PHX Rail Food

A guide to good eating along the light rail line that connects Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa

Nook Kitchen

For one historic building in Downtown Phoenix, it has taken over a decade to arrive at happy ending. The Professional Building, formerly the headquarters of Valley National Bank and home to several floors of medical offices, languished for years in a state of disrepair without tenants or a clear future. After a false start derailed by the collapse of Mortgages Ltd., the 12-story Art Deco tower has finally been reborn as a Hilton Garden Inn hotel, and its ground-floor restaurant on the corner of Monroe and Central Avenue is known as Nook Kitchen, or just Nook for short. Continue reading “Nook Kitchen”

Cucina Cucina

According to the new owners of the Arizona Center, the Downtown Phoenix development, now just over a quarter century old, is about to experience a major transformation. Undeveloped pads will become home to new office towers, the complex’s street presence will be improved, and a combination of white and gray will be the new beige. Thankfully, the plans include no significant alterations to some of the Arizona Center’s existing strengths: its shaded gardens, its cooling water features, and the two prime restaurant spaces that overlook those amenities. Continue reading “Cucina Cucina”

Cornish Pasty Company (Mill Avenue)

When big initiatives get bogged down in corporate project queues, sometimes an organization will look for a “quick win” to maintain momentum and boost morale. It’s hard to say if such a businesslike motivation was at work, but the Cornish Pasty Company (CPC), which is in a slow expansion process, recently scored a quick win with the rapid opening of a new scaled-down location in Downtown Tempe. The new mini-CPC is located just two blocks south of the Mill Avenue / Third Street light rail station on a section of Mill with bike racks on every block. Continue reading “Cornish Pasty Company (Mill Avenue)”


As new construction blossoms in Downtown Phoenix after years of delays, one of the details debated about various projects is the role of ground floor retail. Having shops or restaurants located below residences promotes a variety of uses in the pursuit of urban vitality. At the same time, adding more space than the market can bear can lead to the blight of empty storefronts. As recently as a decade ago, however, Phoenix wasn’t having this discussion because there was so little new construction that old houses were often the only space available for new businesses. Continue reading “Cibo”


The last year has been full of change at one of Downtown Phoenix’s major hotels, the Sheraton at Third Street and Van Buren. First, the hotel was re-branded from just a plain “Sheraton” to the more upscale “Sheraton Grand.” More importantly, the hotel was sold by the City of Phoenix, which opened it in 2008 in an attempt to jump-start business at the nearby convention center, to a group of private investors. It was wise for the city to exit the lodging business, and the name change is flattering. The on-property restaurant, though, is one part of the hotel that already works just as it is. Continue reading “District”

Lola Coffee

With so much new development occurring along Roosevelt Row, it’s nice to be reminded of the value of long-standing buildings that have somehow survived decades of neglect and the demolition of their neighbors. One of those is the Gold Spot, officially known when it opened in 1925 as the Gold Spot Marketing Center. This building, originally used as a grocery and shopping center in what was then considered a far-flung suburb, now functions as space for neighborhood businesses, including something that nearly every neighborhood needs: a coffee house. Continue reading “Lola Coffee”

Mrs. White’s Golden Rule Cafe

Just east of Downtown, between Heritage Square and Eastlake Park, lies a changing area of Phoenix. Part of the Azteca Plaza shopping center has been demolished, and several new apartment buildings are under construction or recently completed. Amid these developments, there are some aspects of the neighborhood that remain much the same as they have been for decades. Two historic churches, Immaculate Heart and Tanner Chapel AME, are landmarks in the area, and in between them lies Mrs. White’s Golden Rule Cafe, a half-century-old restaurant. Continue reading “Mrs. White’s Golden Rule Cafe”

Milk Bar

Over 50 years ago, the hoodlums in Anthony Burgess’ dystopian novel “A Clockwork Orange” spent their time at a watering hole called “the Korova Milk Bar.” To understand the origin of Phoenix’s Milk Bar, a year-old bar and restaurant in the Evans-Churchill neighborhood, it’s necessary to go back further — over a century to late 19th century Poland. There, no-frills restaurants serving humble comfort foods based heavily on dairy served clientele from all walks of life in Polish cities. Under communism, they became state-subsidized cafeterias for the proletariat. Continue reading “Milk Bar”

Guacamole’s Fresh Mexican Grill

It’s hard to believe it today, but McDowell Road was once known as Phoenix’s “Miracle Mile.” The arterial street was home to the first major shopping district outside of Downtown Phoenix. Of course, many contemporary observers might actually think McDowell is within Downtown. It’s not, and it’s late to some of the revitalization that has taken place a mile to the south. Nevertheless, McDowell is seeing a bit of a resurgence with a variety of international restaurants along its length and some new apartment buildings under construction around the Phoenix Art Museum. Continue reading “Guacamole’s Fresh Mexican Grill”

Deer Garden Signatures

It’s a trend that’s been called “Chipotle-ization,” a type of restaurant service model in which customers proceed through a line telling staff along the way exactly how they’d like their meals made to their specifications. What the Chipotle chain has long done for burritos and tacos, countless new arrivals are now trying to do for pizza and even school lunches. At Mekong Plaza in west Mesa, a restaurant named Deer Garden Signatures (perhaps an awkward translation of a Chinese phrase) might be seen as a sort of Chipotle-ization of Asian noodle soups. Continue reading “Deer Garden Signatures”


Over the past few years, Arizona beer aficionados have begun to enjoy the privilege of buying beer in refillable containers known as “growlers.” Changes to state law enacted in both 2012 and 2014 have made this method of purchasing craft brews a viable option for consumers who want to enjoy better beer at better prices with less wasteful packaging. As helpful as those statutory changes have been, they do not by themselves alleviate another “growler” issue — a growling stomach that wants to be filled with food at the same time as beer. Continue reading “Flowers”

Worth Takeaway

Far too many of us have endured long business meetings only to be asked what the “takeaway,” meaning the key message or call to action, is supposed to be. If the American usage of  “takeaway” is all business, the British application of the same word is more fun. “Takeaway” there means something similar to what we’d call “takeout” in the United States. Using British terms in American English has become a trend lately, and a new sandwich shop in Downtown Mesa, Worth Takeaway, employs “takeaway” to describe its food, not slideshows from staff meetings. Continue reading “Worth Takeaway”

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