Blue Fin

There’s a section of Phoenix announced on the train as a “cultural district.” Signs on the I-10 off-ramp at 7th Street point to an “arts district” in the same area. For decades, this part of town, also sometimes called the “Midtown Museum District,” has been defined by major cultural institutions such as the Burton Barr Library and the Phoenix Art Museum. The space between these attractions has largely been vacant lots. One exception is Blue Fin, a quick service Japanese restaurant located across the street from the McDowell / Central light rail station. Continue reading “Blue Fin”

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)”

Pho Nhat

The unassuming Tempe Towne Plaza shopping center has long been home to restaurants serving foods from all over the globe. Indian, Somali, pizza — all those cuisines and more are crammed into this strip mall, which is just a block north of the University / Rural light rail station. The Vietnamese food niche here is filled by Pho Nhat, or maybe it’s just Nhat, given that the word “Pho” is part of the restaurant’s name on the menus but not on the outside sign. Let’s just call it (Pho) Nhat and acknowledge that its speciality is indeed pho, the rice noodle soup of Hanoi. Continue reading “Pho Nhat”

The Dhaba

Looking at Indian restaurants in America, it used to be that the cuisine of south Asia was so exotic that any Indian restaurant would do. As a result, most followed the same format with a generic menu and closed the deal with a lunch buffet. Thankfully, some variety has emerged. There are southern Indian restaurants around town, as well as the occasional chaat shop for snacks. Along Tempe’s Apache Boulevard, The Dhaba serves food from the Punjab region of northern India and explores that specialty in more depth than most local Indian restaurants. Continue reading “The Dhaba”

Nunthaporn’s Thai Cuisine

After years of delayed hopes, Mesa’s small but charming downtown is beginning to see a wave of new development. Co+Hoots, the Phoenix-based coworking space, is on the way, and one proposal envisions a 15-story tower on a site currently used for parking. Close to all the action sits one long-running Downtown Mesa restaurant, Nunthaporn’s Thai Cuisine. Nunthaporn’s, which takes it names from founder Nunthaporn Treekamol, is growing as well with the recent addition of a second dining room to complement the restaurant’s original shoebox-style space. Continue reading “Nunthaporn’s Thai Cuisine”

Tom Yum

Sometimes, it’s a soup that becomes a cuisine’s calling card. Vietnam is known for pho, Italy for minestrone, and Russia for borscht. Thailand has its own soups, often served in tureens heated by an open flame and infused with fragrance and flavor from ingredients such as lemongrass, kaffir lime, ginger, and coconut milk. Tom Yum, a small local chain of Thai restaurants, takes its name from a popular hot-and-sour soup. It might also help just a bit that the name contains the word “yum,” subtly adding a bit of the wordplay so common in Thai restaurant names. Continue reading “Tom Yum”

Thai Rama

Thai restaurants seem to come and go at a high frequency in Phoenix, expanding and contracting in loosely affiliated networks with establishments of the same name owned by different family members or business associates. One local veteran, Thai Rama, has varied its suburban locations over the years but has remained a consistent presence at its original address in central Phoenix. Near the Melrose and Grandview neighborhoods, Thai Rama has stood for several decades in a standalone building a few blocks west of the 7th Avenue / Camelback light rail station. Continue reading “Thai Rama”

Nawaz Indian Cuisine

The brand new 19th Avenue / Dunlap light rail station, the line’s western terminus until track is extended to MetroCenter in the next decade, is easy to identify by its vibrant public art. In a community plaza built right at the corner, distinctive metal structures descend from an overhead canopy and form varied shadows on the surface below. The metal is painted a color that is not quite yellow, not quite orange, but a sort of golden hue in between. The color might be described in terms of turmeric, the popular spice revered not only for its taste but also its healthful properties. Continue reading “Nawaz Indian Cuisine”

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”

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