Luana’s Coffee and Beer

There’s a whole genre of children’s books that encourage readers to look for small details within a much larger picture, often reiterated over many pages dealing with the same theme. There’s one from author and illustrator Walter Wick that shows details of treasure in a sunken ship only to zoom out to show that the entire tableau is actually a ship in a bottle. At the south end of Midtown in Phoenix, Luana’s Coffee feels sort of like that scene. With a vaguely tropical look, a bit of a pirate theme, and a vibe of cluttered eclecticism, Launa’s is itself a ship in a bottle.

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Little O’s

Over the past decade, the intersection of McDowell Road and Seventh Avenue has become a busy cluster of restaurants. Many of the arrivals have been national or regional chains, leading one local writer to lament a “fast food dump” at the corner, and there have been the inevitable complaints about insufficient parking. It’s therefore refreshing, both figuratively and literally, to see locally owned Little O’s create a place that invites customers to arrive via bicycle if so inclined, quench their thirst with a pint or pitcher of craft beer, and linger for a while.

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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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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”

The Strand

As a mixed-use project occupying two full city blocks, CityScape might be thought of as having many different strands that are woven together in an attempt to offer a little something for everyone. There’s Mexican food, sushi, chain sandwich shops, a contemporary American restaurant, and, not surprisingly, an Italian restaurant. Appropriately enough, it’s called “The Strand,” and it’s marketed as “Urban Italian.” That doesn’t mean the food of Rome or Milan per se, but instead familiar “red sauce” Italian-American food offered in a downtown Phoenix setting. Continue reading “The Strand”

Windsor

The intersection of Central Avenue and Camelback Road is an unusual crossroads. The immediate area is undermined by a big vacant lot on the southwest corner and the congestion-causing Dutch Bros. drive-thru on the northwest. Across the street, it’s a little better an an office building is converted to residential and new merchants fill the few remaining spaces at the recently renovated Uptown Plaza. Still, some of Uptown’s most attractive elements are found not right where Central and Camelback meet, but instead a few blocks in each direction. Continue reading “Windsor”

Desert Roots Kitchen

Desert plants are often known for having shallow roots, which are better for quickly absorbing water during brief storms followed by quick evaporation. In Downtown Tempe, a restaurant aptly named Desert Roots Kitchen has displayed some unexpectedly deep roots, operating with essentially the same approach for over six years and building upon the traditions of an even longer lasting restaurant, In Season Deli, that came before it at the same location. These roots continue to grow just a block-and-a-half south of the Mill Avenue / Third Street light rail station. Continue reading “Desert Roots Kitchen”

Zookz (Downtown location temporarily closed)

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 (Downtown location temporarily closed)”

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”

Cornish Pasty Company

Higher education, especially at the graduate level, often relies on case studies, detailed accounts of specific events, phenomena, or organizations. If anyone were to write a case study about the Cornish Pasty Company (CPC), it might be pretty interesting. From its humble beginnings a decade ago, CPC has become a mini-chain throughout the region, and two of its latest locations are urban ones. A brand new location on Monroe Street in Phoenix has just opened after years of delays, and last year a much smaller location on Mill Avenue in Tempe quietly debuted. Continue reading “Cornish Pasty Company”

Province (temporarily closed)

From Canada to China, the word “province” describes a geographical and political division within a country, similar to an American state. There’s another meaning of the plural “provinces” to describe outlying areas of a nation beyond the capital city and financial center. Strictly speaking, neither meaning really applies in the heart of Downtown Phoenix, but the word does fit well with a theme of geographically named hotel restaurants along Van Buren. If the nearby Sheraton has a restaurant named District, why not establish a Province at the Westin just a few blocks away? Continue reading “Province (temporarily closed)”

Fàme Caffe

In Phoenix, it has never been entirely clear where Midtown ends and Uptown begins. Some might say Indian School Road, where current high-rise development stops, is the boundary. Others could argue the Grand Canal is a more logical divider between the two areas. With both the Midtown and Uptown terms now being stretched beyond historic boundaries, geography buffs can continue to debate the first question. Meanwhile, a restaurant in the gray area between the two zones raises a question of more interest to diners: When does breakfast end and lunch begin? Continue reading “Fàme Caffe”

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