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”

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”

Zookz

There are many different ways to see the distinction between uptown and downtown. Sometimes, it’s a class divide. Billy Joel and countless other songwriters have used the word “uptown” to imply an upscale neighborhood within the city. In other cases, as with the New York City subway system, it’s simply a statement of compass direction with “uptown” meaning north and “downtown” meaning south. In Phoenix, the trains connect the uptown and downtown portions of the city, but many residents remain confused about their boundaries. Continue reading “Zookz”

Serafina

It has been a long time since the Luhrs Building and its sibling the Luhrs Tower were the tallest buildings in Phoenix. Nonetheless, the two art deco structures remain icons of the city’s growth and development nearly a century ago.  They’ve suffered the indignity of facing the loading docks and garage entrances of CityScape’s ugly backside, but recent renovations have allowed the buildings, now known jointly as Luhrs City Center, to realize their potential with a refreshed look and new tenants, among them Serafina, a coffee house and roaster. Continue reading “Serafina”

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”

Deli Tavern

It’s fashionable for restaurants to call themselves “bistros,” “cafes,” or “gastropubs,” even if they bear little resemblance to the traditional meanings of those words. Less trendy but perhaps just as important, a city benefits from having its share of taverns — straightforward, unpretentious establishments for food and drink, only subtly differentiated from the concept of a pub. In the core of Downtown Phoenix, one new restaurant plays the name game not only by identifying itself as “Deli Tavern,” but also retaining the prior tenant’s “Downtown Deli” sign on the facade. Continue reading “Deli Tavern”

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