Postino

Sometimes, it’s hard to define exactly when a local business grows to the point that it can be considered a chain. Since its beginnings at an old post office with a quasi-Arcadia address in 2001, Postino has expanded to half a dozen locations situated throughout the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, as well as sites in Denver, Houston, and Tucson. With all that growth and a private equity deal helping to finance potential nationwide expansion, fans of earlier versions of the popular wine bar may wonder what to make of the brand’s rapidly enlarging footprint. Continue reading “Postino”

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”

Federal Pizza

In September 2009, crowds gathered in Midtown to see the old Mountain Bell building, one of many designed by the late Phoenix architect Al Beadle, demolished after years of neglect. The lot cleared by the implosion is now home to new structures surrounded by copious surface parking, but many other Beadle buildings remain and are being preserved. Two miles north, a former First Federal Bank branch designed by Al Beadle serves as home to Federal Pizza, a venture by Upward Projects, the same folks behind the nearby Windsor, Postino, and Joyride Tacos. Continue reading “Federal Pizza”

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”

Churn

The word “churn” doesn’t always have the best connotation. In contemporary usage, it’s  often associated with the rate at which a business loses customers or a workplace sheds employees, with resulting impacts on profitability. There’s a more classic meaning of churn, though, and it’s far more favorable. The classic churn is the device used to agitate milk or cream in creating butter, and a slightly more recent derivative is the process of continuous stirring used to make ice cream. In this spirit, an ice cream shop in Uptown Phoenix proudly bears the name Churn. Continue reading “Churn”

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”

Kream Coffee

Cream in coffee, disliked by some purists but favored by many consumers, is a sort of accent to a robust beverage. A little splash can make a cup full of brew more palatable and cool it to a drinkable temperature. Likewise, a little bit of coffee culture can add a bit of panache and convenience to a retail environment. Grocery and department stores have discovered that with their ubiquitous in-house chain coffee operations. For a small, independent design shop, however, something a little more stylish is in order. That’s the role played by Kream Coffee.
Continue reading “Kream Coffee”

First Draft Book Bar

Over the past quarter century, independent bookstores have nearly vanished and then begun a gradual recovery. Phoenix used to have plenty of them: Houle, Dushoff, and Shakespeare Beethoven & Company are all names that live only in local readers’ memories. Those stores are long gone, but Tempe-based Changing Hands has not only survived competition from online stores and chains, but also opened a second location in Uptown Phoenix. The Phoenix store is smaller than the one in southern Tempe, but it has a distinguishing feature: First Draft Book Bar. Continue reading “First Draft Book Bar”

Yama Sushi House

Maybe there’s already a serious research study out there somewhere, but one question that’s interesting to ponder is what relationship, if any, there is between the size of a restaurant and the size of its menu. A food cart that sells only two or three items makes sense. So does a banquet hall with an expansive menu. On the other hand, a large restaurant that serves a small menu suggests mass production rather than craft. What about the opposite: a small restaurant with an unexpectedly large menu? In the case of Yama Sushi House, the combination actually works. Continue reading “Yama Sushi House”

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