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A Phoenix Newcomer Explores: The Crescent Ballroom

February 2, 2014 by David Midkiff

“The Crescent has really put Downtown Phoenix on the map musically.”

I couldn’t agree more as I talked with a recent acquaintance a few nights ago.  Since moving to Phoenix in July, Crescent Ballroom and its adjoining restaurant, Cocina 10, have quickly become one of my favorite hangouts in Downtown.  My first experience at Crescent Ballroom was Gregory Alan Isakov’s mesmerizing performance back in September.  I have been orbiting like a moon around this Valley-of-the-Sun gem ever since.

Location, location, location…

Crescent Ballroom falls just between the artsy Roosevelt Row area and the athletic hub created by the U.S. Airways Center and Chase Field.  For those living Downtown like myself, its location on Second Avenue and Van Buren Street is a short bike ride or—if necessary—an even shorter drive.  Parking is not terribly difficult to find, but you may find yourself walking several blocks if the musical act is drawing a sold-out crowd.  The building itself is a modestly renovated brick structure shared with an auto shop.  The outside seating is perfect for an early evening meet-up with a close friend; inside, the restaurant space is often crowded and lively.  There is plenty of table space for larger groups considering the square footage of the restaurant. Directly ahead of the main entrance, two large doors lead into the concert venue.  Most nights, the door’s windows are blacked out as musicians sound check in preparation for an evening show.  The spacious venue has several tiers of concrete bleachers in the back for those who prefer to sit.  In the back corner, there is a small bar if you’re looking to order another round during the show.  The dimly lit brick walls and raw wooden accents create an excellent atmosphere conducive to everything from an intimate conversation to a lively musical act.

Food & Drink Fare

Cocina 10’s drink offerings offer something for almost everyone.  The beer menu features local and national brews; the house beer, the Luche Libre Lager, is my personal favorite because of its light, well-rounded taste profile and $3 per pint price tag during happy hour.  The “Honey Badger” is their most popular cocktail according to the servers, a well-balanced mix of bourbon, ginger beer, bitters and daub of honey.  I have yet to explore the wine menu, but it showcases a small variety of moderately priced reds and whites a wine lover could appreciate.

If the drink menu hasn’t captured your attention, the mostly local and varied food menu certainly will.  Salads, upscale latin-inspired dishes and the popular Lalo Burger (named for Chicano music legend Lalo Guerrero) are delicious and reasonably priced.  During happy hour, the dollar chips and salsa are an excellent appetizer to accompany the Luche Libre Lager I noted earlier.  While I cannot speak to any particularly outstanding dishes, you will not be disappointed by whatever the Cocina 10 chefs dish up.

Music Acts & Events

A quick look online will reveal that music acts and events are what truly make the Crescent Ballroom stand out.  The Crescent is a hub for quality indie acts from well-known acts such as Gregory Alan Isakov and This Will Destroy You to local upstarts such as the Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra, Dry River Yacht Club and the Haymarket Squares.  With such a wide variety of acts, tickets typically run from $5 to $25.  In addition, the venue hosts my new Sunday evening habit, trivia night, and frequent performances by the Arizona Storytellers Project to mix it up.

Simply put, the Crescent Ballroom is a well-executed cross section of a strong menu and excellent entertainment options.  Much has already been said about the Crescent, and I am merely adding my voice to the already enthusiastic approval from long-time Phoenicians.  If you have never been or haven’t been in some time, check their calendar, attend a show and find yourself immersed in the Downtown music scene.


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