Final Four 2017 – Phoenix, AZ
My husband is a basketball coach. Every year there is a conference for coaches in conjunction with the Final Four. I went with my husband to Houston last year while he attended the conference and I explored the city. It was so much fun that I decided I want to join him every year. This year’s conference was in Phoenix. I’ve never been to Phoenix so I wanted to be well prepared…to eat!
I keep a Google Map of places I want to go and I did not have any icons in the Phoenix area. I had a lot of work ahead of me! I started with Picky Palate‘s Best Places to Eat in Arizona post. I also looked at a bunch of Mental Floss lists of the Best [insert type of food] in Every State. The research snowballed from there, but I was realizing that many of the recommendations were in surrounding cities: Tempe, Glendale, Scottsdale, Gilbert, Mesa… Even the places in Phoenix were so spread out, and I would not have a car to get around. I found very little that was walkable from our hotel, but I figured I could Uber or Lyft to another area and then walk to multiple places from there.
Like anyone planning a vacation, I impatiently awaited the day we took off for Phoenix. I have two things that are constants on travel days for me: I always fly Southwest (not an ad, I just really really really love them!) and I always get a sweet coffee drink at the airport. My drink was very, very wrong this time, but I was leaving cold weather for warm and sunny Phoenix! I wasn’t going to let this slight blip in my routine get me down!
We arrived in Phoenix mid-afternoon on Thursday. We got settled into our room, caught up with some old friends, and attended a social event. The next morning I was up bright and early (the time change gets me every time!) and I pulled out my map to pick a place for breakfast. I picked Lux Central, which Mental Floss named the Most Instagrammable Coffee Shop in AZ. Cheesy, I know. But it looked close on the map and the menu looked good. I had looked at a number of other menus, but I thought this is one that my husband would be very happy with. We discussed, I showed him the menu, and he was sold on biscuits and gravy. I pulled up directions so we could head out only to find that it was miles away! Everything looked so close on the map! But he was already set on those biscuits and gravy, so we took an Uber/Lyft. It was totally worth it. The atmosphere was great, the music was amazing, the crowd was diverse, and the food was DELICIOUS.
I had a strawberry scone and an iced mocha, and of course I had to get some chocolate chip cookies. I’m not usually a huge scone fan, but the berry flavor totally popped in this scone! I just wish it had more berries! The cookies were sugary and had a great flavor. If you prefer crunchier cookies, these were perfect! And the iced mocha was delicious.
My husband’s biscuits and gravy were a little oniony for his taste, but that didn’t stop him from eating every last bite. The coffee was good, the orange juice was fresh squeezed, and he said it was exactly what he wanted. Exactly what he needed!
He then had to attend some meetings and I had some work to do (I didn’t want to leave you without a post last week!) so I found a coffee shop near by called One Coffee Co. I got another iced mocha – it was delicious. I loved the atmosphere of this place and the people gathered at the tables around me made me feel happy. Maybe it was also the sunshine and warm weather!
Even though we don’t go to the actual games, the Final Four weekend has tons of events for fans, many of which are free. Friday night we made our way to the free concert – Keith Urban – and had an absolute blast. There is nothing better than an outdoor country concert! By the time we left it was so late that we were having trouble finding a place to grab a quick bite. By chance we passed an open Italian/Pizza place, Pomo. I’m not usually a big fan of pizza (I know, I know…) but it was late and I was hungry. We put in an order to go and sat at the bar for a drink while we waited.
The hostess who took our to go order was so nice, and the bartender was incredibly friendly and helpful. These had to be the nicest people we had encountered in Phoenix so far. We got back to the hotel and devoured the pizza. It was delicious. It was perfect.
That night on the way back to the hotel we passed two places that we wanted to come back to check out – Phoenix Public Market and Cafe, and Grand Central Coffee. The next morning for breakfast my husband only had about an hour before his first meeting so we needed somewhere close and quick. We headed to the Phoenix Public Market Cafe and an entire farmer’s market had been set up in what was a parking lot the night before. We strolled the aisles, but eventually made our way inside the cafe. The atmosphere in this place was so bright and lively. I was in heaven. And then I saw the bakery case. How would I ever decide?!
My husband ordered an cinnamon roll, and I cannot even begin to explain to you how delicious it was. This was so, so good that it has inspired a recipe that will hopefully be on the blog in the not too distant future. I also, of course, got a chocolate chip cookie. It was so good. And then I added the rest of the cinnamon roll frosting to the cookie and I really think I ate perfection.
Outside the cafe was a yoga class – if I had known that would be going on, I would have loved to participate. Next time! I could have stayed in that spot all day; I was so comfortable. I LOVE this place. But I also wanted to see (but really, eat) as much as I could in the limited time we had, so I headed across the street to check out Grand Central.
Grand Central has a gorgeous outdoor seating area and the weather was perfect so I was confused as to why nobody was sitting outside. Then I went inside. It’s so eerie and eclectic. I loved it. I tried to get an iced mocha here, but they don’t have decaf (she said it expired because nobody ordered it! ha!) so I went with a chai and finished up the rest of the work I needed to do. I was so comfy, and the chai was delicious.
We watched the games on Saturday on the patio of a sports bar, but decided to head back to downtown Phoenix for a late dinner. We went to a market that had a variety of food options and a really cool bar, but I wasn’t in the mood for the food they offered (even though it really looked amazing) so we ended up roaming downtown to find something else. Unfortunately we took too long, and the kitchens were closed everywhere we looked. Things were getting desperate, and finally, after about an hour of roaming, we came across a place called Noodle Bar.
At this point, it could have been anything and I would have been thrilled, but noodles sounded particularly amazing. The decor in this place was so modern and fun – I loved it! My husband ordered Gyoza and I ordered Yaki Soba, not really knowing what it was. I was so pleasantly surprised. It was delicious!
The next morning we ventured out to one of the places I got from Picky Palate’s post: Snooze. There was a 40 minute wait, but my very patient husband agreed to wait. It was so worth it. I got a pancake flight. Yes. A pancake flight. I selected the pancake of the day, which was coconut with chocolate pudding, a molten chocolate pancake, and a peanut butter cup pancake. I also got a side of bacon to help balance out the sweetness. Every bite was so rich, sweet, and delicious. I was glad I had the bacon, but I was still bordering on sweetness overload! Worth it.
We planned to head to Tempe after my husband’s couple meetings, so I was instructed to use the time I had while he was in meetings to plan our afternoon in Tempe. This meant it was time to hit up another coffee shop. I Googled the best chocolate chip cookie in Phoenix and got a number of results that looked amazing, but eventually settled on Lola. I feel like a broken record, but I loved the atmosphere in here. I ordered an iced mocha and chocolate chip cookie, and just my luck – they were out of chocolate chip cookies!!! I said the cookies were the reason I can, and I was told there would be more cookies in about an hour. Luckily I was planning to stay for a little more than an hour. I found an open spot at one of the many community tables and got to work researching Tempe and mapping out our afternoon. I sipped on my mocha, and I have to say, I think this may be the best iced mocha I’ve ever had. The perfect balance of chocolate and coffee flavors. Not to sweet, not too bitter.
When I had our Tempe afternoon planned and ready to go, I packed up and went back up for my chocolate chip cookie. Whew. They had some. Before I left I decided to head out the back door to check out the patio. I read great things about it. The weather was amazing and so was the patio. Instead of leaving, I decided to sit outside for awhile and just enjoy the weather. I had just checked in for my flight, and this certainly reinforced my desire to never leave! (or at least not until it warmed up in Boston!)
And then I tried the cookie. I could totally understand how it made the list of best chocolate chip cookies in Phoenix. It was soft, salty, cinnamony, and delicious.
In Tempe we started out with a stop at another Picky Palate recommendation, Fractured Prune Doughnuts. I realized that I hadn’t had doughnuts this entire trip, so this really hit the spot. You can select from flavors on a menu, or you can create your own by selecting a glaze and topping(s). We ordered a strawberry shortcake, orange cream, french toast, and I created one of my own – mocha glaze with M&Ms. These were close to, if not the best doughnuts I’ve ever had. They were warm, fresh, and delicious. I could have eaten 100 more of these! So many flavors to go back and try.
We then climbed Hayden Butte, a mountain next to ASU’s football stadium with a giant yellow A on the side, we roamed ASU’s campus, and roamed the Mill District, before heading to Four Peaks Brewery for dinner. The food here was so delicious and the patio was perfect. I was hoping to get back to the Mill District for dessert, but we were pooped!
Monday morning I got up early to attend a workout group, and was dropped at Paradise Bakery after the workout. The sign said “famous for our cookies” so I obviously had to try one. I ordered a chocolate chip cookie and the cashier asked if I had my Panera card. I was so confused. I thought this was Paradise Bakery. I’ve had Panera cookies so many times. Since I already ordered it I decided to just take it. This was no Panera cookie (and I love a Panera cookie). This was so much more. This chocolate chip cookie, was soft, sweet, chewy, and chocolatey. Everything you could want from a chocolate chip cookie.
I headed back to the hotel to pack up and check out. I was so sad to be leaving, but we had time to eat before leaving, so I suggested a coffee shop we had passed a few times: Fillmore Coffee. This place was so bright and airy – I loved it! I got an acai bowl and a Fruity Pebble bar. I usually only find acai bowls in Southern California, so I was excited for this. And it was delicious!
My husband hadn’t yet eaten and he wanted to go back to the Phoenix Public Market Cafe to try their biscuits and gravy. When he ordered he was told they had just run out of biscuits. It was the whole reason he came so they told him if he didn’t mind waiting, they would make more. He didn’t mind. I didn’t mind. Have I mentioned how much I love this place??? After a little while, we were given a pop tart as an apology for how long the biscuits were taking. Oh. My. Gosh. It was so unbelievably delicious. I wanted to buy all of them. So flaky and sweet. If you go to the Cafe, do NOT pass up the pop tart.
His biscuits eventually came out, and of course they were delicious. And when he was done it was time. Time to leave the warmth and sunshine. Time to head to the airport and say goodbye to another amazing trip in another amazing city.
I think I ultimately ended up going to only three of the places I had researched in advance, but I found so many amazing spots by just roaming the area. This goes to show that there is some really amazing food in the Phoenix area, no matter where you are. I can’t wait to go back (with a car) and try so much more!