Beyond Fast Food: Exploring Phoenix Drive Thrus in the New Chevy Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer RS
2019 Chevrolet Blazer RS

There is a seemingly insatiable appetite in the U.S. market for sport-utility and crossover vehicles. Carmakers are producing new models of varying sizes on the regular – so much so that you’d need a spreadsheet to keep up with the proliferation of nameplates and which one slots where in any given manufacturer lineup. Perhaps that explains the lingering nostalgia for the old standards – the workhorse body-on-frame constructed SUVs with rugged names like Bronco, Wrangler, and Trailblazer.

With the Jeep Wrangler still going strong, and Ford Bronco poised to make a comeback in the spring of 2020, Chevrolet re-introduced its iconic Blazer nameplate for the 2019 model year. The new Blazer isn’t a body-on-frame vehicle like its predecessor, but rather a unibody platform shared with the GMC Acadia. But its stylish, sporty Camaro-inspired exterior will please those who have been anticipating the Blazer’s return.

Since the new Blazer is more urban explorer than off-road beast, and I found myself with four teenagers to entertain for a week, I set out to conquer our weeklong test drive the best way we knew how: on a foodie drive-through tour that didn’t include chains or traditional fast food.  

A few points about teens (and yes, this is a generalization): they eat a lot (and often) and don’t mind monotony. My son could subsist on an alternating menu of Raising Cane’s and McDonald’s and be perfectly content. For my daughter, it’d be Denny’s and Chipotle. With their cousins visiting from the East Coast, and my desire to be a short-order cook lingering somewhere around zero, we set out on a quest to find some of the best places to pick up tasty food on the go. Turns out, there are a lot of choices in the Phoenix area.

Coffee, Breakfast and More

There’s a place in the world and the palate for the occasional Dutch Bros., Starbucks, and old standby Egg McMuffin, but with a place like 32 Shea in the neighborhood, the aforementioned faves should be relegated to “emergency-only” status. This former drive-through photo mat (those of us who remember the original Blazer will understand that reference) is now a hip urban espresso bar/café by day, and a restaurant/lounge by night. Their coffee beans are locally roasted by Matador Coffee, and their tasty syrups (lavender, pistachio, rosemary honey, and Vienna vanilla cinnamon) are house made. It’s also the only place in town with a Nutella hot chocolate or mocha (a bit plus for my daughter, who also stoked her Nutella love with a Yummy Yummy in My Tummy concoction of warm Nutella and bananas on toast).

As luck would have it, we started our tasty tour on a weekend, when the perfectly salty-sweet Bacon-Cheddar Waffles with rosemary infused syrup graced the menu. Rounding out the order were the Avocado Toast, New Mexico Burrito, a traditional lox bagel with house-cured salmon and just the right amount of cream cheese, capers, tomato and red onion. I’ll admit, I’ve been back since, for lunch, too. Not only because the food is outstanding, but also because prosciutto and mascarpone on a drive-through menu? It’s delightfully indulgent.
32 Shea, 10626 N. 32nd. St., Phoenix

Pita Time

With our food plan out to the masses, I began taking requests from more kids for food and rides in the Blazer. Our next stop was Z’s Greek, whose platters of gyro, souvlaki, falafel, moussaka, as well as Greek salads, fries, and plenty of tzatziki satiated the appetites of the masses. Surely we must’ve overwhelmed the drive-through operator with various shouted orders echoing through the car into the speaker. But, laden down with scrumptious Greek entrees, delivered in a surprisingly timely fashion given the quantity of our order, we set out for home, and arrived with food left to share with those left behind.

The Z’s Greek Crazy Fries, with melted feta, parmesan, and American cheeses, were a crowd favorite, along with the spanakopita (a great way to get pickier kids to eat spinach), and hummus plate.  Add this to your regular dining out (or driving through) rotation. They’ve even got some American favorites like burgers and Chicago-style hot dogs, but the pita combos and Greek platters offer something for everyone.
Z’s Greek, 4026 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix

Pizza Party

Of course, the old standby of takeout is pizza, usually in the form of delivery. Federal Pizza has both dine-in and drive through options, with the added plus of wine and beer to go (and enjoy at home, of course). Like 32 Shea, Federal Pizza’s building wasn’t originally a restaurant, but another business that made conversion to a drive through a natural. In this case, it’s the midcentury styled First Federal Bank Building. The drive through operates in a call-ahead format. Browse the menu online, call it in, and drive up for delivery right to your vehicle.

Pickup time at Federal Pizza

Brought to you by the folks behind Postino, Windsor, and Joyride Taco House, the menu infuses traditional Italian specialties and wood-fired pizzas with local ingredients and flavorful, creative combinations. You’ll find spaghetti and meatballs, alongside few hearty sandwiches, as well as salads and appetizers. Thumbs up for the Loaded Brussels, and Arancini. For pizza, we opted for the standard Margherita, which did not disappoint, and the Patata Bianca, topped with fingerling potatoes, ricotta, and crispy prosciutto. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of the 12 pizza combinations on the menu. You’ll never go back to the same old pizza delivery.
Federal Pizza, 5210 N. Central Ave., Phoenix

Vehicle Impressions

We spent a lot of bonding time in the Blazer, even taking a weekend road trip to Disneyland, and found it to be a more than adequate ride for the adventure. The sporty exterior styling carries through to the interior, and had plenty of room for luggage and people. The backseat fits three – mostly comfortably – but there were frequent position changes due to rear-end fatigue experienced by the occupant of the middle seat. The teens appreciated the 4G LTE mobile hot spot, wireless charging and USB ports in both the front and rear seats. Thanks to those and the eight-speaker Bose audio system, there were multiple energetic singalongs on the road.  

Our Blazer came in the RS, all-wheel-drive trim level, equipped with the larger 3.6-liter V-6 with 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque and a 4,500-lb. towing capacity. That engine was adequately powerful with impressive acceleration for passing. The standard engine is a 193-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder; both are paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. The downside of the Blazer is that it gets pricy, fast. While the base L trim starts at $29,995, our well-equipped RS with desirable safety and convenience features broke the $50k barrier, with a total vehicle price of $50,765.

Our week of urban exploring in the Chevy Blazer elevated our idea of drive-through food, and re-established the Blazer as a favorite SUV for a new generation of drivers.

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