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Food, Restaurants & Dining Fara Illich December 3, 2009

People who live and work in Downtown Phoenix near the lightrail are discovering more options lately when looking for a place to eat in our urban core. Entrepreneurs are taking advantage of great opportunities to  snatch up real estate and sling their brand of specialty dishes near the transit system.  I’m ecstatic about the news and I know other people here in CenPho are as well.

In honor of Buy Local Week, I wanted to share a list of eight new restaurants you should try along the light rail.  I recently learned the importance of buying local: 45 cents of every dollar stays in Arizona when you buy local as opposed to only 13 cents at a national chain. (source: Local First AZ)  My list below is an ecclectic mix of restaurants, coffee bars and even a grocery store. Some are perfect for a casual outing with friends while others are great for an intimate dinner for two in our desert oasis.  Either way, these businesses are helping to build a better and more vibrant downtown.  Don’t see one of your favorites on the list? Tell us yours by posting a comment below.

Nine I 05

I’ve been telling friends that Nine I 05’s modern asian fare is lick-your-plate good.  I know, not appropriate behavior anywhere let alone this particular location, but I realized why I had this urge when the server brought my dessert.  I figured out every dish had a standout sauce. Not alot of sauce, just a little drizzle to keep your tastebuds wanting more.  Everything from the crispy duck and foie to the pork belly buns to the blueberry mochi cake was lick your plate good.  (And no, I didn’t)  Somethings you should know about Nine I 05 has intimate seating, a spacious patio, an smaller portions in a relaxed yet classy setting.  This is a place you want to take your out of town friends to show them a good time.  Go stylish, leave satisfied. You’ll probably spend approximately $30 per person without drinks. Hannys See the entire menu here.  Directons from the Roosevelt Station: walk or bike eastbound on Roosevelt to 5th Street and head south a couple of blocks to 905 5th Street.

Royal at the Market

Great coffee, cool atmosphere and a good location.  Royal at the Market moved from their space near the courthouse to the brand spanking new Phoenix Public Market (see below).   What I love: the coffeebar is like a hidden treasure for locals, tucked away behind the PPM with an alley side entrance.  I know, sounds weird, but it’s really the coolest spot for a coffeebar.  The best part: Royal roasts their own beans.  If you like oatmeal raisin cookles then you’ll love the ones at Royal.  Wanna meet for coffee?  Take Central Station north to PIerce, hang a right, and go half a block.  Royal is inside the Phoenix Public Market or walk in through the alley entrance on the west side of the building.

Phoenix Public Market

I love this place.  The Phoenix Public Market  is a gourmet grocery store full of locally grown or produced items.  The market has a variety of healthy choices like organic fruits, vegetables and bread.  However, I normally hit the freezer where my favorite locally made ice cream is waiting.  The M&M candy apples are also high on my list of guilty pleasures.  Those looking for something more substantial should try the pre-made sandwiches.  Getting hungry?  Use the same METRO station and directions above.  Find out more informaiton about the market here.

Fair Trade at Civic Space Park

I like to park my bike, grab a chai tea latte, and take my time heading back while enjoying the view of the coolest art feature in the entire Valley. (Civic Space Park on Flickr)  Don’t get confused: Fair Trade also has a second (and original) location one stop north at Roosevelt and Central.  In the mood for more than coffee?  Try their curry chicken salad during lunch.  Also a favorite: Fair Trade’s coffee cake. Enjoy the great weather on the Zen patio – a quiet retreat right smack in the center of the 5th largest metropolitan city in the country.  Fair Trade at Civic Space is just north of Central Station, underneath the A.E. Building on the eastside of the park.

Two Hippies Breakfast Joint

The owners of a Phoenix burger joint by a similar name are now giving foodies one more good option for breakfast when sadly there are few.  Two Hippies serves a breakfast bowl which you can customize by selecting from a long list of add-ins that ranges from basics like bacon to something more bold like sun dried tomatoes. (At least bold for me because I’m more basic when it comes to breakfast.) I went with my friend Amy and we both pigged out on bowls, bread pudding and a side of deep fried pickles. (The restaurant serves breakfast during the lunch hour as well.)  The bowls are made to order and the place is typically packed so do the math and be prepared to wait. The meal is worth it.  This Two Hippies will require you to hoof it a ways – the restaurant is seven blocks east of the Indian School station so it’s best to bring your bike.  Head westbound on Indian School, then right on 7th avenue the restaurant is about 1/2 a mile north on the west side of street.  An ATM is on site at this cash only business. The exact address is 4306 N 7th Avenue.

Sapna Cafe

Sapna reminds me of a sleek cafe you would find in Europe, only sitting in the heart of our desert playground on lower Grand Avenue. The area is one of my favorites in town.  The lower Grand Avenue neighborhood saw some rough times over the last 10 years and is currently going through a revival.  Artists are building a name here and there’s buzz the tech community wants to establish roots as well. People love the food, especially the vegan options at the little cafe in the pie shaped building.  See a sampling of the menu on their Facebook fan page here.  This is another place you’ll want to bring a bike.  Deboard at Central Station and head westbound on Van Buren to 7th Avenue, continuing northwest on Grand Avenue to the corner of 13th Avenue,


Breadfruit brings Jamaica and the flavorful spices used in the Caribbean to the downtown district.  Items on the menu here have a kick to to them: spicy here is not like Southwestern spicy most Americans taste in Mexican food.  Not to worry, Breadfruit takes care of their wimpy guests (like me) with a selection of tasty Jamaican beverages such as a pink grapefruit drink to help guests manage the experience. The result:  truly wonderful!  Don’t let the spice scare you away.  Deboard at Central Station and head north past Civic Space park to Pierce and turn right.  The restaurant is on the north side just past 1st Street.  Find more information here.



The building alone is a reason to try Hanny’s, which sits in an old department store.  When you’re not enjoying one of their signature drinks or pizzas, be sure to check out the elevator shaft or the restrooms.  The restaurant owner turned the dressing room waiting area and stalls in individual bathrooms. The sophisticated and contemporary dining room atmosphere is a great place to entertain out of town guests or even small groups. The restaurant is another one on my list where you could easily spend about $20 to $30 per person.  A short walk from the Washington and Central station, just head north to the end of the platform and then east on Adams to 1st Street.  Hanny’s is on southwest corner.


One new restaurant I left out, and only because I haven’t been, is Hula’s Modern Tiki. Hula’s is on my radar though so I plan on going soon. If you need a map of the METRO rail system here in Phoenix click here.