YC’s Mongolian Grill opens a new Scottsdale location

Locally owned YC’s Mongolian Grill returned to Scottsdale last week with the opening its new Loop 101 & Raintree location. Loyal customers couldn’t wait to get back to building their own stir fry bowls as was evident when I visited with owner Geoff Stansic recently. The previous Scottsdale location was at The Pavilions but was shut down with the other 4 locations due to the pandemic. As the pandemic waned and the economy improved Stansic decided to re-open 3 of the locations in Gilbert, Tempe and Scottsdale with a 4th location slated to open sometime in 2023.

“After a tough few years of working through adversity during the pandemic and beyond, we are ready to open the doors to an all-new YC’s experience and reconnect with our Scottsdale customers,” Stanisic said. “We take pride in the food we serve and love being able to provide our customers with the best ingredients and a bowl full of authentic flavor.”

Stansic took over in 1996, five years after the first location in Tempe was opened by the original owner YC. He knew a thing or two about the restaurant business as he was kitchen manager for Hyatt Hotels and Houston’s before going into business for himself. It shows as he greets his returning customers by name, knows what bowls they will build and sauces they will have them tossed with. He even has a few signature sauces named for long time customers. He credits much of the success to his attentive staff, several who have been with since before he took over almost 30 years ago.

YC's Mongolian Grill
Beef & Broccoli bowl

What is YC’s Mongolian Grill?

Folklore has it that in the days of Genghis Khan, his army would cook their food on their shields over a hot fire, similar to how it’s done at YC’s. In each location after you’ve piled high your meats, vegetables, noodles and sauces the cooks will grill them on 600 degree circular flat top grill in full view. During peak times 4 cooks will toss the ingredients on the grill rotating around the grill.

There is no one demographic at YC’s Mongolian Grill as the food has something for everybody. Vegan and gluten free diets can be accommodated as there are plenty of vegetables, noodles and sauces for all.  Want meat in your bowl, add white or dark meat chicken, pork and or beef with shrimp available during dinner. Don’t be afraid to pile your ingredients high, it’s encouraged. Their signature noodles are sourced from Chinatown in L.A. with vegetables coming from local distributors.

A separate bowl is used combine ingredients for your Asian inspired sauce. A menu board offers several signature sauces recommending how much and which water based sauces and rice wines to use. The staff is always nearby to help create your sauce before grilling making tastes and combinations endless.

Free Stir Fry Day

To celebrate the new location, customers coming in Wednesday, November 2nd will get free small bowl from 11 a.m. – 7p.m. The new location is at 14850 N. 87th St., Scottsdale, AZ. For more information visit their website.

The return of Phoenix Vegan Restaurant Week in September

As plant-based diets get more popular diners are looking for more restaurants and food options when dining out. The return of Phoenix Vegan Restaurant Week, September 11th-18th, people can get a chance to dine on special plant based meals at full service restaurants, food trucks, bakeries, meal delivery services and more.

Founders Jozh Watson (PHX Vegan) and Chef Jason Wyrick (The Vegan Taste) want to continue to bring awareness to plant-based diets get more popular diners are looking for more restaurants and food options to dine out at. “According to Watson, “Last year, Phoenix Vegan Restaurant Week was so well received by the community. Every eatery that participated reported a significant increase in traffic during the event. This year promises to be even bigger and better.”

During the week-long event diners will be treated to plant based meals during breakfast, lunch and dinner at participating restaurants not normally found on their menu. Breakfast will be capped at $15, lunch will offer an appetizer, entree and drink for $20 and a three course dinner for no more than $30 with a 5 course meal no more than $44. Reservations are now being taken for the week at restaurants including Salvadoreno Restaurant (Phoenix and Mesa), Dilla Libre (Phoenix and Scottsdale), Early Bird Vegan, Freak Brothers Pizza and others.

A list of restaurants and menus can be found at their updated website as the list continues to grow. Non-vegan restaurants are encouraged to participate to showcase their plant based options. Menus are available for both dine-in and take-out. According to Wyrick, “Restaurants are realizing they need to appeal to a variety of food preferences. Veganism is a lifestyle choice that is here to stay, and we’re proud to show off the amazing culinary mark Phoenix is making.” Photo credit Debby Wolvos

Don’t forget to check out my podcast Pulling Corks & Forks: The Podcast with Sandy Wasserman to hear from those in our community. Please subscribe, like & comment.

Caffe Vita joins the Phoenix coffee scene with 1st Arizona location

Phoenicians can’t get enough coffee and on Saturday July 30th there will be a new place to get your daily cup of go-go juice. Seattle’s Caffe Vita opens its ninth location nationwide and first in Arizona in the former Easley’s Fun Shop at 509 W. McDowell Rd. To celebrate their arrival, all day Saturday their giving away a FREE oat milk lattes.

Paying respect to the former tenant and its history in Phoenix, Caffe Vita is preserving several aspects of Easley’s including their signature bright yellow sign “Our business is fun”. Also renting out space in the building will be brewery Roses by the Stairs and men’s clothier Cave and Post.

“It was important for us to give a nod to the beloved business that once called this space home, and we worked with Carol Easley and family to preserve as much of the building as possible while constructing a space that’s uniquely Caffe Vita,” said Deming Maclise, Owner and CEO of Caffe Vita. “We think Phoenix residents will be pleasantly surprised at how much this space feels like an evolution of the location, rather than a takeover.”

Coffee and more at Caffe Vita

Beans will be roasted in a vintage Probat UG 22 and will be overseen by Director of Coffee Sam Spillman. Spillman is the 2019 United States Barista Champion and brings a wealth of knowledge and kindness to the job.

Guests can sip on signature coffee drinks such as Caffe Del Sol Espresso, single origin coffees and Oatdos. The latter is a cortado made with oat milk. Seasonal drinks including the Cold Brew Shandy and Prickly Pear tonic will be exclusive to the Phoenix location. To keep cool on hot days there will also be a selection of slushy drinks.

La Grande Orange Bake Shop, Yo Donut and Suss Pastries will provide locally made pastries and breakfast specialties. On the menu you’ll find a Prickly Pear Fruit Pocket, gluten free and vegan Passion Fruit donuts and more.

Caffe Vita will be open daily from 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. For more information visit their website.

Giving Tree Cafe shows sign of hope with life size sculpture

Phoenix’s Giving Tree Cafe known for serving clean eating vegan, organic & gluten free food is also known as a community spot in the neighborhood. The cafe at 7th St. near Monte Vista recently installed a life size sculpture of a iconic 1932 photograph by Charles Ebbets. Owner David Warr wanted to find a permanent home for the structure and the message it conveys.

“’Lunch Atop a Skyscraper’ stands as a testament to our resourcefulness and resilience. Our community has been through a challenging couple of years. Yet, we pulled ourselves up from our bootstraps, and we’ve grown stronger,” said Warr.

Getting it to the Giving Tree Cafe

The sculpture was hidden in storage and Warr found out about it from customer David Kirschenbaum who produced the sculpture with sculptor Blake Emory. The 24 foot long and 20 foot high sculpture took 3 days to install after being delivered to the cafe. It took Emory & Kirschenbaum over 2 years to make by hand using clay, fiberglass resin, steel, PVC, wood, textiles, rubber & chrome.

“Many haven’t been able to enjoy the arts scene for quite some time. I wanted to bring this sculpture back to life as a sign of strength, hope and togetherness,” said Warr.

The photograph and sculpture show 11 steelworkers eating lunch on a girder high above the streets of NYC. The 69 story building being built is the RCA building, now part of Rockefeller Center and the erecting of the building was a sign of hope and confidence in the future during The Great Depression.  Each of the 11 replicas of the workers is life size and each weighs about 100 lbs. According to Warr,

“We’re not done yet. Watch the space over the next couple of weeks.” Artist Emory returns to make an exciting addition to the structure.

The Giving Tree Cafe is at 2024 N. 7th St. Phoenix 85004. For more information visit their website.

 

 

24 Carrots Natural Caffe & Urban Juicery to close in December

The popular plant-based 24 Carrots Natural Caffe & Urban Juicery will be closing its brick & mortar location in Tempe in early December after 13 years. “Our landlord decided not to renew our lease at our current location for the next year; therefore we have no choice but to say goodbye to our beloved restaurant,” said owner and founder Sadhana Raj.

Raj will help her employees find new jobs in similar positions with like-minded restaurants around the valley. Raj will continue to use her voice and reputation for community minded projects and food advocacy for healthier eating and food insecurity and plans to stay involved in the industry around Phoenix and elsewhere. She will be donating her kitchen equipment to schools, culinary programs and other non-profits.

She plans to wind down 24 Carrots by December 10th but will continue to offer her Vegan Thanksgiving menu and will sell a good and products at soon to be announced date. Raj said, “We could not have created such an incredible restaurant and cause to fight for without the support of our team and our very loyal customers. We will be eternally grateful to both.”

Fab Chef’s Table offers gourmet food delivery service

Phoenix’s Fabulous Food catering just started the new high-end gourmet meal prep and delivery service, Fab Chef’s Table. The scratch made meals focuses on nutritious and delicious meals that are allergy sensitive. Unlike other meal prep services, it doesn’t rely on specific diets or calorie content but does also offer vegan and vegetarian options.

“As a full-service catering company with a restaurant that was completely shut down due to COVID-19, we’re grateful we were able to keep most of our key staff,” says Chantal Hause, who owns Fabulous Food with husband Skip. “We found that while we couldn’t help execute large events for our clients during this time, they still wanted to enjoy our food so we came up with a solution.” The couple started Fabulous Food in 1996 serving corporate clients with individual fresh made meals for employees and family meals during Thanksgiving, Christmas & Easter. They also over food activities such as cookie making kits with everything you need to decorate desserts.

With feedback from their catering clients, they took popular dishes and created them for home delivery making it easy for customers to heat and eat. All meals are photo ready and memorable, delivered to your front door by the company themselves without any third party delivery. Fab Chef’s Table has a wide delivery area throughout the valley and is willing to work with customers outside the delivery area mutually beneficial to both.

To read more about Fab Chef’s Table or to place an order visit their website.

 

Phoenix Vegan Restaurant Week launches mid-September

Two of the valley’s vegan advocates have come together to launch the first Phoenix Vegan Restaurant Week September 12th- 18th. Chef & author Jason Wyrick and vegan taste maker and owner of Phoenix Vegan Jozh Watson launched the week long culinary event to bring more attention to plant- based restaurants, foods & cooking.

According to Wyrick, “Phoenix Vegan Restaurant Week is a celebration of plant-based cuisine in Phoenix. We want to raise awareness about everything vegan that’s now available in our city, get everyone excited, and out-and-about trying all of the great dining options.”

Phoenix Vegan Restaurant Week
Simon’s Hot Dogs. Feature photo Maya’s Cajun Cuisine’s Po’ Boy

How Phoenix Vegan Restaurant Week works?

The pair are encouraging restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, food trucks and others to showcase their plant-based cooking and more. During the week participants will be offering a specially created menu with breakfast & lunch offering at $20 and a 3-course dinner menu at $30.

“We want to position Greater Metro Phoenix as a premier, inclusive dining destination,” said Watson.

During the week diners can experience the growing Phoenix plant-based food scene visiting new establishments or returning to familiar ones. A a few of the participating eateries include: Beaut Burger, Brunch & Sip, Chilte, Dilla Libre, Early Bird Vegan, Earth Plant-Based, Giving Tree Café, Ground Control, Hot Sauce & Pepper, Maya’s Cajun Kitchen, Pachamama, Positively Frosted, Salvadoreno Restaurant, Shameless Burger, Simon’s Hot Dogs, The Nile Coffee Shop, Urban Beans Café, Tesoro Vegano, The Vegan Taste, Verdura, and Wok this Way.

According to Wyrick, “Restaurants are experimenting more with vegan cuisine and showcasing some really great offerings. Phoenix Vegan Restaurant Week allows them to cater to a growing clientele and test the waters for expanding their vegan selections.” For more information and to see additional participants head to their website.

Picazzo’s Healthy Italian Kitchen opens 6th location

Arizona and family -owned Picazzo’s Healthy Italian Kitchen opened its newest restaurant in Gilbert with a limited schedule. Currently opened Thursday – Sunday the new location will gradually open on other days in the coming weeks. Picazzo’s originally started in Sedona serving organic and healthy pizzas, salads and other Italian specialties but in the years since have grown to include the flavors of Asian, Mediterranean and Mexican ingredients.

“We can’t wait to welcome the Gilbert community to Picazzo’s!” says Picazzo’s Operations Manager, Chris Disney. It’s our pleasure to offer a variety of vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and allergy-friendly items. Families can enjoy a meal at Picazzo’s and get their favorite dishes, whether they have special dietary needs or preferences or not. We’ve actually had guests cry with happiness when they realize they can order exactly what they want, how they want it!”

The menu in Gilbert is the same as the other locations and includes 95% organic ingredients for its pizzas, pastas, entrees, salads and more. Guests will notice a new modern look that will be rolled out to the other restaurants in the future.  A separate vegan menu is available using plant- based ingredients from Follow Your Heart, Daiya and Beyond Meat.

Picazzo’s new modern look

The restaurant’s spacious 4,300 square feet includes a roll-up garage door connecting the indoors and outdoors. “We thought a lot about our consumer when designing the new restaurant,” explains Disney. “That means creating a space that can accommodate solo diners and couples just as easily as large families. We also focused on selecting aesthetically pleasing textures and surfaces on everything from countertops to walls to the patio decking. We think our guests are going to love the experience here – and we hope they take advantage of the Instagram-worthy setting for taking photos with family and friends!”

Picazzo’s Healthy Italian Kitchen is at 884 E. Williams Field Rd. Gilbert 85295 with the other locations in Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, Tempe/Chandler, Arrowhead and Sedona. To find the location closest to you and to view the menu, visit their website.

 

JINYA Ramen opens first Arizona location in Chandler

As we said goodbye to April we said hello to the first Arizona location of contemporary Japanese restaurant JINYA Ramen. Downtown Chandler’s New Square development is where franchisee Daradee Olson opened the 40th location of the concept that was founded in 2010. Olso discovered the concept while vacationing in Utah and having lived & traveled in Southeast Asia she wanted to bring the concept home to Arizona.

JINYA Ramen offers bowls of broths slow cooked for 20 hours and handmade noodles. Fuji water is used for broths because its 99.9% free of impurities and noodles go through a special aging process before they are cooked. 12 signature ramen are on the menu and including chicken, pork and vegetable based broths. Guests can customize their bowl with more than 25 add-ons. In addition to ramen guests can order starters, salads, small plates and rice bowls that can be prepared vegan or vegetarian.

Local and Japanese craft beers, wine and signature cocktails are available at the bar. The sake menu has been curated by both Olson and General Manager Stephanie Daniels who are certified sake sommeliers.

According to Olson, “After eating at JINYA for the first time, I knew this was the style of ramen I had been searching for in the United States. When I returned home, I immediately began the process of bringing a JINYA Ramen Bar to the Valley.” Olson is so passionate about the concept she has plans to open four more locations in greater metro Phoenix over the next four years.

Guests can enjoy themselves inside the 60 seat restaurant that includes a ramen bar or on the patio with views of downtown Chandler. The modern & sleek atmosphere includes lively music and views of the kitchen in action from the ramen bar. JINYA Chandler is at 130 S. Arizona Avenue, Chandler, Ariz., 85225. For more information, call 480-758-5198 or visit their website.

Sips & Bites: News you can use from the Phoenix restaurant community

Quick sips & bites of news about what’s going on around the Phoenix restaurant community, breweries and wineries.

The running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday

The 1st Saturday of May is the famed Kentucky Derby from Louisville. Here in Phoenix you can celebrate around town at the Bulleit Bourbon Derby DayClub at Turf Paradise along with other restaurants and bars offering cocktails and food for the festive day. Belle’s Nashville Kitchen, CRUjiente Tacos and Blue Clover Distillery have specials for the day.

May the 4th be with you at SanTan Spirit House

Star Wars fans are invited to dress up like their favorite character from the George Lucas film and head to downtown Chandler to celebrate on Tuesday. Specially created Stars Wars themed cocktails will be available along with Millennium Falcon and Death Star raffles.

Cinco de Mayo happens Wednesday around Phoenix

The popular May 5th celebration has quite a few restaurants around the valley celebrating with food, drinks, live music and more. Head to places such as Z’ Tejas, Thirsty Lion Gastropub, Hopdoddy Burger BarA Su Salud, Ghost Ranch, The Lodge Sasquatch Kitchen, The Spotted Donkey Cantina, Ghett’ Yo’ Tacos,

Macayo’s Mexican Restaurants celebrate teachers and nurses

All 7 of the Phoenix area locations celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week May 3rd -7th with teachers getting 20% off their order. May 6th – 12th nurses can get 25% their orders during Nurses Appreciation Week.

Thai Chili 2 Go emphasize new vegan & vegetarian dishes on menu

Meat and dairy-less Pineapple Fried Rice and Vegetarian Spring rolls are now available for take-out and delivery at all 10 valley locations.

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