Look around any corporate office these days, and the sea of khakis and polos will attest to the move toward business casual attire. That trend, coupled with the rise of chain retailing, has led to the decline of a venerable institution that once existed in almost every major city: the independent menswear shop. This type of store was not only a supplier of the unspoken corporate uniform, but also a multi-generational tradition. The father-son trip to buy a first suit was a rite of passage. Similar traditions emerged for women as they entered the workplace.
In Phoenix, locally-based Hanny’s closed its final location at Scottsdale Fashion Square in 1994. The void at that mall was easily filled by a new tenant, but Hanny’s older Downtown store, closed since 1986, languished for much longer at the prime corner of First Street and Adams, just a block or two from the Washington / Central (westbound) and Jefferson /1st Avenue (eastbound) light rail stations. It took another trend, adaptive reuse, to bring the Downtown Hanny’s site back to life in 2008 as a bar and restaurant in the heart of the city.
Adaptive reuse isn’t cheap, and it’s obvious that Hanny’s is the product of a big investment in renovating the old store. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Hanny’s was revived by Karl Kopp, also known for Scottsdale’s AZ88, and that the design is a product of Janis Leonard, who also designed AZ88. Hanny’s today is upscale but minimalist; from some angles, the bare bones look might make customers wonder if the place is even open. The restaurant has a minimal street presence despite improvements such as new parking meters that double as bike racks.
The look is clean and almost clinical with staff wearing white jackets and a meat slicer adorning the bar in the center of the room. Upstairs, the restrooms await down a mirrored hallway. Only one elevator is in use; the other shaft is empty with thick glass barriers providing an interesting opportunity to stand unharmed over a gaping hole leading to the basement. Provocative art such as a last supper of dolls or a futuristic figure behind glass can serve as conversation starters during the quieter daytime hours, and DJs sometimes fill the space with music later in the evening.
The meat slicer at the bar says a lot about the menu at Hanny’s. Prosciutto and parmesan cheese both play key roles here. What do those ingredients, along with similar items like pistachios and olives, have in common? They’re salty, savory treats that stimulate thirst and pair well with vodka, gin, vermouth, and other traditional cocktail components. Remember, Hanny’s is as much a bar as a restaurant, but it’s not a place for a pint or a longneck. While there is a limited selection of bottled beer, the primary emphasis is on wine and classic cocktails.
Some customers may complain about the small size of those cocktails, but at $7 for a classic martini, the prices are equally small. The food choices are heavy on red meat — not only prosciutto, but plenty of sausage, steak, and pork. A sausage-and-pepper sandwich is filled with a generous patty, allowing it to function almost as a spicy hamburger. At the other end of the spectrum, there are plenty of meatless options, including a hearty portobello mushroom sandwich, grilled cheese with a side to tomato sauce for dipping, and entree-sized salads.
The pizzas are built on a thin, crisp, elliptical crust. It’s a pizza style that works well for a casual nosh with a cocktail. The pizzas are best shared among two or three people in combination with any of the salads or a shared appetizer like asparagus wrapped in prosciutto or the bar plate, a combination of cured meats, cheeses, nuts, and olives. Most of the pizzas incorporate San Marzano tomato sauce with a house cheese blend. Among the white pizzas, the Bianco adds goat cheese to the dairy and then additional flavor from fresh basil and cherry tomatoes.
What’s missing from the menu? Poultry and fish. There’s none of either. Shrimp, however, is featured in one appetizer with prosciutto and available as an added topping on any of the generous salads. The Hanny’s market salad is a deconstructed platter of ingredients such as artichoke hearts, avocado slices, and cherry tomatoes. The beet salad is colorful with slices of both red and gold varieties places atop a bed of arugula, seemingly the favorite green at Hanny’s. Vegetables also figure in appetizers such as the Cauliflower Calabrese topped with fried onions.
For dessert, Hanny’s take a break from salty bar foods for some unabashedly sweet notes. The zeppolle are much like donut holes, a plate full of bite-sized specimens with a choice of chocolate or strawberry dipping sauce. The key lime tart has a graham cracker crust, green-yellow filling, and artistic swirls of whipped cream. Cannoli and tiramisu add some additional Italian-American options; the chocolate mousse is a simple, straightforward interpretation of a classic; and the strawberry long cake is a frozen indulgence.
Because of Hanny’s location near key sports and entertainment venues, the restaurant is a good choice for a pre-event meal. Happily, the late hours (kitchen cooking until 1 AM and bartenders pouring until 1:30 AM each night) also make it a viable gathering spot after a show or a game — something that Downtown Phoenix has needed for eons. The clientele at Hanny’s may no longer be assumed to wear sharp suits for either work or play, but the debonair aura of Hanny’s is a fitting legacy for a spot that used to clothe the businesspeople of Phoenix.
40 N. 1st St., Phoenix AZ 85004