Going in, I hadn't expected Arizona, which was officially my 32nd state and counting, to be as picturesque and green as it was. Sure, it's a desert, loaded with menacing cacti of all shapes, colors and sizes that leave their razor-sharp quills in your Teva hard-rubber sandals, but it's also a place with radically-gorgeous rock formations, hidden forest rivers, and a melting pot of incredible cuisines built around Old-Western-timey and innovative architecture alike. If you have the gusto to brave the 110 degree+ "Winters", and when I say gusto I mean lay around in the A/C watching Netflix, Arizona can be a mecca for foodies, fitness "swoldiers", athletes, a student just looking to party, or anyone in between. Having spent a short 5-day stint in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Sedona, here are my recommendations that I was fortunate enough to jam into my itinerary. As always, the food was our first priority. And in a most intentional fashion, we also had a local guide to show us the way, which is always an indicator that you're in for a time that is straight bliss.
As part of our Arizona itinerary, we made sure to drop in a day that was dedicated to seeing Sedona and the iconic red rocks formations. Before going, we had to discuss food options as its probably the more important aspect of our traveling entertainment. Chocola Tree ended up being the first-round draft pick, not only for his fresh and vegan-friendly menu but it's eclectic garden seating, complete with impromptu harp players and circus ribbon dancers. Going in, I was little skeptical. My brother-in-law, whose got a decent palate himself, described the place as "sooo raw". As soon as you roll up you know what kind of place it's going to be. Buddha monuments in every nook and cranny. Incense, crystal, and essential oil sales galore. Waitresses with no bras and waiters in baggy capris with their dreads tied up. Needless to say, I loved it. I ended up ordering a mean wrap filled with fresh sprouts, quinoa, a bunch of veg, and a fat side car of some almond butter ginger dipping sauce that I've since attempted to replicate. And a local Kombucha for the road. If you're a little hippy and not afraid of some rawness, this place is for you.
All plant-based + the occasional egg for anyone dining with a less vegetable-focused friend. Anything from stuffed french toast to scrambles to sandwiches, tacos, and green juices. With an added rotational menu that uses local in-season produce from time to time, this is a place you're not going to want to miss. Big inside for large group, local brews on tap, vegan from-scratch desserts, honestly what more could you want?! After having one of those "Oh my lanta the entire menu is vegan" episodes, I finally decided on a tofu hash/scramble combo with toast and homemade jam. Did a "Oh my Lanta" double-take because this was just the scrummiest. That's right, the most scrum-diddly-um-tious. We went back for dinner the next night and I made my way down the taco menu. Again...the most scrum-diddly. Will be back ASAP.
Green New American Cafe
Every once in a while you just feel like eating something shitty. And when I say shitty, I mean something deep-fried, a little greasy, perhaps loaded with something runny, and paired with a decadent, not-afraid-to-add-on-a-pound-or-two dessert. Vegans are no different. Thank the Universe for places like Green Cafe because this is the epitome of sloppy "comfort" vegan food. If you're looking for a hang-over killer, they have a couple options and then some. Double-decker burgers, buffalo chick'n hoagies, fries slathered in 1000 Island and plant-based cheese, cheese-steaks, deep-fried whatever, did I mention cheese?! They even have some healthier options like rice bowls or wraps if that's more your cup of tea. Beer on tap and a plethora of vegan "soft-serve" ice creams being the cherry on top of what could be the most skilled hair-of-the-dog approach yet.
When in Doubt...Whole Foods Deli
There have been a few times where, instead of venturing to a new eatery that may or may not have decent vegan fare, we opt to just hit of the Whole Foods deli. They have everything one could want, regardless of dietary preferences. Pay by the pound and you'll be rebuilding those cellular structures in less that 5 minutes. Unless you're like me and have trouble dialing in your salad toppings. Or just pick e) all of the above. Artichoke hearts? Yes. Marinated mushrooms. A hefty pile please. Then just a little chickpea, tofu, and sunflower seeds for the protein win. Thanks Jeff Bezos...sort of. Actually not at all. Thanks to all those workers who prep what's probably a large covered-wagon full of produce on a daily basis. You're some beautiful people!
Other Recommended Stuff
Cartel Coffee Lab
Sip Coffee and Beer Kitchen