Windsor

The intersection of Central Avenue and Camelback Road is an unusual crossroads. The immediate area is undermined by a big vacant lot on the southwest corner and the congestion-causing Dutch Bros. drive-thru on the northwest. Across the street, it’s a little better an an office building is converted to residential and new merchants fill the few remaining spaces at the recently renovated Uptown Plaza. Still, some of Uptown’s most attractive elements are found not right where Central and Camelback meet, but instead a few blocks in each direction. Continue reading “Windsor”

Paradise Hawaiian BBQ

Every March, the Arizona Aloha Festival at Tempe Beach Park celebrates the little-known fact that the Phoenix Metropolitan Area is home to one of the largest populations of Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders on the United States mainland. Amid the dance performances, exhibitor booths, and outrigger canoes, there are dozens of food vendors selling plate lunches, the popular and hearty meals of Hawaii. All the plate lunch purveyors at the festival are worth trying, but one of the longest lines always belongs to the booth operated by Paradise Hawaiian BBQ. Continue reading “Paradise Hawaiian BBQ”

Chico Malo

It’s hard to believe that CityScape, the two-block mixed use development at the crossroads of downtown Phoenix, is nearly a decade old. While built with support from city government and the business community, the complex has sometimes been viewed as a “bad boy” for turning its back towards the street on key blocks. Now, a Mexican restaurant named “Chico Malo,” Spanish for bad boy, is located in one of the complex’s most visible retail locations, a block from the Washington / Central (westbound) and Jefferson / First Avenue (eastbound) light rail platforms. Continue reading “Chico Malo”

Hue Gourmet

There’s one sure way to tell when any nation’s cuisine has become mainstream in the United States: It occurs the moment the cognoscenti start differentiating between the cuisines of the country’s various regions. With Italian food, those distinctions have existed for decades. Popular “red sauce” Italian has its roots in immigrant traditions from Sicily and southern Italy, while northern Italian fans might celebrate risotto and osso bucco. The same has happened more recently with Chinese restaurants branching out beyond familiar Cantonese classics. Continue reading “Hue Gourmet”

Med Fresh Grill

Tempe’s Mill Avenue sometimes seems awash in sandwich shops and taco joints, some of them more bars than restaurants. It’s worth remembering that Downtown Tempe’s most walkable corridor is also home to lesser known restaurants that carve out their own niches based on the uniqueness of their food. Med Fresh Grill not only has the distinction of being one of the more stable restaurants in the ever-changing Mill Avenue landscape, but also stands out as one of the few local places to serve the cuisine of Turkey, often under-appreciated in the United States. Continue reading “Med Fresh Grill”

In Perfetto

Just about everyone has heard the saying “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” When it comes to new apartment construction, that wisdom is debated as the need for housing and density is weighed against the benefits of fine-grained development. Muse, the apartment building at the northwest corner of Central and McDowell may not be perfect, but it has a major strength: a record of attracting local, independent businesses to its retail space. One of those establishments is appropriately named “In Perfetto,” incorporating the Italian word for “perfect.” Continue reading “In Perfetto”

Rott n’ Grapes RoRo

What happens to wine bars when they grow up? A wine bar is often thought to be small, intimate, and subdued with a primary emphasis on the grape and a small food menu meant to match, but not overpower, the beverage selection. That description applies to the original Uptown location of Phoenix wine bar Rott n’ Grapes, but when it came time for this wine bar to grow up, the decision was not to expand or transform the original location, but instead to open a second site, more a restaurant than a wine bar, at the north end of Downtown. Continue reading “Rott n’ Grapes RoRo”

Wholly Grill

Ask most people in the United States what constitutes Asian food, and they’ll likely begin with the cuisines of China and Japan. More recently, diners have been eager to embrace Thai, Vietnamese, and Korean food, but the cooking of the nearby Philippines has yet to gain much traction beyond those who grew up with it. Maybe it’s the prevalence of tart flavors or the generous use of vinegar in many dishes, but Filipino food remains under-appreciated in much of the United States, despite the half century the Philippines was under American rule. Continue reading “Wholly Grill”

Paz Cantina

Listening to the most pessimistic voices, it would be easy to believe that the long overdue surge in new housing development along the light rail corridor is leading to widespread displacement of small businesses. In actuality, while some independent businesses have closed or moved away, many have found new and often better homes in ground floor retail spaces incorporated into new apartment buildings. That was the story for both Jobot and Forno 301, and now it’s the outcome for Paz Cantina, a Mexican restaurant in the heart of Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row. Continue reading “Paz Cantina”

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