A Weekend in Phoenix
I recently spent a long weekend in the Phoenix area. My husband and I went because he was running the Mesa Marathon on February 8th. I’ve only spent a few hours in Phoenix before this trip. In August 2015, we drove through Phoenix during a road trip from Austin, TX to Seattle, WA, where we spent one night in Tempe. We pulled into the hotel, went to sleep, and were gone by 5:00 am the next morning. We didn’t get to experience anything that the area had to offer.
This time, I was happy to spend a few days in the warm sun after a rainy January here in the PNW. I didn’t expect such a happening vegan scene! I left most of the research for the trip to Steven, so I didn’t know what to expect. We arrived around noon on a Thursday and headed straight to 24 Carrots in Tempe for some lunch. A bonus was that the cafe was only 1.5 miles from our Airbnb! We walked in to find a case filled with cookies, cakes, and cupcakes, most of them gluten-free too! The menu was pretty extensive, and I was having a difficult time deciding between the Smokey BLT Club Sandwich, Raw Tacos Supreme, and Sweet Potato Cuban. Plus, I was deciding what dessert to have afterward! I finally settled on the raw tacos. The shells looked to be a mix of dehydrated veggies that were filled with fiesta walnut meat, cashew cream, tomatoes, additional veggies, and avocado.
The tacos were a perfect mix of crisp and crunchy to smooth and creamy. The shells had somewhat of a bite to them, and the walnut taco crumbles were spiced, with the right amount of chew. The raw veggies on top gave a nice crisp, refreshing texture before you made it to the creaminess of the avocado and cashew cream. For dessert (not pictured because I didn’t think about it) was a Strawberry Snickerdoodle Sandwich Cookie! The strawberry frosting was sweet but not too cloying, and the snickerdoodles were soft and melted into your mouth. Being that they were gluten-free, I had to make sure my husband didn’t sneak off with them!
The next day, after we went through the maze of the packet pickup line at the marathon expo event, we went to check out Karma Apple Juicery in Gilbert. Again, we walked in to find a case full of sweet goodness. This time, most of the desserts were raw. While I was trying to decide on what to order, I kept seeing these decadent smoothie bowls come from behind the counter. They were gorgeous, and unlike most smoothie bowls I’ve seen at restaurants. The avocado toast sounded almost too good to pass up, but the black forest smoothie bowl was yelling my name. Is there anything better than chocolate and cherry together?
It was one of the best smoothie bowls I’ve ever had. It had a subtle cherry flavor, and the chocolate tasted like chocolate soft serve ice cream! Steven couldn’t tear his eyes away from the dessert case and finally ordered a few things to go. We ended up leaving with a raw chocolate chip dough ball and a raw snickers bar.
Saturday was the big day, and the marathon started at 6:30 am. Which meant we were up at 3:00 am and out of the Airbnb by 4:00 am so that he could catch a bus to the start line. The marathon started in Usery Mountain Regional Park and ended in Mesa. I took a short nap in the car, well at least closed my eyes for a few minutes, and then camped out at Starbucks by the finish line until I saw, based on his live tracker, that he was at mile 21. That is about the time I start making my way to the finish line and waiting for a spot along the barrier to open up so that I can watch him cross the finish line. I’ve only missed him crossing the finish line twice. The first time was during his first marathon because they blocked spectators from that area, and the second time was last summer. He didn’t have a tracker on, and I stepped away for 30 seconds, to walk back and hear his name being called for crossing. Oops! So, I’ve missed seeing him finish one time out of nine – not bad!
After the marathon, we wanted to find something that would be gentle on his stomach. Running 26.2 miles in 3:30 hours can wreak havoc on the digestive system, so I’ve heard (I am not the runner in the family!). We found Foxy Fruit Acai Bowls & Smoothies inside The Churchill. I loved this covered yet open-air food court. It reminded me so much of the places we would frequent when we lived in Austin, Texas. Although I enjoyed the smoothie bowl from Karma Apple better, I loved the flavor combos that Foxy Fruit offered.
We also stopped by Nami for a quick coffee pick-me-up and checked out the menu at Green New American Vegetarian, which was next door. Their menu had a little bit of everything, and we made a plan to come back there for dinner. But first, we want to go for a short hike and explore a very different landscape than what we are used to at home. We saw the Phoenix Mountains Preserve on the map and thought we would check it out. It was so much fun! We took it slow, but Steven found it helpful to keep his legs moving so they didn’t start cramping. We found a flattish trail full of cacti, beautiful rocks, and scaly friends! I first spotted a small lizard, who I think was a bearded dragon (someone can correct me if they do not live in that area!). Then we spotted a bigger lizard who was very curious about us. They kept scurrying to the top of the rock to take a glimpse at us and then would move closer. I was a happy girl! My only wish, I would have remembered sunscreen! I am not used to that much sun in February and came home with a toasty hue.
Back at Green New American Vegetarian, we knew what we wanted before we walked into the door. It was pretty much one of everything, but we ordered the Big Wac for me, the curry bowl for Steven, and also tried the chickn nuggets. I smelled the Big Wac earlier in the day when we went to look at their menu and had no doubt that I would be trying one later that evening.
It was the best vegan burger that I have ever eaten. I never ate its counterpart from McDonald’s before going vegan because it never appealed to me. I am not sure what caught my interest this time, but I think it was the smell. We wanted to go back on Sunday night for dinner after we toured the Desert Botanical Garden, but found out they were closed on Sundays.
On Sunday, our last full day there, we started at Pomegranate Cafe. I was beginning to think every place we found was going to be full of pastry and dessert cases when you first walked in the door! This time, the case was filled with scones, cinnamon rolls, cupcakes, and cookies, all decorated for Valentine’s Day. I also think Phoenix has a thing for black forest flavors, as Pomegranate was featuring a black forest latte. I don’t drink caffeine, but they were able to make a decaf espresso version for me. I followed that with biscuits with country gravy, tofu scramble, veggie hash, and veggie sausage. Steven, who was still celebrating his marathon success and a recent birthday, had tofu scramble with broccoli, tempeh bacon, and cheese. Along with veggie hash, gluten-free herb toast, and a gluten-free red velvet pancake. We also took a blueberry muffin and birthday cookie to go for the plane ride home the next morning.
We spent the rest of our day in the sun and exploring the area. We spent the morning wandering around where Steven started the marathon and the afternoon at the Desert Botanical Garden. We stopped by Karma Apple Juicery for a quick lunch, where I had a chickpea salad sandwich and spiced kale chips. By dinnertime, we were exhausted. We found a Whole Foods grocery store that had a very vegan-friendly hot bar, pizza bar, and deli case. And of course, dozens of vegan desserts! We filled a few to-go containers and grabbed a slice of pizza, and headed back to relax with a few episodes of the Golden Girls before our 6:00 am flight the next morning.
I was pleasantly surprised by all of the vegan options in the Phoenix area. I also loved all of the outdoor activities we were able to do on Saturday and Sunday. I am looking forward to taking another trip to that area. However, I think I will wait until after their summer heatwaves are over!
Hi! I’m Kristy. I am a conscious living lifestyle expert, a mom to many furry companions, a wife of a marathoner, an avid vegan cook, and a photography enthusiast. My family and I live in Vancouver, Washington. Find out more >>