Kream Coffee

Cream in coffee, disliked by some purists but favored by many consumers, is a sort of accent to a robust beverage. A little splash can make a cup full of brew more palatable and cool it to a drinkable temperature. Likewise, a little bit of coffee culture can add a bit of panache and convenience to a retail environment. Grocery and department stores have discovered that with their ubiquitous in-house chain coffee operations. For a small, independent design shop, however, something a little more stylish is in order. That’s the role played by Kream Coffee.
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Huss Brewing Company

Uptown Plaza, the recently renovated shopping center across from the Central / Camelback light rail station, was first built in 1955. In the Eisenhower era, beer was more regional than it is today, with many brands that no longer exist popular in one place but perhaps unheard of a few states away. After several decades of industry consolidation, the pendulum has swung back towards local favorites with an emphasis on regional craft beer. In that way, Huss Brewing Company, which operates a taproom at Uptown Plaza, recalls the center’s midcentury roots. Continue reading “Huss Brewing Company”

Zookz

There are many different ways to see the distinction between uptown and downtown. Sometimes, it’s a class divide. Billy Joel and countless other songwriters have used the word “uptown” to imply an upscale neighborhood within the city. In other cases, as with the New York City subway system, it’s simply a statement of compass direction with “uptown” meaning north and “downtown” meaning south. In Phoenix, the trains connect the uptown and downtown portions of the city, but many residents remain confused about their boundaries. Continue reading “Zookz”

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 “Southern Rail”

First Draft Book Bar

Over the past quarter century, independent bookstores have nearly vanished and then begun a gradual recovery. Phoenix used to have plenty of them: Houle, Dushoff, and Shakespeare Beethoven & Company are all names that live only in local readers’ memories. Those stores are long gone, but Tempe-based Changing Hands has not only survived competition from online stores and chains, but also opened a second location in Uptown Phoenix. The Phoenix store is smaller than the one in southern Tempe, but it has a distinguishing feature: First Draft Book Bar. Continue reading “First Draft Book Bar”

Yama Sushi House

Maybe there’s already a serious research study out there somewhere, but one question that’s interesting to ponder is what relationship, if any, there is between the size of a restaurant and the size of its menu. A food cart that sells only two or three items makes sense. So does a banquet hall with an expansive menu. On the other hand, a large restaurant that serves a small menu suggests mass production rather than craft. What about the opposite: a small restaurant with an unexpectedly large menu? In the case of Yama Sushi House, the combination actually works. Continue reading “Yama Sushi House”

Fàme Caffe

In Phoenix, it has never been entirely clear where Midtown ends and Uptown begins. Some might say Indian School Road, where current high-rise development stops, is the boundary. Others could argue the Grand Canal is a more logical divider between the two areas. With both the Midtown and Uptown terms now being stretched beyond historic boundaries, geography buffs can continue to debate the first question. Meanwhile, a restaurant in the gray area between the two zones raises a question of more interest to diners: When does breakfast end and lunch begin? Continue reading “Fàme Caffe”

Joyride Taco House

“When your chips are down / When your highs are low / Joy ride.” Those words are the refrain of a Killers song from the last decade. The lyrics might refer to chips in terms of a poker metaphor, but there are plenty of chips of another kind to be found at Joyride Taco House, one of a cluster of Upward Projects restaurants located three or four blocks north of the Central / Camelback light rail station in Uptown Phoenix. Joyride is the latest addition to the family at this key corner, and it’s the first restaurant in the immediate area to serve Mexican, or at least Mexican-influenced, food.

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Postino

“Drinking lunch with wine is not a crime.” That’s the wording of a bumper sticker distributed by local wine bar Postino. It’s a clever retort to a culture that discourages any alcohol consumption during business hours, but it comes at a time when the National Transportation Safety Board has questioned if the existing .08 standard for blood alcohol content is low enough to eliminate impaired driving. When driving is taken out of the equation, the message on the sticker is easier to endorse, especially at the two Postino locations easily reached by light rail, as well as bicycle.

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