Spoonz

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.

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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”

Barrel & Bushel

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”

Thai Basil Signature

With cursive handwriting no longer emphasized in some schools and many documents now signed digitally instead of with pen and ink, it’s easy to wonder if signatures still have the same significance they once had. Even if many people now sign their names with block letters, the concept of a signature still has some prestige. That’s why some credit cards have “signature” in their brand names. In downtown Phoenix, one facet of the Thai Basil group of restaurants incorporates “signature” into its name, resulting in Thai Basil Signature on Adams Street. Continue reading “Thai Basil Signature”

Little Rituals

Even if a hotel doesn’t have a full-fledged restaurant, it almost always has a bar, if only in the form of a small space in the lobby or a hosted “manager’s reception” on an upper floor. In the heart of downtown Phoenix, a hotel building shared by two Marriott brands, Courtyard and Residence Inn, is home to two bars. The ground level bar with draft beer and Starbucks coffee is pretty typical of this sort of property. A short elevator ride, however, reveals Little Rituals, a second space for drinking (and eating) that less obviously fits the typical hotel bar model. Continue reading “Little Rituals”

Monroe’s Hot Chicken

When summer temperatures soar in Phoenix, there are always complaints about the urban heat island effect. The closer to the center of the city one gets, the more it seems the heat lingers after dark. Wherever there are high temperatures, there is often an appreciation for spicy food, so it’s no surprise that the Nashville hot chicken trend has caught on here. Monroe’s Hot Chicken, located at just about the most urban local address imaginable, the Luhrs City Center on Jefferson Street, creates its own heat island right in the heart of downtown Phoenix. Continue reading “Monroe’s Hot Chicken”

Paradise Hawaiian BBQ

Every March, the Arizona Aloha Festival at Tempe Beach Park celebrates the little-known fact that the Phoenix Metropolitan Area is home to one of the largest populations of Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders on the United States mainland. Amid the dance performances, exhibitor booths, and outrigger canoes, there are dozens of food vendors selling plate lunches, the popular and hearty meals of Hawaii. All the plate lunch purveyors at the festival are worth trying, but one of the longest lines always belongs to the booth operated by Paradise Hawaiian BBQ. Continue reading “Paradise Hawaiian BBQ”

Chico Malo

It’s hard to believe that CityScape, the two-block mixed use development at the crossroads of downtown Phoenix, is nearly a decade old. While built with support from city government and the business community, the complex has sometimes been viewed as a “bad boy” for turning its back towards the street on key blocks. Now, a Mexican restaurant named “Chico Malo,” Spanish for bad boy, is located in one of the complex’s most visible retail locations, a block from the Washington / Central (westbound) and Jefferson / First Avenue (eastbound) light rail platforms.

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Serafina

It has been a long time since the Luhrs Building and its sibling the Luhrs Tower were the tallest buildings in Phoenix. Nonetheless, the two art deco structures remain icons of the city’s growth and development nearly a century ago.  They’ve suffered the indignity of facing the loading docks and garage entrances of CityScape’s ugly backside, but recent renovations have allowed the buildings, now known jointly as Luhrs City Center, to realize their potential with a refreshed look and new tenants, among them Serafina, a coffee house and roaster. Continue reading “Serafina”

Hanny’s

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. Continue reading “Hanny’s”

The Arrogant Butcher

Fox Restaurant Concepts may be one of the dominant players in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area’s dining scene, but its traditional strongholds have long been in places like Scottsdale and Arcadia. The Arrogant Butcher, located in the CityScape development, is Fox’s sole foray to date into Downtown Phoenix. Back in 2011, opening a restaurant in the city center seemed a big deal for Fox. Years later, the Arrogant Butcher is an established part of the downtown restaurant spectrum, even as more competition has arrived in the surrounding blocks. Continue reading “The Arrogant Butcher”

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