Maynards Market & Kitchen

Tucson Chicken
Tucson Chicken “Cheesesteak”—the subject of many of my dreams

I worked at an American Eagle Outfitters in the mall for two years while in college. The only thing that kept me going during six-hour shifts were these chicken cheesesteak sandwiches from Charley’s Grilled Subs, in the food court. I would hunker in the stock room, drowning annoying customer needs in cheesy goodness. I work in downtown Tucson now, with no mall in sight (good riddance). Lucky for me, the best part of the mall still isn’t too far away.

Continue reading “Maynards Market & Kitchen”

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Tucson: NoRTH

*Note: This is a continuing series on dining in Tucson, where I live. My hope is to prevent visitors from asking, “What is there to eat here?”

Photo via official restaurant page: bit.ly/RzfiLM
Photo via official restaurant page: bit.ly/RzfiLM. I would take my own photos, but I’m too busy stuffing my face. This is The Pig pizza, another winner.

NoRTH is where my boyfriend and I go when we’re feeling fancy; it’s perfect for Date Night. It’s a little more pricey (entrée’s average about $22), but the nighttime views of Tucson below make it worth the splurge. NoRTH markets itself as a modern take on traditional Italian cooking, which is a little hard to define—there’s classic Italian appetizers, such as arancini and calamari; there’s pizzas, pastas and salads, as well as entrées.

Possibly the best meal I’ve ever eaten, in Tucson, was at NoRTH: Pork tenderloin served over creamy white polenta. It wasn’t easy to forget. The pork was perfectly colored, the polenta was swirled with a dark balsamic sauce that was just, ugh. It was so good. This is a pretty major statement, but if I knew that I was near the end of my life, I would order that damn pork tenderloin.

Unfortunately, it’s been substituted with a different version of pork tenderloin that I have yet to try (wrapped in prosciutto, mmm mmm mmmm). For now, I order the spicy shrimp pasta.

My recommendations: Now, LET ME TELL YA about the Salted Caramel Budino. It’s spectacular. Salted caramel’s overdone? Don’t care! It’s like a warm hug, with a pudding consistency, topped with course-ground salt that balances the sweetness. I don’t even LIKE dessert and I loooove this thing.

Tucson: Wings Over Broadway

*Note: This is a continuing series on dining in Tucson, where I live. My hope is to prevent visitors from asking, “What is there to eat here?”

An actual chicken wing from Wings Over Broadway. This really happened. It's like the Snitch in Harry Potter.
An actual chicken wing from Wings Over Broadway. This really happened. It’s like the Snitch in Harry Potter.

Wings Over Broadway probably got its name after a customer took a bite of a wing, died of love (or something), became an angel and went to heaven. The 15 sauce flavors range from child friendly to “oh my god, I’m crying in a restaurant and everyone can see me. Server, please bring me a bucket of ice water”: White Wings, Garlic Parm, Teriyaki, Sweet Heat Asian, Lemon Pepper, Honey Gold, Mild Buffalo, Honey BBQ, Honey Hot, Medium Buffalo, Cajun Spice, Golden Hot, Habanero Heat, Hot Buffalo, No Mercy. Their 40¢ Wing Tuesday specials pack the restaurant to capacity, with a line out the door. WOB is filled Wednesday through Monday, as well—I can’t imagine the volume of napkins they go through. Wash the sweet, the garlicky, the burning, down with a stein of beer for the ultimate party.

My recommendations: Lemon Pepper, Honey Gold and Cajun Spice

Tucson: Sushi Garden

*Note: This is a continuing series on dining in Tucson, where I live. My hope is to prevent visitors from asking, “What is there to eat here?”

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Tucson residents are bombarded with Sushi Garden commercials, but even their constant presence between drama on The Bachelorette isn’t enough to lessen my love. Now, this town is passionate about its sushi restaurants—I’m sure some people are upset by my decision to recommend Sushi Garden. It’s just, I know I’m not alone; Sushi Garden has multiple locations that often have a wait list, as well as good Yelp reviews. The fish tastes fresh, the recipes contain creative combinations and the ambiance is lively and bright. The best deal is the all-you-can-eat menu: this green sheet generously allows guests to order round after round after round of a huge selection of rolls, nigiri, sashimi and more for about $20 per person. The catch: If you don’t eat it all, you could incur a fee, so GO!SLOW! It’s torture, as well as a #firstworldproblem, finishing two more rolls when you’re already about to burst. Trust me.

Recommendations: Salmon and Albacore nigiri, S.G. Roll (Deluxe) and Spicy Yellowtail roll [pictured].

Tucson

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I used to be such a Tucson hater; I’m rolling my eyes just thinking about it. Tucson was just fine until I got to Arizona State University, then it became the place that failed in comparison to Tempe: University Drive, the lesser Mill Avenue; the University of Arizona? You mean the inferior version of Arizona State University? So dumb.

I was soooo crazily grossed out by Tucson that I didn’t even consider applying for a job there until I had been unemployed for three months, sitting at my parents’ kitchen table, always in the same pair of yoga pants as I hadn’t showered in DAYYYSSS. It’s totally the reason I didn’t blog for so long. Just kidding! I’m actually super lazy.

Tucson, I’m sorry I thought so little of you. One day in late 2012, I searched LinkedIn for jobs (in TUCSON!! The agonyyy!!) that dealt with travel writing. I’ve been working at my company, where I write and edit for travel guides, ever since. It’s particularly great because my blog (this one! The one that you’re reading!) helped me to get a job. My boss read a couple entries and called me for an interview after I submitted an application! Awesome.

In my time here, I’ve come to love The Old Pueblo and hate the Tempe-obsessed, anti-Tucson person that I used to be. Every city has its strengths! I’m here to argue in favor of Tucson, in hopes of both turning around even the biggest doubters and convincing some folks to visit. I’ll start with food.

Stay tuned. Stay hungry.

An Amateur at Accenture

A couple years ago, I babysat for a family in north Scottsdale. Their golden retriever’s name was Bogey. It took me three months of employment to figure out that Bogey was a golf term—and that’s about as much as I know about golf. Well, that and how to clap politely.

GolfClap
But when your boss comes over to you and your coworker on an overcast Wednesday morning and asks if you want two VIP tent passes to Accenture Match Play (did I mention there’s unlimited free alcohol and food in that tent?), it’s an opportunity you don’t pass up.

Cheer
Accenture Match Play is a big deal in Tucson, an annual World Golf Championship that takes the top 64 players on the planet and pits them against each other through several single-elimination rounds. The champion wins more than a million dollars.

Tucson is a golf haven every winter. The weather, 70 degrees and a welcome polar opposite to the polar vortex, is only part of the attraction. The Old Pueblo has a collection of world-class courses, designed by the likes of Tom Fazio (Ventana Canyon), Arnold Palmer (Starr Pass) and, most recently, Notah Begay (Sewailo). You can see why people visit year after year, and many residents drive their golf carts more than their cars.

Accenture Match Play takes place just outside the city, at Dove Mountain in Marana, a Jack Nicklaus design. The crowd at Accenture seems to be a mixture of three groups: People who are die-hard golf fans, people who are there for corporate networking and people who are there because, “heck, Accenture Match Play is in Tucson, let’s go check it out!” I most closely identified with the last group.

This tournament was the first time I’d ever even stepped foot on a golf course. Needless to say, I had no idea what to expect (except a vodka tonic, please). If you’re in the same position, it’s totally ok—I didn’t know a damn thing about golf and I still enjoyed myself.

I texted (ok, bragged to) my golf-following friend as soon as Rory McIlroy hit a par 3, 16th hole in two swings. I think they call that a birdie? I watched as McIlroy’s posse of caddies and advisors loaded up and trekked on foot from hole to hole to hole to hole, wondering how long it took them to stop being mesmerized by his Northern Irish accent. Did they constantly force him to say aluminum? I quieted myself when volunteers, dressed in a beautiful teal shade similar to Tiffany blue, threw their hands in the air, clutching signs that said, “SILENCE: GOLF IN PLAY.” As soon as the signs went down, I resumed my conversation with my coworker about how beautiful the Catalinas looked today, how the saguaro cacti surrounding each hole and covering each mountain take about 40 years to grow to just four feet tall. Many reached with their 50-year-old (plus!) arms seven feet into the sky; all while tiny white golf balls flew 300+ feet past, over a green and manicured path.

Cacti
I think, even if I hadn’t had VIP tickets, I still would have enjoyed many of the same things I delighted in at Accenture Match Play: the people watching, the weather, Rory McIlroy’s accent. If the tournament returns to Tucson next year, I’m definitely going to consider going. If my boss decides to give me VIP tickets and parking again, you’ll find me at the Canyon Club, vodka tonic nearby, golf clapping when appropriate.

Sierra Vista, Arizona

As previously referenced, I grew up on the border of Mexico. Although many have no idea where my hometown is, those who do are sometimes too quick to judge. I got so tired of defending my poor little town and I hated that it usually instantly changed people’s perception of me. So here I was, four years at Arizona State University, with a standard line for when people asked where I was from – a vague “southern Arizona…” and then a quick “…but my parents are from Boulder” to distract from any further questions, like a complete and total coward.

I guess it was payback or something that I ended up in another town that people usually dismissed as “uncool” or “not desirable to live in.” With graduation approaching and all hopes of finding a job ANYWHERE quashed, I interviewed for an internship with Wick Communications – A newspaper publisher with 32 newspapers and 23 specialty publications in 13 states. Most Wick newspapers are published in small towns, and The Sierra Vista Herald was generous enough to take an interest in me. “UGH, SIERRA VISTA?!” I said, my mouth hanging open far longer than necessary. Well, it was that or I could continue working as a hostess at a Tempe restaurant for the rest of my life, and by the rest of my life I mean August 1, when my lease was up. So here I am, three months later, a Sierra Vistan, until October 1, when my lease and internship are up and my life is chaos again (yipee). Continue reading “Sierra Vista, Arizona”

Back, blogging, best wishes

I know, four subscribers, I know: You’re absolutely furious at me for having largely ignored my travel blog for 15 months. “How could you be so selfish, Ivy?” The four of you might say, “Uhh, I was a little busy.”

I graduated in May from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and landed an internship at a newspaper near my hometown. I traveled a bit my senior year (New York City, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Sedona, the Grand Canyon and Boulder, Colo.), and always thought, “Man, I should really be updating my travel blog.” Those thoughts were overshadowed by, “Man, I should really be doing my homework,” and eventually, “Man, my senioritis is really acting up. I should go take a nap.”

Now that I’m back in southern Arizona and have no friends, I think it’s time to give this thing another go. If not for you, then to soothe the guilt I feel everytime I look at my LinkedIn profile and see, “Blogger: 2009 – present”. Continue reading “Back, blogging, best wishes”

Downtown Phoenix

Before I lived in Mesa, I lived in downtown Phoenix; I was forced to by Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. One girl at my orientation discovered this and was so appalled she immediately changed her major. My dorms were brand spanking new, which was nice, but the security measures (identification necessary to enter, no more than five people in a room at a time including two roommates), prevented a lot of “the dorm experience”. Not to mention, ASU students living in my dorm were asked to call a security escort when walking to the parking lot and back. My parents bought me pepper spray and wished me luck.

I wasn’t living in the slums, but downtown Phoenix is much different from the main ASU campus in Tempe. Downtown Phoenix is hip, unique and urban. The tall skyscrapers are contrasted by small, independent shops and restaurants. Homeless people (hence the security measures) and residents from all over the Valley flock here for the atmosphere. Bars, restaurants and shops keep people who come to the main attractions – huge concerts, the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Diamondbacks – interested in downtown Phoenix’s appeal. Continue reading “Downtown Phoenix”

Mesa, Arizona

I lived in the Fiesta district of Mesa, Arizona for about a year, and I hated it. Maybe it was the neighborhood, maybe it was the fact that I lived with my psychotic, super-clean sister, but I could not wait to get out of there. There was one area of Mesa that I actually did enjoy, and I suggest that if you visit, take a peek at downtown: specifically, Main Street, from Sirrine/Centennial Way to Robson.

The area is comparable to Mill Avenue in Tempe in that it’s pedestrian friendly and has a lot of restaurants and shops; the difference between the two is that it’s possible to park in downtown Mesa without having to put a fortune of quarters in a meter. I parked on Robson, off Main Street, for two hours without having to pay anything. Not far from where I parked, I found Domestic Bliss, which sold

Domestic Bliss in Mesa, Arizona; as cozy as a home

 fantastic gifts for friends of all ages. Domestic Bliss was cozy, and felt more like a home than a store; I strongly recommend you go there for gifts for the friend who has everything, the friend who is expecting or the friend who is hard to shop for – as well as for yourself! Another good place for gifts was Lissa’s, which also already had unique Christmas decorations displayed. I was intrigued by Adorn Style Lounge, but didn’t arrive during open hours – from the window it had some cute dresses and jackets for younger women. I wandered around Blossom Salon and Boutique – an interesting concept; why not get your haircut and then buy a new outfit? Continue reading “Mesa, Arizona”