Gus’s Fried Chicken

One of the biggest food trends of the past few years has been Nashville hot chicken, fried poultry with a spicy coating. Now that so many local restaurants offer that Tennessee treat, it’s worth thinking about that state’s other major city. Memphis, with just about the same population as Nashville, offers its own culture and traditions 200 miles to the west. While the cities differ in music, with Memphis being known for the blues and Nashville for country, they both share a fondness for fried chicken, and Gus’s is bringing its food to territory beyond its Memphis base.

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Adams Table

For decades, the wedding cake design of the Hyatt Regency hotel has been part of the city’s central business district and convention center. More recently, the Hyatt brand has been extended more broadly with the mid-priced Hyatt Place concept, including a newly built property just a few blocks away at Second Avenue and Adams Street. With a moderately priced hotel, there is also a need for a more casual restaurant. Adams Table, named for the street named for the nation’s second president, is now filling that role at the new hotel in downtown Phoenix.

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Via Della

There’s a longstanding relationship between pizza and brick. Not only do many pizzerias use brick ovens, but many pizzerias feature brick walls as part of their design. Via Della, which proudly proclaims its identity as a “slice shop,” combines both elements with a modern Pavesi brick oven inside a vintage brick building. It stands in contrast to the abundance of wood-fired pizza served only by the whole pie in the heart of Phoenix. It’s one of a handful of new places downtown with an emphasis on single slices for quick meals, as well as whole pies to go.

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Ramen Kagawa

The movie “Blade Runner,” set in a fictional version of 2019, shows a bleak future. With 2020 being defined by a global pandemic, record heat, and social unrest, the actual present doesn’t always seem much better than the world envisioned in the movie. One memorable scene involves a stop for a meal at a crowded noodle shop in a busy alley. The experience of a quick stop for nourishment in a bustling environment is hard to find with so many downtown workers at home for now, but Ramen Kagawa has bravely opened in the middle of all the malaise.

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Ziggy’s Magic Pizza Shop

Somewhat unexpectedly, downtown Phoenix has become a hub for traditional Neapolitan pizza, pies made with great attention to detail; fresh, local ingredients; and adherence to Italian tradition. Within a single square mile, Bianco, Pomo, and Cibo all fill that niche by serving authentic pizza in a full-service environment. What downtown Phoenix doesn’t have nearly as much of, though, is good pizza served by the slice in a more casual, counter service environment. That’s finally beginning to change with the arrival of Ziggy’s Magic Pizza Shop. Continue reading “Ziggy’s Magic Pizza Shop”

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”

State 48 Brewery

There are two explanations for how Surprise, Arizona, got its name. One is that the burgeoning exurb was named for the village of Surprise, Nebraska. Another is that the founder said she’d be surprised if the community ever amounted to anything. Given the growth of Surprise, the city has amounted to something, but it’s only in the last few years that Surprise-based businesses have garnered a reputation elsewhere in the metropolitan area. One of those, State 48 Brewery, has made a journey of over 20 miles via Grand Avenue to open in downtown Phoenix. Continue reading “State 48 Brewery”

Valley Bar

Alleys have a bad reputation. In the north central part of Phoenix, residents have worked with the city to close alleys in residential neighborhoods, where “highways for bad things” are associated with crime. Downtown, however, alleys play a more helpful role in the urban fabric by taking back-of-the-house functions such as trash collection and loading docks off the street and by breaking up blocks to preserve the opportunity for fine-grained development. Alleys can also be a place in which to hide a city’s best secrets, and Valley Bar is one of them. Continue reading “Valley Bar”

Centrico

It’s hard to believe, but as recently as a few years ago, it was hard to find a good taco, or any taco at all, in the core downtown business district of Phoenix. Business travelers and convention attendees expected the Southwest’s largest city to offer at least somewhat authentic Mexican food within walking distance of their hotels. Instead, they were directed to options that might be near downtown but not within the walkable core of the city. That sorry state of affairs has begun to change with the recent opening of several new Mexican restaurants, including Centrico. Continue reading “Centrico”

Hidden Track Cafe

Aficionados of rock and pop music have long delighted in discovering hidden tracks, secret songs not listed on an album’s packaging. Ditties like the Beatles’ “Her Majesty” appeared when records were dominant, and hidden tracks persisted with compact discs. Less common in an age of streaming services and song-by-song disaggregated listening, the idea is still relevant enough that there’s a Downtown Phoenix wine and beer store named “Hidden Track Bottle Shop.” Now, that moniker is shared with an adjacent coffee house, Hidden Track Cafe. Continue reading “Hidden Track Cafe”

Harumi Sushi

There aren’t a lot of purple foods, but those that lie somewhere between red and blue tend to be vibrant and surprising. Think of the complex purple of grapes, the nearly black purple of an eggplant, and the unexpected purple found in some varieties of cauliflower, carrots, and potatoes. The pigments responsible are called “anthocyanins,” and they also have a role to play in making a type of rice appear black in its raw state and purple after some time in the rice cooker. That black / purple rice is a key feature at Harumi Sushi in Downtown Phoenix. Continue reading “Harumi Sushi”

Cocina 10

More often than ever before, music and food seem to go together. It’s not just about playlists that set the mood for a dining room. It’s about recording artists like James Murphy, formerly of LCD Soundsystem, opening a wine bar in New York. It’s about food-centric writing such as the Guardian columns penned by Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, later published as a book entitled Sound Bites. In Phoenix, a favorite live music venue, the Crescent Ballroom, has responded to the trend in its own way by creating Cocina 10, a lounge and restaurant that goes beyond the minimal grub offered at most concert halls. Continue reading “Cocina 10”

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