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.

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Pa’La

It took 28 years, but in 2021, the Phoenix Suns made it to the National Basketball Association finals for the second time. When the Suns did this the first time in 1993, they had just enjoyed their first season in their then-new arena. The surrounding blocks of downtown were still pretty bleak, however. A lot has changed in nearly three decades, and the city’s core now has even more restaurants than it did before the pandemic. Among many new arrivals is Pa’La, an upgraded version of a chef-driven restaurant with an original location on 24th Street.

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Novel Ice Cream

The word “novel” means not only a book of fiction, but also innovative or new. Sometimes, that meaning can be negative, as with the novel coronavirus that has caused disease, death, and disruption, but more often it has a positive connotation. In downtown Mesa, Novel Ice Cream celebrates all that is good about being novel with its innovative approach to ice cream, sorbet, and creations made from those frozen treats. Novel began on Grand Avenue in Phoenix, where it still operates. The newer store in Mesa is just two blocks from the Center/Main light rail station.

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Hot Daisy Pizza

Besides being rich in carbohydrates, cake and pizza have something else in common: They both typically need to be sliced to be enjoyed. On Roosevelt Row at the north end of downtown Phoenix, Tammie Coe has been baking and slicing for over a decade-and-a-half. What has changed, though, is the transformation of the space from retail bakery to pizza slice shop. With the closure of the old Tammie Coe cake shop in the Artisan Village development, there followed a transformation of the storefront into Hot Daisy Pizza, a casual place for slices on the go.

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Walter Station

In both 2020 and 2021, the annual Burning Man event in Nevada has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The yearly gathering will no doubt eventually return, but even without a densely packed temporary city arising over Labor Day weekend, Burning Man’s cultural impact can be felt in small and subtle ways. On Washington Street on the east side of Phoenix, Walter Station serves beer brewed on site with matching food and a loose connection to Burning Man, firefighting, and nearby Sky Harbor Airport, all in an unlikely combination that somehow works.

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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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Pino’s Pizza al Centro

In Italian, “pino” can be a diminutive for a longer name like Giuseppe, and “centro” can often mean downtown or the center of a city. Since every neighborhood can benefit from good pizza, why not have a place for it near the heart of Phoenix’s Midtown business district? With a location just a block west of the Thomas/Central light rail station, Pino’s Pizza al Centro seems a fitting name for a small pizzeria and Italian-American restaurant, especially when someone actually called Pino has been the proprietor for over two decades of continuous operation.

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Pane Bianco

For over a quarter century, Chris Bianco’s namesake pizzeria has garnered national acclaim, but Pizzeria Bianco ceased long ago to be his only venture. Another enterprise, Pane Bianco, has been around for nearly two decades. Pane Bianco began as a sandwich shop with just a handful of items available for takeout or consumption on picnic tables outside. Since then, it has gone through several transformations, trying on new identities but never losing sight of its core mission of serving minimalistic preparations of fresh, high-quality ingredients on fresh bread.

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Maskadores Taco Shop

Over the past year, masks have been transformed from a Halloween novelty to both an everyday accessory and a source of contention. The question of whether masks are needed restaurants when not seated remains unresolved as of today with conflicting dictates and guidance dependent on vaccination. Regardless, restaurants can legally maintain their own dress codes for customers to follow. At Maskadores Taco Shop, a local chain, masks of another type are far less controversial, having always been an integral part of the theme and decor.

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JL Patisserie

Bread and pastry, long-established in the food traditions of so many cultures and nations, have recently become less desirable for some diners. Whether it’s paleo this, keto that, or gluten-free everything, it sometimes seems like cauliflower and chickpeas rule the day. As wonderful as vegetables and legumes are, they’re not the same as grains, making it a refreshing change to find an unabashedly traditional French pastry shop in the Uptown neighborhood of Phoenix. JL Patisserie is a second location building upon the success of an original store in Scottsdale.

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Oasis Raspados

From the fiery New Mexican cuisine of Los Dos Molinos down by Dobbins Road to the incendiary salsa bar at Kiss Pollos in the Harmon Park neighborhood, the South Central corridor is a street full of spicy food. To offer some relief from the heat, both the kind found in chilies and the hot weather that dominates Phoenix half the year, ice cream and fresh fruit seem like some of the best options. Oasis Raspados offers both, along with some savory snacks, in a colorful and comfortable location in South Phoenix at the corner of Central and St. Charles avenues.

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Dog Haus Biergarten

CityScape and other big projects in the core of the downtown Phoenix business district are usually defined first in terms of their anchor tenants, whether a contemporary hotel like the nearby Kimpton Palomar or an essential amenity like the Fry’s grocery at Block 23. In the smaller pockets of these developments, however, are numerous opportunities for more fine-grained retail and restaurant development. One spot at CityScape, a corner space right at the intersection of Central and Washington, has recently become home to Dog Haus Biergarten.

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