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

Cartel Coffee Lab

80 years ago, long before Seinfeld, Saturday Night Live, or even the Smothers Brothers, Abbott and Costello popularized the legendary “Who’s on First” comedy routine in their live performances and radio show. The dialogue concerned first base in a ball game, but if one were to ask who’s first on First Street in Downtown Phoenix, the answer would be the office building with one North First Street as its address. This recently renovated structure is home to military recruiters, symphony offices, venture capitalists, and, at ground level, Cartel Coffee Lab.
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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

MATCH Cuisine & Cocktails

At the southern edge of Hance Park, a mid-rise building formerly known as the Lexington Hotel has spent most its history as a boring beige box. The property was occasionally redeemed, however, by some unexpected bursts of brilliance from its restaurant. When the hotel was a Best Western, the kitchen served standard American fare but had a secret Indian menu available to those savvy enough to request it. Later, it became home to Cycle, a series of pop-up engagements in which its kitchen was taken over by a changing cast of local chefs. Continue reading

Moira Sushi Bar & Kitchen

The word “Moira,” at least as a given name for a person, is derived from a Greek word meaning “fate” or “destiny.” It’s not clear if Moira Sushi Bar and Kitchen, a Japanese restaurant in the Evans Churchill neighborhood of Downtown Phoenix, has any link to that Mediterranean lineage. Nevertheless, the name is fitting because Moira has been a harbinger of what is now occurring all around it. When the restaurant opened in 2009, it felt lonely, occupying the ground floor of the 215 East McKinley condominium building with vacant lots on surrounding blocks in every direction. Continue reading

Snoh Ice Shavery

How often does it snow in Phoenix? Natives and long-time residents will usually say there’s noticeable snowfall in the heart of the metropolitan area about once a decade, usually with a fine layer of white powder melting soon after contact with the ground. Outlying areas at higher elevations see a little more, and it’s not uncommon to see white peaks among the Mazatzal and Superstition mountains in the distance. In the Evans Churchill neighborhood at the north end of Downtown Phoenix, snow is now falling on a regular basis in the form of frozen desserts. Continue reading

SoSoBa

One of the most interesting food scenes in Arizona isn’t anywhere in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. It’s nearly 150 miles to the north of the state capital in Flagstaff. The mountain city of just over 70,000 people has recently garnered culinary respect for its homegrown restaurants and local purveyors. Beyond favorable media coverage and social media chatter, there’s one important indicator of Flagstaff’s gastronomic success — one of the city’s eateries branching out to open a second location in the much larger and more competitive Phoenix market. Continue reading