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May 23, 2010 05:15 PM

chowhounder in downtown phoenix w/no car for a weekend

Ok. I will provide as many parameters as possible so not to get the flames as other posters have received! LOL

I am from NY and can tell you the best pizza with a one word reply or the best italian place, but here are some specifics.

Since my wife, myself and our 1 year old will be staying at the hyatt in downtown, your recommendations will need to be within a respectable cab ride away (or public doesnt scare us)

We are only available for dinner on three nights and possible a lunch and a breakfast.

As for cuisine, I most certainly want southwestern. not mexican, but the cuisine that new mexico and arizona have made famous. If that is not available, I will take mexican.

If there are other cuisines that you feel Phoenix has represented very well, like a particular southeast asian cuisine, go ahead and recommend. If you came to my area of NY, I would tell you not to miss a few places, even if NY isn't 'known' for that type of dining.

I love places that locals frequent and don't rely on fancy interiors to mask an otherwise so-so meal. In a real poor part of long island near me is a hole in the wall taco joint run by salvadorenas that is AWESOME, and this jewish kid doesn't think twice making the trip to it. I want that kind of recommendation.

Since we have a child with us, keep that in mind as some places don't accomodate kids (kotobuki near me comes to mind)

Also, a great beer bar or a place to smoke a cigar would be great too.(for when my wife and child are sleeping after that great meal!)

too much to ask? Thanks for your help...keep me in mind if you hit Long Island.

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  1. The main dliemma you will face is that the heart of Downtown, which I define as the area bounded by I-10 on the north, 7th St. on the east, 7th Ave on the west, and the freight railroad tracks on the south, is lacking in authentic, adventurous Southwestern and Mexican food. There are some restaurants such as Sam's Cafe and Mi Amigo's, both at the Arizona Center, which offer those cuisines, but they're somewhat watered down to appeal to the tastes of tourists and suburban visitors. There is one exception that has opened in just the past few weeks: Verde is an informal (order at the counter) spot at Garfield & First Street serving simple interior Mexican food such as red chile beef and oregano-lime chicken. I've liked everything I've tried there so far, except for a salad that I found a little too bland. It's definitely worth a visit and a perfectly good place to take a kid.

    Just beyond those boundaries, there are more interesting options accessible via walking, bus, light rail, or taxi. Some (indicated by an asterisk below) are in what might politely be called transitional neighborhoods, so make sure if you visit them you know where you're going and keep visits to daylight hours. Others should be fine at all hours. Also keep in mind that the Hyatt is one of the few places in Phoenix where cabs are waiting for fares. To return from your restaurant via cab, you'll have to call to have one dispatched.

    La Tolteca* -- 12th St. & Van Buren. Varied menu of both border and interior favorites, along with some funky groceries and cooking supplies. A good place to visit after a visit to the Children's Museum of Phoenix with your little one. A mile from your hotel down Van Buren, which starts to get seedy east of 7th St.). You can also take light rail to 12th St. and walk a few blocks north or take the #3 bus along Van Buren.

    Tacos de Juarez* -- An ugly little shack with some great food inside. Very informal and kid-friendly. Northeast corner of Downtown, but probably a bit far to walk from the Hyatt. Take the 7 bus or a taxi.

    Azteca Mexican Bakery* -- panaderia with great breakfasts & lunch on the west side of 7th Ave. A long-ish walk from the Hyatt or take a cab.

    Los Dos Molinos -- A Phoenix institution that people either love or hate. Fiery New Mexican food with daily specials. Take light rail to 12th St.

    Gallo Blanco -- Mexico-city food in a stylish boutique hotel restaurant (but still kid-friendly). 1/2 mile walk from Osborn or Indian School light rail stations in the relatively safe but sterile Midtown area.

    Pro's Ranch Market -- Huge Hispanic supermarket with an expansive food court. At 16th St. & Roosevelt. Take a cab or the #10 bus.

    La Condesa -- Impressive new taco shop with fillings like mole, mushrooms, and shrimp. Probably best reached by taxi.

    Pepe's Taco Villa* -- Five miles away, but easy to reach via light rail (19th Ave / Camelback). I'd be cautious walking the few blocks from the rail station after dark, but it's worth a visit in daytime for the mole enchiladas and olla beans.

    Those are my Mex/Southwest quick hits. I'll try to post again with recommendations for other cuisines when I have some more time.

    La Tolteca
    1205 E Van Buren St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

    Pepe's Taco Villa
    2108 W Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85015

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

    1. I don't think you'll find a place indoors to smoke other than maybe your hotel room or a casino as there's a statewide smoking ban here in AZ.

      You can't go wrong with anything Exit2Lef recommends.

      1. First of all, the light rail system goes right past the Hyatt so that opens you up to lots of choices. Unfortunately most of the places I am going to list below are not on the light rail. The rail system is safe, comfortable and inexpensive and you can use it to get all the way into downtown Tempe. Most of the places listed below have been detailed on this site many times and can be searched:

        Carolina's (original on Mohave). Yes it's a dump but really good Mexican food and inexpensive.

        Lo Lo's Chicken and Waffles. South of downtown a few minutes.

        Matt's Big Breakfast. Walkable from the Hyatt or take the light rail. Matt also owns the Roosevelt Tavern nearby. Great for drinks and bar food.

        America's Taco Shop. Excellent carne asada and al pastor tacos.

        Rito's. No sign but outstanding green chile burritos. My preference is chimichanga style.

        Lot's of good stuff on Central Avenue accessible by light rail: Maizie's, Pane Bianco, Etc.

        Closer to the Hyatt and an easy walk are Hanny's and Kincaid's. Neither are particularly kid friendly.

        The Phoenix Ranch Market is definitely worth a trip. Closest to downtown is at 16th St. and Roosevelt. 16th St. is really Mexican restaurant row. Barrio Cafe - which gets mixed reviews on this site but which I like alot - is the highest profile but there are lots of interesting places.

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

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

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

        1. thanks for the suggestions everyone. My work ends on saturday afternoon at 2, leaving me with the rest of saturday and sunday morning to explore. I don't mind taking light rail out of the city and then cabbing it if that will open me up to more delectable options!


          2 Replies
          1. re: scottybooj

            You might consider renting a car at the Hyatt when your work is done at 2pm. You'll probably save money and it will be much more convenient. Cabs just aren't standing around in Phoenix. You generally have to call them and then wait.

            1. re: Phoenix99

              If you have time, jump on the southbound light rail (the one that runs down 1st Avenue) and take it to Mill Avenue (20-30 minute ride). This will put you in the heart of the ASU campus retail area; lot's of good bars, restaurants and shopping. Robbie Fox's is a great Irish pub with excellent food (also has a back patio/bar). If you rent a car and are interested in visiting a local olive mill, check out Queen Creek Olive Mill. They give tours and have a restaurant that serves lunch:

              Queen Creek Olive Mill
              25062 S Meridian Rd, Queen Creek, AZ 85242

              Tempe, AZ, Tempe, AZ