Thai Basil (ASU)

Rural Road is anything but rural these days. The segment that runs through Tempe before assuming the name Scottsdale Road north of the Salt River is not only a wide arterial street, but is also teeming with new construction. It’s decidedly suburban with the potential to become more urban if the city makes the right decisions in the years to come. Just across from Arizona State University’s Barrett Honors College, a location of Thai Basil is typical of the scattered small businesses that intermingle with chain restaurants and massive new construction projects. Continue reading “Thai Basil (ASU)”

The Farish House

It’s hard to believe that just a few decades ago, any “big city” restaurant lineup would always include at least one fancy French restaurant. Today, French food seems harder to come by in America. Maybe it’s because we’ve turned our attention to non-European cuisines that reflect our nation’s diversity, or maybe it’s a reaction to stereotypes of French restaurants as fusty and formal establishments. The reality, however, is that modern French food can be more casual and light than cliches would suggest, making it well-suited to contemporary dining trends. Continue reading “The Farish House”

Lux Central

The boundaries between coffee houses, bars, and restaurants have never been rigid. Many places that specialize in coffee and espresso offer at least a few sandwiches or breakfast items. A few serve wine and beer. Starbucks tried a few years ago to cross the border into evening alcohol and dinner service only to retreat back to its classic model after a short time. While the massive chain may have failed in its attempt to become a bar and restaurant, one local coffee house, Lux Central, has successfully mixed elements of all three identities for nearly a decade. Continue reading “Lux Central”

Federal Pizza

In September 2009, crowds gathered in Midtown to see the old Mountain Bell building, one of many designed by the late Phoenix architect Al Beadle, demolished after years of neglect. The lot cleared by the implosion is now home to new structures surrounded by copious surface parking, but many other Beadle buildings remain and are being preserved. Two miles north, a former First Federal Bank branch designed by Al Beadle serves as home to Federal Pizza, a venture by Upward Projects, the same folks behind the nearby Windsor, Postino, and Joyride Tacos. Continue reading “Federal Pizza”

Blue Fin

There’s a section of Phoenix announced on the train as a “cultural district.” Signs on the I-10 off-ramp at 7th Street point to an “arts district” in the same area. For decades, this part of town, also sometimes called the “Midtown Museum District,” has been defined by major cultural institutions such as the Burton Barr Library and the Phoenix Art Museum. The space between these attractions has largely been vacant lots. One exception is Blue Fin, a quick service Japanese restaurant located across the street from the McDowell / Central light rail station. Continue reading “Blue Fin”

Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca

In the indigenous Mexican language Nahuatl, the word “atoyac” describes a place by running water. Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca, a Mexican restaurant located on Glendale Avenue in Phoenix, isn’t particularly close to water. Even the nearest canals are about three miles away. It is, however, just across the street from another type of transport corridor, the 19th Avenue / Glendale light rail station. With or without water, this is a decidedly authentic and casual place that stands out among the numerous Mexican restaurants throughout the metropolitan area. Continue reading “Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca”

Phoenicia Cafe

The three-block distance between the Tempe Transportation Center and the campus of Arizona State University has become a zone for intensive vertical development in just the past few years. New residential towers and hotels are occupying formerly vacant lots or, if a few cases, replacing existing buildings. Amid that high-rise development, one existing structure that seems likely to persist is the Islamic Community Center on Forest Avenue. The center is not only a mosque, but also houses a market and a Middle Eastern restaurant, Phoenicia Cafe. Continue reading “Phoenicia Cafe”

Chula Seafood

One of the most frustrating cliches heard about dining in Phoenix is the claim that “You can’t get good seafood in the desert,” or its variant, “Don’t eat fish so far from the coast.” Have people making those statements not considered the impact of modern refrigeration and transportation? Is there a mistaken assumption that residents of coastal cities are pescatorial locavores, eating only species caught in local waters? The reality is that most fish is caught in one place and eaten in another with refrigerators, freezers, trucks, and planes playing crucial roles in between. Continue reading “Chula Seafood”

Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company

Cities are often stereotyped as environmental problems, full of pollution and development that negates the natural world. Properly managed, however, urban centers can actually be part of an environmental solution. By consolidating people in a more efficient manner and sparing the wilderness on the outskirts the pressure of development, cities can complement natural lands. One recent arrival in downtown Phoenix, Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company, seems to realize that its own wilderness ethos is compatible with an urban location on Roosevelt Row. Continue reading “Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company”

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