SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. â€“ When I left off last night, we were heading out to dinner, our first actual meal of this yearâ€™s spring training trip.
Itâ€™s really been a great 24 hours in the Valley of the Sun, and weâ€™re all now in full-on Cactus League mode.
We visited Rokerij, which is owned in part by two Milwaukeeans, but this doesnâ€™t feel like any place Iâ€™ve dined at in Wisconsin. Thatâ€™s something people who visit the Phoenix area for the first time will notice immediately â€“ how incredibly different this area is from home.
Rokerij is connected to Richardsonâ€™s, and the best way I can describe these places â€“ and I apologize for obvious this sounds â€“ is casual southwestern ambience. But the food is great and inexpensive. Think upscale chophouse, but with a laid-back Arizona vibe. I had a habanero-sauced sirloin that was spicy and flavorful.
Eron went with a Flintstones-sized ribeye steak. Unique apps like mushroom bread, great wine, and a vibe that reminded me (in a good way) of "Threeâ€™s Company" just a little, are among the many reasons this restaurant is rocking. If you come, youâ€™ll probably see ballplayers dining, or hanging out in the basement bar, which is a big deal, because almost no restaurant in Phoenix has a basement. Iâ€™ll come to to Rokerij again and again.
After dinner, we checked out two newish bars that weâ€™d heard good things about. The huge outdoorsy Yard, which is so perfect for this climate, is an awesome addition to the Phoenix nightlife scene. The Yard pours a wide array of beers from Belgian ales all the way down to the humble beer "in a bag" special â€“ just $2 but the can inside the bag is a mystery until itâ€™s served to you. And by comparison, the absolutely tiny micro bar, called the The Whining Pig, continues to show how inventive entrepreneurs are here.
Even though this area is filled with strip malls, bars and restaurants find a way to make the most of them. If this bar was any smaller, there would be no room for stools. The Whining Pig boasts a wide selection of wines by the glass, and youâ€™ll find folks around the bar enjoying trivia games or maybe a cordial round or two of Rock â€˜Em Sock â€˜Em Robots.
This morning, we took our time to stroll the grounds of the amazingly tranquil Camelback Inn. The more I see here, the more I like it. We had a leisurely outdoor breakfast among other very relaxed guests, then headed back to Maryvale to meet a dog.
Of course, that dog was Hank, the lovable stray everyoneâ€™s talking about. The Brewersâ€™ Tyler Barnes introduced us to the little guy on his last day in Arizona; he heads to Milwaukee on Sunday. The team isnâ€™t saying which Brewers executive adopted him, and I asked Barnes why. Quite honestly, the team is being protective of the familyâ€™s (and the dogâ€™s) privacy and security, and with Hankâ€™s immense fame, I can understand why. Itâ€™s time for this furry little Brewers fan to have the normal family life he deserves.
This little dog really is adorable. Even though he's a recent stray, he let me pick him up and pet him while Barnes put on Hankâ€™s jersey. We took the pup to a sponsor event, where actual Brewers roamed the area. Not surprisingly, everyoneâ€™s attention turned to Hank when he got near. Families posed for photos as kids cooed around him. The dog has an incredibly calm and mellow demeanor.
Barnes told me the Brewers will continue to use Hank in a promotional capacity after he has time to adjust to his new home, although they wonâ€™t overdo things. And thatâ€™s great. After such a crazy offseason, this is an honest-to-goodness feel-good story. Hank is the real deal, fans.
On the field, Ryan Braun drew a few boos, but piped down the naysayers by continuing to tear the cover off the ball. I saw Frankie Rodriguez take the mound after his barefoot run-in with a cactus, and he looked fine, giving up one run in one inning. Iâ€™m only two days in to this trip, but Iâ€™ve seen a lot of bad Brewers spring training squads over the years. Regardless of the scores of these games (the Crew was clobbered by the Reds, 16-4), this team is again playing with confidence.
Tonight, weâ€™ll survey the Old Town Scottsdale bar scene, visiting a few old favorites like Coach House and Dos Gringos. Then tomorrow, we move to the Hotel Valley Ho and catch the Brewers at the amazing Talking Stick.
Itâ€™s been a great trip so far. And much more to come.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Andy Tarnoff
Published May 7, 2016
I won't lie to you: I know nothing about the current state of professional wrestling. But from 1983 to 1989, from about age 9 to 15, I was a huge fan. So big, in fact, that I wrote a fan letter to WWF announcer "Mean" Gene Okerlund.
Published April 28, 2016
Angry readers, self-righteous writers and surly social media speculators are in a tizzy about an uptick in "clickbait," and in many respects, they have every right to be. In lots of cases, it's a bogus attempt to lure gullible readers, and ultimately, it won't and doesn't work.
Published April 25, 2016
I've known about Mel Brooks' upcoming June 11 visit to Milwaukee for a little while now. Make no mistake, this is a "bucket list" show for me: Brooks is one of my all-time favorites in Hollywood, and "Blazing Saddles" has sat atop my favorite movie list forever.
Published April 15, 2016
For the many dozens of times I've visited the historic Pfister Hotel - for meetings, meals, weddings and drinks - until prepping for OnMilwaukee Hotel Week, I never spent an overnight at this Victorian masterpiece. Cross that off my bucket list - and I didn't even have to meet a ghost to do it.
Published April 14, 2016
As today's the wonderfully-made up "414 Day," or "Milwaukee Day," depending on who you talk to - it's a sexy day to look back at this excellent video from 2014 by the Five Card Studs.
Published April 11, 2016
I've been binge-watching HBO's "Vinyl." During a scene at an L.A. beach party, the camera panned to a sideburned record executive, smoking a joint and talking about Elvis. Even 25 years since I saw him last, I knew immediately that was my friend from high school, Dave Shalansky. I'd recognize that guy anywhere.
Published April 4, 2016
I'm sitting here on Opening Day, in the first row of the press box at Miller Park, and it's quiet. Too quiet. I mean, I can hear the fans in the ventilation over the sound of stands in this not-sold-out stadium. Apparently, other people here are either rolling their eyes in the fifth inning (or they're passed out).
Published April 2, 2016
It's been a long while since we interviewed FOX6 meteorologist Vince Condella for a personal profile, but with the long-time weather man's upcoming retirement, it was time to catch up.
Published March 15, 2016
I'm a big fan of Atlas Obscura, a website that calls itself "the definitive guide to the world's wondrous and curious places." And it does a good job. Yesterday, it took a look at Milwaukee and its 12 quirky treasures.
Published March 3, 2016
Sometimes, the `90s in Milwaukee feel like a distant memory; other times I can't believe they're so long gone. But then I looked at some of the photos I took while building the shell of what would eventually become OnMilwaukee, and these scenes seem ancient, indeed.