NCounter

For a society supposedly obsessed with brevity and starved for time, we seem to have an unexpected and enduring fascination with word games. Scrabble, the classic, now exists in digital formats for smartphones, tablets, and Facebook. The newer alternative, Words with Friends, provides a similar game with a social component added. Given the widespread enthusiasm for arranging letter tiles on game boards or touch screens, it should not be surprising to see a restaurant, NCounter, using the alphabet as part of its logo and decor. Continue reading “NCounter”

The Vig Fillmore

The first lesson Phoenicians should learn about local geography is that numbered streets are on the east side of the city and that avenues are on the west side. The second lesson might be that if a street has a presidential name, it runs east-west through downtown. The Vig Fillmore, a central location for a small, locally-based group of restaurants, combine both lessons into one. Its site, the historic Cavness House, has an address on Fourth Avenue but the restaurant takes its name from the intersecting street named for antebellum one-termer Millard Fillmore. Continue reading “The Vig Fillmore”

Carly’s Bistro

The transformation of Roosevelt Row over the past decade seems a lot like a three-act play. In the first act, small businesses and art galleries pioneered in a neglected area and adapted neglected vintage buildings. In the second act, the district received attention and recognition from city government, resulting in a streetscape project that added bike lanes and widened sidewalks to create opportunities for patio dining. Carly’s Bistro has not only survived but improved during the first two acts. Now, it’s only logical to wonder what will happen in the third act. Continue reading “Carly’s Bistro”

Jobot

There’s been a lot of change on Roosevelt Row lately, and not everyone is happy about it. Although a new wave of construction has realized dreams of residential density near transit, there has been a resistance of sorts, based on perceptions of gentrification and a desire to preserve old buildings scattered amid vacant lots. A frequent gathering place for this resistance was Jobot, the coffee house and cafe formerly on Fifth Street. When a rent dispute caused Jobot to vacate its home at the end of 2016, there was even more outcry over the rapid transformation of the area. Continue reading “Jobot”

Fàme Caffe

In Phoenix, it has never been entirely clear where Midtown ends and Uptown begins. Some might say Indian School Road, where current high-rise development stops, is the boundary. Others could argue the Grand Canal is a more logical divider between the two areas. With both the Midtown and Uptown terms now being stretched beyond historic boundaries, geography buffs can continue to debate the first question. Meanwhile, a restaurant in the gray area between the two zones raises a question of more interest to diners: When does breakfast end and lunch begin? Continue reading “Fàme Caffe”

Nocawich

It’s fashionable for cities to have neighborhoods identified by two syllable nicknames. The classic example is SoHo (for “south of Houston Street”) in New York. Here in Phoenix, local versions such as RoRo (Roosevelt Row) and CenPho (Central Phoenix) have met with a mixture of acceptance and derision. One local full service restaurant, Noca, embraced this trend for several years with a name that reflected its location just north of Camelback Road. The original Noca has been closed since 2014, but its legacy endures in a casual sandwich shop known as Nocawich. Continue reading “Nocawich”

Ocotillo

Almost every Phoenician has had some exposure to ocotillo, the desert shrub (technically not a cactus) known for its numerous spiny stalks that tower up to 20 feet high. The plant is a frequent component of local home xeriscapes, and specimens can be seen on any hike in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. In spring, vibrant red flowers appear at the end of each of its protuberances. With myriad branches growing in every direction but all leading to gorgeous blossoms, the ocotillo plant is an apt metaphor for a new restaurant in Midtown Phoenix that bears its name. Continue reading “Ocotillo”

Postino

“Drinking lunch with wine is not a crime.” That’s the wording of a bumper sticker distributed by local wine bar Postino. It’s a clever retort to a culture that discourages any alcohol consumption during business hours, but it comes at a time when the National Transportation Safety Board has questioned if the existing .08 standard for blood alcohol content is low enough to eliminate impaired driving. When driving is taken out of the equation, the message on the sticker is easier to endorse, especially at the two Postino locations easily reached by light rail, as well as bicycle.

Continue reading “Postino”

St. Francis

Phoenix is a city that has long struggled with neighborhood identity. Take its large number of  transplants, combine them with a grid of arterial streets, and the result is a population likely to describe places in terms of intersections rather than neighborhoods. It’s a minor miracle, therefore, when a business takes its name from the little known neighborhood in which it lies. In the case of St. Francis, located just two blocks east of the Central / Camelback light station, the name reflects a very specific neighborhood, rather than the broader, more ambiguous “Uptown” that surrounds it.

cioppino

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