Tag: Restaurants

Food Finds: El Chullo, a Peruvian Delight

Greetings, hungry explorers! It’s another segment of Food Finds, hot out of the oven. If you haven’t joined us at the table before, this is our guide to great food (usually local to Arizona). Today, we’ve got the scoop on El Chullo, Peruvian Restaurant and Bar.

El Chullo

If you read our last Food Finds about cozy Cambodian restaurant Reathrey Sekong, El Chullo is even cozier. This little Peruvian place is tucked into the corner of 7th St. and Virginia Ave. in mid-town Phoenix. The tables and bar seat MAYBE 30-ish people max., so if you’re bringing in a larger party (or really any dining party, especially on a weekend), call in and make a reservation.

For such a tiny tavern, they have a pretty wide variety of appetizers and entrees on their menu, so if you have questions (and had never tried Peruvian food before like us newbies), just ask your server. I’d also ask about their beverages that have a Peruvian twist, like Inca Kola. Honestly, this golden soda was a little intense on the flavor scale for me – but if you’re a fan of lemon verbena (it’s main ingredient), this is the cola (or Kola) for you.

I’d describe these dishes as comfort food, both hearty and warm. They also definitely don’t skimp on the portions. But, if you do still have room after these generous plates, don’t forget about dessert!

We tried the alfajor – a cute little cookie with a creamy dulce de leche center. It’s one of the desserts they are known for!

So if you find yourself in Phoenix, give El Chullo a try. We also heard that they might be opening up a second location not too far away on 7th Ave. sometime soon, so it’ll be even easier to sample some of this Peruvian goodness.

That’s it for this week’s Food Finds, but don’t be stranger – we have more on the horizon!

Eat Well,

Food Finds: Reathrey Sekong and Novel Ice Cream

Hello again, travelers! Welcome to a new segment of Nightborn called Food Finds. We love checking out new places, supporting local businesses and of course, eating tasty treats, so we figured we share them with you, too. Today’s finds are dinner (or lunch) and dessert (or, as I’d like to call it, anytime food) at Reathrey Sekong and Novel Ice Cream.

Reathrey Sekong

Reathrey is a cozy Cambodian restaurant tucked into mid-town Phoenix. Inside you’ll find a smattering of tables and booths – a perfectly-sized space that, even when it’s full, doesn’t feel crowded. (If you have a larger party, you might want to call ahead to see what the dining situation is like. Take-out is an option, too.)

I’d never had Cambodian food before, but it wasn’t too unfamiliar, with some element of the dishes reminding me of a combination of Vietnamese and Thai food (which might make sense, considering that Cambodia is sandwiched between Vietnam and Thailand).

I’m definitely coming back for this ginger tofu stir-fry.

The menu isn’t large (nor does it need to be), but it has a variety of dishes. Between my companions and I, we got a beef skewer dish, steak and vegetables, catfish and a ginger tofu stir-fry. Re: the catfish, check with your server to see if it’s available to order. For you vegetarians out there, I think there’s a noodle dish you can request as a vegetarian meal, and my ginger stir-fry was originally a beef/chicken dish that I subbed with tofu. But, I’m not sure if the sauce is vegetarian, so you’ll want to ask about that too.

Did I mention that staff was very nice and accommodating? Well, I have now.

Next time I stop by, I think I’ll try to be more adventurous with my choices and get something different (although that ginger tofu was REALLY good).

Steak and veggie dish with a tasty sauce that had a surprising kick.

Novel Ice Cream

Novel is little ice cream shop on the fringes of downtown Phoenix in the historic Grand Avenue arts corridor. You’ll find it across from the Grand Ave. Pizza Company, nestled in the ThirdSpace plaza.

The shop itself is small, so if it’s busy, you might find yourself squeezing inside to order, but no worries, you’ll get your turn and there’s plenty of seating outside. The staff is friendly, passionate about their ice cream and encourages you to try the flavors – so, try!

Are you WAFFLE-ing about what flavor to choose? Good news – you can pick more than one!

They’re well-known for their doughnut and waffle ice cream sandwiches (yes, you read that right), but if you’re feeling like a simple scoop, they’ve got a cake, sugar or waffle cone with your name on it.

The doughnut is absolutely as good as it looks.

That about wraps up this installment of Food Finds. Come back soon for more! (Or keep reading if you’re trying to find the perfect chai in Phoenix.)

Eat Well,

Phoenix Chai Tea at 32 Shea

Phoenix Chai Tea Adventures

I am building a guide for Phoenix chai tea for anyone else who might be as enchanted by this tea as me (or anyone looking to experience Phoenix coffee shops and cafes).

The first coffee shop to be highlighted here is 32 Shea, a neighborhood favorite, with tasty chai, lots of food options, and a zen atmosphere.

The Tea!

phoenix chai tea

Food and chai tea out on the patio (c) ABR 2017

Reviewer(s): Aireona (the sugar-lover)

Brand: Maya Chai (Sweet version)

Flavor: Maya Chai is a Tucson company that has stolen the hearts of several of my chai tea-loving friends, and for good reason. They have two different varieties, sweet and spicy (Devi), and both strike a very nice balance between both of these flavors (as far as American tastes go, we love our sugar). For me, it is the afternote of this tea that is really special, and speaks to the artistry of its creators. While it maintains the sweet flavor that American chai has come to exemplify, the final notes of either Maya chai is reminiscent of more traditional, spicy teas. It is this perfect, subtle blend of spices that makes Maya so special, and for those of you that haven’t tried it (I have no idea how prevalent it is outside of Arizona), it is worth seeking out when you are looking for Phoenix chai tea.

The Locale

Location: 10626 N. 32nd St. 85028, Phoenix AZ

WIFI: Password Protected

Atmosphere: I love 32 Shea’s atmosphere. The building itself is quite small, and the inside has a warm feel with a wood-surfaced bar, and seating along some large windows. The patio outside, with its Buddha statue, vibrant greenery, and babbling fountain, is a very relaxing place. There are big shade trees along the fence that creates this little, private area, and umbrellas around the tables. It really feels like its own little world, although it is quite hot out here in the middle of summer.

Phoenix chai tea

Staff: The staff at 32 Shea are amazing. They are very welcoming, and don’t mind helping you navigate the menu. I have also gotten some really good recommendations for food from them. Overall, they are friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable about the menu.

Pros: This coffee shop has a lovely building, and they are a special part of the community. Their menu will have something for you from breakfast to lunch and dinner. In particular, their dinner menu is pretty stellar. For those pasta lovers out there, I would suggest the lobster mac & cheese with some nutella cheesecake for dessert. They even serve cocktails later in the day. 32 Shea has great staff and they have one of the best chai tea brands out there.

Cons: So far, I have just found their lunch food to be ok. I am never blown away by how good it is, but it is never bad either. There is also limited space and it can be hot during the summer.

phoenix cofee shop

Want to see the rest of the guide? Check out Your Guide to Phoenix: Chai Tea Adventures.

Coronado: A Historic Island City

(c) Access Maps

(c) Access Maps

Like much of the American Southwest, the story of the landscape begins with the first exploration by the Native Americans, and the eventual colonization of the Spanish. For Coronado, this chapter of the story began in the seventeenth century with the explorer Sebastian Vizcaino, who charted the island for Spain and named it and the surrounding islands Las Yslas Coronadas. It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that Europeans really started to use the area, and it wasn’t until after the independence of Mexico that anyone other than whalers took advantage of the beauty and natural resources of Coronado. However, for several decades the island was bought and sold on more than one occasion, apparently by people who were somewhat short-sighted, until the island ended up in the hands of E.S. Babcock Jr., H.L. Story, and J. Gruendike in 1885. These three visionaries organized the Coronado Beach Company, and began to gather investors and buyers in order to develop a resort town between San Diego and the open ocean. In 1888, the historic Hotel del Coronado was opened, and between 1900 to 1939 Coronado became one of the major tourist draws in the area. People flocked to Tent City at the base of the Del to swim and partake in the fair-like atmosphere of the area. Movies were made there, and Hollywood stars graced the halls of the Del. After 1939, the fickle demands of tourism shifted, but the value and beauty of this area ultimately continued to draw visitors to the island, and helped maintain some of San Diego’s unique landmarks. (Source).

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

As with its history, the atmosphere of Coronado is unique, even for the generally sublime nature of San Diego and the warm, ocean environment of Southern California. The massive Coronado bridge, which arches over San Diego’s bay waters, serves as a portal to this beautiful place in the mind of the imaginative. Drivers need to keep their eyes on the road here, as California traffic isn’t forgiving, but for passengers the bridge can inspire a feeling of flying, and at the very least, offers views of San Diego and Coronado that are impossible to capture from the ground. Once across the water, the roads get smaller and I always immediately get the feeling of a small town. The houses here are manicured, and varied, but have a standard of beauty that suggests the wealth of anyone who can afford property on the island. The bridge dumps its passengers into the neighborhoods, which most people navigate through to the main street of Orange Avenue. Anyone spending a day or more in Coronado would be missing out if they didn’t spend some time strolling the lesser traveled streets, however, as the houses themselves are lovely, but there are also a couple small churches tucked away in the more residential areas that merit a visit.

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

Orange Avenue is where most visitors spend their time, when not basking on the beach or exploring the Del Coronado. Here, shops and restaurants line the street and display a variety of historical and modern architectural types. The mix of buildings is appealing in themselves, and while the wares of most of the shops are fairly tourist-oriented, the restaurants are tempting. Anyone who enjoys a sweet crepe should visit Fabrison’s French Creperie Café. I have never had a disappointing crepe here, but they are only open in the morning and afternoon, so be sure to drop by before they close up. For dinner, seafood lovers should check out Brigantine’s Seafood, and Village Pizzeria has tasty pizza and a casual atmosphere; they will also deliver to your hotel room. MooTime Creamery.

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

Of course, the crown jewel of Coronado is the Del Coronado Hotel or the Hotel Del. I personally haven’t stayed there, but just visiting and taking advantage of the beach in front of the hotel has inspired my appreciation for this place. The design of the hotel was drawn up a few years after the Coronado Beach Company was founded in 1886, and building began a year later. By 1888, the Hotel Del opened its doors to the public, was the center of the bustling tourist town of Coronado, and claimed the title of being the largest resort in the world at that time. Prominent Hollywood and government figures passed through the halls of the Hotel Del, and even the casual visitor today would be hard pressed to miss the hotel’s proud display of photos of the Del’s historic heyday. By World War II, the hotel was no longer sought after

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

by Hollywood stars, and by the 1960s the buildings were aging, neglected, and slated for demolishment. Luckily, however, ideas of destroying the old hotel gave way to a desire to see it restored to its historical grandeur when M.L. Lawrence invested heavily in expanding the Hotel Del and adding modern resort amenities to the property. As for myself, I enjoyed taking in the hotel’s unique architecture and historical interior design. Downstairs there are a variety of expensive shops, but also an interesting display of historic photos and plaques that tell the story of the Hotel Del Coronado. I have heard that getting tea at the Hotel is something of a visitor must, but I have never had the opportunity myself. Besides exploring the public areas of the hotel, I have spent most of my time there on the beaches outside, which are cared for daily and seemed to be fairly quiet in terms of crowds.

And if you have any questions about my experience in Coronado or my travels feel free to leave me a comment. 🙂

My next update will be on February 1st, and I will be writing about Coronado’s neighbor, San Diego.

The Phoenix-Area


I’m a relatively rare person in Phoenix: someone who was born and raised here, and hasn’t run off to somewhere less dry and scorching hot. I spent a few years in Tucson, but other than that, I have spent my entire life in Phoenix, and I have never lived any where outside of Arizona. That being said, I have had an interesting relationship with my home, and there have been times when I have found Phoenix to be a boring, shallow city… especially considering that it has a population that warrants some big city excitement. Lately, I have been rediscovering some of the wonderful things that this city has to offer, and that’s what I am going to focus on here.

One my favorite things about Phoenix are the mountain preserves, and there are efforts within the city government as well as groups such as the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy to use these large areas of preserved desert for a more sustainable city. As it stands now, the Phoenix-area sports some of the largest urban preserves in the country. They serve as habitat islands for desert species, and wonderful places to hike and experience the desert. I will devote individual blog entries to different sections of the preserve, so those can be referenced for details on these areas, but here is a link to the Phoenix Park Department’s Mountain Preserve website: Phoenix Mountain Preserves

Phoenix is also home to a wonderful zoo and botanical garden which I have enjoyed almost yearly since I was young. These are two separate parks, but they are located a mere two minute drive from one another, and they are both nestled in the beautiful and unique landscape of Papago Park.(c) AB Raschke The Desert Botanical Gardens is home to lovely, informative desert plant exhibits, and seasonally they also host a butterfly garden. What is fairly distinct about this particular park, and is something that I have really enjoyed over the years, is the Garden’s “Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Trail.” This section of the garden showcases several of Arizona’s native cultures and has some interactive areas for kids to explore and learn more about the historical lives of the desert people. The Phoenix Zoo is an equally fun spot to visit, and perhaps more kid oriented than the gardens. In its entirety, the zoo is well kept, the exhibits are nice, and the atmosphere is well done. There are also some distinct exhibits that make the park special- including a monkey village (the easiest way to imagine this if you haven’t been to something similar is a monkey aviary), and AZ animals exhibit which is also set up like an aviary, and houses one of my all time favorite animals, burrowing owls! There are plenty of other reasons to visit either of these parks, but I don’t have the space here to mention them all.
The Desert Botanical Gardens
The Phoenix Zoo

In terms of general areas to check out while in the area, Old Town Scottsdale, Mill Avenue in Tempe, and downtown Phoenix all have their own charm. Phoenix’s downtown will be disappointing if you expect it to be anything like the downtown areas of other large cities. There isn’t a ton of shopping to be done, and even good food isn’t readily apparent without some searching. However, downtown is home to a couple big sports arenas, theaters, and museums (including the Sciene Museum, which is great for kids). It is also the site of events such as the annual Matsuri festival, and the Phoenix Comicon.(c) AB Raschke The Phoenix light rail (which I highly suggest for travelers, although it’s pretty small compared to many other urban rail systems) runs right through downtown, and also connects to Mill Ave on Tempe. Mill is close to Phoenix’s university, Arizona State, and it is great spot for bar crawling. Mill also has some pretty good places to eat, and connects to the Tempe Town Lake which has a nice shoreline park, as well as boats for rent. This is as close as you’ll come to finding a “college town” in the Phoenix-area. In contrast, Old Town Scottsdale is in one of the city’s richer areas, and it shows. The shopping here is similar to that of Sedona as it focuses on pricey art and southwestern souvenirs. A high end mall (Fashion Square) is also in this part of town. I mostly like Old Town Scottsdale for its food, and it makes for a nice stroll on spring or fall days, and there is even a pretty nice public garden there.
Downtown Phoenix
Mill Ave
Old Town Scottsdale

(c) AB Raschke

Now, one of the things that has always bothered me about Phoenix is it’s apparent lack of interesting restaurants, so I wanted to take some time to list a few of my favorite places:
Cherryblossom (Japanese/Italian)
Curry Corner (Pakastani)
The Dubliner (Irish)
Green (Vegetarian)
Indian Garden (Indian)
Khyber Halal (Afghani)
La Grande Orange Grocery (American)
Sala Thai (Thai)
Stax Burger Bistro (American)
Sushi Station (Japanese)
Uncle Sams (American)

In terms of living and visiting Phoenix, the weather is a big concern. Winters are traditionally mild, but recent years have seen them getting colder. A couple years ago, in fact, it got so cold in Tucson that pipes were bursting all over the city- including at University of Arizona’s massive new chemistry building. If you compare it to states that see real winter, it’s nothing, but it may be a bit colder than expected. Summers in Phoenix are what really get people, and it can be pretty brutal. A high of 120 degrees isn’t uncommon, and while it is very dry, the heat is still dangerous. (c) AB RaschkeFor a person that loves the outdoors, summer can be something of a problem in Phoenix, since it keeps most sane people indoors for most of the day, and those of us that want to hike in the city have to be out on the trail by 430a. Best option for summer hiking is to travel up to Sedona or Flagstaff for the day. Due to its weather, Phoenix is a seasonal home for lots of “snow birds,” and that can also change some of the dynamics of the city, especially on the roads. Due to the weather, winter is the typical time to visit, but for people considering a trip to Phoenix, the summer is actually a pretty great time to come. Yes, it is hot out and you won’t want to spend the day at the zoo in the blistering heat, but hotel prices tend to be pretty low in the summer, and chilling at a nice resort surrounded by beautiful desert is never a bad thing.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén