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From smashburgers to high-end tacos, dig into Phoenix food trends for 2024

What will the year hold in the world of dining in metro Phoenix? 

Well, from smashburgers to high-end tacos to the reverse of Asian fusion, Craig Outhier, editor of Phoenix Magazine, joined The Show with some interesting trends.

Smashburgers

There's a restaurant downtown called Bad Jimmy's in the old Jamaican restaurant, Breadfruit, which went out of business a couple of years ago. People love that place. I think they love this place, too. It's gotten a lot of rave notices. Smashburger ... they kind of smash it on the grill to give it an extra char. And then they put, usually use American cheese. And, you know, it's not just this place, Bad Jimmy's, that using it. There's also a kind of a high-end gastropub called Copper and Sage on Camelback. I saw it on the menu. You know, it's like an $18 burger, one of those burgers. So you are seeing it around a lot.

And I think, you know, I was thinking about this, you know, Americans love hamburgers and it's a you know, love affair that's been going on for decades. I think there's just a kind of a, you know, am energy to try to spice up the relationship every once in a while. You know, we've tried Hawaiian burgers; we've tried, you know, vegetarian burgers. Now we're doing smashburgers ... to put electricity into the into the relationship. So, you know, you'll see that around a lot.

Diversity of food

You know, it's been going on for a few years now. ... [O]ur current [Phoenix Magazine] issue is eat around the globe or dine around the world is, you know, kind of the handle we used. And we just dived into, you know, every conceivable international style of cuisine we could find. And what we found is, you know, regionality is becoming a big thing, especially in Thai cuisine.

Cat Bunnag, the wonderful chef over at Glai Baan, kind of kick started this five or six years ago. She specializes in Thai street food and food from Chiang Mai in the northern region. Isan in the east, and you're seeing that happen a lot, too.

Another restaurant people love is down in actually in Mesa. It's called Mae-Khong Thai Tapas. So it kind of is a hint there that it's a different kind of Thai restaurant, you know, Thai tapas, but it's not a fusion restaurant by any means. It really is focused on Isan, which is the Thai region in the East. People love, you know, green papaya salads — that's from Isan — a bunch of other different dishes. And he does them wonderfully, Thomas Samuel. ... He's from Thailand; he moved to New York with his family. He moved here a couple of years ago, specifically to open this restaurant in Mesa. And it is wonderful, very much similar to Glai Baan in the sense that it, you know, focuses on regionality.

Indian food is another good example where you have, you know, you have this kind of set menu. You know, it's you know, chicken tandoori and then what we're seeing now, I think are more restaurants, they're diving into lesser known styles and ... it's a great thing for food enthusiasts.

High-end tacos

I mean, you see that's been going on for ages ... I remember thinking 10 years ago, "I should open a gourmet taco place.: And it's, you know, it wasn't like any great revelation.

People love tacos, and you see them everywhere ... low-end, high-end. Even, you know, Rene Andrade, the guy who opened Bacanora on Grand Avenue — which became an international or national, you know, sensation — he has a new restaurant on Central Avenue that ... it's kind of a taco joint, but these are definitely, you know, $8 tacos, $7 tacos.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.