Royal Coffee Bar

 

There’s long been a connection between coffee and architecture. Architects are stereotyped as drinking a lot of the brew, some of the best coffee houses are found in interesting spaces. Royal Coffee Bar benefits from being founded by an architect, and a sense of good design pervades the shop’s locations, including its sites at Heritage Square in Downtown Phoenix and on College Avenue in Downtown Tempe. Both locations serve Royal’s own coffee, roasted in house at Heritage Square, along with teas and a daily selection of pastries from local purveyors. Continue reading “Royal Coffee Bar”

Willie’s Taco Joint

During the contentious 2016 presidential campaign, one of the more memorable phrases was the warning that immigration from Mexico might result in “taco trucks on every corner.” Of course, not everyone thought that would necessarily be a bad outcome. In Downtown Phoenix, we’re a long way from ubiquitous taco trucks, but one taco “joint,” specifically Willie’s Taco Joint, is thriving at the corner of Third Street and Jefferson — not in a truck but instead in a retail space on the ground level of a parking garage situated just behind the eastbound light rail platform.

Continue reading “Willie’s Taco Joint”

The Whining Pig

In the past few years, it seems that Phoenix, like cities around the country, has been in the midst of a cocktail craze. The result has been a renaissance of classic drinks artfully prepared and creative cocktails that find new ways to blend ingredients in previously untried combinations. With so much emphasis on mixed drinks, as enjoyable as they are, it’s easy to wonder where to go to enjoy the simple pleasures of beer and wine. At the Whining Pig, a bar recently opened at the Collier Center, the emphasis is wholly on wine and beer, with a little food on the side. Continue reading “The Whining Pig”

Breakfast Club

Nearly everyone has seen the Breakfast Club, the classic John Hughes movie, but who remembers Breakfast Club the band? Besides Madonna’s brief tenure as the group’s drummer, that Breakfast Club is best known for its one hit, “Right on Track.” Three decades later, there’s a restaurant called Breakfast Club (no “the”) at CityScape and, just like the 1987 hit song, it’s right on track — light rail track, that is. This particular Breakfast Club is just two blocks from the Central / Washington (westbound) and First Avenue / Jefferson (eastbound) light stations. Continue reading “Breakfast Club”

La Piazza PHX (temporarily closed)

For the last few years, it seemed like light rail was inching closer to Glendale. Those hopes were dashed, at least for the time being, by a recent vote of the Glendale City Council. While the city’s financial struggles and unresolved issues of the track’s final destination may be keeping trains out of Glendale, it’s thankfully still possible to enjoy one of Downtown Glendale’s best restaurants in Downtown Phoenix. La Piazza PHX, an offshoot of Glendale’s La Piazza al Forno, is located just a block or two from multiple light rail stations in the city center. Continue reading “La Piazza PHX (temporarily closed)”

Canyon Cafe

Anyone visiting the Arizona Center recently may have noticed some renovations going on at the development. Some of the changes are significant changes to the complex’s look, even if they fail to completely remediate the center’s major shortcoming: its inward focus and lack of street presence. Still, new owners are investing in the property and trying to give it a viable future with a fresh look and promises to add a hotel and housing. Amid all this change, one of the few survivors of the original tenant mix, Canyon Cafe, endures in one of the Arizona Center’s prime spots. Continue reading “Canyon Cafe”

Pizzeria Bianco and Bar Bianco

It’s amazing how sometimes the most out-of-date, inaccurate information is what endures in popular opinion. Visit some online food and travel discussion sites, and you’ll see persistent hand-wringing about how to avoid three-hour waits for a table at Pizzeria Bianco. The problem is that even if Bianco is worth a wait of several hours, it has been several years since that kind of endurance test has been part of a meal there. The Pizzeria Bianco of today is a more accessible and less intimidating place than it was just a few years ago, without any loss of food quality. Continue reading “Pizzeria Bianco and Bar Bianco”

Mancuso’s

The Collier Center might be considered the middle child of big mixed use projects in Downtown Phoenix. It came along just over a decade after the Arizona Center, and about the same length of time before CityScape. As with human middle children, the development is sometimes overlooked and its best attributes hidden. The Collier Center’s prime restaurant space is located off the street on the second floor. If that architectural decision seems a mistake, it’s encouraging the obscure location is now occupied by Mancuso’s, a restaurant with prior experience at another hidden site. Continue reading “Mancuso’s”

The Kettle Black

The idiom of “the pot calling the kettle black” has been around for centuries and always implied hypocrisy — someone criticizing another’s person’s flaws while ignoring the same failings within oneself. The more literal meaning of the phrase, however, has to do with the accumulation of soot on the surfaces of both vessels. When it comes to pubs, customers usually expect soot in a figurative sense, a sort of patina, but not a literal one. A good pub feels well worn and unpretentious, but is not the same sort of place as a dive bar or a greasy spoon diner. Continue reading “The Kettle Black”

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