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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Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa

When a great taco shop comes to mind, it’s usually a taqueria that’s associated with a beef speciality like carne asada or maybe pork prepared al pastor with meat sliced from a trompo. Most taco joints also offer pollo asado, marinated grilled chicken, as a taco filling, but often it seems like an afterthought — not badly prepared by any means, but seldom the business’ signature dish. What makes Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa so interesting, then, is that it deliberately and proudly specializes in chicken tacos, with poultry dominating its short menu. Continue reading “Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa”

Lenny’s Burger

Long before light rail traveled along Central Avenue through the high-rise business district known as Midtown, that stretch of the city’s spine was known for its cruising culture. Cruising meant not only showing off cars and socializing, but also stopping for sustenance. The foods historically associated with cruising have been burgers, fries, and shakes. While cruising now occurs only as part of occasional special events, some semblance of the old cruising culture endures at Lenny’s Burger, a retro-themed hamburger restaurant in the heart of Midtown. Continue reading “Lenny’s Burger”

Fez

Dr. Who, the Eleventh Doctor to be precise, once responded to a question about his tasseled red felt hat by saying, “It’s a fez. I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.” That particular fez was immediately vaporized, but other versions of the same headgear have appeared throughout the series. It’s doubtful that fezzes will ever experience the same hipster resurgence as fedoras, but the Phoenix restaurant named Fez is celebrating its two millionth customer, having grown in popularity since its relocation from an original home in Midtown to its current space Downtown. Continue reading “Fez”

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”

Little Rituals

Even if a hotel doesn’t have a full-fledged restaurant, it almost always has a bar, if only in the form of a small space in the lobby or a hosted “manager’s reception” on an upper floor. In the heart of downtown Phoenix, a hotel building shared by two Marriott brands, Courtyard and Residence Inn, is home to two bars. The ground level bar with draft beer and Starbucks coffee is pretty typical of this sort of property. A short elevator ride, however, reveals Little Rituals, a second space for drinking (and eating) that less obviously fits the typical hotel bar model. Continue reading “Little Rituals”

Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company

Cities are often stereotyped as environmental problems, full of pollution and development that negates the natural world. Properly managed, however, urban centers can actually be part of an environmental solution. By consolidating people in a more efficient manner and sparing the wilderness on the outskirts the pressure of development, cities can complement natural lands. One recent arrival in downtown Phoenix, Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company, seems to realize that its own wilderness ethos is compatible with an urban location on Roosevelt Row. Continue reading “Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company”

Monroe’s Hot Chicken

When summer temperatures soar in Phoenix, there are always complaints about the urban heat island effect. The closer to the center of the city one gets, the more it seems the heat lingers after dark. Wherever there are high temperatures, there is often an appreciation for spicy food, so it’s no surprise that the Nashville hot chicken trend has caught on here. Monroe’s Hot Chicken, located at just about the most urban local address imaginable, the Luhrs City Center on Jefferson Street, creates its own heat island right in the heart of downtown Phoenix. Continue reading “Monroe’s Hot Chicken”

The Chuckbox

It seems every college campus has to have a burger joint. Ideally, this place should be inexpensive, unpretentious, independently owned, and decades old. The Chuckbox, which serves hamburgers in a location just across University Drive from the ASU Main Campus, meets all of these criteria. The restaurant, which is three blocks from the Veterans Way / College Avenue light rail station, stands nearly alone in a sea of new high-density construction as a throwback to another era when most Tempe restaurants occupied freestanding structures and Western kitsch was still fashionable decor.

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Joe’s Philly Steak & More

It’s been less than a week since just over 100 million viewers saw the Philadelphia Eagles win their first Super Bowl. In the City of Brotherly Love, that victory was met with a mix of civic pride, a celebratory parade, and, unfortunately, some rioting and looting. On the other side of the country, distant from both teams involved, a celebration can be as simple as enjoying a signature Philadelphia food, the cheesesteak. On the north side of central Phoenix, Joe’s Philly Steak & More offers a simple venue for a classic sandwich no matter who is winning what sport. Continue reading “Joe’s Philly Steak & More”

Haven Burgers

After half a year spent behind fences, Mesa’s Pioneer Park has finally reopened after nearly $8 million dollars of renovations. The new look combines modern play structures, a splash pad, and artistic light features while retaining the park’s mature trees and a refurbished Engine 2355, the vintage Southern Pacific steam locomotive that has been on display for over half a century. With all the improvements to the park, it’s easy to work up an appetite. With that in mind, it’s useful to have Haven Burgers located across the street from the park’s eastern edge. Continue reading “Haven Burgers”

Breakfast Club

Nearly everyone has seen the Breakfast Club, the classic John Hughes movie, but who remembers Breakfast Club the band? Besides Madonna’s brief tenure as the group’s drummer, that Breakfast Club is best known for its one hit, “Right on Track.” Three decades later, there’s a restaurant called Breakfast Club (no “the”) at CityScape and, just like the 1987 hit song, it’s right on track — light rail track, that is. This particular Breakfast Club is just two blocks from the Central / Washington (westbound) and First Avenue / Jefferson (eastbound) light stations. Continue reading “Breakfast Club”

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