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Newcomers' guide to Phoenix area

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I am going to be moving to the Phoenix area in late May, and naturally my first thoughts fall to food and drink. There are a couple of threads devoted to restaurants or specific cuisines, but I am hoping to get recommendations for the broad "tool kit" here. I'm the kind of cook that loves things like braised beef cheeks, porchetta and guanciale, and will happily dig a pit in the yard to roast a suckling pig. This basically translates to "Safeway / QFC / Albertsons / etc. are mostly useless to me" beyond milk, eggs and flour.

Where's a food geek to go?

Farmers markets? Butchers?

Outside of BevMo, any beverage shops worth exploring?

Restaurant / kitchen supply shops that stand out?

[Edited for spelling]

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First of all, let me welcome you to Phoenix. Moving here in May just in time for summer! What part of town will you be living in and where are you moving from?

I've been traveling extensively for the past few years and only spend about 4-5 months out of the year here now, although I've been in Phoenix in some form or another for the past 12 years. I'm finding most of what I need these days (although my needs have definitely changed since moving here).

I don't see you asking about restaurants, so I'll leave those alone for the time being.

Devoured, the best culinary festival here just took place last week. Most of the other ones aren't really worth the time, expense, and crowds. Food trucks seem to be all the rage right now. There are (literally) a couple good ones and way too many unremarkable ones. People in Phoenix seem to really like standing around in a parking lot eating mediocre food prepared in the back of an automobile because it's trendy. Apparently, we're only like 5-6 years behind LA and Portland in this respect.

Most of my shopping takes place at the ethnic markets. A few asian markets and lots of latin markets here of varying quality. The variety and prices of fruits and veggies at the ethnic joints are vastly superior to the larger grocery chains. I also pick up most of my uncommon cuts of meat/offal, bones, and live seafood (lobsters, crab, etc) from the local asian markets. Oysters and sometimes fish come from the retail counter of the Bluewater Grill restaurant (decent chain with a Phoenix location). Costco every once in a while for a bag of mussels or clams when they have the seafood stand set up over the weekend. Sprouts is a locally based chain that I'll also stop at periodically for produce, bulk grains, etc. AJ's for very specific items. Stanley's and Schreiner's for fresh and smoked meats/sausages. Butchers are a little tricky here. They exist. Kind of. Not useful for hard to find stuff, but they're what we have. Hobe meats is the butcher shop that I'll head to every once in a while. Harder to find cuts of meat require me to buy whole primals from the wholesaler and break them down myself. The craft charcuterie scene is really weak here. No Chris Cosentino or his Boccalone here - thus, I make my own. Eggs and lots of veggies come from my friends' yards. I'm in Las Vegas, LA, as well as the Bay Area pretty often and pick up morels, duck, foie, etc when I'm out there.

Bevmo has a competitor here in town - Total Wine. I like TW quite a bit more. Friendlier and more knowledgeable staff than Bevmo. Better selection, too. There are also a handful of wine shops around town worth stopping at.

There are a couple restaurant supply shops out here that I hit up - Standard and Big Pan. Neither of them stand out in terms of special equipment, but they get the job done and the two are by far the cheapest. For restaurant supply food, I hit up Restaurant Depot. You'll need a business license to open an account there though.

This is just what is coming to mind right now. There's lots more that I can fill you in on later. Hope this helps.

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My modest contribution to the issue will be Ranch Market. If it's at all relevant to Mexican food, I can buy large quantities of quality produce, spices, and meat from Ranch Market at very affordable prices.

Otherwise, fledflew is right, there's not a lot of, say, charcuterie going on, at least not that I've found.

(I don't live in Phoenix anymore, but spend a lot of time there with family still).

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hey guys - thanks for the replies, and for the warm welcome! Very helpful, and I really do appreciate it. I'm currently in Seattle, and (should be) packing my things to move to what appears to be the "Central Phoenix" area, around the Central Ave / Indian School Road area. Have only been to Phoenix a couple of times, both on business, so really looking forward to getting to know the area.

Ethnic markets are typically my answer to shopping, so this is very encouraging. Are there specific asian markets that you'd recommend? Good butchers are almost impossible to find outside of basically NYC and Chicago (and even there, not trivial), so I can't really complain there. Mail order is taking over for that with the purchase of primal cuts, I suppose.

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  • 1 month later...

The asian market that I frequent most often is Mekong Market in Mesa. About a 15 minute drive from where you are. The supermarket and plaza that it's located in seems to keep pretty busy and a lot of product gets moved through there. The produce is good, lots of refrigerated stuff (fresh noodles, preserved meats, and the like from Los Angeles) along the back wall and the meat department is clean and seems to do quite a bit of turnover. The fresh seafood selection appears okay, although I will admit that I've only purchased frozen stuff (clam meat, etc) once or twice from the freezer case. They carry fresh head-on, feet-on Vikon chickens for about $7 each and I always pick up a few whenever I'm there.

Lee Lee is another good asian market. They have two locations. One in Chandler (East valley) and a second location on the opposite side of the valley in Peoria. I think they're probably the same distance, but I have only been going to the Peoria location since it opened a few years ago. In addition to Chinese products, they have a better selection of foods from other parts of Asia (Southeast and India) compared with Mekong. Fantastic selection of fresh herbs, produce, meat, and pantry items. The Peoria location is a better lit, cleaner, and has a great chinese restaurant just inside the front door.

Being that these two markets are aren't really close to central Phoenix (I live about 2 miles from where you'll end up), I do find myself going to what used to be a Ranch 99 Market for misc items. I think they changed the name to Super L a few years ago. I'll really only go there to grab a couple items when I can't justify the drive to one of the previously mentioned markets. The produce selection is adequate, as though isn't nearly as expansive or appear quite as fresh as Mekong or Lee Lee. The only things I really get there are fruits and veggies, dried noodles, bottled sauces, and frozen dumplings. They don't seem to move a lot of the meat and seafood as fast as I'd like so I steer clear of that stuff. I will purchase live lobsters from the tank periodically, though.

In addition to these supermarkets, there are several small ethnic markets around town. I can provide more info on them if you'd like.

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