Looking for a casual and inexpensive place downtown to meet up with friends, with bar.
We'll be at a convention at the Convention Center (duh) and a group of us want to have dinner afterwards next Thursday. We will have a car, but we might end up with a bigger group, so walking distance would be nice. Drinks are important, but we definitely prefer casual and not too pricey. Mexican would be good, but whatever place we choose should be vegetarian-friendly or at least have fish entrees (he won't eat meat). East Indian is good too, but only if its better than average. (DH is from India, and is picky about Indian restaurants...). Actually, any ethnic is probably fine. One of us goes gluten-free, and we all like seafood.
I have slightly bad news: Neither of your preferred cuisines is available downtown. The only Mexican restaurant with a bar in the downtown area is Mi Amigo's at Arizona Center, and they're about as pedestrian as Mexican gets in this town. You could do worse, but not by much. Speaking of worse, skip Sam's Cafe a couple of doors down; I'm pretty sure that it would have closed ages ago if it weren't for the two very tall office towers on the same block. There is zero Indian food for several miles.
My vote goes with Ipsedixit to head to Blue Hound. I've heard nothing but glowing reviews about the place, and it looks like both vegetarians and celiacs will be easily accommodated.
I would add The Breadfruit to your list. They have a fantastic line up of rum-based cocktails and a casual vibe. Based what I've eaten on my visits to both, I'd put their food (refined takes on Jamaican/Caribbean cuisine) ahead of that of Blue Hound. The Breadfruit (rightly) takes pride in it seafood preps.
If I were concerned *only* about drinks, then Blue Hound would be my top choice by far. Even though I've thoroughly enjoyed the drinks I've had at The Breadfruit's rum bar, I appreciate the variety of spirits available at Blue Hound. I could see a nice evening consisting of a pre-dinner cocktail at Blue Hound followed by a buzzy stroll up to The Breadfruit for another drink and dinner.
I'm no expert on gluten sensitivities, so I can't comment on what's safe or what can be easily and suitably modified at either place--if concerned, I would inquire ahead of time.
Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails
2 E Jefferson St
Phoenix, AZ 85004
The Breadfruit and Rum Bar
108 E Pierce St
Phoenix, AZ 85004
Blue Hound is a pretty solid place. The food and drinks are very good.
Depending on what time you get out of the convention, you could go right next door to Kinkaid's. They have a happy hour that you can turn into a dinner. It (like Blu Hound) might be just a bit higher than your price range though.
You could also light rail it up to Portland's or further on to Switch or Fez. The second two are a bit cheaper, but also a little bit farther.
Report back: one friend nixed Breadfruit because of the focus on rum drinks. I guess she doesn't do rum:-). We ended up at Blue Hound and were very very pleased. Drinks were great; loved the absinth fizz and the spicy caramel corn to accompany it. DH and I split an app of the coffee-crusted hamachi with candied jalapenos - sounds weird but it tasted wonderful and the quality of the fish was beyond approach. Then we each had a salad and shared the mussels. I was reluctant to order mussels in Phoenix but they were amazing. I think DH drank every drop of the broth right out of the bowl:-). Got kind of fuzzy from drinks so don't remember exactly what my friends had but I know they were pleased. Split a delicious pineapple-upside down cake for desert. Dense with caramel sauce. Great place to relax, catch up, and we were able to watch baseball while enjoying drinks in the bar. Thanks for the recommendation - we just might end up there tonight as well!