Ramen Kagawa

The movie “Blade Runner,” set in a fictional version of 2019, shows a bleak future. With 2020 being defined by a global pandemic, record heat, and social unrest, the actual present doesn’t always seem much better than the world envisioned in the movie. One memorable scene involves a stop for a meal at a crowded noodle shop in a busy alley. The experience of a quick stop for nourishment in a bustling environment is hard to find with so many downtown workers at home for now, but Ramen Kagawa has bravely opened in the middle of all the malaise.

Continue reading “Ramen Kagawa”

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”

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)”

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”

Taco Boy’s

How far is the average diner willing to walk for a really good taco? It depends on a lot of factors, including ability, weather, and the character of the neighborhood. Half a mile is generally considered the upper limit of walking distance around a transit station, assuming a favorable environment. At the east end of Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row, Taco Boy’s (Yes, the unnecessary apostrophe is part of the restaurant’s name.) is offering carne asada and other Mexican specialties good enough to justify a half-mile trek from the Roosevelt / Central light rail station. Continue reading “Taco Boy’s”

Barrel & Bushel (temporarily closed)

There comes a time in every hotel’s life when it’s time for renovations. In downtown Phoenix, the Hyatt Regency has been a mainstay of the city’s convention business since its opening in the 1970s. Its construction was part of a wave of urban renewal also responsible for Symphony Hall and the original convention center buildings. With the convention center much larger now and designs from over four decades ago looking dated, the Hyatt’s latest round of improvements are welcome, and the hotel’s ground-floor restaurant and bar has been one of the visible priorities. Continue reading “Barrel & Bushel (temporarily closed)”

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑