Detroit Coney Grill

Midwestern migration to Arizona is a cliche, but like many stereotypes, it has a germ of truth at its foundation. There are many people in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area with origins in the Great Lakes states, including Michigan. As with transplants from all points of origins, many new arrivals from the Wolverine state bring their loyalties to Detroit sports franchises and a love of Michigan foods. Detroit Coney Grill, even though it makes reference to a New York landmark in its name, is designed for the displaced Michigander with both its regional food and thematic decor.

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Kuka

Over the past decade, Apache Boulevard in Tempe has begun a transformation from a low-rise corridor of motor hotels, mobile home parks, and strip malls to a canyon of multi-story apartment buildings. A few restaurants have been lost in the process when the land they occupied was sold to developers looking to build with more density. At the same time, many of the new complexes have ground floor retail spaces providing opportunity for new businesses to grow. One of the new breed on Apache is Kuka, which identifies itself as a sushi bar and izakaya.

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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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El Pollo Supremo

There are plenty of restaurants that make an effort to please everyone. Sometimes, that means accommodating reasonable requests for modifications to a dish. It can also mean adding a token entree outside a place’s usual niche in order to override the veto of one member of a group considering a meal there.Those are all understandable steps to take, but it’s easy to get carried away with excessively long menus mired in mediocrity. That’s why it’s refreshing that places like El Pollo Supremo carry on with tightly focused menus that don’t try too hard.

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Slices on Mill

At first glance, Slices on Mill seems like a typical New York pizza place. It’s location three blocks south of the Mill Avenue / Third Street light rail station is cramped and casual. There are a few high-top tables and two counters, most of them adorned with shaker jars of crushed red pepper. A small patio provides additional dining space. The front counter usually has multiple types of pizza on display. In ordinary times when nearby Arizona State University is at its full population, the restaurant caters to the bar crowd by maintaining late hours until 3 AM on weekends.

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Four Peaks Brewing Company

It has been about five years since the surprise announcement that local favorite Four Peaks, one of the craft beer pioneers in Arizona, was being acquired by the multinational giant Anheuser-Busch InBev. That news, one of many acquisitions of regional breweries, led to concern about the transaction’s impact on other craft beer producers and inevitable accusations of “selling out.” While the financial arrangements may be different behind the scenes, it’s reassuring that little has changed, and some aspects have even improved, for the consumer.

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Curry Corner

With its streets forming a regular grid of arterials placed one mile apart and intersecting at right angles, it’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between corners in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. There are subtle irregularities in the addressing system, but it takes something locally rare, streets intersecting at something other than 90 degrees, to stand out. In Tempe, the irregular intersection of Terrace and Apache is distinguished not only by the obtuse angle joining the streets, but also Curry Corner, a restaurant that incorporates its location into its name. Continue reading “Curry Corner”

Postino

Sometimes, it’s hard to define exactly when a local business grows to the point that it can be considered a chain. Since its beginnings at an old post office with a quasi-Arcadia address in 2001, Postino has expanded to half a dozen locations situated throughout the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, as well as sites in Denver, Houston, and Tucson. With all that growth and a private equity deal helping to finance potential nationwide expansion, fans of earlier versions of the popular wine bar may wonder what to make of the brand’s rapidly enlarging footprint. Continue reading “Postino”

Thai Basil (ASU)

Rural Road is anything but rural these days. The segment that runs through Tempe before assuming the name Scottsdale Road north of the Salt River is not only a wide arterial street, but is also teeming with new construction. It’s decidedly suburban with the potential to become more urban if the city makes the right decisions in the years to come. Just across from Arizona State University’s Barrett Honors College, a location of Thai Basil is typical of the scattered small businesses that intermingle with chain restaurants and massive new construction projects. Continue reading “Thai Basil (ASU)”

Phoenicia Cafe

The three-block distance between the Tempe Transportation Center and the campus of Arizona State University has become a zone for intensive vertical development in just the past few years. New residential towers and hotels are occupying formerly vacant lots or, if a few cases, replacing existing buildings. Amid that high-rise development, one existing structure that seems likely to persist is the Islamic Community Center on Forest Avenue. The center is not only a mosque, but also houses a market and a Middle Eastern restaurant, Phoenicia Cafe. Continue reading “Phoenicia Cafe”

Med Fresh Grill

Tempe’s Mill Avenue sometimes seems awash in sandwich shops and taco joints, some of them more bars than restaurants. It’s worth remembering that Downtown Tempe’s most walkable corridor is also home to lesser known restaurants that carve out their own niches based on the uniqueness of their food. Med Fresh Grill not only has the distinction of being one of the more stable restaurants in the ever-changing Mill Avenue landscape, but also stands out as one of the few local places to serve the cuisine of Turkey, often under-appreciated in the United States. Continue reading “Med Fresh Grill”

Pho Nhat

The unassuming Tempe Towne Plaza shopping center has long been home to restaurants serving foods from all over the globe. Indian, Somali, pizza — all those cuisines and more are crammed into this strip mall, which is just a block north of the University / Rural light rail station. The Vietnamese food niche here is filled by Pho Nhat, or maybe it’s just Nhat, given that the word “Pho” is part of the restaurant’s name on the menus but not on the outside sign. Let’s just call it (Pho) Nhat and acknowledge that its speciality is indeed pho, the rice noodle soup of Hanoi. Continue reading “Pho Nhat”

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