The Valley’s Culinary Scene: A Contributor To Growth

Publisher's Letter

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Tricia Covert
Senior Publisher, Arizona Journal of Real Estate & Business


There are certain factors we typically use to assess the Valley’s real estate growth. These include housing affordability, job opportunities and new home permits. But another important factor — the culinary scene — has become a prominent focus as well, especially with the widespread desire for the Arizona lifestyle combined with urban living.

According to the National Restaurant Association, the demand for dining out is only going to grow in the years ahead — mainly due to the shift in consumer spending habits toward experiences. When given a choice about what to do with an extra $100 to spend, four out of ten adults on average, regardless of age, choose going out to a restaurant or activities over purchasing other items. That number increases to almost half for households with incomes of $75,000 or above.

To gain perspective on the Phoenix metro culinary scene, I reached out to Visit Phoenix, a local destination marketing organization, whose focus is attracting out-of-town meeting groups and leisure visitors.

Define the culinary scene in Phoenix metro.
Flavors of the Southwest are all around us. The Greater Phoenix area has an abundance of agriculture sources to bring fresh items into our restaurants. As a result, common flavors often include fresh citrus, chiles and farm-to-table items. The city has developed regional cuisine, but with a magnificent range, from pizza to posh.

What are the Greater Phoenix culinary options and quality compared to other U.S. cities such as New York, San Francisco, New Orleans or Los Angeles?
While those cities have been culinary magnets for many more years, the Greater Phoenix area has matured into an acclaimed food destination over the past ten years. Many of our local chefs are preparing innovative cuisine. In 2017, Arizona has already received six nominations for the James Beard Foundation Award, which is exceptional for our culinary scene status. These nominations include:

Best Chef (Southwest)    
Charleen Badman of FnB, Scottsdale

Best Chef (Southwest)     
Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Urbano, Phoenix

Best Chef (Southwest)     
Jeff Smedstad of Elote Café, Sedona

Outstanding Restaurateur
Sam Fox, Fox Restaurant Concepts (The Arrogant Butcher, Culinary Dropout, Olive & Ivy, and others)

Outstanding Restaurant
Chris Bianco’s Pizzeria Bianco

Outstanding Wine Program
FnB in Scottsdale

Where do you think Phoenix metro is going with culinary and how can we grow or improve (if anything)?
James Beard award-nominated Kevin Binkley just reintroduced luxe, fine dining again in the Valley; no doubt many more wine and beer pairing dinners will follow his lead. New types of food events such as Nirvana at the Sanctuary have been introduced as well. These alternative types of dining experiences are a great way to expand culinary appreciation into our communities. And who knew that Phoenix metro would be a pizza town with so many wood fired and specialty pizza places!

Do you think Arizona residents or visitors view Greater Phoenix to be on the national or international culinary map?
Many new visitors to Arizona have only seen cactus in cartoons, so the idea of Phoenix metro being on the culinary map is an education process. In addition to our exceptional restaurants, we have a stunning beverage program with many award-winning mixologists, such as those – at Bitter and Twisted, Crudo, the Last Drop at the Hermosa Inn and the Tequila Goddess at the Fairmont Princess. And this category includes numerous establishments serving craft beers and Arizona wines as well. There are a variety of local choices available to create a great experience.

Do you think the food scene attracts visitors to live in Arizona?
Cuisine is important to both locals and visitors — the food scene is always an important attribute to attracting people to our destination.

What are some local restaurants you recommend?
Steak 44, J & G Steakhouse, The Gladly, Beckett’s Table, CRUjienete Tacos, Mora, Fat Ox, Pomo Pizzeria

What area of town has the highest number of quality restaurants?
The 7th Street corridor in Phoenix is fast becoming a center of culinary activity and excellence. There are many more choices.


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