Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Surprise to Everyone - The Emerging Creative Culture of Phoenix, AZ

A Surprise to Everyone - The Emerging Creative Culture of Phoenix, AZ

By Kat Thomas, Edible Skinny

Almost everyone in the world knows something about Arizona, and some of it is even true.
--Jim Turner

Phoenix is a surprise to everyone, or that’s what Laura from Visit Phoenix opens with as we sit down to lunch at Luci’s at The Orchard.  Sure we think we know Phoenix: home of a-thousand-and-one golf course; home of Scottsdale and its yuppie yoga wellness scene, and definitely home to its endless comparisons to Hell in the summertime (Hello 119 Degree Weather!).  

But Phoenix is also encouraging you to come and see all the other stuff.  Not the golf courses full of retirees and their motorized robot golf caddies (we really are in the future people...), but their emerging culture such as their arts district Roosevelt Row.  The craft cocktail bars, the secret speakeasies, and the microbreweries.  There’s even a guy who makes bread out of his garage (take that Portland!).

But back to Luci’s.  The restaurant is located at a one-of-a-kind atmosphere at The Orchard.  This space was a former 1920’s Citrus Farmstead (Wasser Citrus Farms) and 1950’s Citrus Nursery (Ralph’s Citrus Nursery).  Located along the Citrus Belt in North Central Phoenix, this property preserves and reuses the two existing heritage houses, converting a 1920’s home into a full service neighborhood restaurant (Pomelo) and transforming a 1960’s ranch house into a charming neighborhood market / caf√© (Luci’s at The Orchard) complete with ice-cream shop (Splurge).  There’s an outdoor fountain that kids run through and an outdoor space that adults sometimes get married at.  The citrus industry transformed North Central Phoenix from a barren desert to a thriving urban oasis; so in tribute, The Orchard planted desert landscapes and citrus trees around their space.  Their landmark water tower honors the canal that irrigated central Phoenix farms and still runs behind the Orchard.  The food at the cheery Luci’s was superbly healthy, with protein pump ups, acai bowls, and kombucha flowing like water!

After our meal a Luci’s, Lauren and I headed to Roosevelt Row for some A-R-T.  Phoenix has emerging “Micro Hoods,” places where you can eat, shop, and live.  For example Uptown Plaza and the emerging arts district of Roosevelt Row.  I know you might not think of Phoenix at first when it comes to art, but you should.  The Phoenix Art Museum (more on that later) is one of the best museums in the country and Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden does an Electric Desert show where they light up the local cacti and do a nighttime light show to music.

DTPHX Roosevelt Row houses immersive murals, a cacophony of coffeeshops, foodie favorites galore, and a First Friday arts night that brings it all together.   With a slogan that states, “a town that encourages participation from all five senses,” all we can say is GAME ON!

Our first culinary stop in DTPHX was locale brewery: Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company at their DTPHX Beer Garden.  This brew brand was created to celebrate hand crafted, artisanal beers that are inspired by the beautiful and diverse state of Arizona.  There enjoying a respite from the sun, I sipped on a Hibiscus Tangelo Gose, fermented in one of Wilderness’ large oak-foeders this Gose melds AZ-grown tangelos, salt, and hibiscus-berry tea into a wonderfully fruity German-inspired ale that is perfect for a beer drinker who doesn’t like a hoppy taste (Read: Yours Truly!).  Many of Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company’s ideas and values are influenced by their time spent in nature.  They’re gaga about the Great Outdoors and it shows!  The company continually strive to embrace Arizona’s vast agricultural community and pursue sustainable efforts that contribute to the conservation of Arizona’s natural resources. This is evidenced by water watch signs posted throughout the brewery and their action of offering to compost napkins, condiments, and weapons (Hey, it is Arizona!).   ;-)

After that Amazingly fruity beer it was off to The Churchill, a new indoor/outdoor restaurant complex made out of shipping containers (similar to Container Park in Vegas).  On our way there we encounter Billy O. of Arizona Pedal Cab   Billy, with his 6 inch beard, is THE MAN when it comes to Peddie Cabbing it, he owns a fleet of these bike based taxis peddling the DT of PHX.

The Churchill is a Amazing space that is home to ten small local businesses all focusing their efforts on collaboration over competition, finding ways to benefit each other.  The Churchill is full of open space (for morning yoga), free WiFi, and local dishes from one-of-a-kind restaurants.  With a slogan of “Community, Creativity, Collaboration” the owners of The Churchill wanted to provide low rent so that businesses could open up their first brick-and-mortar locations.   There’s a Mexican restaurant that’s owned by a couple from Guadalajara:  the husband runs the Central Mexican Restaurant (Provecho) and wife runs a shop (Cosas) that works with artisans out of Guadalajara, Mexico to bring the vibrant culture and colors of the region to Phoenix with a wide variety of goods.  I grabbed a dinner of a Gordita (a thick pancake made from cornmeal, typically split and filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables) and Nopales (Cactus pads).  Top them with AB FAB Mango Habanero sauce for the perfect Phoenix foodie experience!

To nightcap the evening we headed over to the Phoenix Art Museum (where their middle name is Art!).  It was Pay-What-You-Wish-Wednesdays where General admission was reduced to a voluntary donation.  There we got to experience some of best installations from the Southwest’s largest art museum.   This included: “You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies,” Yayoi Kusama’s infinity mirror room inspired by a Japanese folk tale about a person in a field with 10,000 fireflies.  Another standout was Ragnar Kjartansson’s “Scandinavian Pain and Other Myths,” a multi sensory art exhibit from Iceland that explores sense of identity, melancholia, repetition, and popular culture.

And that’s that, a different side of Phoenix than you are probably are used.  So hop on a plane, car, or peddie cab, and get exploring!  Here’s to life being delicious, all your moments being postcard worthy, and Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies!

Kat Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Edible Skinny, a site dedicated to making your life postcard worthy. She is also the CEO of the creative media company This Way Adventures. You can find more about both brands at

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