Chico Malo

It’s hard to believe that CityScape, the two-block mixed use development at the crossroads of downtown Phoenix, is nearly a decade old. While built with support from city government and the business community, the complex has sometimes been viewed as a “bad boy” for turning its back towards the street on key blocks. Now, a Mexican restaurant named “Chico Malo,” Spanish for bad boy, is located in one of the complex’s most visible retail locations, a block from the Washington / Central (westbound) and Jefferson / First Avenue (eastbound) light rail platforms.

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the larder + the delta

 

When the DeSoto Central Market, Phoenix’s experiment with an indoor food hall and market, closed abruptly in the summer of 2018, it was a disappointment to fans of culinary innovation, community space, historic preservation, and small business startups. All was not lost, however, because one of DeSoto’s best eateries, known as the larder + the delta (stylized with small letters and a plus sign), had already struck out on its own. With DeSoto having fulfilled its role as an incubator during its short life, its progeny now stands on its own a few blocks away. Continue reading “the larder + the delta”

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”

Shady Park

Whenever a sweet spring turns into scorching summer, residents of the Sonoran Desert always begin to appreciate just how precious shade can be. Local communities have decidedly mixed records in cultivating shade, sometimes leaving master plans unfulfilled for years and relying on engineered shade structures that may be artistic but also less effective than planting more trees. When a place offers genuine shade, then, it’s worth celebrating. Shady Park, a combination of a restaurant and a nightclub in Tempe, calls out its two abundantly shaded patios in its name.

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Hanny’s

Look around any corporate office these days, and the sea of khakis and polos will attest to the move toward business casual attire. That trend, coupled with the rise of chain retailing, has led to the decline of a venerable institution that once existed in almost every major city: the independent menswear shop. This type of store was not only a supplier of the unspoken corporate uniform, but also a multi-generational tradition. The father-son trip to buy a first suit was a rite of passage. Similar traditions emerged for women as they entered the workplace. Continue reading “Hanny’s”

The Arrogant Butcher

Fox Restaurant Concepts may be one of the dominant players in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area’s dining scene, but its traditional strongholds have long been in places like Scottsdale and Arcadia. The Arrogant Butcher, located in the CityScape development, is Fox’s sole foray to date into Downtown Phoenix. Back in 2011, opening a restaurant in the city center seemed a big deal for Fox. Years later, the Arrogant Butcher is an established part of the downtown restaurant spectrum, even as more competition has arrived in the surrounding blocks. Continue reading “The Arrogant Butcher”

Southern Rail

For over a century, the Sunset Limited, the legendary passenger train that runs from Los Angeles to New Orleans, stopped in Phoenix on its way across the southern tier of the country. That particular train now passes through Maricopa, 35 miles to the south, leaving Phoenix without intercity passenger rail. Despite that unfortunate development, it’s comforting that a restaurant, appropriately named Southern Rail, brings a bit of cooking from New Orleans and the South to Uptown Phoenix, just a block from the Central / Camelback light rail station. Continue reading “Southern Rail”

Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour

A saying attributed to the activist and author Jane Jacobs is that “new ideas need old buildings.” If that’s true, then the 1924 Luhrs Building seems like an ideal incubator for innovation. Among the Luhrs office tenants, that means various start-up firms. On the culinary front, the main attraction on the ground floor of the Luhrs Building is Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour. Cocktails are of course an old concept, but their revival is a contemporary trend, especially when the beverages are paired with Asian-inspired bar food of equivalent quality. Continue reading “Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour”

Wild Thaiger

After years in the doldrums, Midtown seems to be enjoying a modest resurgence. In the linear business district along Central between McDowell and Indian School, employers such as Banner have occupied vacant space in office buildings, new residential construction is underway, and coworking spaces have set up shop. In fact, the name “Midtown,” long obscure to residents who thought of everything south of Camelback as “Downtown,” has acquired enough cachet to see its borders stretched, with restaurants as far east as 24th Street using “Midtown” in their names. Continue reading “Wild Thaiger”

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”

Durant’s

For the past decade or so, the trend in Phoenix dining has been outdoor eating environments. Restaurants have invested in patios, sometimes larger than their indoor dining rooms, and many have built rolling garage-style doors that open the inside to the outside during mild weather. There is, however, one restaurant that has shunned the sun for over 65 years. Durant’s, the classic steak and seafood restaurant on Central Avenue halfway between the Encanto / Central and Thomas / Central light rail stations in Phoenix’s Midtown district, is deliberately dark and likely to stay that way. Continue reading “Durant’s”

The Clever Koi

The colorful fish known as koi is just a few steps removed from ordinary gray carp. Centuries of careful breeding, blending both Asian and European varieties, has resulted in the vibrant animals stocked in so many lakes and aquarium tanks today. Likewise, some thoughtful cultivation of traits from numerous Asian cuisines, along with a few European influences, appears to have gone into creating the Clever Koi, a restaurant at the north end of Midtown Phoenix. Located just a block north of the Indian School / Central light rail station, the restaurant is now celebrating its first anniversary. Continue reading “The Clever Koi”

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