Shine Coffee

Every Friday at 7 AM, Phoenicians who commute to work via bicycle, sometimes in combination with bus or light rail, gather for a group ride that aggregates their individual travel into a collective statement. Originally, the commuters started their ride at Park Central Mall, but when it came time to find a local business to support, the logical choice was Shine Coffee. Shine is one of a new generation of eateries that have migrated from a mobile operation to a fixed location, in this case a Midtown site just half a block west of the Encanto / Central light rail station.

banana walnut muffin

banana walnut muffin

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The Hero Factory

Transplanted New Yorkers often complain about certain foods that never taste the way they did in the Big Apple. The list starts with pizza and bagels and usually extends to Chinese food. After those obvious picks, the next object of absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder longing for the five boroughs is usually the deli sandwich. It’s not about any old sandwich, though. Instead, the nostalgia is usually focused specifically on the “hero,” the New York term for the oblong sandwich that might be known elsewhere as a sub, a hoagie, or a grinder.

Downtown Delight

Downtown Delight

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China Chili

Third Street may be the Rodney Dangerfield of Central Phoenix. For many drivers, it’s just a less congested alternative to Central Avenue or Seventh Street. Although it passes by elegant historic districts such as Alvarado and Ashland Place, the street itself gets almost “no respect” because relatively few businesses or institutions lie along its length. One exception is China Chili, which despite an official mailing address on Flower Street, faces Third Street. The restaurant’s Midtown location is about a third of a mile east of the Osborn / Central light rail station.

sizzling rice soup

sizzling rice soup

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Yasda Bento

Sometimes a restaurant is named for something not even on the menu. At Yasda Bento in Downtown Phoenix, there are no lunches served in the traditional Japanese container known as a “bento.” Instead, the quick-service restaurant is all about Asian-inspired meals served mostly in bowls. The “bento” wording is more a nod to the Japanese influence on the menu than the actual vessel used to serve the food. Authenticity of word use aside, Yasda offers a number of items that could go into a bento box and has earned a steady midday clientele over the past decade.

curry bowl

curry bowl

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Chloe’s Corner

Late last decade, the name “Chloe” came out of obscurity and, according to the Social Security Administration, briefly entered the top ten list for girls born in the United States. Around the same time, Chloe’s Corner, a casual place for breakfast and lunch, was launched by Fox Restaurant Concepts at Kierland Commons and then sold to an employee. Shortly after, the restaurant expanded to a second location in Downtown Phoenix’s CityScape development, a block from the First Avenue / Jefferson (eastbound) and Washington / Central (westbound) light rail stations.

pancakes with berries

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Republica Empanada

There a lot of things that even many locals don’t know about Mesa. One is that the city is home not only to a large population of Mexican heritage, but also to a significant presence of people with origins elsewhere in Latin America. That’s why Mesa has been home over the years to restaurants serving underappreciated cuisines such as Peruvian and Guatemalan. The newest addition is Republica Empanada, which serves the stuffed specialities of Central America, specifically Costa Rica, along with a few dishes originating in the interior of Mexico.

lunch special

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Pita Jungle

Remember 1994, the era of 14,400 kbps modems used to find out if “you’ve got mail”? It was 20 years ago that the first Pita Jungle opened in a little L-shaped strip mall in Tempe. Two decades later, the restaurant has become a regional chain with over a dozen locations in Arizona and a few more in California. The original location, across the street from the Apache / Dorsey light rail station in Tempe, remains and has even expanded over the years. A newer location is just a few blocks from the Roosevelt / Central light rail station at the north end of Downtown Phoenix.

curried chicken salad

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