Blanco Cocina + Cantina

When downtown Phoenix has seen developments with ambitious names like “CityScape” and “The Arizona Center,” it’s hard to get excited about something with the more modest moniker of “Block 23.” All it takes is a little awareness of local history, though, to understand the importance of the redevelopment of this site, named for the numbered system of parcels used when the city was first developed. Block 23 has been home to city hall, a fire station, the Fox Theater, and a JCPenney store before sitting vacant, underutilized as surface parking, for several decades.

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Cartel Coffee Lab

Observers of coffee culture often speak in terms of waves. The current wave, one that has been crashing over our cities since the ‘90s, is the third one, although there has been talk of an emerging fourth wave. Regardless of what trends dominate worldwide, one local coffee house has been making its own waves for over a decade via steady expansion throughout Arizona and even a few points beyond. Now with ten locations, Tempe-based Cartel Coffee Lab has grown a great deal since its founding in 2007, both in terms of its beverage and food to accompany it.

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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”

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)”

Crown Public House

In the corporate world, mergers are often greeted with skepticism. While shareholders may see increased value, employees fear layoffs and customers may experience market concentration. While it’s common for airlines, banks, and consumer product companies to merge, it’s far more rare to hear about a union of two restaurants. In downtown Phoenix, the marriage of an English pub known as a gathering place for Liverpool soccer fans and an all-American sports bar frequented by Diamondbacks and Suns supporters has resulted in the Crown Public House.

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Dapper & Stout

With over 100 days with high temperatures over 100 degrees, Phoenix is not the most obvious place for a coffee house with only outdoor seating — unless of course, the establishment is based primarily on a grab-and-go business model. That’s the case with Dapper & Stout, a coffee “house” that is really a counter and patio at the Collier Center in downtown Phoenix. If that setup sounds Spartan, it’s actually somewhat stylish. A long metal table in the shade of the office tower overhead hides just behind the escalators on the development’s northeastern corner. Continue reading “Dapper & Stout”

The Strand

As a mixed-use project occupying two full city blocks, CityScape might be thought of as having many different strands that are woven together in an attempt to offer a little something for everyone. There’s Mexican food, sushi, chain sandwich shops, a contemporary American restaurant, and, not surprisingly, an Italian restaurant. Appropriately enough, it’s called “The Strand,” and it’s marketed as “Urban Italian.” That doesn’t mean the food of Rome or Milan per se, but instead familiar “red sauce” Italian-American food offered in a downtown Phoenix setting. Continue reading “The Strand”

The Larry

Phoenix’s Warehouse District, located just south of downtown, has become something of a mini tech hub in recent years. With companies like WebPT occupying the vintage buildings found south of both the light rail and the Union Pacific freight railroad tracks, the area has received national media coverage and increased attention from the city’s economic development department. Where there are tech companies, there’s a need for places to eat and gather. It’s not uncommon to see food trucks parked outside certain buildings, but until recently, there have been few established eateries. Continue reading “The Larry”

Nobuo at Teeter House (temporarily closed)

It has been just over a decade since Nobuo Fukuda, originally from Tokyo but long situated in Arizona, won the prestigious James Beard award. Since that 2007 accolade, the chef has relocated his kitchen from Old Town Scottsdale to Heritage Square in Phoenix, occupying a city-owned historic home where the chef has pursued his creative vision since 2010. The move was a bit of a shock back then, but the quest for better downtown dining has intensified in the current decade, with the central city no longer content to be eclipsed by its own suburbs. Continue reading “Nobuo at Teeter House (temporarily closed)”

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”

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 (temporarily closed)

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.

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