Photo Credit: Wikicommons

It’s late December and many are itching for a warmer place to go on vacation for a week or so. Many who live in the tri-state area often try to find places that have access to kosher food and minyanim to make everything a bit more convenient.

Arizona (specifically Phoenix/Scottsdale) is becoming more popular for these reasons. The area features shuls, kosher restaurants, family-friendly activities, and some great places within a few hours driving distance as well.

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The first thing you need to know about the area is that Phoenix and Scottsdale may be technically two different cities, but they border each other and the two Jewish communities are separated by only a few minutes by car. If you plan on being there for Shabbat, make sure that you check out exactly where the different shuls and eruvim are.

One strategy that could greatly enhance your stay is to check Airbnb for timeshare properties at golf courses. While Airbnb is usually people renting out their own homes, some of the timeshare golf resorts in the area offer a service where they rent out properties that are currently not in use by putting them on Airbnb. This allows you to get something a little nicer than your average hotel for the same or less money. If you are looking to stay in Scottsdale, these properties may also offer a very convenient location compared to hotels.

There are almost 10 Orthodox shuls spread out between Phoenix and Scottsdale, so finding a minyan is not a problem. Some of the shuls have more minyanim than others, so make sure to check which shuls are closest to where you are staying and what their schedules are.

Phoenix has four different small kosher supermarkets, while Scottsdale sports enhanced kosher food sections in their local supermarkets. You can find raw meat, cheese, deli, and even snacks from Israel. Unless it’s something very specific, you should be able to get it in Arizona.

In terms of restaurants, there may not be the depth of choices that can be found in some tri-state area communities, but Phoenix and Scottsdale have enough options to get you through a week’s vacation. If it’s meat you’re looking for, there’s one option each in Phoenix and Scottsdale.

Phoenix has Cafe Chenar, a Bukharian restaurant that will remind you of some of the places you can find in Queens. They have all the Bukharian classics such as lagman (a tomato vegetable soup with meat and noodles), achichuk (tomato and onion salad), manti (steamed meat dumplings), samsa (crispy pastry stuffed with beef and onions), plov (a rice dish with carrots and lamb), and an assortment of kebabs. If you already know and love the places closer to home, this will hit the spot.

Scottsdale’s Kitchen18 is the real gem of the area. With reasonable prices, huge portion sizes, and great flavors, you won’t be disappointed. The menu is an eclectic blend of different cuisines and has something for everyone. One of the ways they accomplish this is by giving the diner options. For example, they make their poppers or wings in six different sauces, and entrees allow you to choose sides from a list of a dozen choices. They’ve even managed to have a sleek design and ambiance but still keep a family friendly vibe. You’re just as likely to see a couple eating the teriyaki salmon and rib-eye steak as you are to see a family of five eating burgers (try the pastrami or Southwest) and fries (they have four types).

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Kitchen18 is well aware that many visitors walk through their doors and they are prepared for it. Whether it’s packaging their food for takeout in the best way possible for tourists on the go, or being there to help you with recommendations on what to do nearby, they are ready. How ready? They have an entire Shabbat take out menu and will even rent you a hot plate if you need it!

If it’s dairy you’re looking for, you have three restaurants to choose from. Each of those three options has something specific that distinguishes them from the other two. All three have pizza and pasta, but other than that, these places provide plenty of other things that differ from each other.

Inside the Scottsdale JCC you’ll find Milk+Honey Espresso Bar & Eatery. They serve breakfast (bagels, eggs, French toast), sushi, and have a small Mexican menu. As their name indicates, they also have a full espresso bar with a great selection of coffee drinks.

Phoenix is home to Manhattan Pizza & Subs. Just like the previous entry, their specialty is also in their name. They offer ten different options for hot dairy sandwiches, a rare find in a kosher restaurant. Some entries are more tame, like the Atlantic Submarine (a pizza sub) and others are targeted at the more adventurous diners, like the Shipyard Special (fish, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and melted cheese).

Finally, there’s La Bella Pizzeria & Restaurant. This Phoenix eatery offers an extensive fish menu. This isn’t just sushi (though they have that), it’s a dozen-and-a-half options for hot fish dishes. They are very well known for their pasta and fish dishes, but if you’re able to make it there on a Tuesday or Sunday, you’ll be able to order from their Mexican menu. So, if you feel like a trip to the Southwest isn’t complete without a burrito, you know where to go!

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Stay tuned next week for “Visiting the Valley of the Sun Part II: Where to Go and What to Do!”

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Nati Burnside lives in Fair Lawn, NJ, and is a man of many interests. The opinions in this piece are his own, but feel free to adopt them for yourself. In fact, he encourages you to do so.