Myke’s Pizza

As restaurants struggle to remain in operation while complying with public health directives, many have found themselves expanding into the sidewalk and even the street with enlarged outdoor dining areas. Downtown Mesa has embraced this trend, allowing places to use more exterior space than ever before, one adaptation to the virus that might be worth making permanent. As so many restaurants move outside, there’s one, Myke’s Pizza, that was actually born outdoors on Main Street before migrating to a home inside another business, Cider Corps.

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Four Peaks Brewing Company

It has been about five years since the surprise announcement that local favorite Four Peaks, one of the craft beer pioneers in Arizona, was being acquired by the multinational giant Anheuser-Busch InBev. That news, one of many acquisitions of regional breweries, led to concern about the transaction’s impact on other craft beer producers and inevitable accusations of “selling out.” While the financial arrangements may be different behind the scenes, it’s reassuring that little has changed, and some aspects have even improved, for the consumer.

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Pho Leo

Anyone searching for Vietnamese food, or really any east Asian cuisine, in Mesa is likely to head to Dobson Road, the corridor where countless restaurants have proliferated over the past decade. The Asian Business District at the west end of Mesa is worth exploring and celebrating for sure, but it’s equally important to recognize restaurants serving Vietnamese food in the central and eastern portions of the city. Pho Leo is one of those few places that break the mold with a location where the tracks in the center of Main Street end and east Mesa begins.

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Tea Avenue

Tea is a beverage that has been enjoyed in one form or another for thousands of years. Ever since the first leaves were mixed with boiling water in ancient China, tea has become popular around the world, not only in neighboring lands, but also in the European nations that colonized much of Asia. With millennia of tradition behind the drink, it might be tempting to view tea as beholden to immutable tradition. Tea’s heritage is important, but the beverage continues to evolve with new flavors, techniques, and blends served at modern shops like Mesa’s Tea Avenue. Continue reading “Tea Avenue”

Azukar Coffee

There are many changes in a neighborhood that can be seen as a sign of gentrification. The arrival of coffee houses is sometimes among them. The worst case scenario is that patrons of a specialty espresso shop will displace long standing residents of the surrounding area. The better outcome is a coffee house that reflects its neighborhood’s culture and heritage, promoting community among existing populations while welcoming new customers. As South Phoenix anticipates the changes to come with light rail, Azukar Coffee clearly fits in the second category. Continue reading “Azukar Coffee”

Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House

Even before the 2020 pandemic started to make crowded kitchens a source of concern, the restaurant industry, especially the fast food aspect of it, was embracing robotics and automation. At the same time, some places have gone in the opposite direction by stressing a hand-crafted aspect of their food, even in ways that are somewhat silly (e.g. “hand-dipped” ice cream). At Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House, the hand-crafted origin of its signature product is authentically and meaningfully reflected in the restaurant’s name and menu. Continue reading “Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House”

Curry Corner

With its streets forming a regular grid of arterials placed one mile apart and intersecting at right angles, it’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between corners in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. There are subtle irregularities in the addressing system, but it takes something locally rare, streets intersecting at something other than 90 degrees, to stand out. In Tempe, the irregular intersection of Terrace and Apache is distinguished not only by the obtuse angle joining the streets, but also Curry Corner, a restaurant that incorporates its location into its name. Continue reading “Curry Corner”

Kaizen

Call them “ghost”, “virtual,” or “cloud” kitchens. Regardless of the name, the idea of restaurants with their own menus and brands but no on-site dining was already taking off in 2019. The pandemic of 2020 has only accelerated the trend, sometimes without much transparency. A single kitchen may prepare several types of food under myriad brands with availability limited to third-party delivery services with steep fees. Kaizen, named for the Japanese idea of quality improvement, lives up to its name with a better version of a virtual restaurant focused on sushi. Continue reading “Kaizen”

Thai Basil (Park Central)

Recent headlines have lamented the closure of MetroCenter, once the largest mall in the Southwest. Long before MetroCenter’s rise and eventual fall, Phoenix saw the development of its first mall: Park Central. In the heart of the area now known as Midtown, Park Central’s development in the 1950s was the first step in retail’s departure from the traditional downtown business district three miles south. Of course, Park Central, like most malls, has faded as a shopping destination, but it is now finally re-emerging as an office and health care cluster. Continue reading “Thai Basil (Park Central)”

Worth Takeaway

If there were a restaurant well-suited to trying times of pandemic and protest, it might be a place that emphasizes comforting foods familiar to many but still allowing for a little exploration. It might also be a place that plates and packages everything it serves in a way that works equally well for on-site dining or takeout. In downtown Mesa, Worth Takeaway reflects that theme not only in its approach, but even its name. Since its start five years ago, the restaurant has expanded its hours, menu, and space while staying true to the idea of food worth taking away. Continue reading “Worth Takeaway”

Maskadores Taco Shop

In the spring of 2020, masks have migrated from a Halloween novelty to an everyday accessory. Public health guidance has shifted to a recommendation that most people cover their mouths and noses in crowded public spaces, but that has not ended the debate. People have been told to leave places for wearing masks and for not wearing them, and masks have come to be seen as yet another aspect of a partisan divide. At Maskadores Taco Shop on 19th Avenue, masks of another type are far less controversial, having always been a part of the theme and decor. Continue reading “Maskadores Taco Shop”

Fry Bread House

For many Phoenicians, fry bread is an indulgence enjoyed a few times a year at an event like the Arizona State Fair or the Heard Museum’s annual hoop dance championship. For the region’s indigenous peoples, the food has a more prominent  and complicated place in their heritage as an adaptation originally created from surplus commodities provided to tribes, often after forced relocation. For those who crave fry bread at any time, it can be found throughout the year at the Fry Bread House in central Phoenix. Continue reading “Fry Bread House”

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