Worth Takeaway

If there were a restaurant well-suited to trying times of pandemic and protest, it might be a place that emphasizes comforting foods familiar to many but still allowing for a little exploration. It might also be a place that plates and packages everything it serves in a way that works equally well for on-site dining or takeout. In downtown Mesa, Worth Takeaway reflects that theme not only in its approach, but even its name. Since its start five years ago, the restaurant has expanded its hours, menu, and space while staying true to the idea of food worth taking away. Continue reading “Worth Takeaway”

Pane Bianco

For a quarter century, Chris Bianco’s namesake pizzeria has garnered national acclaim, but Pizzeria Bianco ceased long ago to be his only venture. Another enterprise, Pane Bianco, has been around for over a decade-and-a-half. Pane Bianco began as a sandwich shop with just a handful of items available for takeout or consumption on picnic tables outside. Since then, it has gone through several transformations, trying on new identities but never losing sight of its core mission of serving minimalistic preparations of fresh, high-quality ingredients on fresh bread. Continue reading “Pane Bianco”

State 48 Brewery

There are two explanations for how Surprise, Arizona, got its name. One is that the burgeoning exurb was named for the village of Surprise, Nebraska. Another is that the founder said she’d be surprised if the community ever amounted to anything. Given the growth of Surprise, the city has amounted to something, but it’s only in the last few years that Surprise-based businesses have garnered a reputation elsewhere in the metropolitan area. One of those, State 48 Brewery, has made a journey of over 20 miles via Grand Avenue to open in downtown Phoenix. Continue reading “State 48 Brewery”

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”

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)”

Daily Jam (formerly NCounter)

For a society supposedly obsessed with brevity and starved for time, we seem to have an unexpected and enduring fascination with word games. Scrabble, the classic, now exists in digital formats for smartphones, tablets, and Facebook. The newer alternative, Words with Friends, provides a similar game with a social component added. Given the widespread enthusiasm for arranging letter tiles on game boards or touch screens, it should not be surprising to see a restaurant, NCounter, using the alphabet as part of its logo and decor. Continue reading “Daily Jam (formerly NCounter)”

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”

The Kettle Black

The idiom of “the pot calling the kettle black” has been around for centuries and always implied hypocrisy — someone criticizing another’s person’s flaws while ignoring the same failings within oneself. The more literal meaning of the phrase, however, has to do with the accumulation of soot on the surfaces of both vessels. When it comes to pubs, customers usually expect soot in a figurative sense, a sort of patina, but not a literal one. A good pub feels well worn and unpretentious, but is not the same sort of place as a dive bar or a greasy spoon diner. Continue reading “The Kettle Black”

Nocawich

It’s fashionable for cities to have neighborhoods identified by two syllable nicknames. The classic example is SoHo (for “south of Houston Street”) in New York. Here in Phoenix, local versions such as RoRo (Roosevelt Row) and CenPho (Central Phoenix) have met with a mixture of acceptance and derision. One local full service restaurant, Noca, embraced this trend for several years with a name that reflected its location just north of Camelback Road. The original Noca has been closed since 2014, but its legacy endures in a casual sandwich shop known as Nocawich. Continue reading “Nocawich”

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”

Sticklers

There are certain professions that might be seen as well-suited to sticklers, those who value attention to detail. Architecture and the law are among them. No architect wants a building to collapse due to faulty design, and the legal system is all about defining and interpreting rules, along with deciding consequences for those who violate them. It’s fitting then that a Downtown Phoenix sandwich shop called Sticklers is located next door to the Phoenix Municipal Court and just downstairs from the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Continue reading “Sticklers”

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