Snooze

Just about anyone who needs a reminder of when to wake up these days relies on a smartphone or a smart speaker for their morning reveille. It wasn’t that long ago, however, that clock radios were ubiquitous on nightstands, and one of their chief features was the snooze button, designed to be used when just a few more minutes of sleep were desired. Even with the concept of a snooze now a tap on a phone screen instead of a press of a button, the concept persists, and a Denver-based breakfast restaurant chain celebrates the idea in its name.

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Huss Brewing Downtown

Originally part of a 1970s urban renewal project known as Phoenix Civic Plaza, the city’s convention center has grown over decades to fill multiple city blocks in the downtown business district. Like most convention centers, it can be lively during major events. At slower times, it presents blank walls and locked doors to the street, diminishing the vitality of the surrounding area. Knowing what a mixed impact convention centers can have on the urban fabric, the Phoenix Convention Center has partnered with Huss Brewing to enhance its street presence.

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Metro BurgerZ

Whether it’s arbitrarily calling young people born between certain years “Generation Z” or enjoying the zombie apocalypse depicted in the “Z Nation” franchise, the letter Z seems to be gaining greater currency than its status at the end of the alphabet might suggest. A burger joint at the Collier Center in downtown Phoenix has recently jumped on board the Z bandwagon with the name “Metro BurgerZ,” a reflection of the restaurant’s urban location, its primary menu item, and, of course, a capital Z in place of a regular S to signify a plural word just for fun.

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La Olmeca

In South Phoenix, the shopping center known as South Plaza has stood for decades at Southern and Central avenues as a legacy to late 20th Century design and land use. It’s an L-shaped complex with an iconic sign visible from Central Avenue. In addition to its retail tenants, South Plaza has also been a venue for car shows that celebrate cruising culture. With that heritage, recent proposals for redevelopment have drawn controversy. One current South Plaza tenant, La Olmeca, is decidedly less contentious with its menu of Mexican food.

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Shaanxi

Think of the typical Chinese restaurant menu and a few regional cuisines immediately come to mind. Foremost is usually Cantonese food, reflecting the culinary traditions of Hong Kong and southern China with an emphasis on seafood and light sauces of garlic and ginger. Most restaurants will also have some Szechuan dishes characterized by tingly spice, and it’s not uncommon to find representation of Hunan and Mandarin (Beijing) styles. That variety only scratches the surface of China’s diverse foodways, and there are many regions left to explore.

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New Garden

Phoenix’s historic Chinatown, once centered immediately south of the downtown business district, vanished long ago. Its last vestige, a long standing restaurant known as the Sing High Chop Suey House, closed in 2018, and now the region’s biggest cluster of Chinese food is found 15 miles to the east in the Mesa Asian District. Nevertheless, New Garden, a restaurant just half a mile south of the old Chinatown keeps alive the tradition of chow mein, chop suey, and other dishes that formed the basis of classic 20th Century American-Chinese cuisine.

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Gus’s Fried Chicken

One of the biggest food trends of the past few years has been Nashville hot chicken, fried poultry with a spicy coating. Now that so many local restaurants offer that Tennessee treat, it’s worth thinking about that state’s other major city. Memphis, with just about the same population as Nashville, offers its own culture and traditions 200 miles to the west. While the cities differ in music, with Memphis being known for the blues and Nashville for country, they both share a fondness for fried chicken, and Gus’s is bringing its food to territory beyond its Memphis base.

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Trapper’s Sushi

Although sushi is strongly associated with Japan, most accounts of its origins trace the fish-and-rice combination to China or southeast Asia, where it began as a means of preserving fish by combining it with rice and vinegar. With sushi having become so popular outside of Japan in recent decades, it’s sometimes unclear if the elaborate rolls being served in American restaurants are really Japanese at all. Trapper’s Sushi in downtown Phoenix is the type of sushi place that embraces an Americanized approach without any shame and with some success.

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Com Tam Thuan Kieu

It was 45 years ago that Bert Lance, then serving as the Carter Administration’s budget director, popularized the folksy phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Since then, the slogan has settled into widespread use and is typically meant to tell people to leave well enough alone. Nevertheless, the words stop short of advising what should be done when something is already broke(n). In the Mesa Asian District, a Vietnamese restaurant known as Com Tam Thuan Kieu has answered that question by using broken grains of rice as the foundation of its distinctive menu.

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Tacos mi Ranchito

A sometimes exaggerated and romanticized version of cowboy culture is often part of the draw for tourists visiting Arizona, and many Western movies were filmed in the Grand Canyon State during the genre’s heyday. Underlying the stereotype of the American cowboy, however, there’s an earlier tradition of Mexican cattle wrangling embodied in the idea of the vaquero, a skilled horseman adept at managing a herd of cows with a lasso. Today, a South Phoenix restaurant known as Tacos mi Ranchito recalls vaquero life through its decor and its beef-oriented menu.

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Wren & Wolf

There are two trends in restaurant branding that have been apparent for at least a decade. The first is the use of an ampersand to join two words, with bonus points if there is alliteration involved. The second is the use of taxidermy as a decorative element in dining rooms. Perhaps it’s an effort to present a more attractive vision of meat than images of factory farming. Regardless of the motivations behind the trends, Wren & Wolf combines both of them to create its own identity as a recent arrival in the core of the downtown Phoenix business district.

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Rough Rider

The name Roosevelt Row has become prominent in the lexicon of Phoenicians describing the lively and quickly gentrifying neighborhood at the north end of downtown Phoenix. Chances are most people using the phrase think it’s based on Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but it’s actually named for his fifth cousin and fellow president Theodore Roosevelt. After years of ambiguity and misconceptions, there is now one office building, Ten-O-One, and its restaurant tenant, Rough Rider, that not only acknowledge, but also embrace, the image of Teddy Roosevelt.

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