Tag Archive: restaurants


Foodies Unite

I didn’t realize how picky I was about eating out until I started dating my boyfriend.  Early on in our relationship I made it known to him (in a round about way) that I favored eating at local restaurants. 

We were hanging out one afternoon and it was getting close to dinner time.  He asked me where I wanted to eat for dinner.  I (being both passive and indecisive) offered no suggestions.  All I offered to him was “It’s up to you.”  My boyfriend then said, “What about Applebee’s?”  I responded, “Ehhh…I don’t really like Applebee’s.  There’s one by my parent’s house in St. Louis and they go all the time.”  He then said, “How about Chili’s?”  And I told him, “I don’t like Chili’s either.”  After much frustration, he was said, “I thought it was my choice.”  At that point, it clicked.  I’m not a big fan of chain restaurants.

Don’t get me wrong.  There’s nothing wrong with chain restaurants.  I like Ruby Tuesday’s and Cheesecake Factory.  But in the whole scheme of things, I prefer to eat at local spots.  Coming from St. Louis, we have our fair share of chain restaurants, but a big part of what makes St. Louis so unique is their huge selection of locally owned restaurants. In St. Louis, you can find a local spot to appeal to any appetite.   Going to our favorite local eateries was a ritual that my friends and I enjoyed.  We would grab a burger at Blueberry Hill or indulge in the yummy tapas and sangrias at BARcelona.   We also enjoyed trying out local spots that were either new to us or restaurants that had just opened.  I didn’t realize how much I missed this until I moved to Phoenix.

The Valley is home to hundreds and hundreds of chain restaurants.  But as I’m slowly finding out, there are hidden local places that I’m dying to hit up. I love the Bowl of Meatballs at Lisa G’s or the Caprese Salad at Va Bene.  Coronado Cafe’s yummy Thursday Salmon Special can’t be beat and FEZ, Ticoz and Switch all have great happy hour specials. 

A few years ago, my cousin told me to join Yelp.com.  I joined, but didn’t know what to do with it.  My cousin actually disowned me as a Yelp friend because I wasn’t posting anything.   For the most part, I used Yelp to get ideas of places my boyfriend and I could go to on our dates.  A few months ago I decided to be daring and I started posting my local eating experiences.  You can follow me here at  http://ireneagustin.yelp.com.   And just so you know, my cousin added me as a friend again when she found out I was posting reviews 🙂 .  Aside from finding great local places in the Valley, Yelp is also helpful in gathering ideas for great places to eat when I travel. 

To gather additional intel, I use Twitter.  I follow my favorite restaurants as well as other foodie resources.  Here’s a list of great  foodie tweeples you should follow.

AZ Tweeats @az_tweeats http://aztweeats.wordpress.com/

AZ Restaurant Week @azrestaurantwk http://www.arizonarestaurantweek.com/

Crave Arizona @CraveAZ http://cravearizona.com

Phoenix Rail Food @PHXrailfood  http://phxrailfood.com

Phoenix Cooks! @phoenixcooks http://phoenixcooks.com

Foodies Like Us @foodieslikeus

The Valley has some great local spots if you are willing to look for them.  I hope these resources are helpful and I am open to hearing other suggestion and resources.  Happy Eating!!

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Da Lou

The Arch

The Arch

I didn’t realize how much I loved St. Louis until I moved away.  I was born and raised there and of course, I took it for granted.  I wanted something more, something bigger and I found it in Phoenix.  However, the small town feel of this mid-size city has me yearning to one day go back.

Don’t get me wrong.  I really like the Valley.  I love the mountains and the hiking.  I also love the glitz and glam of the Valley.  It’s kind of like a little L.A., but without the L.A. prices.   It’s cool to walk around Scottsdale Fashion Square or Kierland Commons with the possibility of running into a celebrity.   It’s also in close proximity to some great cities.  This makes it cheap to go to Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco and Rocky Point for just a weekend. 

Despite all the advantages of living in the Valley, I still get quite homesick.  There is a certain charm to St. Louis that I miss.  I miss my friends some of whom I’ve known throughout grade school, junior high and high school and remain friends to this day.  I miss St. Louis’s small town feel.  It’s not unusual for me to attend a major event such as baseball game or concert and run into at least three people I know.  It’s kind of funny when I run into a St. Louisan in the Valley.  The first question you always have to ask them is “What high school did you go to?”  It’s a weird question, but it’s one we always ask and know the significance of. 

There’s no other place in the country where you can get such great local fare.  The closest thing to St. Louis food in the Valley is Frasher’s in Scottsdale.  They have St. Louis Style Pizza, Gooey Butter Cake, Toasted Ravioli and much more.  I highly recommend going there if you would like to try what foods St. Louis has to offer.  Of course it’s better to go to St. Louis, but Frasher’s represents.  But I do miss my favorites:  Cunetto’s, BARcelona, Imo’s Pizza and the list goes on and on.

I love the many places St. Louis has that you can walk around and chill.  University City, Central West End, Maplewood and Washington Avenue are all great locations to  stroll around, shop at local stores/boutiques and catch a quick bite to eat.  There are so many local cafes that you can sit outside; some even have live music and it’s an awesome just to chill with your friends and have a drink.  Phoenix is working to grow in this area.  With the light rail and the developments going on along the route, local business is booming in Phoenix.  I’m excited to see what’s in store for Phoenix in the next few years.  But until then I will enjoy my day trips on the light rail and continue to visit the local fare.

I love the various recreational opportunities St. Louis has to offer.  There is free admission to the  Science Museum, St. Louis Art Museum, History Museum and Zoo.  Honestly, the St. Louis Zoo puts the Phoenix Zoo to shame and what makes it worse is that you have to pay $15 to get into the Phoenix Zoo.   One of my favorite places to go in St. Louis is to the City Museum.  That place rocks!  The Children’s Museum in Phoenix pales in comparison.  Everytime I go back to St. Louis, I makes sure I hit up the City Museum.  I feel like a kid again when I go.

City Museum Outside

City Museum Outside

City Museum Inside

City Museum Inside

When times are hot here in Phoenix, I get very homesick.  It could be that I lock myself indoors as the temperature rises in the Valley.  As soon as it cools off though, I’m out and about in the Valley.  I’m back to my old routine of hiking and hanging out with friends at outdoor cafes and restaurants. There are only a few more weeks of summer left and I’m looking forward to cooler weather.

I know I love St. Louis, but I love the fact that I live in the Valley right now.  When I settle down more in life, I know that St. Louis is more my speed.  But until then, I will enjoy all that the Valley and Arizona have to offer.