Taste It Tours AZ
By: Kelly Loubet
You might think you know everything about the food culture in Phoenix. You’re wrong. I’ve lived in Phoenix my entire life and I thought I knew everything about Phoenix history and a great deal about where to eat. I was wrong. Taste It Tours AZ invited me along on a tour and I experienced Downtown Phoenix in a way I never have before. From interesting historical tidbits to delicious eats + tasty cocktails, Taste It Tours AZ did not disappoint!
Before I get started… there are several other tours available on a variety of days and times (including Old Town Scottsdale and Roosevelt Row). The tour I’m about to share with you is specific to Downtown Phoenix. I was not compensated for this post.
Our group met up at the Phoenix Public Market Cafe. Our tour guide handed out special stickers to the attendees over 21 years old, who planned on having any cocktails. She also did cute icebreaker activity, asking everyone if they were “sweet” or “savory”. I like to think that I’m “swavory”! And with that… we were off on our tour! This particular tour is a walking tour. Along the way, our guide shared with us fun tidbits about the history of Downtown Phoenix. For instance- those glass blocks built into the sidewalk in the downtown area? They’re there to highlight underground tunnels that were functional during the days when I hidden speakeasy was common.
Our first stop was Short Leash Hot Dogs. Short Leash started out as a humble, yet popular 80 square foot food truck. They now have 3 permanent locations- including Rollover Doughnuts. Here are some highlights- rather than a traditional hotdog bun… Short Leash uses Naan, a traditional Indian flatbread. They serve hard to find, independant soda labels + local beer + specialty cocktails. Here’s the thing… I hate pickles. But their beer-battered, fried pickles are to die for! There’s something for everyone at Short Leash. I can’t wait to try their Biltmore location, which is just a mile or so from my house! I can walk off all that deliciousness!
Next, we stopped at Thai Basil. They have 4 locations across the valley. We were greeted with a super tasty broth soup with mushrooms and things in it. The soup is said to have healing properties. You can bet that I will be ordering a tub of it, the next time I catch a cold! While at Thai Basil, we also sampled Pad Thai and a veggie/chicken dish. It was so delicious! To wash it down, we had a traditional creamy, orange, tea.
Walking along the tour, we learned some other really random facts about art installations, buildings, and tragic tales. I don’t want to give them away though… take the tour! Our next stop was Tom’s Tavern. Tom’s has it’s own very interesting history. It’s been around since 1929! Amazing! Many politicians, city leaders, and councils have discussed issues and signed deals over a meal at Tom’s Tavern. They were even voted Best Client Lunch spot by AZ Central. Congrats, guys! We sampled the meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Helloooooooo comfort food! Don’t tell my mom… but it might be better than her meatloaf. Ok. It is better than her meatloaf! We also had one of the most delicious margaritas I’ve ever had- The Ratnerita- an Italian Margarita Made with Milagro Tequila, Cointreau, Lemon & Lime Juice with a Float of Disaronno Amaretto. Also, I hate salt. I always get sugar on the rim, but at Tom’s Tavern, they use a special mix of salt and mango-ish sugar. So YUM!
Onward we go! Our group took a little detour through Cityscape. It was especially cool while we were there, because the ice rink was up and active! How fun is that?! From there, we ended up at The Strand- Urban Italian. What’s Urban Italian? Well… It means that gluten-free/low carb options are available + artful cocktails + boutique wines + creative menu choices! Their pasta was really delicious and they make a tasty sangria daily. They even offer curbside/to go service! I’ll definitely be back.
One of our stops on the tour was kind of spontaneous. We checked out a newer venue in the downtown area- Valley Bar. It’s kind of a secret entrance. Like a modern speakeasy. Located in a back alleyway, only identifiable by a large man taking care of the door… Valley Bar takes you down the stairs of what only could be described as your grandmother’s 1970’s basement. Amazing vintage furniture populates the space. Arcade games and board games abound. There’s a “secret” library for cigar aficionados and Valley Bar hosts live music too! Make a point to try and find it 🙂
Finally… we ended up back at Phoenix Public Market Cafe. They treated us to coffee (or tea) and the cookie of our choice! I chose the Peanut Butter cookie. It was more delicious than I can even put into words. I’d like to give a bigshout out to the Taste It Tours AZ team. They do an amazing job at keeping the group engaged and having a good time!
Here are some tips if you’re going to go on a Taste It Tour:
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. That may be obvious, but unless you’re doing a trolley tour, you’ll be walking.
- Don’t be afraid to socialize and meet new people. Our tour had 13 people in it. We had a blast sitting next to someone new at each stop.
- Try everything. Even if you don’t think you’ll like it. Just try it.
- Book your next Taste It Tour for another part of the Valley. At the end of our tour, the guide gave us all info on the places we visited and a coupon for our next tour. Take advantage of it!