The Vig Fillmore

The first lesson Phoenicians should learn about local geography is that numbered streets are on the east side of the city and that avenues are on the west side. The second lesson might be that if a street has a presidential name, it runs east-west through downtown. The Vig Fillmore, a central location for a small, locally-based group of restaurants, combine both lessons into one. Its site, the historic Cavness House, has an address on Fourth Avenue but the restaurant takes its name from the intersecting street named for antebellum one-termer Millard Fillmore. Continue reading

Southern Rail

For over a century, the Sunset Limited, the legendary passenger train that runs from Los Angeles to New Orleans, stopped in Phoenix on its way across the southern tier of the country. That particular train now passes through Maricopa, 35 miles to the south, leaving Phoenix without intercity passenger rail. Despite that unfortunate development, it’s comforting that a restaurant, appropriately named Southern Rail, brings a bit of cooking from New Orleans and the South to Uptown Phoenix, just a block from the Central / Camelback light rail station. Continue reading

Birdhaus Coffeebar

Phoenix has plenty of drive-thrus. Even though adding them has proven controversial in areas within the footprint of the ReinventPHX initiative, preservationists have sometimes fought to save existing ones. With plenty of chains offering coffee to those in cars, it’s refreshing to see a walk-up coffee house. Birdhaus Coffeebar, located on Vernon Street where Midtown meets the Willo historic district, is a business that serves coffee and waffles from a tiny building easily reached on foot, via bicycle, or by taking light rail to Encanto / Central station a half block away. Continue reading

Oven+Vine

The phrase “dead end street” doesn’t usually have a positive connotation. Literally, it means only one way in and out. Figuratively, it suggests a failed project. Maybe that’s why the fancier sounding “cul-de-sac” has become the preferred wording. In Midtown, many local streets were converted to cul-de-sacs over a decade ago in order to mitigate traffic in the adjacent Willo historic district. For Oven+Vine, a restaurant on the boundary between Willo and the Midtown commercial corridor, an address on a literal dead-end doesn’t have to lead to a figurative one. Continue reading

Carly’s Bistro

The transformation of Roosevelt Row over the past decade seems a lot like a three-act play. In the first act, small businesses and art galleries pioneered in a neglected area and adapted neglected vintage buildings. In the second act, the district received attention and recognition from city government, resulting in a streetscape project that added bike lanes and widened sidewalks to create opportunities for patio dining. Carly’s Bistro has not only survived but improved during the first two acts. Now, it’s only logical to wonder what will happen in the third act. Continue reading

Giant Coffee

There’s some debate these days about the construction of multi-story apartment buildings (more mid-rise than high-rise) in the zone around Hance Park where Downtown meets Midtown. Maybe it was prescient that a coffee house opened back in 2010 adopted the name “Giant Coffee,” foretelling the arrival of taller buildings in a neighborhood that was then full of vacant lots and neglected properties. Although Giant’s own building is only two stories tall, its location seems to be well situated to take advantage of new customers expected as a result of nearby construction. Continue reading

Tasty Kabob

Iran has been in the news a lot lately. From the agreement intended to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons to the re-election of the current president, there have been plenty of headlines about political intrigue within the Islamic theocracy that has dominated the country since 1979. A more enduring heritage is found, however, in the culture of Persia, the ancient, storied civilization that flourished long before today’s controversies. Persian food, underappreciated in the United States, flourishes at Tasty Kabob, located along the Apache Boulevard “Spice Trail” in Tempe. Continue reading