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INSIDE: Surprisingly vibrant and walkable, we share a whole list of things to do Phoenix downtown–you won’t even need a car!

For years I thought of Phoenix as a “region.” Great weather & spectacular scenery? Sure. But a city? With a traditional downtown? Not so much. Then I went to a concert, expecting to leave right afterward, and discovered something unexpected . . .

Downtown Phoenix was hopping-there were people everywhere, out and about, walking around and having a great time. Wait, WHAT???

It was time to give the downtown “city” part of Phoenix a closer look.

Downtown Phoenix Arizona: It’s a (real) Thing

Clearly I had taken my eye off the ball regarding what was going on in the state’s largest city (and its capital). In recent years, Phoenix has committed to redeveloping its urban corridor to offer more experiences to both business and leisure travelers.

Translation: there’s lots of cool stuff in downtown Phoenix. And you can walk to it all.

It’s not just the “big things,” like the Convention Center, baseball stadium and basketball arena. Those are great, but not enough to create a downtown atmosphere. You could drive to an event, then go home afterwards.

To be a true downtown you need more. Specifically . . . people.

Woman in a hat holding up a microbrew in downtown phoenix
Megan Greenwood of Greenwood Brewing celebrates walkable downtown Phoenix Photo by Jenny Dupuis

Tons of new apartments and condos have sprouted up in recent years. Which means people are living downtown. And where people live, they shop, eat, and just plain do stuff.

Which makes being in downtown Phoenix fun.

And it’s all within walking distance, so you even get a little exercise in the process. (Which in my mind totally justifies stopping for a cookie! 🍪)

We’ve put together a guide of what to do in downtown Phoenix to get you started. Whether you’re looking to shop in funky boutiques, discover some history, or just enjoy the Arizona sunshine with a refreshing microbrew, you’ll find it here.

Next time you’re coming to town for a convention, or even just in from the ‘burbs to catch a Diamondbacks game, take some time to explore downtown Phoenix. It’ll be worth the trip.

Things to do Phoenix Downtown: Live Performances

Downtown Phoenix is no slouch in the live performance scene. From bass-thumping rock or hip-hop to an elegant ballet to live theater, Phoenix runs the gamut for creative entertainment. 🎸💃🏻

Every night is a unique artistic experience, where passion and creativity take center stage. Check out these terrific venues to find your performance of choice.

1. Footprint Center

An anchor in downtown Phoenix, the Footprint Center arena delivers an electrifying fusion of entertainment, sporting action, and local culture.

In addition to year-round sporting events (see below), this arena host an ever-changing array of BIG events. Whether it’s the Ringling Brothers circus, Tim McGraw or Megan Thee Stallion, there’s something heart-stopping for fans of all ages and tastes.

Attending an event at the Footprint Center can form the lynchpin for your exploration of Phoenix’s downtown scene.

2. Arizona Financial Theater

Despite the confusing name (they do NOT put on plays about mortgages 🙃), the Arizona Financial Theatre offers up a great lineup of all sorts of entertainment.

This 5,000 seat entertainment venue is equipped with state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment. I like to think of it as either an “intimate arena” or a “whompin’ big theater.”

This is the place to see comedy acts like Bret Goldstein and Bill Burr and multiple music genres, including latin, hip-hop, rock and country. You can even attend boxing matches here! 🥊

3. Phoenix Symphony Hall

If you’re craving a little high culture, Phoenix Symphony Hall will fix you up right.

This spectacular venue serves as home to a myriad of renowned organizations, including the illustrious Phoenix Symphony—the Southwest’s largest full-time symphony orchestra—as well as the Arizona Opera and Ballet Arizona.

Ballet dancers at Phoenix Symphony hall-one of the more cultural things to do Phoenix downtown
Attending a ballet is one of the more cultural things to do Phoenix downtown Photo: Ballet Arizona

READ NEXT: 21 Authentic Foods of Arizona You’ll want to Try

4. Herberger Theater Center

The Herberger Theater Center, serves as a cultural hub offering an immersive live arts experience. This captivating hive of creativity showcases a wide variety performance genres, encapsulating the city’s thriving arts scene. Events include thought-provoking plays, musicals an interactive art exhibitions.

For a change of pace (and budget ) try out the Lunch Time Theater program: One-act plays lasting 45 to 50 minutes, with tickets at $10 each, PLUS guests can bring a lunch (or pre-order one from the Herberger Theater’s caterer when ordering tickets.) Now that’s a great deal!

5. The Orpheum Theater

Every great city needs a grand old theater in it’s repertoire. The Orpheum Theater fits that bill for downtown Phoenix. It opened in January 1929, at the peak of the Roaring 20s-no expense was spared. The massive stage made it a popular stop for traveling vaudeville shows that changed weekly back in the day.

The elegant 1920s interior of the Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix
The elegant interior of the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix dates from the 1920s

This historic performance arts venue is a bit of an architectural show-off with its magnificent Italian Renaissance Revival design. It even had an early form of air conditioning!

Today the Orpheum plays host to a diverse range of performances that cater to every artistic taste. Performances range from the mesmerizing Broadway musical Wicked to showings of vintage silent films accompanied by live orchestra. The Orpheum Theater is indeed a crowning jewel in Phoenix’s vibrant arts scene.

6. The Van Buren

People standing in a music venue waiting for a concert to begin
The Van Buren offers an intimate spot to see live music in downtown Phoenix

If you’re looking for something a bit more intimate and edgy in the heart of downtown Phoenix, the Van Buren might just fit the bill.

Originally built in 1939 as an automotive showroom for the Phoenix Motor Company, it was repurposed into an eclectic music venue in 2017. Recent performances include Grammy-nominated artist, Leon Bridges, and indie rock band, The Arctic Monkeys, showcasing the Van Buren’s commitment to diverse and high-caliber entertainment.

Click here for upcoming events at the Van Buren.

7. The Crescent Ballroom

Part live performance venue, part Southwestern scratch kitchen, the Crescent Ballroom provides entertainment and sustenance at the western end of Phoenix’s downtown in a historic setting.

exterior view of the crescent ballroom in downtown phoenix, with people eating at outdoor tables
The Crescent Ballroom features live music & great Southwestern grub (Photo An T. Pham)

Housed in the F.L. Hart Garage, which was built in 1917, it sits along the original Dixie Overland Highway, more commonly known as US Highway 80. As a member of the inaugural class of US highways commissioned in 1926 [the same “class” as its neighbor to the north, Route 66], US 80 ran through Phoenix along Van Buren Street.

This route was often referred to as the “Broadway of America,” with motor lodges and automobile garages, catering to tourists. Today, the Crescent Ballroom showcases a wide variety of live music and related activities.

And the Arizona tapas, margaritas and more at onsite Cocina 10 are a welcome treat for a hungry wayfarer! 🌮🍹

What to do in Downtown Phoenix with Kids 🧒🏻🧒🧒🏽

Ignite your child’s curiosity with engaging museums, interactive exhibits, captivating live events, lush parks, and more. Designed for their endless amusement, downtown Phoenix has fun-filled adventure awaiting in every corner. Create unforgettable memories with these things to do Phoenix downtown today!

8. Valley Youth Theater

group of children putting on a play-things to do phoenix downtown
Potential future Oscar winners (photo: Robert Kneschke)

The Valley Youth Theater cultivates raw talent into masterful, world-renowned performers. This hub of artistic excellence proudly counts award-winning artists like Jordan Sparks and Emma Stone among its notable alumni.

Fun for kids and grownups alike, catch a performance at the VYT and you might just get a glimpse of a future Oscar winner. You can say, “I saw them when they were just a kid!”

9. Arizona Science Center (and Create! Annex)

Tweens in front of a giant mock-up of skin at Arizona Science Center
Arizona Science Center, (photo by Brad Olson)

Encourage your child’s curiosity (or your own!) at Arizona Science Center, featuring over 350 interactive exhibits.

Dive into the mind-bending Dorrance Planetarium or traverse the simulated Mars landscape. In the Create! annex, innovate with hands-on learning in design, 3D printing, and robotics.

My husband is not usually a “science guy,” but he definitely engaged with the Under the Hood, Engineered by Subaru! exhibit. He got to get up close and personal with a Boxer engine, and then “test-drive” wooden Subaru model cars on a track. Boys will be boys. 👦🏻👦🏻

The Science Center also offers a series of adults-only events, called “Science with a Twist.” These include a happy hour 🍸 along with an adults-oriented science program.

10. Children’s Museum of Phoenix

Who wouldn’t want to play in the Noodle Forest?

Housed in a beautifully restored, historic school building, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix offers engaging, interactive exhibits for children to learn through play.

Popular attractions like the Noodle Forest, the Climber, and the Art Studio captivate children’s imaginations, fostering curiosity and creativity. This award-winning museum encourages hands-on exploration and discovery, providing delightful experiences for young minds and making it a must-visit destination for family fun and learning.

11. Go on a City Mural Scavanger Hunt

Experience the vibrant street art throughout downtown Phoenix. This colorful explosion of creativity transforms buildings into kaleidoscopic canvases featuring everything from sprawling surreal landscapes to enchanting abstract pieces.

(I like to see if I can incorporate someone into the scene . . . see my husband, who has become “one with the cactus,” below 🤣)

man standing in front of cactus mural in downtown Phoenix
See if you can become part of the street art in Phoenix downtown murals

This interactive open-air museum provides a fun, educational activity for kids, provoking discussions about art and expression. Explore the dynamic world of Phoenix street art, where imagination meets urban landscape.

Delve into local History

Although downtown Phoenix is vibrant and modern, the area is rich with history. Snippets of the city’s (and the state’s) past are hiding in plain sight for anyone curious enough to take a peek.

Anyone with an interest in the past should include these on their list of things to do Phoenix downtown.

12. Heritage Square Walk

Take a peek at Phoenix’s vibrant Victorian Past at Heritage Square. Located on Block 14 of the original townsite of Phoenix, the Square dates back to the late 1800s.

Embark on a fascinating walking tour, which showcases the evolving history of the Phoenix area. From the pithouses of the Ancestral Sonoran Desert Peoples to the construction of the 1895 Rosson House and beyond, this walk will teach you much about how the city of the past shaped the downtown Phoenix of today.

13. Rosson House Museum

The crown jewel of Heritage Square, the Rosson House Museum, is preserved Victorian-era beauty that brings the past to life. Uncover Phoenix’s rich history with guided tours through the authentically-restored rooms.

Be transported back to the late 1800s as expert guides weave tales of past residents and the city’s early days. Explore Rosson House Museum, where every corner whispers untold stories.

14. Arizona Capitol Museum

Arizona Capitol building in downtown Phoenix
The Arizona Capitol Museum, walking distance to downtown Phoenix (photo © Corbis)

As the state’s capital, Phoenix holds treasures not just from the city’s past, but from all of Arizona as well.

This free museum, which is housed in the original Capitol building, provides an excellent glimpse into all facets of Arizona History-including from when it was just the “Arizona Territory.”

Explore four floors of interactive exhibits, antique artifacts, and historical records that weave a rich tapestry of statewide heritage. From early Native American origins to the ground-breaking Buffalo Soldiers to present-day politics, the museum offers a captivating journey through time.

✻The museum is located adjacent to the Arizona State Senate and House of Representatives. If you’re lucky (or you time it right), one of the houses will be in session and you can pop in and observe State Government at work.

15. Bolin Memorial Plaza

Bolin Memorial Plaza, located in a sprawling park just east of the historic state Capitol building, brings history to life through its captivating monuments.

man standing in front of giant anchor from USS Arizona (sunk at Pearl Harbor)
The anchor from the USS Arizona is a poignant memorial from the Pearl Harbor attack

A collection of stirring tributes such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, remind us of heroic stories and sacrifices. Unique attractions include artifacts from the USS Arizona (sunk during the Pearl Harbor attack), which provide a tangible connection to our past.

This memorial plaza is not just a place, but a journey through time, commemorating those who dedicated their lives for our freedom.

16. Phoenix Police Museum

old western Arizona marshall brass badge, surrounded by vintage bullets and rifle
Learn about law enforcement history from the Arizona Marshalls to modern CSI techniques at the Phoenix Police Museum photo by zim286

Experience the history of regional law enforcement at the Phoenix Police Museum, showcasing a rich collection of vintage police vehicles, artifacts, and memorabilia. It’s got a fitting location, set in the old City Hall.

Highlights include the exhibits through time, beginning with Phoenix’s first Marshall and jail, through the Arizona Rangers of the wild west, all the way up the sophisticated C.S.I. techniques of present day. Of particular note is the Phoenix connection to our famous “Miranda Rights:” Ernesto Miranda was arrested in Phoenix in 1963.

Kids will love that chance to try on a police uniform & get their own (sticker) badge to take home. Learn more at Phoenix Police Museum.

Be a Sport -Watch a Game . . . Right Downtown!

Experience exhilarating professional sports just steps away from downtown Phoenix. Thrilling games, outstanding athletes, all within easy reach of urban amenities. Your unforgettable sports journey starts here.

17. Pro Basketball Year Round at the Footprint Center 🏀

If you love hoops, you can spend just about every month of the year at the Footprint Center.

In winter & spring, the NBA’s Phoenix Suns take to the court, with heart-stopping shots, adrenaline-fueled dribbles, and astounding blocks.

Watch pro basketball year round at the Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix

Then, before you’ve had a chance to say “time out,” the ladies of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury 🔥 are swishing threes and setting up sweet layups. (And if you’ve been following women’s college basketball lately, you know that these gals can play!)

No matter which team you follow, you’re sure to be in for an electrifying atmosphere, packed with athletic thrills and off-court spectacle.

18. Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field ⚾️

Experience the exhilaration of Arizona Diamondbacks baseball at Chase Field.

Little kid cheering at a baseball game at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix
Root, root, root for the home team right in downtown Phoenix

Perfectly positioned in downtown Phoenix, this extraordinary stadium offers more than just a game. Its innovative retractable roof provides year-round comfort for spectators, making every a memorable experience.

Listen to the crack of the bats and cheer on the D-backs through spring, summer and fall. Be captivated by the raw energy, immerse yourself in the excitement, and feel the pulse of the city’s heart as it beats in rhythm with the home team’s performance. Chase Field delivers exceptional baseball, up close and personal.

Enjoy the Funky Neighborhood Vibe on Roosevelt Row

Roosevelt Row runs along Roosevelt Ave. on the northern end of Phoenix downtown and is a vibrant epicenter of art, culture, and community.

Experience its innovative galleries, inspiring murals, delectable restaurants, and trendy shops. Fostering creativity and diversity, this walkable urban district is a fascinating fusion of historical charm and modern chic.

mural at the entrance to Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix

Roosevelt Row is downtown Phoenix’s walkable arts district, home to art galleries, restaurants, bars and boutique shops in a landscape dotted by colorful street art.

19. First Fridays Art Walk in Downtown Phoenix

Experience Phoenix’s creative soul at the First Fridays Art Walk , which runs all along Roosevelt Row. The first Friday of every month the street becomes a kaleidoscope of color (and culture!) with artwork, music and crafts at every turn.

People shopping for art at street fair on roosevelt row, phoenix
First Fridays on Roosevelt Row

Ignite your senses and explore local artists’ unique expressions. Experience art in motion, in vision, in sound. Don’t just see art, live it.

20. Shop for Chic and Funky Goods

shelves at a shop filled with artisan pieces of pottery and prints in downtown phoenix
One-of-a-kind items by local artisans at Made Art Boutique

You’ll find unique blend of niche boutiques and eclectic shops along Roosevelt Row.

Made Art Boutique showcases one-of-a-kind works from local artisans and craftspeople (okay, I’m fessing up on my fascination for funky earrings here 😊). Whether you’re searching for handcrafted jewelry, hand-drawn notecards or unique pottery pieces you’ll find them here.

Dialog is the go-to spot for high-end home design, while Straw and Wool is the place to go for absolutely stunning hats.

This strip is a haven for the artsy, fashion-forward, and design-savvy. It’s a great place to shop if you’re looking for something that’s beautiful AND unique.

21. Sip your Beverage of Choice 🍺 ☕️🍸

As your ambling down Roosevelt, shopping for cool stuff and admiring the murals, there are plenty of spots to stop and “refresh yourself.” And there is variety . . . so you can opt for your cocktail, brew, coffee, or even mocktail of choice.

Watch the world go by with an artisan microbrew at either woman-owned Greenwood Brewing (that’s owner Megan Greenwood hoisting a glass at the top of the post!), Pedal Brewhaus or Wilderness Brewing, all of which are locally owned. 🍺

Image of a non-alcoholic cocktail alongside a cup of cappuccino
A unique selection of non-alcoholic cocktails and coffees at dialog. (Photos: dialog, Getty Images)

Enjoy your latte or macchiato . . . or chai in the soothing setting of Songbird Coffee & Tea House (plus their housemade pastries are definitely worth a stop!) Or go for the coffee & cocktails setting at Kahvi Coffee & Cafe.

If you prefer to stay completely alert, check out the unique “zero-proof” bar at Dialog (yep, the same folks listed above as carrying swanky home furnishings.) In addition to a selection of coffee & tea, they serve a unique selection of non-alcoholic beverages, including craft cocktails, wines and beers.

Nibble, Munch or Chow Down in Downtown Phoenix

Prepare yourself for a day of exploration of things to do Phoenix downtown by fueling up at one of many unique eateries in this district. Whether it’s breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner (or my hubby’s favorite: a snack), the restaurants of downtown Phoenix have got you covered.

PRO TIP: Take a Food Tour of Downtown Phoenix . . . you’ll get to sample some yummy treats while walking by many of the historic sites listed here!

Here are a few tasty samples (see what I did there? 😉):

22. Snag a Whompin’ Breakfast 🍳

overhead view of a restaurant breakfast, with eggs, potatoes, coffee in downtown phoenix
Ready for anything after this! (photo by Matt’s Big Breakfast)

Get the perfect start to your day of exploring things to do Phoenix downtown with a monumental morning meal.

Try Matt’s Big Breakfast for the “chop & chick” (shown above) or indulge in fluffy blueberry pancakes. At Breakfast Bitch, enjoy a lil’ bit o’ sass with your avocado toast and an iced caramel macchiato.

No matter what you choose, these spots will have you fueled up for the day!

23. Sample some Legendary Pizza 🍕

Pizzeria Bianco, in Phoenix’s Heritage Square District, is one of the city’s culinary gems. It’s right here-at this humble spot in the Heritage Square District-that artisan pizza in American became a thing.

Margherita pizza topped with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil at pizzeria bianco
The “OG” of artisan pizza in America

Established by James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Bianco, its artisanal pizzas are revered. From the Margherita’s sweet tomato finish to the Rosa’s tantalizing blend of Parmigiano-Reggiano and red onions, it charts a historic journey of Italian cuisine, redefined by the Arizona landscape.

Snagging a pie at Pizzeria Bianco is a way of merging 19th- and 21st-century downtown Phoenix together.

24. Get Crusty at Cornish Pasty Company

Everything tastes better wrapped in flaky pasty crust (photo by Andrew1Norton)

There’s just something about wrapping food in a yummy, flaky crust to make it taste even better. Enter the Cornish pasty: a handheld, crimped pastry, brimming with hearty fillings, which originated in Cornwall, England.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with downtown Phoenix? It turns out, plenty.

Owned by natives of Corwall, Cornish Pasty Company does a bang-up job of bringing that Cornish tradition to the valley of the Sun. With over 40 varieties to choose from, the menu caters to every palate. Savory offerings range from the traditional steak and potatoes to the exotic Moroccan-spiced lamb. Sweet pasties, like tangy apple or opulent chocolate, are the perfect finales to an epicurean adventure.

I also have it on good authority that the peanut butter & jelly with banana dessert pasty is delish (she said as she wiped the crumbs off the side of her mouth 🫢😍).

They make the pasties right next door–for a little foodie adventure, you can watch them rolling and crimping before or after your meal.

25. Go Local at the Churchill

people dining at the Churchill food hall Roosevelt Row downtown Phoenix
Eat (& shop) local at The Churchill (photo by Visit-PhoenixAn-Pham)

Can’t decide what to eat? Check out The Churchill.

Part food hall, part shopping destination, and overall neighborhood gathering spot, The Churchill showcases local businesses from downtown Phoenix in a communal environment, fostering a neighborhood atmosphere. Its mission revolves around promoting sustainability, education, and community growth.

Options abound, from satisfying pizza at Freak Bros. to nutritious acai bowls at InFruition to burgers & bagels at Stoop Kid. You might want to save room for a deep-dish cookie sundae (yes, I did say cookie and sundae in the same sentence 🍪🍨!) at The Scookie Bar.

Find ways to relax and chill

If all the excitement of things to do Phoenix downtown has you itching for a little peace and quiet, we’ve go some ideas for that too.

Explore these options to unwind at the end of a busy day-or just find some serenity in the midst of a bustling city.

26. Japanese Friendship Garden

Immerse yourself in an calming oasis at the Japanese Friendship Garden. 🌸

Japanese garden with statue, bonsai and water in downtown phoenix.
Serenity amidst the bustle of downtown Phoenix (photo courtesy Japanese Friendship Garden)

With meticulously manicured landscapes, tranquil waterfalls, and vibrant koi ponds, it’s a beautifully crafted haven offering a peaceful escape in the middle of the day.

Discover tranquility and embrace cultural enrichment in this picturesque Zen sanctuary, just a block or two away from the city’s bustle.

27. Sip from on high at a Rooftop Bar

cocktail at a rooftop bar with downtown phoenix in background
Sip something special at a rooftop bar high atop downtown Phoenix (photo courtesy Visit Phoenix)

Phoenix’s spectacular weather makes doing anything outside a no-brainer–particularly as the sun begins to set. What better way to celebrate the end of a busy day (or start off a fab evening) than with something sippable at a rooftop bar?

There are several hotels who have made the most of their upper stories. Check out the Eden Rooftop Bar at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar, Floor 13 atop the Hilton Garden Inn, or From the Rooftop at the Cambria Downtown.

No matter which you choose, sipping something special high above the bustle of downtown Phoenix is a fitting way to unwind after the day’s adventures. I might add that it’s also a fun spot to watch the planes taking off and landing at PHX. But then, I’m a plane-spotting geek 🛫🤓 (If you love aircraft as well, check out my guide to the Arizona Plane Graveyard (aka “the Boneyard”) in Tucson.

Conclusion

From art and culture to food and entertainment, downtown Phoenix has it all. These 27 experiences are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring this vibrant city center. Make sure to add these to your itinerary and discover even more amazing things to do in Phoenix’s downtown core.

What are your favorite things to do Phoenix downtown? Hit the “contact us” button & let us know–we’ll add it to the list! And don’t forget to share this post with your friends and family who are planning a trip to Phoenix.

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Inside: Curious about the foods of Arizona? We share Mexican classics, Native American traditional foods, and new Arizona famous foods to try. YUM!

No matter where we travel, we always like to try local foods. It provides an added dimension on the area’s history, plus you get good eats . . . a win-win! One of the reasons we love Arizona is the strong food culture here.

Arizona’s rich culinary tapestry is woven with Mexican influences, Native American traditions, and modern classics, creating a foodie landscape that is as diverse as it is delicious. From ancient staple dishes to modern twists on classics, these foods of Arizona match it’s stunning scenery. Some might even surprise you.

Listed below you’ll find 21 foods Arizona is known for. Savoring any (or all! 🤩) of these will make any Arizona Journey taste even better (note clever way of inserting name of website here 😉).

Foods of Arizona: Exploring the Mexican Influences

There’s no denying that foods in Arizona have a strong Mexican influence. As you dive into the food scene here, you’ll quickly discover that Mexican flavors permeate everything, from street food stalls to upscale restaurants. Over time, it has evolved and adapted, incorporating ingredients and techniques from different regions and cultures.

The Mexican influence in Arizona’s food scene is a testament to the historical ties between the two regions and the cultural exchange that has taken place over the years. And while tacos 🌮 are certainly something you’ll find (as you’ll see in #5 below) , there’s more. Much more 🤩.

1. Sonoran Hot Dogs: an Arizona Famous Food

tray of sonoran hot dogs
A tray of Sonoran hot dogs-one of the signature foods of Arizona.

One of the most iconic Mexican dishes you’ll find in Arizona is the Sonoran hot dog. Even though it’s a newer arrival to the Arizona food scene, it’s certainly a rising star 🤩. In fact, it’s the only hot dog in America to be associated with a James Beard Award (Daniel Contreras, owner of El Guero Canelo, a hot dog mini-empire in Tucson).

This mouthwatering creation combines a juicy hot dog wrapped in bacon (an auspicious start!) nestled in a soft bolillo roll, topped with pinto beans, diced tomatoes, onions, mustard, mayonnaise, and a drizzle of jalapeno sauce. It’s a delicious blend of flavors that perfectly represents the fusion of Mexican and American culinary traditions and is now a staple on the foods of Arizona list. 🌭🇲🇽

  • Where to find Sonoran Hot Dogs: All over Tucson. See our post about the Sonoran Hot Dog for a comprehensive list.

2. Chimichangas: Traditional Arizona Food at its Best

plate with chimichanga, rice and beans, one of the most famous foods of arizona
The chimichanga was a “happy accident” that has become one of the most famous foods of Arizona (Photo by Getty Images)

The chimichanga is a happy accident: someone accidentally dropped a burrito into the deep fryer and created of the yummiest foods Arizona is known for. It’s typically filled with shredded beef or chicken, cheese, and beans, and then topped with salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. Yes, please! 😋

The origin of the first Chimichanga is disputed: both El Charro Cafe (in Tucson) and Macayo’s Mexican Kitchen (in Phoenix) claim to be the first one to drop a burrito into the fryer, making them home to the first chimichanga. What no one disputes is that the Chimichanga was created in Arizona.

And no one disputes that they are muy delicioso! Be sure to try this Arizona famous food on your next visit.

  • Where to find Chimichangas: El Charro (4 locations in Tucson); Macayo’s Mexican Food (13 locations in greater Phoenix), and most other traditional Mexican restaurants.

3. Birria & Quesabirria Tacos

Deliciously rich birria, a traditional Mexican dish, has definitively marked its territory on the Arizona food map. This tantalizing slow-cooked beef is marinated in a medley of robust spices before braising to perfect tenderness. The resulting broth is also a joy to behold (and savor!).

quesabirria taco with broth and lime at Rollies Mexican Patio in Tucson
Rollie’s quesabirria taco with luscious slow-cooked broth for dipping . . . yea-ahhhh

Quesabirria tacos elevate this classic by folding the juicy, flavorful birria into a crispy seared corn tortilla with generous portions of melted cheese, topped with chopped onions and cilantro. (I told you tacos would show up on this list, didn’t I? 🌮)

This mouthwatering hybrid has truly encapsulated the hearts (and stomachs!) of Arizonians, cementing its status as on of the must-try foods Arizona is known for.

4. Carne Seca/Machaca

Platter of carne seca with rice, beans and limes, tradtional arizona food
Carne Seca at El Charro Cafe (Photo courtesy of Yelp)

Carne Seca (which is also known as Machaca) is a desert-dried beef delicacy, similar to beef jerky. It owes its unique flavor to the traditional drying process that includes air-drying the thinly sliced beef and a whole bunch of robust southwestern seasonings. (The Arizona sunshine doesn’t hurt either 😎.)

The resulting meat is super-tasty, sort of like a Mexican flavor concentrate. It’s used in dishes across the state, from hearty stews to spicy burritos . . . even topped on salads. Enjoying carne seca is experiencing Arizona’s heritage in every delicious bite.

Many classic Mexican restaurants serve carne seca/machaca; no foods of Arizona list is complete without it! You can also find it packaged at many carnicerias (meat markets) if you’d like to take it home to make your own goodies.

5. Tacos Rasurado

close up of taco rasurado from tacos apson-authentic foods of arizona
Grilled, juicy, meaty, messy . . . delicious! Taco Rasurado from Tacos Apson in Tucsonone of the foods of Arizona you really must try.

Time for some “taco math.” Tacos = good. Mesquite-grilled beef ribs = better. Tacos + mesquite-grilled beef ribs = WOWZA!!! 😲 (where is the “chef’s kiss” emoji when you need it?!)

That’s Tacos Rasurado: shaved rib meat on a warm corn tortilla, with a grilled chile along side. Salsa it up to your heart’s content. It’s a taco on an entirely new level.

Tacos Rasurado isn’t just a meal, it’s a tantalizing taste of Tucson tradition, passionately served, and one of the foods of Arizona worth seeking out. But don’t take my word for it. Check out this video from America’s Test Kitchen . . . I dare you not to drool! 🤤

  • Where to find Tacos Rasurado: Tacos Apson in Tucson (2 location) . . . featured in the video above.

6. Flour Tortillas

Flour tortillas are essential ingredients in such yummy mexican treats as burritos and chimichangas (see #2 above). And they have their origins in the Sonoran Desert, fully cementing them as one of the foods of Arizona.

uncooked flour tortilla on board dusted with flour, underneath rolling pin. Cooked flour tortilla in the background. Traditional Arizona food
Flour tortillas are traditionally unique to the Sonoran desert, one of the more historic foods of Arizona (Getty images)

The Spanish colonizers brought wheat with them as a crop when they came to the region 500 years ago. And the rest, as they say, is history. What began as a convenient winter crop has morphed into a staple of the Sonoran style of Mexican cooking. And it is definitely a traditional Arizona food.

Naturally they’re great when wrapped around burrito or chimichanga fixings. But they’re also pretty darned good warmed up and served with a little butter. Just sayin’ 😉.

  • Where to find authentic local flour tortillas: Tortillas Rosario in Phoenix; Alejandro’s Tortilla Factory in Tucson; also most carnicerias will carry these brands. (But if you go to the main stores you can get ’em while they’re still warm 🥰.)

7. Cheese Crisp

The cheese crisp, is a traditional Arizona food that’s especially popular in Tucson. (It’s also a fave of Tucson native Linda Ronstadt!) Essentially an open-faced quesadilla (but super-crispy!), it is a perfect fusion of its Mexican ancestry and American innovation.

This enticing dish is crafted with a large, open-faced flour tortilla, generously sprinkled with cheddar cheese, broiled to perfection.

Green chile cheese crisp at El Minuto in Tucson-Foods of Arizona
Just a lil’ bit o’ green chiles on El Minuto’s Cheese Crisp. . .perfecto! 😋

The tantalizingly crispy edges and gooey center offer a mouthwatering feast of textures. Some folks (me! ✋) like to add green chiles or (small amounts of meat) to give it some zing. The key is to not overload it with too much stuff on top, it will collapse and lose its signature crisp!

  • Where to find Cheese Crisp: El Minuto (Linda Ronstadt’s go-to when she’s in town); most other full-service Mexican restaurants in Tucson serve this classic in the foods of Arizona annals.

8. Santa Cruz Red Chile Powder

Exotic and flavor-packed, Santa Cruz Chili Powder is one of Arizona’s culinary treasures. It’s made from just one ingredient: anaheim chiles 🌶️, picked at the peak of ripeness, then dried and ground into this flavor-packed powder.

Arizona chefs and home cooks alike love this powder (including yours truly!), because it forms the basis for any proprietary chili blend. It invigorates any dish with its warm, robust flavor profile (although it’s not spicy–you can add that as part of your proprietary blend 😉).

This is one of the foods of Arizona you can experience no matter where you’re located. Grab a container of this classic chili powder, and create a taste of Arizona right at home.

  • Where to find Sant Cruz Red Chili Powder: Grocery stores throughout Arizona; mail order from Amazon.

Unearthing Native American Staple Dishes: Traditional Arizona Food

Table showing an array of native american ingredients in baskets
Native American ingredients form the basis of many of the foods of Arizona today (Getty images)

Mexican-inspired street food offers a burst of flavors and textures in Arizona, but the state’s culinary landscape got its start long before that.

The foods of Arizona also encompass an array of Native American staple dishes. Just looking at all the ancient structures in Arizona, such as Montezuma Castle, tells you that this area has been populated for millennia.

Drawing on the land’s natural resources, Native American cuisine in Arizona is a testament to sustainability and the deep connection between the people and their environment 🏜️. Many of the foods of Arizona as we know them today have their roots in Native American traditions.

9. Tamales

Although typically associated with Mexican food, the origin of tamales is traced all the way back to 7,000 B.C. in the Aztec empire. Tamales are a harmonious blend of corn dough, seasoned meat, and aromatic spices, all neatly enveloped in a corn husk.

Cutting board piled high with tamales, with avocado, lime and salsa in the foreground. native american food
Commonly associated with Mexican cooking today, tamales are one of the foods of Arizona with Native American roots (Getty Images)

When the Spaniards arrived in the 1500s, this versatile and staple dish was already here. Over time tamales were absorbed into the Mexican culture throughout the Southwest US.

Tamales are a eaten all year long, but they are also a traditional Arizona food at Christmas🎄. Families gather together to prepare large batches of tamales to serve on Christmas Eve.

This delicately steamed delicacy exudes a richness that immerses the palate in a symphony of flavors. Although you can purchase frozen tamales many places (including Trader Joe’s), it’s not the same as freshly-made. (Think of the frozen pizza vs. fresh from the pizzeria comparison 🍕!)

Try a bit of of evolutionary food history on your next trip to Arizona with some authentic tamales. You’ll sample a bit of Native American and Mexican culture in every bite 😋.

10. Native American Frybread

bubbly native american frybread in foreground, with woman's hand turning frybread in background; native american foods of arizona
Despite a complex history, frybread is one of the key Native American foods of Arizona

One iconic staple is Native American frybread (also known as Navajo frybread) a delicious creation born out of necessity during times of scarcity. (And, frankly, some shameful acts by the government.)

But the resourceful Navajo (or Diné) people persevered, and frybread is one of the results.

Made from simple ingredients like flour, water, salt, and baking powder, this golden and fluffy bread is typically fried until crispy and served either plain or topped with a combination of sweet or savory toppings.

Its versatility makes it a popular choice as the base for many Native American-inspired dishes, such as Indian tacos or Navajo burgers. (But served with honey or cinnamon-sugar is pretty fabulous too! 🍯)

READ NEXT: Things to do in Downtown Phoenix

11. Posole

overhead shot of posole with pork, avocado, hominy and radish-foods of arizona
Colorful and hearty pozole has Native American roots (photo courtesy Pozoleria)

Posole, a traditional Native American stew of corn and pork, has also been commingled with Mexican food culture (where it is often spelled pozole).

This heartwarming stew, often enjoyed during celebrations, is a blend of harmonious flavors. Hominy, which is large, puffy corn kernels (that have been soaked for HOURS) forms the basis of this bracing dish.

Like the Native American peoples themselves, posole predates state (and federal) borders. As a result, posole can be found throughout the southwest, with slightly different flavor profiles. As a traditional Arizona food, the broth tends to be clear, with a robust chile zing.

Posole is often a weekend special on restaurant menus, and it’s worth trying when available. With each spoonful, you can taste the generations of history and the reverence for the land that this dish represents.

12. Tepary Beans

Side by side images of dried white and brown tepary beans, in packaging by Ramona Farms
Drought resistant tepary beans have been prized by the native peoples of Arizona for centuries for their nutritional benefits

Tepary Beans, a cherished Native American food, are a powerhouse of nutrition. Long prized for their drought-resistance, these tough little beans become amazingly creamy and flavorful when cooked.

Holding a treasure trove of proteins and fiber, tepary beans have been nourishing the population for centuries, proving that the best of nature is often preserved in its simplest forms 😇. Explore the richness of Native American heritage with every bite.

  • Where to find Tepary Beans: Served at the Courtyard Cafe in Phoenix; or purchase on Amazon & make them at home!

13. Prickly Pear Fruit

Throughout the Arizona desert you’ll find the prickly pear, with its signature flat pads telescoping out. (After the famous saguaro 🌵 it’s probably the most recognizable cactus!)

side by side images of bright pink prickly pear fruit next to a pink margarita with a salt-rimmed glass
Vivid pink prickly pear has been nourishing desert dwellers for ages; today it’s a popular ingredient in margaritas (Getty images, lma stock)

The namesake prickly pear fruit, which is a bright magenta in color, is one of the foods of Arizona that you’ll find growing wild just about everywhere. And it’s been nourishing the native peoples for centuries milennia.

You can enjoy its sweet-tart taste right off the cactus (if you’re patient enough to remove the spines–yeeouch!😫).

But you don’t need to risk a finger-piercing to taste it; prickly pear jellies, juices and syrups are available to buy. And any Arizona bar worth it’s salt should be able to whip up a yummy prickly pear margarita.🍹

  • Where to find prickly pear: Prickly pear syrup, jelly and candy made in Arizona by Cheri’s Desert Harvest is available on Amazon; prickly pear margaritas are available from fine mixologists throughout Arizona 😉

14. Mesquite Flour: foods of Arizona from the bounty of the desert

close up of Mesquite pods on a tree. Mesquite flour is one of the native american foods of arizona
The fruit of these mesquite pods makes a sweet, nutty (and nutritious) flour (Getty Images)

Mesquite flour originates from the pods of the mesquite tree, a drought-friendly plant native to the Sonoran desert. Native Americans, particularly the Pima and Tohono O’odham tribes of southern Arizona, have utilized this flour for centuries.

In addition to its sweet, nutty flavor, mesquite flour is packed with nutrients: it’s high in both protein and fiber.

The pods are ground into a flour, which is then used in baking and cooking for a variety of dishes. Traditionally, indigenous people used this food of Arizona to bake into a dry cake to carry them through the lean winter months.

Today, many southwestern chefs are using mesquite flour in place of traditional flour to create nutritious and tasty treats, including breads, tortillas . . . and cookies 🍪!

  • Where to find mesquite flour & products: Big Skye Bakers sells a range of baked goodies at Tucson Farmers Markets; flour available by mail order from Mount Hope Wholesale (despite the name they sell 2 lb. and 5 lb. bags)

15. Chiltepin

The chiltepin is a teeny tiny-yet fiery 🔥-chili pepper Sonoran Desert. (It sort of looks like a chili pepper 🌶️ and a peppercorn had a baby!)

The native peoples of these regions have been using this food of arizona for over 8,000 years, not only as a spicy food but as a potent medicine and a spiritual aid. Its intense heat and distinctive taste added zest to their food, while its medicinal properties helped them combat various ailments.

chiltepin bush, with tiny red chiltepin chilis, alongside an image of a hand holding red chiltepin chiles, which are the size of currants-one of the native foods of arizona
Tiny chiltepins are one of the native foods of Arizona . . . and hot Hot HOT! (Getty Images)

Today, the chiltepin is used in salsas, stews, and meat dishes to give them an extra zing 💥. Hotter than jalapenos and habaneros, these little fire bombs are prized for their fierce heat and smoky, citrusy notes. (I confess that I need to use them s…p…a…r…i…n…g…l…y 🥵)

  • Where to find chiltepins: Chilttepica Products sells chiltepins in a variety of sizes and mixed spice blends. Available at specialty stores throughout Arizona or by mail order (see website for details).

16. Sonoran Wheat Flour

Sonoran wheat was the first wheat cultivated in the New World. It was introduced to the Sonoran Desert by the Spanish Missionaries in the 1600s. Wait . . . you might be thinking, “doesn’t that make it more a mexican food?”

Not really. That came a little later.

The local Tohono O’odham and Pima peoples quickly realized this crop was ideal for the desert climate-Yay! 🎉 Plus, it also grew during the winter, when the planting fields were usually fallow-Yay Again! 🙌. So . . .

The indigenous folks knew a good thing when they saw it, and wheat quickly became part of O’odham cuisine. Cooks incorporated wheat berries into traditional poshol, a stew with tepary beans, as well as pinole (a kind of porridge).

Today bakers love heritage Sonoran wheat, with its slightly nutty taste and low protein for use in pastries and pastas, and blended with other heritage wheats in breads. (I’m a baker & I love it for delicate, crispy cookies! 😋).

  • Where to find Sonoran Wheat: Multiple products, including flour, wheat berries & crackers from Hayden Flour Mills (available either from Amazon or at Whole Foods); breads from [James Beard Award Winner] Don Guerra at Barrio Bread (see above) in Tucson.

Foods Arizona is known For: Modern Twists on Classic Recipes

While Arizona’s culinary heritage is deeply rooted in Native American culture and the rich flavors of the Mexico, the state’s food scene also embraces innovation and modernization. Chefs and food enthusiasts alike have found ways to put a contemporary spin on classic recipes, creating a delightful fusion of old and new.

Check out these “newer” foods of Arizona to find some mouthwatering surprises. 🤤

17. Artisan Pizza: Foods of Arizona???

I bet your thinking, wait, WHAT? What does Arizona have to do with Artisan pizza?

Chris Bianco, that’s what. (Or should I say “who”?)

Back in the 1980’s, when pizza was still relegated to bowling alleys and strip malls (remember the flimsy take out boxes?), Chris Bianco started making wood-fired pizza in the back of a Phoenix Italian grocery store. It was good-very good. People noticed.

holding a margherita pizza outside pizzeria bianco
Chris Bianco’s innovation placed artisan pizza firmly in the “foods of Arizona” category

Fast forward a few years and Chris’ Pizzeria Bianco is being hailed as “the best pizza in America” from food critics all over the country. In 2003 he was the first pizziaolo (pizza maker) ever to receive a James Beard award. A Big. Deal.

Today foodies can find wood-fired artisan pizza 🍕 all over the US, which is absolutely terrific. But it all started in a little Italian grocery in Phoenix. Cool 🤩.

  • Where to find Chris Bianco’s Pizza: Multiple locations of Bianco Restaurants in Phoenix. Each has a slightly different menu, but they all serve pizza.

18. Steaks & Burgers made from Grass-Fed Beef

grilled medium-rare ribeye steak sliced crosswise with knife alongside and parsley garnish-getty images
Steaks and burgers from grass-fed beef have been foods of Arizona since the cowboy days. (Getty Images)

Arizona has a rich ranching heritage, with cattle grazing the sprawling grasslands. So the “emerging trend” of grass fed beef 🌱 is tried and true here in Arizona.

Multiple ranches in the state have been doin’ it this way for generations (Thank ye kindly, ma’am 🤠). The good old-fashioned way: better for the cows, better for the planet, better for you.

This may be one of the most traditional foods of Arizona of the modern era. To try one of these steaks or burgers is to taste a bit of cattle ranching history 🥩 (and a baked potato alongside isn’t bad, either 😉).

19. The Tequila Sunrise

When talking about foods of Arizona, do drinks count? I think so.

Tequila sunrise (no orange juice!) with a coaster from the Arizona Biltmore--where it was invented. One of the foods arizona is famous for.
A tequila sunrise where it was invented–one of the famous foods of Arizona. (NO ORANGE JUICE!)

Despite the song of the same name, the classic rock group Eagles did not invent the Tequila Sunrise. (Although they do have a strong connection to Arizona, with Standing on the Corner Winslow Arizona!)

The honor of the drink’s invention goes to bartender Gene Sulit of the (super swanky✨) Arizona Biltmore hotel in Phoenix, waaay back in the 1930s.

Legend has it that a guest requested a refreshing drink to take poolside, and asked Gene to “surprise me.”

Mr Sulit created a concoction that was as pretty as it was delicious: a blend of soda and tequila with crème de cassis and fresh lime juice. The super-thick crème de cassis’ settled at the bottom of the glass, creating the gradient of colors that mimics a sunrise and created a name. 🍹🌅

(Curious to note that there is NO orange juice 🍊 in this original version!)

And the rest, as they say, is history (and an Eagles song 🦅).

  • Where to get a tequila sunrise: Um, well how about the Wright Bar at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel? (Which would of course be the Tequila Sunrise.)

20. The Arizona “Original” Chopped Salad: one of the more recently-created foods of Arizona

Image of chopped salad, with rows of tomatoes, corn, pepitas, aruguly, cous cous and smoked salmon; foods of arizona
The “Original Chopped Salad”, one of the newest foods of Arizona (photo courtesy the Gladly)

About 25 years ago Scottsdale chef Bernie Kantak developed a really tasty salad at a restaurant called Cowboy Ciao. In keeping with the cowboy theme he named it the Stetson.

It involved a curious combination of chopped ingredients-smoked salmon, arugula, pearl couscous, pepitas, currants, dried sweet corn, and marinated tomatoes-artfully presented in a bowl in neat little rows, that were then tossed together table-side with a buttermilk herb dressing.

People loved it. [It’s really good!]

So much so that when Kantak left his former employer to open the Citizen Public House he took his signature salad with him. But he couldn’t bring the name.

So he rechristened it the “Original,” and onto the menu it went.

Today there are replicas of the Chopped Salad scattered around Phoenix and Scottsdale. But there’s only one “Original.” Well, technically there are three: Chef Kantak has three restaurants and you can get the salad at all of them . (in case you’re fact-checking 😉)

21. The Date Shake

There are only two states in the country that grow dates: Arizona and California The dry, sunny climate mimics that of the Middle East, where dates grow natively. 🌴

Enterprising farmers imported date trees to Arizona in the early 1900s and soon began selling this nutritious, sweet fruit from roadside stands. Heck, the scientific name for a date palm is even called Phoenix dactylifera, so what does THAT tell you???

Date shake in a large plastic cup alongside an image of the date palm, Phoenix dactylifera. Getty images
Date shakes are definitely one of the foods of Arizona–the tree, Phoenix dactylifera, even has an Arizona name! (Getty Images)

Travelers passing through would stop and stock up on yummy dates to bring home as souvenirs. But there was an even bigger treatat these rest stops: the date shake. 🥤

Using 3 simple ingredients: milk, ice cream & sweet sticky dates, the date shake became a refreshing way to break up a trip through the desert. [Spoiler alert: I also like to make a “healthy” version at home with yogurt 🥰]

Today many of these roadside stands are gone, but a few remain to provide one of the historic and sweet foods of Arizona, a reminder of Arizona days gone by.

While Arizona’s culinary heritage is deeply rooted in Native American culture and the rich flavors of the Wild West, the state’s food scene also embraces innovation and modernization. Chefs and food enthusiasts alike have found ways to put a contemporary spin on classic recipes, creating a delightful fusion of old and new.

I invite you to immerse yourself in the flavors and foods of Arizona. Take a bite out of history and indulge in the vibrant cultural tapestry that flavors this state. Don’t miss out on the chance to experience these 21 must-try authentic foods of Arizona that have made their mark on the state’s culinary landscape.

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There are days when a char-grilled hot dog is my idea of a gourmet meal. And I found just the spot (no lighter fluid required).

Ted’s Hot Dogs in Phoenix (well, technically Tempe) is the lone western outpost of a legendary Buffalo, New York hot dog empire. We’re big fans, so when we learned there was a Ted’s in Arizona we just had to give it a try. Could the classic Buffalo dog make the journey to the southwest?

Wait, what? Hot dogs in Buffalo? What about Phoenix?

(We’ll get to the hot dogs in Phoenix in a bit, bear with us. ) Most people think of chicken wings when they think of Buffalo. But the city on lake Erie may also be the hot dog capital of America. One of the things that makes Buffalo hot dogs special is that they are chargrilled over real hardwood charcoal to give them a crisp smoky taste. Imagine being able to get that awesome 4th-of-July-backyard-barbecue flavor whenever you want . . . sign us up! When we mention to Buffalonians how lucky they are to get chargrilled hot dogs all over town they just shrug their shoulders: that’s how they’ve always eaten their hot dogs.

Hot dogs on a tray at Ted's Hot Dogs in Phoenix (Tempe), Arizona

READ NEXT: 21 Authentic Foods of Arizona You’ll want to Try

A little context: the history of Buffalo hot dogs

One of the most popular spots for hot dogs in Buffalo is Ted’s Hot Dogs. Founded in 1927 by Greek immigrant Theodore Spiro Liaros, the restaurant was an upgrade from the cart he had used to sell his dogs. It wasn’t until 1948 that Ted’s opened their second location in the Buffalo area and have now expanded to nine locations in Western New York.

The menu is a simple one consisting of chargrilled hot dogs, burgers, chicken and sausage. Sides include french fries and onion rings with a range of sauces including Ted’s cheddar, chipotle ranch and creamy horseradish. If you have room for it, you can add a milkshake made with real ice cream, not a mix like other fast food joints. Although all the food is good, we really come for the chargrilled hot dogs.

Another thing we like about Buffalo hot dogs is that you can have it how you want it. We were once almost kicked out of a dog house in Chicago when we dared ask for ketchup (a big NO-NO on a Chicago dawg). Buffalonians have a more “live and let live attitude” with how you decorate your dog. Some people put the fries or onion rings directly on top, while others are more content with a squirt of ketchup and mustard with a bit of relish. You might try adding Ted’s signature Hot Sauce, which appears to be a sweet-spicy ketchup-based red relish mixed with a secret blend of spices

PRO TIP: If you like a nice crispy hot dog, (like us!) be sure to ask for it “well done”! (Just sayin’)

A bit of hot dog “science”

A few years ago we wrote about Buffalo hot dogs for USA Today 10Best. We learned one of the tricks is using only Sahlen’s hot dogs, lovingly made (natch) in Buffalo, NY. Sahlen’s hot dogs are a combination of pork and beef that are produced by the 5th generation of the Sahlen family. But wait . . . there’s more! It turns out it’s not just the brand that makes the difference.

Sahlen’s produces both natural casing and skinless hot dogs. According to company spokesperson Jeff Vance, hot dogs that are grilled over charcoal should have a natural casing, which is better for the high heat of an open flame grill. The natural casing hot dog will split as it cooks, heating up the interior while still providing a signature bubbly browned exterior, that many people, including us crave. Vance says, “Skinless franks are wasted on a charcoal grill – they don’t split and just turn black.” (On the other hand, Sonoran Hot Dogs in Tucson are cooked on a flat-top griddle; skinless is best in that case.)

A Sahlen’s hot dog in perfect chargrilled crispiness (from Sahlen’s website).

Hot dogs in Phoenix: Why did Ted’s open there?

With such a loyal fan base in Buffalo, how did this lone outpost of Ted’s Hot Dogs end up in the Phoenix area? Well, have you ever been to Buffalo in the winter? It’s freezing and the lake effect snow wafting off of frigid Lake Erie can build up tall enough to cover an NBA center (Seriously. Buffalo gets an average of 7 feet of snow per year.) It turns out many Buffalonian snowbirds make their way to Arizona for the winter and what they really miss is a taste of home. Which is why in the 80s Ted’s opened their Arizona location in Tempe.

(This is a similar story of how Chris Bianco, founder of the famous Pizzeria Bianco, came to Phoenix . . . only he came to escape the humidity (and cold) of New York City.)

Hot dogs in Phoenix: Does Ted’s measure up?

We’re happy to say that it does. We were nervous before we got there. Would they stick with their signature hardwood charcoal, or simplify the process, making hot dogs in Phoenix on a flat-top griddle? Nope. The signature aroma of burning charcoal that met us told us we were about to have the real thing.

Fortunately, Ted’s is not a one-trick pony; the side of onion rings along with a loganberry milk shake (another Buffalo local flavor) lived up to the quality of the hot dog. The food is also reasonably priced for what you are getting. It’s wonderful to see that a Buffalo New York legend has made the transition to Arizona. New generations will get to savor hot dogs in Phoenix as they were meant to be, grilled over hardwood charcoal with a smoky flavor redolent of backyard cookouts of my youth.

Native Buffalonians can savor a true taste of home in Phoenix. And that taste is char-grilled hot dogs, not chicken wings. Let’s face it, you can find wings anywhere.

How to find Ted’s Hot Dogs in Arizona

  • Address: 1755 E. Broadway, Tempe, AZ 85282
  • Hours: Monday- Saturday 10am -10pm, Sunday 10:30am- 10pm
  • Phone: 480-968-6678
Map showing location of Teds hot dogs in phoenix (tempe)

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