SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. – When I left off last night, we were heading out to dinner, our first actual meal of this year’s spring training trip.
It’s really been a great 24 hours in the Valley of the Sun, and we’re all now in full-on Cactus League mode.
We visited Rokerij, which is owned in part by two Milwaukeeans, but this doesn’t feel like any place I’ve dined at in Wisconsin. That’s something people who visit the Phoenix area for the first time will notice immediately – how incredibly different this area is from home.
Rokerij is connected to Richardson’s, and the best way I can describe these places – and I apologize for obvious this sounds – 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 "Three’s Company" just a little, are among the many reasons this restaurant is rocking. If you come, you’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. I’ll come to to Rokerij again and again.
After dinner, we checked out two newish bars that we’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 – just $2 but the can inside the bag is a mystery until it’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 you’ll find folks around the bar enjoying trivia games or maybe a cordial round or two of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘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 everyone’s talking about. The Brewers’ Tyler Barnes introduced us to the little guy on his last day in Arizona; he heads to Milwaukee on Sunday. The team isn’t saying which Brewers executive adopted him, and I asked Barnes why. Quite honestly, the team is being protective of the family’s (and the dog’s) privacy and security, and with Hank’s immense fame, I can understand why. It’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 Hank’s jersey. We took the pup to a sponsor event, where actual Brewers roamed the area. Not surprisingly, everyone’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 won’t overdo things. And that’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. I’m only two days in to this trip, but I’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, we’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.
It’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 27, 2015
The sounds are a little different inside Miller Park during a weekday day game. It's not that it's much quieter or more empty than a night game, although it's pretty easy to tell the difference. Even though the parking lots today were jam-packed, there are lots and lots of kids here. And adults who probably should be at work.
Published May 13, 2015
Yesterday, Packers fans were delighted to watch Aaron Rodgers dominate on "Celebrity Jeopardy." Indeed, it feels nice to have a smart guy calling signals under center (in your face, Jay Cutler). But Wisconsin sports have been full of intelligent players through the years. Here are six.
Published April 30, 2015
Just a few years ago, all Katie Daly knew about candles is that they smelled nice, and she liked having them around the house. Her boyfriend, Cody Weiss, didn't disagree. But Daly, always a self-admitted "type-A antsy person" found herself bored and browsing Pinterest one day, when she saw a how-to guide to making soy candles in Mason jars. The corporate trainer melted some wax on the stove, adding some lavender oil - and found herself surprised when the candle actually burned.
Published April 6, 2015
Something weird happened to me around the beginning August last year: I started wanting the Brewers season to be over.
Published April 3, 2015
Here are seven recent Brewers pitchers that I would love to get back. Even if these weren't necessarily the best players, they each brought something special to the crew.
Published April 2, 2015
In a time when Zappos and Amazon and brick-and-mortar sporting good chains have cemented their spot as go-to places for running shoes and apparel, you might not think that starting a local running store would be a sound business idea. Don't tell that to Jessica and Trae Hoepner, the owners of Performance Running Outfitters, a business that started with one humble store and expanded to three, with a fourth in the works.
Published March 19, 2015
My 18th annual Brewers Spring Training trip is now complete, and I'm back in chilly Milwaukee, which actually feels a little better after a few days under the beating hot sun of the desert. This trip was a good one. A really good one. New experiences, old friends and lots and lots of baseball. But you probably know about all that if you read my blog entries this week.
Published March 18, 2015
When I left off yesterday, I was feeling tan, rested and ready for baseball, and we made the 30-minute drive from Talking Stick Resort to Peoria Stadium a little before noon. Brewers fans were out in force for the game against the Padres. St. Patty's Day revelry was in full effect.
Published March 17, 2015
I've said this before, but sometimes Spring Training feels a lot like the movie "Groundhog Day." Events, games and trips tend to run together, because with only a few variations, you're basically doing the same thing every day (and of course, that's a very good thing). But yesterday, we did something that we've only done one other time in 18 years: we didn't go to a Brewers game.
Published March 16, 2015
When you've been awake for 24 consecutive hours, due to an early flight, a time change and the excitement of an 18th consecutive Spring Training trip to Arizona, it's understandable to make a few bad decisions. Fortunately, the only one I regret is that humungous carne asada burrito from Filiberto's at 2 a.m. Mountain Standard Time, before collapsing into a few hours of sleep at the Talking Stick Resort here in Scottsdale.