According to experts and state officials, Arizona is the place to grab a bite — especially if you have a discerning palette, have embraced a vegan lifestyle, or simply want the biggest meal you can imagine.
By the year 2020, the global tableware market is projected to exceed $41 billion. Of course, local restaurants eat up a good portion of that. And between last month’s Arizona Restaurant Week and the PHX Vegan Food Festival in February, foodies are starting to flock to the area for the latest and greatest in local dishes. Back in 2015, the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization recognized the city of Tucson for its gastronomy scene’s local food production and investment in natural resources.
But while Zagat recently gave Phoenix and Scottsdale the number nine spot on its up-and-coming food cities list, most Arizona destinations aren’t widely recognized for their delicious contributions. The Arizona Office of Tourism and the Arizona Restaurant Association just launched a website called Expedition Foodie to entice tourists and show them the variety of culinary experiences the state has to offer.
Arizona has become more appealing to vegans and vegetarians, specifically, in recent years. In 2007, an online resource for vegetarians and vegans called Happy Cow listed only five purely vegan restaurants in the entire state. By August of last year, the list had grown to 21. The 2,000 attendees who attended this winter’s vegan food festival can attest to the diet’s growing popularity. The festival’s vendors and local vegan eateries understand that just because customers have given up meat and dairy doesn’t mean they want to give up taste, too.
But other eaters don’t want to give up anything, especially when it comes to their portion sizes. Some Arizona restaurants have responded by dreaming up the biggest possible dishes they can. Six of these eateries will be featured on two different Food Network series in June. Among them are Chompie’s — highlighting its ten-pound Jewish slider that includes a 36-ounce challah role, four pounds of sliced brisket, 12 slices of cheese, 12 ounces of gravy, and a 24-ounce latke on top — and Stray Dogs, with its 16-inch, chocolate-filled glazed donut, among others. The local restaurants will be featured on Phoenix’s Finest Imports on June 2 and on Tucson: Biggest Orders on the Border on June 9.
Whether customers have a hankering for a bigger-than-life meal or want something a bit lighter, Arizona restaurant owners and officials hope that their recognitions will bring out-of-towners to the Grand Canyon State for more than just the natural beauty.