Alexi’s Grill

Midtown Phoenix, the linear business district defined by 20-story office towers set back from the street with big parking garages, is beginning to change. New residential projects are filling in some of the gaps between the business high-rises, and in a few cases existing businesses and even houses are giving way to new development. Enhancements to pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure continue as part of the Reinvent Phoenix vision. Alexi’s Grill, popular in Midtown for over two decades, seems to stay much the same even as the neighborhood is transformed. Continue reading “Alexi’s Grill”

Switch

The origin of a restaurant’s name isn’t always obvious, but sometimes after a while the name takes on a life of its own. In Midtown Phoenix, the restaurant named Switch has recently undergone a major switch of its own — a switch from being under the umbrella of the same group behind Fez and Bliss to its new identity as an independent chef-owned restaurant. After about a decade of continuous operation, Switch is now firmly under the control of chef Jason Peterson, who ran the kitchen for many years before recently acquiring the restaurant itself. Continue reading “Switch”

Oven+Vine

The phrase “dead end street” doesn’t usually have a positive connotation. Literally, it means only one way in and out. Figuratively, it suggests a failed project. Maybe that’s why the fancier sounding “cul-de-sac” has become the preferred wording. In Midtown, many local streets were converted to cul-de-sacs over a decade ago in order to mitigate traffic in the adjacent Willo historic district. For Oven+Vine, a restaurant on the boundary between Willo and the Midtown commercial corridor, an address on a literal dead-end doesn’t have to lead to a figurative one. Continue reading “Oven+Vine”

Lenny’s Burger

Long before light rail traveled up and down Central Avenue through the high-rise business district now known as Midtown, that stretch of the city’s spine was known for its cruising culture. Of course, 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”

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”

Ocotillo

Almost every Phoenician has had some exposure to ocotillo, the desert shrub (technically not a cactus) known for its numerous spiny stalks that tower up to 20 feet high. The plant is a frequent component of local home xeriscapes, and specimens can be seen on any hike in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. In spring, vibrant red flowers appear at the end of each of its protuberances. With myriad branches growing in every direction but all leading to gorgeous blossoms, the ocotillo plant is an apt metaphor for a new restaurant in Midtown Phoenix that bears its name. Continue reading “Ocotillo”

Durant’s

For the past decade or so, the trend in Phoenix dining has been outdoor eating environments. Restaurants have invested in patios, sometimes larger than their indoor dining rooms, and many have built rolling garage-style doors that open the inside to the outside during mild weather. There is, however, one restaurant that has shunned the sun for over 65 years. Durant’s, the classic steak and seafood restaurant on Central Avenue halfway between the Encanto / Central and Thomas / Central light rail stations in Phoenix’s Midtown district, is deliberately dark and likely to stay that way. Continue reading “Durant’s”

Best of Philly

Which city is fifth largest in the United States? To those who care about such distinctions, it’s been a back-and-forth battle over the last decade between Phoenix and Philadelphia, with Phoenix having briefly claimed fifth only to be put back in sixth place a little later. Does it really matter? The birthplace of the nation and one of the country’s youngest major cities might not have that much in common, save a “ph” making an “f” sound at beginning of each, but there certainly areas in which the two cities can benefit from an exchange of goods, services, ideas, and, of course, food.

Continue reading “Best of Philly”

The Clever Koi

The colorful fish known as koi is just a few steps removed from ordinary gray carp. Centuries of careful breeding, blending both Asian and European varieties, has resulted in the vibrant animals stocked in so many lakes and aquarium tanks today. Likewise, some thoughtful cultivation of traits from numerous Asian cuisines, along with a few European influences, appears to have gone into creating the Clever Koi, a restaurant at the north end of Midtown Phoenix. Located just a block north of the Indian School / Central light rail station, the restaurant is now celebrating its first anniversary. Continue reading “The Clever Koi”

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