March 15th, 2011

We drove through the desert in our rental car with out of date registration tags all the while crossing our fingers that we wouldn’t be pulled over by the authorities.

We stayed at The Clarendon Hotel, a small boutique hotel in mid-town, that had a bit of a younger retro slant to its digs.

The rooms and interior had seen better days. Everything needed a bit of an update, some maintenance and a thorough scrub down.

The thing I loved most was the little restaurant at the hotel. Gallo Blanco was delectable! Doug Robson is the chef & owner, and according to their site, “the food is cooked from scratch daily…we strive to utilize local ingredients and partner with local farmers and distributors.” Tasty tasty fair and probably the best part of our trip.

I loves this little service area. It was just two Ikea sideboards with a giant wood slab stretched across the top. The turquoise detail inlaid in the wood killed me – something I’d love to copy some day for sure.

Jeremy got a tasty chicken chilaquile and I scarfed down this incredible torta with over easy eggs, avocado and piles of deliciousness. I will now put over easy eggs on everything I eat.

We totally went hot tubing, body shame be dammed!

The rooftop deck was the poop. Seriously, I love a high rooftop lounge area with city views and completely devoid of other guests. Voyeurism never felt so good.

We had one night to go out on the town and after a long day of business and shopping and hot tubing (and more than a few cocktails), we headed out to a restaurant around the corner that the staff recommended.

Totally cheese-ball, but kind of perfect after a long hot day was Hula’s Modern Tiki.

We got frou frou girl drinks with silly names like Dr. Funk and ate our weight in spare ribs, fish bites, sweet potato fries and jerk pork. Macadamia nut ice cream and brownies? Yeah. Yum num num.

We had a good time and left incredibly late and stuffed to the gills.

The thing about Hemet is that we have ZERO even mildly interesting restaurants. It’s all chain stuff like Applebees and Chili’s and Red Robin, so anything even remotely different or unique is pretty mind blowing. The food wasn’t even that spectacular, it was just nice to go somewhere that didn’t have fake ivy plants and “country” themed rooster wall paper for once.

Phoenix actually reminded me a lot of Hemet, well maybe more like Riverside. It had that same sort of desert strip mall atmosphere with a dash of ghetto and retro forlornness that seems to creep in. Phoenix did seem to have an INCREDIBLE amount of strip clubs and all the signs posted at thrift stores about not bringing in guns kind of freaked me out. I guess you can just walk around with guns everywhere? Makes going to IHOP or wherever a little more interesting…

It was a quick trip and we headed back after a full day of shopping and tootling around. Even more to come on that front…

I still love nothing more than the western desert at sunset. It made a beautiful drive home after a densely packed and curious little trip.

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  1. Ryan on 03/15/2011:

    Quick trips are always fun. Pheonix is soso in my book but beautifull out of town aka closer to the hills. But cool pictures and all. Hope you got some good stuff that you didnt already post. Wanting to see a landscape update! I know theres stuff brewing.

  2. mm on 03/15/2011:

    Love the idea and the look of the wood slab over the ikea bits! Then, the inlaid turrrrquoise…¿cómo bueno es eso?

  3. Anna @ D16 on 03/15/2011:

    I’ve been to Phoenix a billion times, but had no idea this hotel is there. Noted!

  4. Tonia on 03/15/2011:

    Such a cool little hotel. The breakfast looked DElish

  5. Ashley on 03/15/2011:

    Awesome photos. Since the hotel could use an update, perhaps a new project/consulting gig for Morgan…?

  6. monica on 03/15/2011:

    next time you’re there, definitely go for eats/drinks at Hanny’s! It used to be a department store.

  7. jeremiah hagler on 03/15/2011:

    3rd time this morning I’ve gazed over at these photos, brillant!

  8. my little apartment on 03/15/2011:

    this makes me miss driving from KY to LA. man, I love a roadtrip. also, I cannot wait to eat chilaquiles in Austin. rad photos!

  9. LaShaune on 03/15/2011:

    On my cross country drive from Houston to Sacramento, I stayed at the Clarnedon 2 weeks ago. It’s the step child of the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale (love love love that hotel) but at a more affordable price (the hotel will even price match if you find an even cheaper deal online). I loved my room but I would agree that the bathrooms could use an overhaul.

    Phx is fun, but Scottsdale offered better thrifting options.

  10. Liza B on 03/15/2011:

    Next time be sure to check out a restaurant called Pita Jungle. It’s fresh, delicious and they have locations all over Phoenix. As far as the signs saying “no guns allowed” this is due to the fact that if that sing were not posted people would be allowed to carry weapons into flea markets, bars, etc.

  11. Samara@metalistajewelry on 03/15/2011:

    Beautiful Photos. That Hotel looks really charming except for the actual rooms. I wonder who made the choice to include electric blue carpet.

  12. augusta on 03/15/2011:

    The Clarendon has so much potential! I love/hate that place. Gallo Blanco is delish! (I used to work there) and the only thing I miss about that place is eating there every day!
    Do check Hanny’s the next time you visit. Its a super sexy place to guzzle drinks and people watch.
    And, if you would like a tour guide the next time you visit……I volunteer myself to show you how we do.

  13. Logan on 03/15/2011:

    Whoa that place looks cool. If you go again, check out this place called “Phoenix retro metro”. It’s just a big room full of great mid-century furniture and junk, and it’s reasonable too. It was really cool. I love that cactus in the first photo.

  14. THE BRICK HOUSE on 03/15/2011:

    The Clarendon really does need some decor intervention and a bit of an overhaul. All I could do while tootling around there was rearrange things and dream of all the changes I’d make in my head.

    Logan – We did! That’s for tomorrows post…

  15. Anna on 03/15/2011:

    yes, that turquoise inlay is reallllllly nice. never would have thought of that.

  16. Erika - 2 by Design on 03/15/2011:

    Wow, Riverside? That makes me want to die. Next time you’re here, check out Red Modern before hitting St. Francis for happy hour. Oh, and skip the big hotels altogether in favor of VRBO or hidden, old school gems like the Hermosa Inn. A little more green and not mid-century, but the surroundings are beautiful and girls named Candy won’t ask you to put a buck in their g-strings.

    P.S. Estate sales here can be pretty killer too, and less pricey than any of our mid-century retailers.

    P.P.S. Am I making a case for PHX yet? Sigh.

  17. Ilissa on 03/16/2011:

    I second Augusta’s Hanney’s recommendation…such a swank spot! Also try its sister restaurant AZ88 in Scottsdale. Besides delicious drinks, both spots have incredible art installations by local talent Bill Tonnesen. (

    And if you are in the mood for some retro style cafe lounging check out Lux and Postino’s too.

    P.S. Glad to hear that you found Metro Retro (did the owner show you her incredible collection of textiles?) I’m guessing that you discovered Mondern Manor as well??? (Kylie and Ryan are a fabulous couple with impeccable taste!) I can’t wait to see your take on these tucked away treasures tomorrow….

  18. THE BRICK HOUSE on 03/16/2011:

    I should have asked you guys where to go beforehand! So many good places I’m sad to missed out on. Next time will check out for sure, we were kind of just stumbling around out there.

    I do want to go back and thrift and shop more though…maybe soon…

  19. Bethany on 03/16/2011:

    Next time you come to Phx you HAVE to eat at La Tolteca or Barrio Cafe. Oh and drink at Bikini Lounge (not fancy but I am a cheap date) or Lost Leaf downtown.

  20. Logan on 03/16/2011:

    Cool! Did you buy anything? We only bought an oversized stopwatch-wallclock but I wanted some of those neon letters and pretty much everything else. I thought about neon letters the whole way back to Vegas. And that giant purple sofa.

  21. anne on 03/16/2011:

    The Clarendon was most recently for pimps, drugs and hos so this is quite a step up.
    The food and the smells of Gallo Blanco are wonderful!

  22. Kimberley on 03/16/2011:

    Next time you come through Phoenix, try to make it on a “First Friday” weekend. Lots of galleries downtown to visit, and you could try out some of the other restaurant/bars like the Vig, Postino, The Garage, Dick’s Hideaway, St. Francis…. also stop at Copper Star Coffee while you are trolling the vintage/antique/thrift stores on Seventh Avenue….

    We have lots of great stuff going on in Phoenix, you just have to know where to go. Hope you get to visit again soon–all of us here will give you the full list of attractions!

  23. bianca of terri planty on 03/16/2011:

    now i am totally craving a road trip… MARFA?????????? yes.

  24. grammar_nazi on 03/16/2011:

    Nice article, but ‘tubing’ is usually made of copper, or plastic, or rubber. Hot tubbing is what you do for a fun and relaxing activity. That is all, carry on.

  25. THE BRICK HOUSE on 03/17/2011:

    I bet you are the life of the party (that is sarcasm, by the way – since we are clarifying things).

  26. Chaucea on 03/19/2011:

    “retro forlornness”

    Oh wow, what a PERFECT description! And it comes with a smell that’s dry and slightly dusty.

  27. Chelsea on 03/21/2011:

    Great Post! My manfriend has been commuting to Phoenix (we live in Santa Barbara) for several months now and I’ve stayed with him at The Clarendon on occasion. I love the pool and rooftop! He’s working out there so often that now he has an exec apartment only a few blocks from Clarendon. Visiting just last month, we ate at Clarendon…and had your exact meal. Deeefrickinglicious. Check out Lux coffee which is not too far down the road too.

  28. annie on 03/05/2012:

    oh no you just did not compare phoenix to riverside or hemet! as an ie girl now nyc even i’m willing to say that’s a little unfair, for phoenix. now taking into consideration the gun ihop thing, yeah that might push it into victorville meets watts territory. catching up on the blog and you are killing me!

  29. Tina on 05/30/2012:

    Next time your in town try the Hotel San Carlos. Also a boutique hotel, but downtown. Near great restaurants, and really really friendly!!!!!

  30. Dante on 01/30/2014:

    Likely a little late to the game but I have to put in my two cents. Why? Because it’s the internet and that’s what one should.

    You missed so much goodness in Phoenix. Particularly since you are a mid-century lover. For all around goodness check this site.

    I know you love chairs. Check this guy’s work. The conncrete chair is a dream of mine.

    It was mentioned before but I’ll post a link to it. Red Modern is a place to drool and dream. More dreaming cuz they flip even if you touch.

    Place to stay? The Valley Ho. No I’m not being a dick it’s a hotel.

    These are just a very few of the things in Phoenix for modern lover. Give it a second chance.

    Do not go to Sun City…There is nothing to see there. It is not a giant retirement community filled with thrift stores. Totally not worth your time. (Seriously don’t fuck up my playground)

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