El Portal

Anyone familiar with downtown Phoenix knows the presidential streets that run east-west within the city core. The northernmost is Roosevelt, well known for the arts district transformed into a corridor of new apartment buildings. The southernmost presidential street, however, is not as well known. It’s named for Ulysses Grant, the commander of Union forces during the Civil War and the nation’s 18th president. Just south of Downtown and the Warehouse District lies not only Grant Street, but also Grant Park, which is both a recreational facility and a neighborhood. Continue reading “El Portal”

The Duce

The word “deuce” can have so many meanings. Long before Doug Ducey became Treasurer and then Governor of Arizona, the Deuce was an old name for the south end of Phoenix’s downtown. It was often viewed as a notorious place where speakeasies coexisted with warehouses situated along the freight railroad tracks. In fact, the word “produce,” which describes much of what was stored in those warehouses, can be shortened to “duce,” suggesting that proximity to Second Street isn’t the only possible explanation for the name. Continue reading “The Duce”

Barrel & Bushel

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”

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”

Little Rituals (temporarily closed)

Even if a hotel doesn’t have a full-fledged restaurant, it almost always has a bar, if only in the form of a small space in the lobby or a hosted “manager’s reception” on an upper floor. In the heart of downtown Phoenix, a hotel building shared by two Marriott brands, Courtyard and Residence Inn, is home to two bars. The ground level bar with draft beer and Starbucks coffee is pretty typical of this sort of property. A short elevator ride, however, reveals Little Rituals, a second space for drinking (and eating) that less obviously fits the typical hotel bar model. Continue reading “Little Rituals (temporarily closed)”

The Strand (temporarily closed)

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 (temporarily closed)”

Monroe’s Hot Chicken

When summer temperatures soar in Phoenix, there are always complaints about the urban heat island effect. The closer to the center of the city one gets, the more it seems the heat lingers after dark. Wherever there are high temperatures, there is often an appreciation for spicy food, so it’s no surprise that the Nashville hot chicken trend has caught on here. Monroe’s Hot Chicken, located at just about the most urban local address imaginable, the Luhrs City Center on Jefferson Street, creates its own heat island right in the heart of downtown Phoenix. Continue reading “Monroe’s Hot Chicken”

Paradise Hawaiian BBQ

Every March, the Arizona Aloha Festival at Tempe Beach Park celebrates the little-known fact that the Phoenix Metropolitan Area is home to one of the largest populations of Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders on the United States mainland. Amid the dance performances, exhibitor booths, and outrigger canoes, there are dozens of food vendors selling plate lunches, the popular and hearty meals of Hawaii. All the plate lunch purveyors at the festival are worth trying, but one of the longest lines always belongs to the booth operated by Paradise Hawaiian BBQ. Continue reading “Paradise Hawaiian BBQ”

Chico Malo

It’s hard to believe that CityScape, the two-block mixed use development at the crossroads of downtown Phoenix, is nearly a decade old. While built with support from city government and the business community, the complex has sometimes been viewed as a “bad boy” for turning its back towards the street on key blocks. Now, a Mexican restaurant named “Chico Malo,” Spanish for bad boy, is located in one of the complex’s most visible retail locations, a block from the Washington / Central (westbound) and Jefferson / First Avenue (eastbound) light rail platforms. Continue reading “Chico Malo”

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