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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Detroit Coney Grill

Midwestern migration to Arizona is a cliche, but like many stereotypes, it has a germ of truth at its foundation. There are many people in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area with origins in the Great Lakes states, including Michigan. As with transplants from all points of origins, many new arrivals from the Wolverine state bring their loyalties to Detroit sports franchises and a love of Michigan foods. Detroit Coney Grill, even though it makes reference to a New York landmark in its name, is designed for the displaced Michigander with both its regional food and thematic decor.

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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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Blanco Cocina + Cantina

When downtown Phoenix has seen developments with ambitious names like “CityScape” and “The Arizona Center,” it’s hard to get excited about something with the more modest moniker of “Block 23.” All it takes is a little awareness of local history, though, to understand the importance of the redevelopment of this site, named for the numbered system of parcels used when the city was first developed. Block 23 has been home to city hall, a fire station, the Fox Theater, and a JCPenney store before sitting vacant, underutilized as surface parking, for several decades.

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Cartel Coffee Lab

Observers of coffee culture often speak in terms of waves. The current wave, one that has been crashing over our cities since the ‘90s, is the third one, although there has been talk of an emerging fourth wave. Regardless of what trends dominate worldwide, one local coffee house has been making its own waves for over a decade via steady expansion throughout Arizona and even a few points beyond. Now with ten locations, Tempe-based Cartel Coffee Lab has grown a great deal since its founding in 2007, both in terms of its beverage and food to accompany it.

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Spoonz

For many years, the downtown Phoenix menu seemed to be weekday lunches with a side of breakfast. So many establishments catered to employees of nearby office towers but saw little reason to stay open nights and weekends. Of course, that has all changed with new apartments and entertainment options in the city, and many of those lunch-only establishments have closed. The pandemic has added another challenge with so many people working from home, so it’s fascinating to see Spoonz, a sandwich and salad shop still operating on the office lunch model.

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M’Olé

Mole, the Mexican sauce often associated with ground chilies, spices, and even sometimes chocolate, can be a complex dish. Secret recipes, tacit knowledge, and a certain amount of improvisation can create the nuance that makes each mole unique. It’s a welcome surprise then that mole is the namesake dish at a simple order-at-the-counter lunch spot on the ground floor of a downtown office tower. The restaurant’s name, M’Olé, is both a nod to the signature sauce and a play on the Spanish interjection used to express approval or celebrate victory.

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Ramen Kagawa

The movie “Blade Runner,” set in a fictional version of 2019, shows a bleak future. With 2020 being defined by a global pandemic, record heat, and social unrest, the actual present doesn’t always seem much better than the world envisioned in the movie. One memorable scene involves a stop for a meal at a crowded noodle shop in a busy alley. The experience of a quick stop for nourishment in a bustling environment is hard to find with so many downtown workers at home for now, but Ramen Kagawa has bravely opened in the middle of all the malaise.

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Barrel & Bushel

There comes a time in every hotel’s life when it’s time for renovations. In downtown Phoenix, the Hyatt Regency has been a mainstay of the city’s convention business since its opening in the 1970s. Its construction was part of a wave of urban renewal also responsible for Symphony Hall and the original convention center buildings. With the convention center much larger now and designs from over four decades ago looking dated, the Hyatt’s latest round of improvements are welcome, and the hotel’s ground-floor restaurant and bar has been one of the visible priorities. Continue reading “Barrel & Bushel”

Crown Public House

In the corporate world, mergers are often greeted with skepticism. While shareholders may see increased value, employees fear layoffs and customers may experience market concentration. While it’s common for airlines, banks, and consumer product companies to merge, it’s far more rare to hear about a union of two restaurants. In downtown Phoenix, the marriage of an English pub known as a gathering place for Liverpool soccer fans and an all-American sports bar frequented by Diamondbacks and Suns supporters has resulted in the Crown Public House.

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Ziggy’s Magic Pizza Shop

Somewhat unexpectedly, downtown Phoenix has become a hub for traditional Neapolitan pizza, pies made with great attention to detail; fresh, local ingredients; and adherence to Italian tradition. Within a single square mile, Bianco, La Piazza, Pomo, and Cibo all fill that niche by serving authentic pizza in a full-service environment. What downtown Phoenix doesn’t have nearly as much of, though, is good pizza served by the slice in a more casual, counter service environment. That’s finally beginning to change with the arrival of Ziggy’s Magic Pizza Shop. Continue reading “Ziggy’s Magic Pizza Shop”

Thai Basil Signature

With cursive handwriting no longer emphasized in some schools and many documents now signed digitally instead of with pen and ink, it’s easy to wonder if signatures still have the same significance they once had. Even if many people now sign their names with block letters, the concept of a signature still has some prestige. That’s why some credit cards have “signature” in their brand names. In downtown Phoenix, one facet of the Thai Basil group of restaurants incorporates “signature” into its name, resulting in Thai Basil Signature on Adams Street. Continue reading “Thai Basil Signature”

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