Luana’s Coffee and Beer

There’s a whole genre of children’s books that encourage readers to look for small details within a much larger picture, often reiterated over many pages dealing with the same theme. There’s one from author and illustrator Walter Wick that shows details of treasure in a sunken ship only to zoom out to show that the entire tableau is actually a ship in a bottle. At the south end of Midtown in Phoenix, Luana’s Coffee feels sort of like that scene. With a vaguely tropical look, a bit of a pirate theme, and a vibe of cluttered eclecticism, Launa’s is itself a ship in a bottle.

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Little O’s

Over the past decade, the intersection of McDowell Road and Seventh Avenue has become a busy cluster of restaurants. Many of the arrivals have been national or regional chains, leading one local writer to lament a “fast food dump” at the corner, and there have been the inevitable complaints about insufficient parking. It’s therefore refreshing, both figuratively and literally, to see locally owned Little O’s create a place that invites customers to arrive via bicycle if so inclined, quench their thirst with a pint or pitcher of craft beer, and linger for a while.

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Basilic

The word “basilic” is French for basil, but it also has a meaning of “kingly” or “royal” in certain contexts. Basilic, a Vietnamese restaurant across from the Phoenix Art Museum, seems to incorporate both senses of the word. Of course, there’s plenty of basil since that herb is often used in the cooking of southeast Asia. The restaurant also has a somewhat more upscale feel compared to most Vietnamese restaurants around town, perhaps leading to a slightly regal vibe. The combination of both meanings results in Vietnamese food adapted for the museum district. Continue reading “Basilic”

Blue Fin

There’s a section of Phoenix announced on the train as a “cultural district.” Signs on the I-10 off-ramp at 7th Street point to an “arts district” in the same area. For decades, this part of town, also sometimes called the “Midtown Museum District,” has been defined by major cultural institutions such as the Burton Barr Library and the Phoenix Art Museum. The space between these attractions has largely been vacant lots. One exception is Blue Fin, a quick service Japanese restaurant located across the street from the McDowell / Central light rail station. Continue reading “Blue Fin”

In Perfetto

Just about everyone has heard the saying “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” When it comes to new apartment construction, that wisdom is debated as the need for housing and density is weighed against the benefits of fine-grained development. Muse, the apartment building at the northwest corner of Central and McDowell may not be perfect, but it has a major strength: a record of attracting local, independent businesses to its retail space. One of those establishments is appropriately named “In Perfetto,” incorporating the Italian word for “perfect.” Continue reading “In Perfetto”

Pizza People Pub

With the current building boom, some corners in Phoenix are seeing a new wave of change after decades of inactivity. The area around Central and McDowell, long defined by the the Phoenix Art Museum and the Burton Barr Central Library, is now home to new apartments filling long-vacant lots. With all that change, businesses have come and gone. One neighborhood restaurant, Pizza People Pub, has done both within the same year — briefly closing and then reopening shortly after under new ownership but with essentially the same menu. Continue reading “Pizza People Pub”

Forno 301

It’s become a common complaint that “high rises” and “condos” are ruining Roosevelt Row and nearby neighborhoods. In reality, most of the construction isn’t tall enough to be meet any widely accepted definition of “high rise,” and most of what is being built is apartments rather than condominiums. More importantly, while a few businesses have been displaced, many are finding new homes in the ground floor of new residential mid-rises. Forno 301 is one of those businesses, having recently relocated from west Roosevelt to the Muse apartments a half mile to the north. Continue reading “Forno 301”

Giant Coffee

There’s some debate these days about the construction of multi-story apartment buildings (more mid-rise than high-rise) in the zone around Hance Park where Downtown meets Midtown. Maybe it was prescient that a coffee house opened back in 2010 adopted the name “Giant Coffee,” foretelling the arrival of taller buildings in a neighborhood that was then full of vacant lots and neglected properties. Although Giant’s own building is only two stories tall, its location seems to be well situated to take advantage of new customers expected as a result of nearby construction. Continue reading “Giant Coffee”

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