Cartel Coffee Lab

If there’s one item thought to go with coffee (or tea), it’s pastry. Cartel Coffee Lab has long excelled with its beverages, but in its early years, the coffee house was so exclusively focused on the quality of its brew that it barely served any food at all. Since then, Cartel has gone through phases of relying on external providers and varying its food offering by location. Now, in the most recent development, Cartel has started offering its own baked goods at its various locations, including both the original shop in Tempe and its smaller site in downtown Phoenix. Continue reading “Cartel Coffee Lab”

Matt’s Big Breakfast

It’s interesting how even the most adventurous eaters tend to be conservative about breakfast. People who gladly consume foods from outside their own family traditions in the afternoon and evening often revert to familiar dishes like eggs, bacon, pancakes, and waffles in the morning. Matt’s Big Breakfast, having recently expanded from its tiny original site to multiple locations, continues to embrace the familiar but takes the classics to an uncommon level by stressing high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients and a hand-crafted approach to their preparation. Continue reading “Matt’s Big Breakfast”

The Chuckbox

It seems every college campus has to have a burger joint. Ideally, this place should be inexpensive, unpretentious, independently owned, and decades old. The Chuckbox, which serves hamburgers in a location just across University Drive from the ASU Main Campus, meets all of these criteria. The restaurant, which is three blocks from the Veterans Way / College Avenue light rail station, stands nearly alone in a sea of new high-density construction as a throwback to another era when most Tempe restaurants occupied freestanding structures and Western kitsch was still fashionable decor.

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Rise Craft Coffee + Eatery

When a beloved coffee house on the Bohemian block of Fifth Street closed a few years ago, many of those skeptical of Roosevelt Row’s changing character lamented the event as just another nail in the neighborhood’s coffin. The outcome hasn’t been nearly as dire as forecast, though. Although it looked like the sun had set on coffee culture at this address, it has come up again with the opening of a new place appropriately and simply named “Rise.” Beyond the rebirth metaphor, Rise has a patio facing east and early morning hours, making it a place to see the actual sunrise. Continue reading “Rise Craft Coffee + Eatery”

Rehab Burger Therapy

As the signs outside most McDonald’s franchises say, Americans have eaten billions and billions of hamburgers. A hot sandwich based on a ground beef patty has remained a staple for decades despite nutritional and environmental concerns, but after all those billions, there has to be room for innovation. At Rehab Burger Therapy, the departure from traditions occurs not so much with the patty, but instead in unexpected choices of toppings that fill the space between the bread and the meat, and, in some cases, extend well beyond the boundaries of the bun. Continue reading “Rehab Burger Therapy”

Huss Brewing Company

Uptown Plaza, the recently renovated shopping center across from the Central / Camelback light rail station, was first built in 1955. In the Eisenhower era, beer was more regional than it is today, with many brands that no longer exist popular in one place but perhaps unheard of a few states away. After several decades of industry consolidation, the pendulum has swung back towards local favorites with an emphasis on regional craft beer. In that way, Huss Brewing Company, which operates a taproom at Uptown Plaza, recalls the center’s midcentury roots. Continue reading “Huss Brewing Company”

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”

Nobuo at Teeter House

It has been just over a decade since Nobuo Fukuda, originally from Tokyo but long situated in Arizona, won the prestigious James Beard award. Since that 2007 accolade, the chef has relocated his kitchen from Old Town Scottsdale to Heritage Square in Phoenix, occupying a city-owned historic home where the chef has pursued his creative vision since 2010. The move was a bit of a shock back then, but the quest for better downtown dining has intensified in the current decade, with the central city no longer content to be eclipsed by its own suburbs. Continue reading “Nobuo at Teeter House”

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