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”

Scooptopia

As an archipelago of over 7,500 islands, the Philippines is no stranger to diversity in its plants, people, and languages. Add the impacts of migrations from other Pacific Rim nations and the influences of Spanish and American colonialism, and it’s no surprise that Filipino food has levels of variety and nuance beyond what first impressions might suggest. There are a few local restaurants where main dishes and snacks from the island nation can be found, but in Uptown Phoenix, Scooptopia fills a niche as a purveyor of Filipino frozen desserts. Continue reading “Scooptopia”

Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles

Combining fried poultry with leavened breakfast food has become a trend so widespread that chicken-and-waffles is seen on even normally cautious hotel restaurant menus. Fans debate the dish’s place of origin, most often claimed to be either Baltimore or Los Angeles, and its cultural background, whether Pennsylvania Dutch or soul food. In Phoenix, the chicken-and-waffles pairing has decidedly been influenced by the latter, and Lo-Lo’s has been the restaurant to popularize the combination, even as so many other places have added it to their menus. Continue reading “Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles”

El Portal

Anyone familiar with downtown Phoenix knows the presidential streets that run east-west within the city core. The northernmost is Roosevelt, well known for the arts district transformed into a corridor of new apartment buildings. The southernmost presidential street, however, is not as well known. It’s named for Ulysses Grant, the commander of Union forces during the Civil War and the nation’s 18th president. Just south of Downtown and the Warehouse District lies not only Grant Street, but also Grant Park, which is both a recreational facility and a neighborhood. Continue reading “El Portal”

The Duce

The word “deuce” can have so many meanings. Long before Doug Ducey became Treasurer and then Governor of Arizona, the Deuce was an old name for the south end of Phoenix’s downtown. It was often viewed as a notorious place where speakeasies coexisted with warehouses situated along the freight railroad tracks. In fact, the word “produce,” which describes much of what was stored in those warehouses, can be shortened to “duce,” suggesting that proximity to Second Street isn’t the only possible explanation for the name. Continue reading “The Duce”

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