This story begins with a Buffalo Wild Wings gift card given for the holidays and a decision to go to a different location, the somewhat newer one at the Westgate City Center in Glendale. Truth is, as many times as I’ve been to Gila River Arena for events, I rarely venture north of the fountains in the just north of the arena.
Because of that, and with the recent demise of the Margaritaville Cafe, I had been under the impression that Westgate was struggling to attract people to its restaurants, bars and stores. Yes, the Tanger Outlet malls across the street always are packed and yes, the main plaza outside the arena is packed on game nights. But otherwise …
It turns out the place is just plain busy, which warms the heart of someone who lives in a financially-strapped city such as Glendale.
Parking was an adventure, and not entirely because we happened to be there the night of Phoenix Bike Fest. The roar of unmuffled Harley engines was ever present but it brought hundreds of additional visitors to the area.
After enjoying the happy hour menu at Buffalo Wild Wings, the wife and I went for a walk around the area between the AMC 30 Theaters on the north and the Yardhouse on the south. The Yardhouse is the epicenter of Westgate as it were and, as per usual, it also was packed solid. A few billion beers on tap will do that for a place.
The Fresh Healthy Cafe was all but deserted – this also was the case when I returned on Sunday to get my seafood on at Hot & Juicy Crawfish. Maybe it’s because even the best-intentioned person will have a hard time steering for healthy when there’s a Buffalo Wild Wings on one side and a Greek restaurant – Opa Life, on the other.
For that matter, let’s leave healthy in the dust for a few moments while we talk about what is just on the other side of the kids’ play fountains – a Cold Stone Creamery which, honestly, can be found about anywhere here, and a Fractured Prune donut shop, which cannot.
Sunday was my first adventure in Fractured Prune donuts and about the only thing to be said is, Ohmygodtheyrefreakinfantastic. And that assumes you’re not simply moaning in ecstasy from the taste of the donut itself. What you see on the right is the Gorilla – chocolate glaze, chocolate chips, fresh from the fryer and so hot the glaze melts down the sides.
That, friends, is nothing less than 400-odd calorie heaven in a circle.
After walking around for a bit, the wife and I grabbed a couple of chairs by an outdoor table in the center of all the stores and enjoyed live music while watching the world go by, nearly forgetting for a little bit that we had a son who needed to be picked up at work. It’s just that relaxing a place to be, especially before the real brutal nighttime temperatures hit.
Now, as I mentioned, my sojourn Friday turned into a two-day adventure. My wife cannot stand seafood, so it was up to my mom to accompany me on Sunday for a return to Hot & Juicy Crawfish, which serves seafood up in an old-fashioned Gulf Coast/South Carolina seafood boil, all the ingredients put together in one back and cooked up together.
Black mussels, green mussels, shrimp, snow crab (not necessarily worth the work needed), clams, king crab, lobster and, yes, crawfish, dropped in a bag along with a half-ear or corn or a potato or both (or some sausage, if you were smarter than me and ordered it.)
What’s staring back at you right now is one of the shrimp, which come out whole. Helpful safety tip – it’s not that hard to stab yourself with a shrimp shell when trying to take off the tail. (Now I see why they wore gloves on the shrimp boats on the show Big Shrimping.)
One other safety tip when you go there – whatever your general spice and heat tolerance, you may want to take it down a notch. The adventure is there’s no set sauce; the cooks individually season every order so every now and then the spice may not be what you expected.
Here’s the thing … I can eat Hatch chiles all day at Arriba and generally not think twice about it. But the “spicy” seasoning on the shrimp and the corn had me in tears. And to think I almost considered getting “extra spicy”. That would almost certainly resulted in a trip to the emergency room.
Then again, that Fractured Prune donut made everything all right in the end.
Did I also mention there’s a place, Crave, that makes sandwiches with waffles?
Now, if I had one critique of all of the happenings there, it is this. There is absolutely zero local flavor. As someone who tried to shop small when he can and support the mom-and-pop places, there are none here to support (Cold Stone Creamery is the closest, but not quite the same thing.)
The Phoenix area isn’t known for local eateries with a couple dozen exceptions – Lolo’s, Los Dos Molinos, Durants, Mrs. White’s Cafe and a whole lot of small Mexican, Thai and Indian eateries. Understanding how much the rent likely is at Westgate, I can understand why there aren’t local options there but it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be nice to see.
One final note on Westgate and, given this is a real estate blog it likely was inevitable.
The other thing that gave Westgate a half-finished, semi-ghost town quality were the Quarter at Westgate Condominiums. Built just in time for the market to crash, many of them once were available as auction properties as the owners tried to dump all they had.
Those days are long behind us. And, at the moment, there only are a handful of these three-story condos on the market.
At the beginning, the marketing concept was the idea of being able to live where you eat and play. Now, after several years of effort, that finally has come true.
Interested in more information on Westgate or the Quarter Condominiums? Call me at 602-502-9693 and I’ll be happy to help.