Stoop Kid

The simple stoop, a set of steps in front of a row house that can act as a place for impromptu scenes of street life, is a rarity in Phoenix. The most obvious reason is that the city has few row houses to occupy a middle ground between apartment buildings and single family homes. In the absence of that type of architecture, the concept of a stoop can still serve as a symbol for city life. At the Churchill, an outdoor food court and bar built with shipping containers in downtown Phoenix, a tenant called “Stoop Kid” is all about bagels and burgers with an urban vibe.

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Via Della

There’s a longstanding relationship between pizza and brick. Not only do many pizzerias use brick ovens, but many pizzerias feature brick walls as part of their design. Via Della, which proudly proclaims its identity as a “slice shop,” combines both elements with a modern Pavesi brick oven inside a vintage brick building. It stands in contrast to the abundance of wood-fired pizza served only by the whole pie in the heart of Phoenix. It’s one of a handful of new places downtown with an emphasis on single slices for quick meals, as well as whole pies to go.

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Tacos Calafia

In Tijuana, a calafia is a small bus, part of a transit system that is less formal than the fixed bus and rail routes in most of the United States. Just across the border from San Diego, Tijuana is sometimes stereotyped as just a place for a quick tourist trip to Mexico. In actuality, it’s the sixth largest metropolitan area in the country and a place with its own distinctive street life and culture. Tacos Calafia celebrates the food of Tijuana in its menu and the city itself in its decor. Its location on 7th Street just south of Roosevelt brings some Tijuana to downtown Phoenix.

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Daily Jam

Jam is no longer a word used just to describe a fruit spread for toast, extended musical improvisation, or congested traffic conditions. It has become a quick way of describing a person’s personal preferences, whether in music, food, or just about any aspect of life. For those whose jam is eating breakfast in downtown Tempe, Daily Jam has been around for a decade now to fulfill that need. With its morning mission, the restaurant stands in contrast to so many of its Mill Avenue neighbors with their focus on lunch, dinner, bar food, and late-night eats.

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Detroit Coney Grill

Midwestern migration to Arizona is a cliche, but like many stereotypes, it has a germ of truth at its foundation. There are many people in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area with origins in the Great Lakes states, including Michigan. As with transplants from all points of origins, many new arrivals from the Wolverine state bring their loyalties to Detroit sports franchises and a love of Michigan foods. Detroit Coney Grill, even though it makes reference to a New York landmark in its name, is designed for the displaced Michigander with both its regional food and thematic decor.

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El Nuevo Taquito

Sometimes the use of the word new will persist long after something is no longer so new. Cities like New York and New Orleans are centuries old, but still new in comparison to the European places they were named for. It’s the same in Spanish. For example, the state of Nuevo Leon in Mexico was created in the 1500s. Turning from Mexican geography to Mexican food, El Nuevo Taquito has been in business in South Phoenix since the 1980s, making it no longer nuevo at all by restaurant standards, but still a worthwhile destination for a whole lot more than just taquitos.

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IL Bosco

There’s an overused and sometimes misunderstood metaphor about not being able to see the forest for the trees. Seinfeld character Elaine Benes probably summarized the unspoken reaction of many people when she said “Yeah, I don’t know what that means.” On Fifth Street in the Evans-Churchill neighborhood just north of downtown Phoenix, there are a few trees lining the sidewalks, and now there’s IL Bosco, Italian for the forest, a new pizzeria that takes its name from both the original owner’s surname and the use of a wood-burning oven to produce its pies.

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Zookz

The food-obsessed sometimes debate the exact definition of a sandwich, and one facet of the discussion is the food’s shape. A typical sandwich is square-ish or maybe elliptical if rye bread is involved. Others can be more cylindrical if created with a baguette, and a sandwich built upon a bun can often be nearly a sphere. A round sandwich, shaped like a disc, is less common, but Zookz, a shop at Uptown Plaza, the recently renovated mid-century shopping center at Central and Camelback in Phoenix, has created its own brand identity around circular sandwiches.

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Taco Boys

How far is the average diner willing to walk for a really good taco? It depends on a lot of factors, including ability, weather, and the character of the neighborhood. Half a mile is generally considered the upper limit of walking distance around a transit station, assuming a favorable environment. At the east end of Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row, Taco Boys has been offering carne asada and other Mexican specialties good enough to justify a half-mile trek from the Roosevelt/Central light rail station.

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El Snappy

The Rio Salado, long neglected as an industrial zone separating South Phoenix from the rest of the city, has gotten a lot more love and attention in recent years. The development of the Audubon Center and a network of multi-use paths through the riverbed has motivated interest in birding, bicycling, and walking in a natural riparian setting. With any outdoor activity, there’s often a need for sustenance before or after in an environment where there’s no dress code and no pretense. El Snappy fulfills that need with its hearty and well-crafted Mexican food.

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Matt’s Big Breakfast

It’s interesting how even the most adventurous eaters tend to be conservative about breakfast. People who gladly consume foods from outside their own family traditions in the afternoon and evening often revert to familiar dishes like eggs, bacon, pancakes, and waffles in the morning. Matt’s Big Breakfast, having recently expanded from its tiny original site to multiple locations, continues to embrace the familiar but takes the classics to an uncommon level by stressing high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients and a hand-crafted approach to their preparation.

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Pa’La

It took 28 years, but in 2021, the Phoenix Suns made it to the National Basketball Association finals for the second time. When the Suns did this the first time in 1993, they had just enjoyed their first season in their then-new arena. The surrounding blocks of downtown were still pretty bleak, however. A lot has changed in nearly three decades, and the city’s core now has even more restaurants than it did before the pandemic. Among many new arrivals is Pa’La, an upgraded version of a chef-driven restaurant with an original location on 24th Street.

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