“I don’t think people know how much we support each other,” said Lauren Bailey, a restaurateur from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, as we sat down to lunch in her bustling eatery, Windsor. “It’s a city of people who are creative and want to move the needle, to get some national recognition. In other cities they think if a new restaurant opens it means less customers for them. But here it’s yay for them, yay for me. There have never been more restaurants in this neighborhood than there are today, and we’ve never been busier.”
She explained that when her ice cream machine shorted out, a neighboring restaurant rushed in to offer support. A different restaurateur entirely has helped her insure her business when she was new to the scene. Folks were reliably kind, even if you were a competitor.
After lunch we went next door to Bailey’s adjoining ice cream parlor, Churn, where a line stretched well beyond the door frame. Despite the 90-degree heat, people queued up and chatted jovially, patiently awaiting their cones.
Well, most people. Having arrived from Miami, I was accustomed to a slightly different rhythm of life. In my experience, heat is oft-cited as a valid excuse for everything from bad driving to money laundering. So when a small collective of hungry locals ducked ahead of me in line, I called them out bitterly to the cashier.
“You can go ahead of us if you like,” a mother with two kids offered gently. “Looks like you’re in a hurry and we’re just out for a nice afternoon.”
I wasn’t in a hurry, but I ordered anyway, tactlessly skipping ahead of a teenage girl in the process.
“It’s OK,” she said, when I turned to apologize. “I’m not in any rush.”
I had been prepared for folks in this hellishly hot city to be as rude and impatient as they were in Florida, California, or Las Vegas. Instead I found a warm-weather Buffalo.
“Phoenix people, they’re not uppity at all,” said Englehorn, as we polished off our beers at twilight outside Angel’s Trumpet. As predicted, his back patio had begun to buzz with an energetic young crowd. “There’s no pretentiousness. People just want to hang out and have fun.”
Sure, he missed “the old Phoenix” -- everybody misses the old somewhere. But more so, he was jazzed by the urban metropolis it was becoming -- by the local beers, the cocktail bars, the restaurants, and the thriving arts scene. He ordered us another round of porters, and we sat and watched as the sky began to turn a rich, orange-flecked purple.
“We got a big sky here,” he says. “People look at it as a barren wasteland. But you’ll never see a sunset quite like you do in the desert.”