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Apr 26, 2010 03:43 PM

Trapped in downtown Phoenix

I have been coming to Phoenix on business every few months for the past five years or so, but am going to have to be here much more often through the end of this year. I usually stay downtown and am trying to find a good option that's not Pizzeria Bianco or the nearby array of (often good) northern Mexican restaurants. Does anyone have any suggestions of good spots within a modest drive of downtown?

Pizzeria Bianco
623 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

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  1. The District (at the Sheraton downtown) makes a mighty fine burger.

    PastBar is good for Italian.

    Baiz Market is good for middle eastern.

    Breadfruit isn't bad for caribbean.

    Cibo is good for pizza, without the 3 hour wait.

    1. To the foregoing list, I'd add Sens (pan-Asian small plates--better than it sounds), which is in the same building as Pasta Bar.

      Outside of, but not far from, the downtown core you have:
      Gallo Blanco--well executed Mexican in a modern, semi-loungey setting. outstanding value
      St. Francis--New American food, featuring entrees from their wood-fired oven. not such an outstanding value, IMO, but many people are avid supporters of Chef Chamberlain and his food
      Lola Tapas--good Spanish and Northern African-influenced tapas and convivial atmosphere
      Padre's--unpretentious 1/2 bar, 1/2 restaurant. serving Southwestern/Mexican standards, some with unique twists
      Thai E-San--very good Thai with a menu including many of the usual suspects along with some less common items

      Dropping in place links for places mentioned earlier...
      District Kitchen
      Baiz Market / Al Hana
      The Breadfruit

      800 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85014

      603 N. 5th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 850103

      Baiz Market
      523 N 20th St, Phoenix, AZ

      The Breadfruit
      108 E Pierce St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

      Padre's Modern Mexican
      1044 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ

      District: American Kitchen and Wine Bar
      320 N 3rd St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

      Gallo Blanco Cafe
      401 W Clarendon Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85013

      St Francis
      111 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85012

      Thai E-San
      616 W Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85013

      3 Replies
      1. re: hohokam

        adding a link for Sens...

        705 N 1st Street 120, Phoenix, AZ 85004

        1. re: hohokam


          What did you like at St. Francis? My one visit there was an utter disappointment, if not disaster.

          I'd maybe give it another try ... but like to hear other thoughts.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            I'm probably not the right person to ask, as I'm not one of the avid supporters mentioned above.

            I thought the flatiron steak and roasted potatoes I had on my second, and most recent, visit were respectable, but for $24, I expected to be impressed or at least filled up. I left feeling neither.

            St. Francis isn't out of the game completely, but at 0-2, they are definitely behind in the count.

            These days, I'd rather go to FnB to get food that's just as good or better for 20% less money.

            7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

        2. I'm often concerned when someone says northern Mexican restaurants because it often means Americanized platters of dished up food, covered in cheese and then heated to thermonuclear temperatures under a salamander. I've spent literally hundreds of nights in Mexico and never been cautioned, "be careful, the plate is hot."

          The Phoenix dining scene has been changed by Mexican restaurants that are specializing in the cuisine of a particular area of Mexico. Look for "estilo de D.F." for example for Mexico City cuisine. Having said this, here are some great Mexican restaurants within an easy drive of downtown:

          Barrio Cafe
          Phoenix Ranch Market
          Guero's Tortas (not nearly as great as Los Reyes de la Torta but much closer)
          America's Taco Shop
          La Condesa

          Other downtown places to consider:
          Pane Bianco (Chris Bianco's sandwhich shop on Central)
          Maizie's Cafe
          Kincaid's (great happy hour with appetizers half off)
          Local Breeze
          Bella Italia (a bit north on 7th avenue near Indian School but really only a few minutes and worth it for inexpensive Italian)
          Hanny's (not really a fan but probably worth adding for something simple, convenient, Etc.)

          Pane Bianco
          4404 N Central Ave Ste A, Phoenix, AZ 85012

          America's Taco Shop
          2041 N 7th Street, Phoenix, AZ

          2 Replies
          1. re: Poerz

            Should "Bella Italia" be "Caffe Italia" (4201 North 7th Avenue)? If so, a restaurant in the same vein (but with better ambiance) is Harley's, which is right next door. Also, America's Taco Shop has a location just a quarter mile north of there on the same side of 7th Ave (America's Taco Shop North a.k.a. Melrose location).

            1. re: hohokam

              America's Taco Shop, oh yeah.
              Local Breeze, at 4th ave and fillmore. Love to linger here at sunset over food and a cocktail.
              The Main Ingredient Alehouse, at 7th st. and Sheridan. Gourmet bar food and craft beers, friendly owners behind the bar.
              Cheuvronts, 1326 Central. Small plates and entrees, Apps, strong focus on wine selection.
              I actually prefer to eat downtown.

              America's Taco Shop
              2041 N 7th Street, Phoenix, AZ

          2. I ate at Matt's Big Breakfast, this morning. I suppose I arrived about 6:50am (Tuesday), and there were seats available. This is one of the best breakfasts in town, IMO. I don't know when the line starts forming, but, I've driven by on many occasions where the number of people waiting outside probably outnumbered the people inside.

            Matt's Big Breakfast
            801 N 1st Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004

            1 Reply
            1. re: johnseberg

              I've tried most of the places listed and agree completely with all of them. Excited to have watched the downtown dining scene improve over the past few years. More to come with City Center later this year.

            2. Mrs. White's Golden Rule cafe offers soul food- my favorite is the fried chicken with greens and sweet potatoes, husband loves the fried pork chops with rice and gravy.

              Matt's Big Breakfast is very good, but keep in mind its only open for breakfast and lunch.

              Mrs White's Golden Rule Cafe
              808 E Jefferson St, Phoenix, AZ 85034

              Matt's Big Breakfast
              801 N 1st Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85003

              1 Reply
              1. re: contemporaryscarlett

                Mrs. White's is a great recommendation. Correct on Matt's but let's add Roosevelt Tavern just down the street and owned by Matt for evenings. Also, LoLo's Chicken and Waffles in lower downtown. Larry Lo Lo White is Mrs. White's grandson I believe.