For many years, the downtown Phoenix menu seemed to be weekday lunches with a side of breakfast. So many establishments catered to employees of nearby office towers but saw little reason to stay open nights and weekends. Of course, that has all changed with new apartments and entertainment options in the city, and many of those lunch-only establishments have closed. The pandemic has added another challenge with so many people working from home, so it’s fascinating to see Spoonz, a sandwich and salad shop still operating on the office lunch model.

Cabana panini with chips

Even as Spoonz has retained its focus on serving the daytime needs of the downtown business district, it has streamlined its operations during the pandemic. While the original location has remained open for takeout, a second store a few blocks away in the Collier Center remains temporarily closed, and a smaller shop inside the Children’s Museum of Phoenix is also shuttered. For now, all food is ordered and picked up at the site on the ground floor of the US Bank tower. The entrance faces Adams Street despite a First Avenue street address.

portabello panini

The location currently operating is just a block or two from the Central/Washington westbound and First Avenue / Jefferson eastbound light rail stations, as well as the twin platforms at Van Buren. Bike racks are found along both First Avenue and Adams Street. The shop is small and with limited space being a potential safety issue, no on-site dining is currently permitted. Instead, customers order at the counter, wait a few minutes while food is prepared, and then leave with takeout. The plaza on the other side of Adams offers a venue for outdoor eating.

Sicilian salad

Since takeaway, delivery, and catering has always been a focus at Spoonz, most of the food is designed to travel well in formats such as big bowls of salad, sandwiches and panini, and a soup of the day. Nine signature salads are offered with geographically based names and themes. The Sicilian begins with a base of romaine and then incorporates toppings such as kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, and cubes of mozzarella. The Santa Fe relies on mesclun with corn, black beans, and shredded cheddar adding a Southwestern feel.

Scottsdale panini with sweet potato fries

All of the salads can be augmented with grilled chicken, and there’s also an option for customers to specify their own unique salads, selecting from a menu of greens, toppings, proteins, and dressings. The same approach extends to sandwiches. Again there are nine signature choices, a mix of panini and wraps, as well as an option to design an original sandwich with a choice of bread, meat, cheese, vegetables, and condiments. A half customized sandwich is also part of a combo with a daily soup like broccoli cheddar or Italian wedding.

Italian wedding soup

The panini at Spoonz incorporate different breads designed to complement the ingredients pressed between the slices. The Cabana panini combines turkey with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, and mozzarella within a ciabatta roll, creating a semi-Mediterranean theme. The Scottsdale sandwich relies on grilled chicken, bacon, swiss, avocado, and Dijon mustard served on airy focaccia. A meatless choice, the portobello panini, bursts with umami due to the interplay of mushrooms with caramelized onions, provolone, pesto, and baguette.

Santa Fe salad

Sides dishes include house-made potato chips and sweet potato fries. The former travel well; the latter is an option best enjoyed nearby. A quiche of the day and light breakfast options add a few other possibilities to the menu. For dessert, there’s a case of pastry made on the premises. For hearty appetites or small groups eating lunch together, the carrot cake, cupcakes, and brownies are both worthwhile indulgences. Most lunches, however, come with a lagniappe of a small cookie, brownie bite, to offer just a touch of sweetness after a sandwich or salad. 

carrot cake

Given the daytime emphasis here, there’s no liquor license, but the cafe offers sodas, fresh-squeezed orange juice, lemonade, ice tea and a full range of espresso beverages. Since the beginning on the pandemic, many downtown restaurants have adopted dinner-only hours focused on nearby residents rather than vastly reduced daytime populations. Spoonz has gone in the opposite direction. That approach may make the shop an exception, but it’s a successful anomaly, feeding office workers who have returned to the city center or who never left it at all.

101 N. 1st Ave., Phoenix AZ 85003