Wren & Wolf

There are two trends in restaurant branding that have been apparent for at least a decade. The first is the use of an ampersand to join two words, with bonus points if there is alliteration involved. The second is the use of taxidermy as a decorative element in dining rooms. Perhaps it’s an effort to present a more attractive vision of meat than images of factory farming. Regardless of the motivations behind the trends, Wren & Wolf combines both of them to create its own identity as a recent arrival in the core of the downtown Phoenix business district.

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Rough Rider

The name Roosevelt Row has become prominent in the lexicon of Phoenicians describing the lively and quickly gentrifying neighborhood at the north end of downtown Phoenix. Chances are most people using the phrase think it’s based on Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but it’s actually named for his fifth cousin and fellow president Theodore Roosevelt. After years of ambiguity and misconceptions, there is now one office building, Ten-O-One, and its restaurant tenant, Rough Rider, that not only acknowledge, but also embrace, the image of Teddy Roosevelt.

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Pa’La

It took 28 years, but in 2021, the Phoenix Suns made it to the National Basketball Association finals for the second time. When the Suns did this the first time in 1993, they had just enjoyed their first season in their then-new arena. The surrounding blocks of downtown were still pretty bleak, however. A lot has changed in nearly three decades, and the city’s core now has even more restaurants than it did before the pandemic. Among many new arrivals is Pa’La, an upgraded version of a chef-driven restaurant with an original location on 24th Street.

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Comedor Guadalajara

The second largest metropolitan area in Mexico and the capital of the western state of Jalisco, Guadalajara is big, busy, and beautiful with its art and architecture. It’s fitting therefore that a restaurant in Phoenix named for the Mexican city has similar qualities. From the outside, Comedor Guadalajara looks to be a basic beige box. On the inside, it’s a different story. The restaurant has three cavernous dining rooms, bustling even when operating at reduced capacity during the pandemic and decorated with beaded sombreros and colorful prints on the walls.

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The Stockyards

Students of Arizona history have no doubt encountered the concept of the five C’s: copper, cattle, cotton, citrus, and climate. These items were traditionally viewed as the pillars of the state’s economy. Their relevance has changed somewhat over the years. It might be argued that call centers and credit cards are more relevant C’s today, and climate may become more negative than positive if the worst predictions come true. Nevertheless, the five C’s are worth remembering. On the east side of Phoenix, the Stockyards is a reminder of the role of one of those C’s, cattle.

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Chula Seafood

One of the most frustrating cliches heard about dining in Phoenix is the claim that “You can’t get good seafood in the desert,” or its variant, “Don’t eat fish so far from the coast.” Have people making those statements not considered the impact of modern refrigeration and transportation? Is there a mistaken assumption that residents of coastal cities are pescatorial locavores, eating only species caught in local waters? The reality is that most fish is caught in one place and eaten in another with refrigerators, freezers, trucks, and planes playing crucial roles in between. Continue reading “Chula Seafood”

the larder + the delta

 

When the DeSoto Central Market, Phoenix’s experiment with an indoor food hall and market, closed abruptly in the summer of 2018, it was a disappointment to fans of culinary innovation, community space, historic preservation, and small business startups. All was not lost, however, because one of DeSoto’s best eateries, known as the larder + the delta (stylized with small letters and a plus sign), had already struck out on its own. With DeSoto having fulfilled its role as an incubator during its short life, its progeny now stands on its own a few blocks away. Continue reading “the larder + the delta”

Mekong Palace

Mekong Plaza, the shopping center in west Mesa that caters to shoppers of east Asian heritage, as well as the adventurous of all ethnicities, is so many things at once: a collection of restaurants and food vendor talls, a supermarket and specialty food shops, and a place to get one’s hair cut or nails done. It’s no surprise then that one of its namesake tenants, Mekong Palace, is three (or more restaurants) in one. Located at the north end of the building just beyond the food court, Mekong Palace has several distinct ways for customers to approach its mostly Cantonese food. Continue reading “Mekong Palace”

Las Glorias Grill

There aren’t many restaurants with names like “Glory” or “Glorious” — unless, of course, they’re in Spanish. Around the world, it’s not uncommon to find eateries with “Las Glorias” in their names, and Phoenix has two of them. One is a seafood restaurant in south Phoenix. The other one, Las Glorias Grill on the north side of town, has a broad menu with a good seafood selection of its own. This particular Las Glorias is located across the street from the 19th Avenue / Northern light rail station. Continue reading “Las Glorias Grill”

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”

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