On the lookout for a cheap, filling place to grab a bite downtown — without resorting to fast food? Better start using your noodle. The first Vietnamese restaurant in the heart of the city serves up steaming bowls of pho (rice vermicelli and beef or chicken in fragrant broth), cool noodle-stuffed summer rolls, and filling bun (chilled noodles and vegetables) topped with grilled meat.
114 W. Adams St., 602-262-5535, vietkitchenaz.com
Tasty beers brewed on-site are only part of the reason to hit up SunUp, which occupies two vintage brick buildings on Camelback. Surprisingly scrumptious pub grub, as well as unexpected dishes like mussels steamed in shallot and hefeweizen broth, are the other.
322 E. Camelback Rd., 602-279-8909, sunupbrewing.com
Among the seemingly countless Thai joints that have cropped up across the Valley in recent years, this humble spot is one of the best. The BBQ chicken and pad thai can't be beat, and there are plenty of Northern Thai specialties to keep hardcore ethnic foodies coming back for more. And beware the curries — they're darn good, but "Thai hot" is something to take seriously.
616 W. Indian School Rd., 602-297-8888, thaiesanaz.com
That's a Wrap
Under new ownership by a longtime employee of its old Seventh Street location, That's a Wrap is now housed in the quaint space that used to be Lola Tapas. The healthful, inventive wraps and salads are as good as you remember, but there's new (and welcome) twist: a beer and wine menu.
800 E. Camelback Rd., 602-252-5051, eatatthewrap.com
Tammie Coe Cakes & MJ Bread
Roosevelt Row's pint-size bakery has really evolved, and now serves a variety of creative sandwiches and salads (many packaged to-go, displayed in a refrigerated case) along with MJ's artisanal breads and Tammie's celebrated Ooey Gooey cupcakes, cookies, and other sweets.
610 E. Roosevelt St., 602-253-0829, tammiecoecakes.com
The Paisley Violin
Slightly off the beaten path, this bohemian haunt is a good spot to hole up away from the bustle of downtown. Bring a friend, try one of the mouthwatering, mostly Mediterranean-inspired sandwiches and salads (or the Cuban sandwich, one of the best we've had) and grab a drink at the bar. By night, there's usually live music, too.
1030 Grand Ave., 602-254-7843, wix.com/grobin1208/the-paisley-violin
Lots of folks are on the run in Downtown Phoenix, which is why chef Aaron May calls his food at Vitamin T comida corrida, which means "running food" in Spanish and refers to the tacos, tamales, and tortas that provide perfect sustenance for busy urbanites. (Need a cocktail? That T also stands for tequila.)
1 E. Washington St., Ste. 175, 602-688-8168, eatmoretacos.com
If Hula's Modern Tiki, the stylish, Polynesian-modern CenPho eatery seems like a cheeky tribute to Trader Vic's — well, it is.
Co-owner Chris Delaney became interested in tiki and surf culture as a kid growing up on Long Island, New York, but he truly fell in love with it in the '80s, when a friend took him to the Trader Vic's at Manhattan's Plaza Hotel. His obsession grew even deeper when he moved to Monterey, California, in the '90s, and opened his first Hula's with his brother Craig.
What better excuse to collect tiki memorabilia than having a restaurant to display it all?
Co-owner Dana Mule says Delaney acquired even more tiki-tastic curios at shops like Go-Kat-Go, when he renovated the circa-1965 building that now houses Hula's Modern Tiki.
"The current collection of art includes prints by Mark Ryden, rare mugs by Munk Tiki, and posters from classic '60s and '70s movies," he says. "By displaying these pieces at Hula's, we are able to pay homage to our tiki roots, while maintaining a hip, midcentury vibe that reflects the urban renewal of the North Central Corridor."
What's the best way to get an eyeful of Delaney's kooky collection — much of which is displayed along the bar, in an illuminated case? Sitting right in front of it, with a frosty mai tai in hand. We think Trader Vic would approve.
4700 N. Central Ave., 602-265-TIKI, hulasmoderntiki.com