The original Arizona Foodie suggests the freshest, friendliest eats in Tempe and Phoenix

Diana Brandt, the redheaded flavor connoisseur behind the locally beloved AZ Foodie blog, has helped pioneer the Phoenix food scene as more and more talented chefs flock to the area. 

"There wasn't really the food scene in Phoenix two years ago (when AZ Foodie was started) that there is today," Brandt said. "There were maybe a couple of people doing it ... and now AZ Foodie has really picked up a momentum."

From happy hours to healthy snacks, Brandt has mastered the art of investigating and indulging in the best of the Valley, and shared some of her favorite spots around ASU's Tempe and Downtown Phoenix campuses.

Best happy hour

College students are no strangers to a good happy hour, so many of Brandt's recommendations around the Tempe campus are places that students may already frequent, such as Pita Jungle and Postino WineCafe, which offers a bottle of wine and a board of bruschetta for $20 on Monday and Tuesday after 8 p.m. 

Salut Kitchen Bar and Blasted Barley also rank highly with Brandt, who praised them for both their happy hours' pricing and selections. Salut hosts its happy hour from 3 to 6:30 p.m. every day, with half-priced bottles of wine and $2 off all tapas, s'mores, craft beers, house wines and craft cocktails. Blasted Barley has a happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m. as well, but only Monday to Friday. Discounted items include select food items, select drafts and wines and $5 craft cocktails. On Sundays, there's a reverse happy hour from 9 p.m. to close. 

Brandt is also a fan of Pedal Haus on Mill Avenue, so much so that she is currently hosting a contest for one AZ Foodie follower and 10 of his or her friends to win a happy hour during this spring training season. 

Friendliest Service

Diana wrote in her blog bio that she's "passionate about the food culture, the people that create the food and everything in between." Her foodie adventures and community involvement have allowed her to forge relationships with other members of the local culinary scene. She said she knows perhaps better than anyone else that the fresh personalities in the kitchen can be just as meaningful as the fresh ingredients on the plate. 

“These people consistently want their customers to have a good experience and to have stuff come out a certain way,” she said. “They’re very passionate about their restaurant."

She said she loves the fact that so many local restauranteurs care so much about connecting with their customer base, and named a few great downtown and central Phoenix spots where the service is especially friendly, and the owners can often be found roaming around interacting with customers. 

At Bitter and Twisted, for instance, proprietor and principal barman Ross Simon is always chatting with customers as he oversees the crafting and curation of his top-quality drink menu, Brandt said.

The owners of central Phoenix favorites Welcome Chicken and Donuts and Melt Ice Cream are also consistently engaged with their sweet-toothed clientele, like Brandt and her family. Brandt also named Desoto Central Market as a favorite local spot, where she loves to nibble on different snacks while chatting with the different shop's workers.

Hidden gem The Breadfruit & Rum Bar was “built from the ground up” by its passionate owner, and Brandt said hard work and dedication shine through in the quality of the food and atmosphere.

Best ethnic eats

Culinary passion can easily be born out of a mere thirst for knowledge and experimentation, but something special happens when that passion is inherited.

Downtown Phoenix is home to a large number of family-owned ethnic restaurants that offer dishes based on flavors and techniques the owners inherited from their respective motherlands.

Bahn Mi Vietnamese Bistro is one of Brandt’s personal favorites. The sandwich-based shop is tasty and cheap, and the owners are almost always in the shop. 

For great Japanese, Brandt recommends Hana Japanese off of 7th Avenue in Phoenix, and for true Southern fare, Justin Beckett's Southern Rail.

Coming Soon

As a committed eater and proprietor of all things culinary, Brandt gets the scoop on many up and coming restaurants before they even pop onto the public radar.

Although many of these places are still in the works, Brandt said to look out for Joe's Midnight Run, Stock and Stable and Lou Malnati's in central Phoenix.

All of Diana's selections can be accessed via light rail and are reasonably priced to accommodate the classically tight student budget. To follow Diana's flavorful journeys, check her out on Instagram and Facebook.

Reach the reporter at or follow @lina_lauren on Twitter.

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