Rott n’ Grapes RoRo

What happens to wine bars when they grow up? A wine bar is often thought to be small, intimate, and subdued with a primary emphasis on the grape and a small food menu meant to match, but not overpower, the beverage selection. That description applies to the original Uptown location of Phoenix wine bar Rott n’ Grapes, but when it came time for this wine bar to grow up, the decision was not to expand or transform the original location, but instead to open a second site, more a restaurant than a wine bar, at the north end of Downtown. Continue reading “Rott n’ Grapes RoRo”

Wholly Grill

Ask most people in the United States what constitutes Asian food, and they’ll likely begin with the cuisines of China and Japan. More recently, diners have been eager to embrace Thai, Vietnamese, and Korean food, but the cooking of the nearby Philippines has yet to gain much traction beyond those who grew up with it. Maybe it’s the prevalence of tart flavors or the generous use of vinegar in many dishes, but Filipino food remains under-appreciated in much of the United States, despite the half century the Philippines was under American rule. Continue reading “Wholly Grill”

Paz Cantina

Listening to the most pessimistic voices, it would be easy to believe that the long overdue surge in new housing development along the light rail corridor is leading to widespread displacement of small businesses. In actuality, while some independent businesses have closed or moved away, many have found new and often better homes in ground floor retail spaces incorporated into new apartment buildings. That was the story for both Jobot and Forno 301, and now it’s the outcome for Paz Cantina, a Mexican restaurant in the heart of Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row. Continue reading “Paz Cantina”

Grilled Ave Teriyaki House

IIn most cities, the term “avenue” implies a broad arterial street. In the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, any street west of Central Avenue can be a numbered avenue, and even on the east side of town, “avenue” is a term used more liberally than in many other places. In Tempe, Forest Avenue has a brief three-block span between the Tempe Transportation Center and Arizona State University, but that short length is packed with dense development and diverse dining options. One restaurant, Grilled Ave Teriyaki House, even incorporates the idea of an avenue into its name.

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PT Pho Express (formerly PT Noodles)

Follow the light rail tracks west along Camelback Road from Central to 19th Avenue, and a rapid transition occurs. Uptown, the area centered around Central and Camelback is predominantly white and a magnet for upscale businesses, both local and national. 19th Avenue is a multi-ethnic corridor with some of the best bargains to be found in local dining. The area in between is transitional, and one restaurant located there, PT Noodles, seems to fit well in that zone with an approach halfway between Americanized familiarity and Vietnamese authenticity.

Continue reading “PT Pho Express (formerly PT Noodles)”

Pepe’s Taco Villa

From gringo-safe chains to hole-in-the wall taquerias, the streets of Phoenix are lined with Mexican restaurants — except much of that food had traditionally been more “border” than “south of the border.” In other words, many local favorites serve Sonoran food, associated with Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora directly below it on the map. In recent years, migrations from other regions of Mexico have diversified the food choices in Phoenix, but it’s important not to forget restaurants that offered Mexican beyond Sonoran long before it was fashionable to do so. Continue reading “Pepe’s Taco Villa”

Provecho

Whether it’s “bon appetit” in France or “guten appetit” in Germany, many cultures have familiar expressions that can be used to start a meal. In Mexico, “buen provecho” fulfills that function. Strangely, there seems to be no equivalent phrase in English, but the increasing diversification of downtown Phoenix’s food options, particularly the recent and long-overdue proliferation of Mexican restaurants that are far less Americanized than in previous decades, provides plenty of opportunity to say the phrase. One restaurant, Provecho, goes so far as to incorporate the wording into its name. Continue reading “Provecho”

Rula Bula

On Mill Avenue, so many businesses have come and gone in recent years that an Irish pub nearly two decades old now seems like a veteran of that street’s fast-changing landscape of dining and nightlife. Of course, 20 years or so is nothing compared to the age of many pubs actually located in Ireland, and it’s also a short time compared to the age of the historic Andre building, where the pub in question, Rula Bula, occupies two side-by-side storefronts just a block south of the Mill Avenue / Third Street light rail station in the heart of Downtown Tempe. Continue reading “Rula Bula”

Breadwinner

With today’s confusing array of popular diets — paleo this, keto that, and gluten-free everything — it’s refreshing to see that good bread can still be the foundation of a meal. It’s equally invigorating to see an independent sandwich shop open amid all the national chains that have recently occupied that segment of the market. Breadwinner scores victories in both respects, building its sandwiches with the unabashedly glutenous products of local bakery Noble Bread and drawing inspiration from the kitchen of its full-service cousin, EVO in Scottsdale. Continue reading “Breadwinner”

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