Azukar Coffee

There are many changes in a neighborhood that can be seen as a sign of gentrification. The arrival of coffee houses is sometimes among them. The worst case scenario is that patrons of a specialty espresso shop will displace long standing residents of the surrounding area. The better outcome is a coffee house that reflects its neighborhood’s culture and heritage, promoting community among existing populations while welcoming new customers. As South Phoenix anticipates the changes to come with light rail, Azukar Coffee clearly fits in the second category. Continue reading “Azukar Coffee”

Maskadores Taco Shop

In the spring of 2020, masks have migrated from a Halloween novelty to an everyday accessory. Public health guidance has shifted to a recommendation that most people cover their mouths and noses in crowded public spaces, but that has not ended the debate. People have been told to leave places for wearing masks and for not wearing them, and masks have come to be seen as yet another aspect of a partisan divide. At Maskadores Taco Shop on 19th Avenue, masks of another type are far less controversial, having always been a part of the theme and decor. Continue reading “Maskadores Taco Shop”

El Portal

Anyone familiar with downtown Phoenix knows the presidential streets that run east-west within the city core. The northernmost is Roosevelt, well known for the arts district transformed into a corridor of new apartment buildings. The southernmost presidential street, however, is not as well known. It’s named for Ulysses Grant, the commander of Union forces during the Civil War and the nation’s 18th president. Just south of Downtown and the Warehouse District lies not only Grant Street, but also Grant Park, which is both a recreational facility and a neighborhood. Continue reading “El Portal”

Taco Boy’s

How far is the average diner willing to walk for a really good taco? It depends on a lot of factors, including ability, weather, and the character of the neighborhood. Half a mile is generally considered the upper limit of walking distance around a transit station, assuming a favorable environment. At the east end of Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row, Taco Boy’s (Yes, the unnecessary apostrophe is part of the restaurant’s name.) is offering carne asada and other Mexican specialties good enough to justify a half-mile trek from the Roosevelt / Central light rail station. Continue reading “Taco Boy’s”

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”

Joyride Taco House

“When your chips are down / When your highs are low / Joy ride.” Those words are the refrain of a Killers song from the last decade. The lyrics might refer to chips in terms of a poker metaphor, but there are plenty of chips of another kind to be found at Joyride Taco House, one of a cluster of Upward Projects restaurants located three blocks north of the Central / Camelback light rail station in Uptown Phoenix. Joyride is first restaurant under the Upward umbrella and in the immediate area to serve Mexican, or at least Mexican-influenced, food. Continue reading “Joyride Taco House”

Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca

In the indigenous Mexican language Nahuatl, the word “atoyac” describes a place by running water. Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca, a Mexican restaurant located on Glendale Avenue in Phoenix, isn’t particularly close to water. Even the nearest canals are about three miles away. It is, however, just across the street from another type of transport corridor, the 19th Avenue / Glendale light rail station. With or without water, this is a decidedly authentic and casual place that stands out among the numerous Mexican restaurants throughout the metropolitan area. Continue reading “Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca”

Chico Malo (temporarily closed)

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. Continue reading “Chico Malo (temporarily closed)”

Paz Cantina

Listening to the most pessimistic voices, it would be easy to believe that the long overdue surge in new housing development along the light rail corridor is leading to widespread displacement of small businesses. In actuality, while some independent businesses have closed or moved away, many have found new and often better homes in ground floor retail spaces incorporated into new apartment buildings. That was the story for both Jobot and Forno 301, and now it’s the outcome for Paz Cantina, a Mexican restaurant in the heart of Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row. Continue reading “Paz Cantina”

Pepe’s Taco Villa

From gringo-safe chains to hole-in-the wall taquerias, the streets of Phoenix are lined with Mexican restaurants — except much of that food had traditionally been more “border” than “south of the border.” In other words, many local favorites serve Sonoran food, associated with Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora directly below it on the map. In recent years, migrations from other regions of Mexico have diversified the food choices in Phoenix, but it’s important not to forget restaurants that offered Mexican beyond Sonoran long before it was fashionable to do so. Continue reading “Pepe’s Taco Villa”

Provecho

Whether it’s “bon appetit” in France or “guten appetit” in Germany, many cultures have familiar expressions that can be used to start a meal. In Mexico, “buen provecho” fulfills that function. Strangely, there seems to be no equivalent phrase in English, but the increasing diversification of downtown Phoenix’s food options, particularly the recent and long-overdue proliferation of Mexican restaurants that are far less Americanized than in previous decades, provides plenty of opportunity to say the phrase. One restaurant, Provecho, goes so far as to incorporate the wording into its name. Continue reading “Provecho”

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”

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