say it’s encourage, especially when it comes to one thing in particular:

Brunch. 

I’ll admit it. I. Love. Brunch.

But then again: who here doesn’t love brunch!? Brunch is the quintessential epitome of basicness, sure, but it’s also delicious. 9 out of 10 times it comes with bottomless bubbles. And it’s smack-dab in the middle of the day, so you don’t have to get up early OR stay up late. (I’m much more excited about the latter.)

So, in the spirit of this unprecedented excitement that I recently found I harbor towards the best meal of the weekend, I’ve rounded up my top 5 favorite brunch spots in Metro Phoenix:

Snooze

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Admittedly, this one might be a bit of a cop-out. Everyone in Phoenix loves Snooze… but there’s a dang good reason. Snooze has something to offer for everyone: the yummiest pancakes (or drunken monkey French toast… which is made with banana bread!), delicious egg creations, and even some healthy things thrown in there. I’ve actually become really fond of the last item: pictured here is a quinoa egg bowl filled with feta and kale and all those good-for-you things that you don’t normally see on a brunch menu. Plus, they’ve got fun drinks if you’re there with girlfriends and delicious coffee if it’s a family affair, and several convenient locations throughout the Valley

Pro Tip: There’s no reservations on weekends! Be prepared to wait… but grab something from the bar while you wait, or help yourself to the complimentary coffee!

The Breakfast Club

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This one has a special meaning to me that has nothing to do with why I’m recommending it, but probably is part of why I like it so much. My family in California gets together every Saturday morning for what they’ve dubbed “breakfast club.” It’s hard to miss out on the weekly meals, but sometimes, I go to The Breakfast Club in Old Town on Saturday morning and send them a snap of my food – just to feel included. 🙂

That said, The Breakfast Club (with locations in Old Town and Downtown) has the best French toast, and the best waffles! I’m not usually a sweet breakfast person, but for some reason, every time I go here, I get hooked on sugar. The Boy is a big fan of their Quick Start Loaded – eggs, bacon, potatoes and the whole 9 yards.

Pro Tip: Be wary of the Breakfast Club signature iced coffee if you’re a black-no-sugar kind of person. It’s really sweet! They have a plain cold brew if you’re not diggin’ the sweet side.

Daily Dose

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Another place that I slip towards the sweet side of the menu. The Boy and I used to go to the Daily Dose pretty regularly when it was on the way back to my old apartment from church. The wait was always a little shorter than Snooze, but the food was equally fantastic. They have the perfect waffle for peanut butter lovers like me (it comes with banana, but I think warm bananas are weird so I omit those…)

Pro Tip: If you aren’t feeling breakfast food, they also have a great lunch menu!

scrAMble

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When I found out that they are set to open a location right by my office – I got SO excited! This is less of a leisurely brunch, and more of a good place to go if you’re looking for a good bite and quick service. They have a counter-style setup, so you go order and then find a seat, and they’ll bring the food out to you. It’s much more laid back than other brunch and breakfast places, and sometimes, that’s exactly what you need. I’ve had several scrambles here and you just can’t go wrong (which I’d hope not, considering the name).

Pro Tip: It’s all self-service, so don’t forget to grab your knifes and napkins from the drink station!

The Vig

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This one’s probably a bit of an unconventional choice for brunch – and especially unconventional considering there are fries and tacos pictured here. But The Vig is hands down my favorite spot for brunch in Phoenix. It’s such a chill atmosphere, and the whole menu is available… even the bacon mac! You do have to ask for that, though, but I promise they’ll serve it (my friends would never go here if they didn’t.) Plus, they’ve got a Bloody Mary bar with all the fixins… how can you go wrong?

Pro Tip: Actually, you can go wrong. Don’t use the house-mixed Bloody Mary juice. They’ve got plain Bloody juice to start with… season as you’d like from there, or else you’ll get a lot of peppery red stuff in your drink. 

There you go – my five fave brunch spots in Phoenix. Now, full disclaimer: I was in no way compensated for any of these reviews… these were written purely out of my admiration for the Phoenix brunch scene.

Disclaimer part 2: I definitely listened to Taylor Swift the entire time I was writing the post. I mean, if you’re going to write a basic post, might as well go all out, right?

Cheers!

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Getting Lost

(I apologize because even after wracking my brain for an alternate title, I am unable to use any pun besides the one that is so obvious, but also the most appropriate.)

This past weekend, my best friends came to town, and together, we got lost. We attended the inaugural Lost Lake Festival in downtown Phoenix, a first-of-its-kind-at-least-for-the-Valley concoction of music, food, drinks, and experiences that culminated in one blissful weekend of forgetting about real life for a little while and losing yourself in the here and now.


I realize that sounds really hippie-dippie, and while there certainly were people there who indulged in that kind of quest to lose themselves, we were not among them. We were among those who instead took the three day festival as a chance to lose ourselves in laughter, in light, and in, of course, really good music.

Now, with my voice still somewhat gone, my apartment finally back in order, and my cat shunning me for making her interact with more than one other person, I reflect on the past weekend with nothing but absolute nostalgia and incredible gratitude. 


Our decision to go to Lost Lake was a little spontaneous, but we bought the tickets as soon as they went on sale back in April and have very much used this weekend as something to look forward to, especially as October ramped up and got, in a word, nuts. We used Lost Lake as an excuse to reunite, an excuse to eat a lot of carbs, and an excuse to, for lack of a better phrase, act our age. 

There’s a strange phenomenon in this world, particularly in people I know, where we don’t always get the chance to act like the twenty-somethings that we are. I’m not saying I always want to be that person, but every once in a while, it’s good, refreshing, and necessary to just let go.


There are times where work can be incredibly stressful, the world can feel unbearably heavy, heartbreak and grief can overwhelm us, and things just generally feel like a bit too much. I’m not saying those moments don’t, or shouldn’t exist. In fact, without them, it would make appreciating moments like the ones we experienced this weekend much more difficult. But even in the wake of the turmoil, stress, and pain, there is always immeasurable hope. We can choose to see that hope anywhere: in the spirit of a kind friend, the message of an impactful artist, or in the tinny ring of laughter. 

I’ve always looked at music as a way for humans to connect. In every performance, be it an entire set or just one song, there is always that moment where everybody is singing in absolute unison, soaking in whatever emotion that particular artist meant to get across at that time. Music offers us a way to find our similarities, and even make our differences less foreboding. 

Getting to spend three full days basking in the truthfulness and wonderfulness of that was so rewarding, and incredibly refreshing. 

Getting to spend it with some of the people who mean the most to me made it that much better.


So, thank you, Lost Lake. Thank you for bringing us together — both my friends, and the strangers we got to experience it all with. Thank you for shining light on what may be dark, and for further illuminating what is already iridescent. Thank you for reminding us that there is always good, always friendship, and always laughter.

Thank you for recharging my batteries and being a tangible reminder of what to focus on when life gets to be a lot to handle.

Thank you for being one of the best weekends ever.

Just… thank you.