Monthly Archives: October 2010

Kokopelli Mexican Grill: Fresh Vegan Burritos in North Scottsdale

Update: I’m even more sad to say, the Scottsdale location didn’t make it either. They’re closed! I hope they open up somewhere in Central Phoenix again, but with Cafe Rio now on Camelback & 20th, I doubt it will be near me.

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One of my saddest food days this year was when I learned that Kokopelli Mexican Grill closed its Camelback and 20th St. location in the Biltmore area of Phoenix. My co-workers and I visited this locally owned counter-serve restaurant at least once a week to grab a quick and healthy lunch. Nearby Baja Fresh, Chipotle or even That’s a Wrap can’t replace Kokopelli for me. My loss is my husband’s gain however, as the restaurant relocated close to one of his workplaces in North Scottsdale, at 14747 N Northsight Blvd. in the Northsight Crossing Center. But for me, it’s now a Saturday-only option and I’ve only made it there once since they moved.

Kokopelli Mexican Grill

Kokopelli provides fresh ingredients and fast, no-hassle service, which was perfect for my busy workday. Plus, the menu offers multiple items that can be made vegan if you leave out the cheese and sour cream. I always stuck with the vegetarian burrito though.

Navigating Kokopelli’s burrito assembly line was a ritual for me. “Vegetarian burrito, whole wheat, black beans, add lettuce, green sauce, no cheese or sour cream, chips and salsa, one hot one mild.” The result was a simple but great vegan meal. While other nearby chains offer similar items, they can’t beat the fresh-made salsas, just-fried chips and slow-cooked beans at Kokopelli.

Kokopelli vegan burrito

Kokopelli vegan burrito contents

When I visited Kokopelli recently, the restaurant was completely dead – we were their only customers. But my husband assures me they get plenty of weekday lunch traffic. Maybe they’ll do well enough in their new location to open a second one in the Biltmore area again someday!

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A Special Place in Scottsdale for Special Dietary Needs: Nourish

Nourish

More and more consumers are demanding gluten-free dining options. This is great for vegans, since it seems a rising tide of alternative dining options tends to lift all boats. For example, Norish, which is located in the garden-like setting of Optima Camelview Village condos on Highland Ave. west of Scottsdale Rd., is primarily a gluten-free restaurant (with plenty of meat). However, its menu also offers many interesting and creative vegan options.

The restaurant is small but bright and modern. When we first arrived it was fairly empty, but by the time we left all 10 or so tables were full. The staff was friendly, and the owner made the rounds to each table to talk with diners. Service was a little slow, but not to the point of real concern. Most of the menu is designed to provide a gluten-free dining experience, but the majority of items offer options like bread for sandwiches instead of greens for those of us that still indulge.

We started with the lemon artichoke hummus with garlic pita bread.

Nourish vegan lemon artichoke hummus

It was “scrape the plate” tasty. The garlic-embedded pita was soft and flavorful. Unlike much of the hummus i’ve had over the years, the lemon really stood out, making this a distinctive dish.

I ordered a bowl of tortilla soup as an appetizer as well, but it arrived with the entrees.

Nourish vegan tortilla soup

The soup wasn’t a meal highlight. It was spicy, but a bit lukewarm and didn’t really have much to it other than a light broth and basic veggies. I’ll probably skip ordering it again.

We then tried two sandwiches, the spicy southwest burger and the sweet teriyaki burger.

Nourish vegan spicy southwest burger

Nourish vegan sweet teriyaki burger

The burgers are normally served on a bed of greens, but we tried them on whole wheat buns instead. The buns were a oppressively big, so the greens probably would have been a better option. Both burgers came with a choice of a side salad or sweet potato fries in various shapes. My husband went with the standard julienned fries while I tried the tater-tot-like puffs.

Both burgers were clearly fresh-made and unique. Of the two, I liked the spicy southwest burger a touch more. It had more flavor and held together better, plus I enjoyed the salsa. I couldn’t really tell what was considered “teriyaki” about the other burger, other than it having a sweet sauce on it.

The vegan desserts they had on offer didn’t interest us (dairy-free sorbet and ice cream), but luckily we were close enough to Sprinkles to pop over there and pick up a couple of vegan red velvet cupcakes to take home with us.

I plan to go back this weekend and explore the menu further. The hummus was so good that the Optima sandwich will probably be the next item we try, and the chili looked great too from what I saw on other tables. I also recommended Nourish to a non-vegan friend who is trying to maintain a gluten-free diet. He went there this week and had the chunky sweet potato and avocado salad plus the teriyaki wild rice bowl (with chicken). He loved both and will be going back soon! I’m glad he has a new place to eat at where he doesen’t have to worry about gluten!

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