Image by James Lee

The Prep Before-You-Go Kind of Trip

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Phoenix is one of those places that you won’t just fall into the fun.  You have to do your research before going and have a plan.  I’m a planner but I like to be a bit flexible just in case something more interesting comes up.  That really didn’t happen in Phoenix. Everything we did was something I researched beforehand.  This is a prep before-you-go kind of trip.

Our main reason for going was to see the Grand Canyon. I always assumed that the Grand Canyon was right outside of Phoenix. Maybe an hour drive. That is definitely not the case. The drive is 3.5 hours one way. So, going to see the Grand Canyon is a full day affair. We left around 7:30 am and got back around 10 pm. You can arrange for a tour guide and a hike. We opted to just do our own thing. I guess it’s up to what you are into. I’m not a nature person so hiking down into the bowels of the canyon is not my idea of fun. I wanted to see it from the top and from different vantage points. And that’s exactly what we did. The Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.  And it has rightfully earned that title. The Grand Canyon is massive. The Grand Canyon is deep. The Grand Canyon is breathtaking. I really tried to get pictures that would translate what my eyes were seeing. I don’t feel like I captured it.  You just have to see the Grand Canyon for yourself.

Funny and kinda creepy story. It’s $35 per car to get in the park. The older guy at the entrance booth asks “who is the kid in the backseat?” The driver (my friend) and I looked at each other confused because there was no kid in the backseat. It was my other friend, who is 45 years old. We were also confused because the posted prices are per car and not per person.  What was he talking about?  We tell him no and question him about a discount for a kid. Of course, if a kid gets us a discount, my friend in the backseat can be 8 years old all day long. He reveals that he was flirting and giving her a compliment. Flirting sir?? I get that he wanted to compliment her beauty and youthfulness. But sir, you’re every bit of 70 years old. Complimenting someone by saying they resemble a child is majorly creepy. We all had awkward laughs. And then he let us enter the park for free because of his horrifying faux paus.

 

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We attempted to do a “Drink by Rail”. I got this idea from another blog website. I thought it would be super fun and different. It’s similar to a pub crawl. But, you would take the metro (train) instead of walking from place to place. We walked to the first place, Seamus McCaffreys’s Irish Pub, from my hotel. The first stop should have been Bitter & Twisted but they didn’t open until 4 pm.  We wanted to start a bit earlier in the day. Later on that night, Bitter & Twisted, which was diagonal from my hotel Kimpton Palomar, had come alive. I just didn’t have the desire to drink anymore that day. Back to Seamus. It’s an old Irish Pub with dark wood, low lighting and a down home feel. We ordered the Apple Pie Shot. I was flabbergasted at how this shot tasted like drinking an actual apple pie. All I needed was whipped cream.  

The server told us AFTER taking the shots that it included moonshine. I was taken aback because I would never opt to drink moonshine. I guess that’s why they don’t list the ingredients on the menu. The Apple Pie Shot certainly lived up to its name. Next up was Southern Rail. This place was featured on the Food Network in 2019. It’s aesthetically pleasing with indoor and outdoor seating. I ordered the gumbo ya ya and the King Rex (champagne, honey, lemon and brandy). The gumbo was decent and had a really nice presentation. The King Rex was good too. I tasted the brioche buns with house made apple butter. That was delicious.  They should sell the apple butter by the jar. I had a couple of deviled eggs with crispy chicken skin. That was ok. And the dirty rice balls were flavorful. I just don’t eat sausage. But for those who do, it’s a win. There were three more places to try on the Drink Rail. However, the metro only runs every 30 mins (COVID related) and that dampened the enthusiasm of the excursion. We decided to find the black area of Phoenix instead.  That adventure was a fail.

Let’s get to the food. My favorite subject to talk about. Lolo’s Chicken & Waffles is Black Owned and very similar to Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles. We went here twice, the first and the last day. My recommendation is to only go to the location on Central Ave. I’ve been to the Gilbert location and it didn’t hit the same.

The first day I had the fried wings, greens, candied yams, corn muffin and the Henny Drop drink. The wings and greens were good. The candied yams were way too candied. And I like sweets.  But, I felt my blood sugar skyrocketing with the amount of sugar they put into the yams. The yams were a pass for me. The corn muffin was on point. It’s really big.  So, it’s not a mini muffin at all.  And it’s moist with a hint of sweetness. The whipped butter sets it off. That Henny Drop though. My goodness. I drank two of them. It was incredible. It tastes like a spiked tea and lemonade mix with a drop of ginger and honey. Not too sweet but refreshing. I could drink them all day. 

 

The second experience, I ordered the chicken and waffles and a biscuit.  Somebody’s Big Mama is in the kitchen with an original secret recipe to making biscuits. The waffle had a smidge of cinnamon and sugar in it. It was just enough to enhance the flavor and compliment the chicken. But, the Henny Drop this time wasn’t good. The food taste and quality is pretty consistent. But, the drinks are not consistent at all. I sent the first one back because it was that bad. And I usually don’t send anything back for fear that they may spit in my food, pull food from the trash or someone else’s leftovers or do something else nasty. But, the server asked if I liked it and I told him no. He offered to remake it. So, I felt that I may be a little safer and he wouldn’t sanction revenge on me.

Trapp Haus BBQ is the next black owned spot we went to. It’s in the Roosevelt Row Art District, which is full of restaurants, bars, boutiques and art. I ordered the one pound of fried shrimp, hoppin’ johns (black eyed peas), jalapeno honey slaw and the country potato salad. Somehow my pound of fried shrimp turned into six fried shrimp and two pieces of whiting. The shrimp were really good. The whiting was ok. I make better whiting at home. The hoppin’ johns were super salty and had some kind of mystery meat in it that I had to eat around. But, I quit eating them because the salt was just too overwhelming. The country potato salad was doused in mustard. They should have used some sweet relish and a pinch of sugar to cut the tartness. Couldn’t eat that either. I was down to my last side dish. The slaw was my saving grace. It wasn’t the best but edible. 

Clever Koi is an Asian-inspired restaurant with a paired down menu of ramen, steamed buns, etc. I had the Spicy Kimchi Ramen. I wasn’t moved by it. It was spicy and kimchi-like. And it had fried chicken thighs in it. I hate chicken thighs so this dish wasn’t it for me. The steamed buns were kind of bland. They had a beef and broccoli special that night. It was better than the other two options. The broccoli had a grilled flavor, which was a pleasant surprise. 

 

Snooze an A.M. Eatery, at Circle Records was delectable. The OMG! French Toast was OMG. Brioche stuffed with mascarpone and topped with fresh strawberries, toasted coconut, vanilla crème and caramel. This French Toast does the absolute most. And I was all the way here for it. They also had a cosmopolitan mimosa which was delightful. We tried to go to Breakfast Bitch (a black owned spot). But at 11 am their seating was closed for the day. And they don’t take reservations. It looked like a pretty cool place though. 

Phoenix was cool. The weather was perfect. The food was good. Would I go back again? Maybe if there was an event happening. But, not just to go. I think I conquered Phoenix on this trip.