Originally part of a 1970s urban renewal project known as Phoenix Civic Plaza, the city’s convention center has grown over decades to fill multiple city blocks in the downtown business district. Like most convention centers, it can be lively during major events. At slower times, it presents blank walls and locked doors to the street, diminishing the vitality of the surrounding area. Knowing what a mixed impact convention centers can have on the urban fabric, the Phoenix Convention Center has partnered with Huss Brewing to enhance its street presence.
Huss’ new operation at the convention center is embedded in the north building, the most recent addition to the complex, and faces Monroe Street between Second and Third streets. The Herberger Theater is right across the street, and the pairs of light rail stations at both Third Street and Van Buren are about three blocks away. The nearest bike racks are on the north side of Monroe outside the Herberger or around the corner on Second Street. Huss’ space is split, with half of its square footage on each side of the Monroe Street convention center entrance.
Facing the building, the half on the left is the restaurant’s kitchen and a pickup area for to-go orders. On the right is the dining area which incorporates some interior space and extensive outdoor seating. Huss has added natural wood to the somewhat austere aesthetics of the convention center. The centrally located bar has prominent signs on the walls naming Huss’ signature beers, as well as those made by Papago Brewing, a separate brand that Huss Brewing acquired several years ago. Additional brews and food are listed on printed menus.
The menu at the convention center overlaps partially but by no means 100% with Huss’s existing taproom at Uptown Plaza four miles to the north. In terms of both beer selection and food offerings, Huss has created something slightly different for Downtown, perhaps geared a little more towards lunches between convention meetings or pre-event dinners than the leisurely courtyard feel of Huss Uptown. That means a little more emphasis on individual entrees that can be prepared in volume and slightly less focus on the shareable dishes popular uptown.
Of course, the first question a visitor is likely to be asked is not about food, but instead about beer. The Huss and Papago product lines include established crowd-pleasers such as Scottsdale Blonde and Orange Blossom, both found at tap handles around town, as well as in cans for retail sale. These are all certain to be available at most times; however, it can be more interesting to explore special releases like a CenPho IPA made with local citrus or a Super Sonic sour, which has some fruitiness but comes across more as a hazy IPA than a gose.
When it comes to the food to accompany those brews, as well as Huss’ limited selection of wine and cocktails, the appetizers found Downtown are probably where there’s greatest congruence with the menu Uptown. That means familiar beer hall favorites like a big, chewy Bavarian pretzel with mustard and the option to add beer cheese or nachos covered with black beans, cotija cheese, and potential protein upgrades of grilled chicken or green chile pork. One new touch at this location is a fryer, turning out crispy shrimp and curly “Sidewinder” fries with toppings.
Those fries serve as half the foundation of one Huss Downtown’s signature dishes, fish and chips, made with walleye rather than cod breaded in a cornmeal crust and accompanied by a thick tartar sauce, finely minced coleslaw, and a roasted lemon. The same fish can be served in a roll as a sandwich. Likewise, crispy shrimp fill the bread in a shrimp po’boy with crisp prawns, tomatoes, iceberg, and remoulade. A cheeseburger, available in one or two-patty versions, is a solid take on a pub classic with toppings of American cheese, tomato, lettuce, and red onion.
Another dish expected on a beer-centric menu is some sort of sausage. Huss serves a beer brat with a satisfying blend of spicy mustard, sauteed onions, and sauerkraut on top. Boards meant to be shared by two or more people include a choice of the same bratwurst, cheddar brats, Portuguese linguica, and even a vegan sausage made of plant-derived ingredients. The boards extend beyond sausage to include Greek grilled chicken and sauteed halloumi cheese as additional choices of primary proteins paired with lavosh, hummus, tzatziki, and vegetables.
Both the chicken and the cheese are also available in wraps fashioned from sheets of lavosh, reflecting a Mediterranean influence that is just as strong here as traditional pub grub and Southwestern regional flavors. For those who want vegetables as more than just an accessory, salads like the Goddess and the Southwestern Chopped incorporate beds of greenery topped with slices of fresh produce such as watermelon radishes, avocado, and cucumbers. These bowls can all be augmented with a choice of grilled chicken or crispy shrimp as desired.
There is no dessert here, but some beers like Papago Coconut Joe or a special release of barrel-aged bourbon imperial stout have an after-dinner quality. Although the full menu is available on most days, the restaurant streamlines its offerings during major events like Phoenix Fan Fusion or the volleyball tournaments held annually in the convention center. At its newest location, Huss does not duplicate its approach at other sites; instead, it differentiates itself from typical convention center food and beverage operations while adding a little life to streetscape.
225 E. Monroe St., Phoenix AZ 85004