WineStyles’ inspiration for its wine-tasting parties began, of all places, at a backyard barbecue. Some friends at the barbecue found themselves with too many bottles of wine. As an experiment, they decided to taste the wines blindly, so as not to be influenced by price or packaging. This impromptu tasting became the template for WineStyles, a boutique designed to help you choose a wine simply by taste. That is, wines here aren’t categorized by varietal or region, but instead by one of eight taste profiles: crisp, silky, rich, and bubbly for whites; fruity, mellow, bold, and nectar for reds. However, patrons interested in knowing more about their selected bottle can still do so—each bottle comes with a description of its characteristics and suggested food pairings.
Those looking to learn even more about wines can attend one of WineStyles’ weekly tastings or discovery classes. During these events, certified specialists explore everything from the history of different varietals to current trends in wine drinking, such as which wine goes best with texting. Different levels of wine-club membership give participants two to three bottles a month (each selected by a Masters Wine Panel), invitations to private tastings, and discounts toward additional purchases.
Lauded as "Tucson's most celebrated chef" by the New York Times, and the Best Chef in the Southwest by the James Beard Foundation, Chef Janos Wilder has been perfecting his craft for more than 40 years, as evidenced by the simple, elegant cuisine at his latest venture, DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails. After cooking his way through high school and college, Wilder's travels whisked him to the mountains of Colorado, where a three-year residency as a chef at a historic inn propelled him into a lifelong appreciation of locally sourced ingredients. Sojourning to Bordeaux, France in the early ?80s, Janos worked among Michelin Guide Award?winning chefs, where he learned firsthand about French cuisine and techniques.
Returning to the States on a mission to put to his French experiences to work, Janos landed in Tucson. Quickly realizing that the local gardens produced chilies, beans, and squash, he explored ingredients such as prickly-pear cacti, mesquite flour, and Wily Coyotes native to the Southwest landscape. In 1983, his first restaurant, Janos, opened its doors, and there, Wilder pioneered a menu that fused southwestern ingredients with classic French dishes. Today, DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails employs some of those same techniques, drawing from other regions such as Asia to craft fish tacos drizzled with r?moulade, dark-chocolate-and-jalape?o ice-cream sundaes, and a host of imaginative cocktails.
At JJ Madisons, less than 15 burgers on the menu would be unthinkable. The chefs have created 18 separate sandwiches, some of which have their own variants?the Malibu Beach burger, for example, comes with mushrooms, swiss, and avocado atop beef or chicken. Others are less like classic patties and more like enticing burger hybrids. The Buffalo Fire patty is prepped in zesty chicken-wing sauce, whereas the PB & J bacon burger mixes peanut butter, jelly, and sriracha hot sauce for a truly unique flavor combo.
The rest of the menu celebrates a wide range of American eats. There are award-winning wings flavored with 17 different sauces, deli sandwiches from reubens to turkey melts, and entrees of steak and fried shrimp. Much of the food is categorized under a relevant U.S. city, whether it's tacos honoring Santa Rosa, California or a Pittsburgh patty melt.
The eatery also provides plenty of nighttime entertainment: live music, karaoke events, and poker games are on the calendar every week, much like a greedy person's birthday. Happy hour runs all day and night throughout the summer with food specials until midnight.
Though Terry "Joe" Black spent more than two decades in the restaurant and food industries, for many years the notion of opening his own pizzeria remained a wistful one. Smitten with the restaurant business during his college years, he spent the first 15 years of his career working for national chains, then another 10 in food distribution. It wasn?t until Black met and befriended Nick Heddings, owner of Arizona Pizza Company in Tucson, that the gears were set in motion to allow Black to make the leap to ownership, spurred in part by Heddings's support and pizza recipe. Black and his wife, Mary, kept the concept simple: a limited menu centered around tasty, New York?style pizza. They resolved to be fanatical about their customers? experience and to create a welcoming, neighborhood feel. To further that goal, Black and his family remain active with local schools and organizations to this day.
Their focus on quality and friendliness has paid off. Of Jimmy & Joe?s signature "Serious Slice," blogger Michele Laudig said?as part of the Phoenix New Times? 100 Favorite Dishes series in 2010?"It's super thin and crisp on the bottom, with puffy, chewy edges." Each gigantic slice is cut from the 24-inch Big Jimmy, arrives on its own metal pan, and, like a celebrity?s engagement ring, is bigger than the average person's head. As testament to its food?s deliciousness, the restaurant has won multiple awards, including the Reader Pick for Best Pizzeria in the East Valley Tribune's 2011 Best of East Valley.
Calico Jack's Cantina blends Tex-Mex cuisine with an atmosphere of all-night dance parties and music-fueled celebrations. Murals of Mexican calaveras dot the yellow walls as diners sup on hearty meals of carnitas, burgers, tacos, and salsas and dips. Revelers crowd the floor to rhythmically move to tracks from a live DJ or step up on one of the two full-service bars for delivering raucous toasts or taking first place in a height contest.
It's hard to define the vibe at American Junkie. Is it a sports pub? Is it a dance club? A craft-beer bar? In truth, it's a bit of all of these things, with the atmosphere and activities changing from the time it opens to the closing of the doors late into the night (3 p.m.?10 p.m. on Sundays or until 4 p.m.?2 a.m. Wednesday?Saturday). Oftentimes, the cheers of sports fans ring out as they follow American Junkie's resident teams: the Seattle Seahawks and the Ohio State University Buckeyes. The 20 HD plasma TVs also beam all the major UFC, boxing, and tickle fights.
Beneath several of the screens stretches a circular bar, where bartenders mix cocktails and pour all-American spirits?including craft beers, whiskey, bourbon, and wines sourced from California. But those drinks only account one part of American Junkie's menu. The rest comes from the kitchen, where chefs bake pizzas over mesquite wood, make grilled cheese sandwiches with gouda and crisp green apple slices, and slather ribs in barbecue sauce.
Meals often begin with housemade potato chips (complete with blue cheese dressing for dipping) and end in something truly decadent: a dessert called Half Baked. Vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup cover a half pound of cookie dough, which is baked in a deep-dish pan.