Best Neighborhood 2010 | Encanto/Palmcroft | People & Places | Phoenix
This 75-year-old neighborhood offers a glimpse of what tony downtown residential districts once looked like. Encanto/Palmcroft is home to some of the loveliest older architecture in the Valley: Tudor Revivals and American Colonial and California Craftsman homes, all situated on generous lots, nearly all of them restored or maintained, and each one a glimpse of beautiful bygone days. A tight, friendly neighborhood association and close ties to the Historic Preservation office have kept Encanto's charm intact. The folks on these blocks — 15th to Seventh avenues, north of McDowell Road and south of Encanto Boulevard — are proud of the hard work they've done to maintain both their beautiful buildings and the nifty neighborhood spirit they've developed. Even if you don't live there, you can enjoy this 'hood.In a city of grids, Encanto/Palmcroft offers walkers an alternative to the straight line. Curved streets lined with old, lushly landscaped Period Revival homes set the stage for an out-of-Phoenix experience (even the temperature is purported to be a few degrees lower in this unique urban ecosystem). The Encanto Circles offer myriad route possibilities, and when you've exhausted those (or yourself), you can always head to Encanto Park, bordering the north side of the neighborhood.
Maybe it's all the gorgeous trees that grow in some places right over the street and touch in the middle, creating a crazy canopy that drops the temperature what feels like 10 degrees. Or maybe it's all those gorgeous 100-year-old houses lining both sides of the street. Or the sexy joggers bouncing past. Or those little horse properties that dot this lovely three-mile stretch of residential Phoenix. Probably it's the combination of these things that make this one of the best drives in town. We go out of our way to enjoy it, ogling as we go past the tidy lawns of a handful of new-built properties and the oddly un-Phoenix-like absence of desert scrub and messy medians. Beautiful!
What's not to do on this dynamic drag between Indian School and Van Buren? Grab some lunch at Lucky Boy Burger Shop, Tortas El Güero, or Two Hippies Beach House before treasure hunting at UFO Universal Furnishings and Offerings, Lizabel's Treasures, and Boom Boom La Rue's. Groovy grocery shop at Phoenix Ranch Market and the Middle Eastern Bakery and Deli and snag a sweet treat at Michoacana Helados after a lesson at the Phoenix House of Karate or while waiting for Rover at Family Affair Pet Grooming. Finally, dine delicious at Barrio Café, with drinks and entertainment later at Philthy Phil's and Rips to toast this single street's sweet scene.
We get fired up about great ideas — even if they seem a little ambitious. Greatness, after all, was built on dreams, and we think Canalscape has tremendous potential. Planners took inspiration from places like Venice and proposed incredible ideas for the Valley's 181 miles of waterways. These winding canals are based on the ancient Hohokam's crop irrigation system and have previously been seen as utilitarian systems. Not any more. The plans include beefing up our waterfronts with small marketplaces filled with coffee shops, cafes, and retail boutiques. Imagine going for a jog along the waterway, free of cars and stinky traffic, to stop for a cappuccino and a newspaper. Sounds like a dream to us.
You know a street has arrived when it starts to put down roots — where so much is happening on the main drag that stuff starts popping on side streets, too. That's what has happened on Roosevelt Row, where just to the south, the stretch of Fifth Street from Roosevelt to Garfield has become the place to be. From MADE at the northwest end to Conspire at the southeast corner, with The Lost Leaf smack-dab in the middle, this is a street to emulate. The city hasn't been able to tear down all the charm — not yet, anyway — and this little scene is, in our estimation, city living at its finest.
Those in the know around Roosevelt Row call Sixth Street "the new Fifth Street," and we see what they mean. It doesn't quite have the hustle of Fifth — not yet, anyway. But that might not be far in the offing. Butter Toast Boutique is a welcome presence, as is Rouse Salon. Artist Robert Zunigha's studio is on Sixth, and we hear there are other artists planning to land there soon, too. The Grow House at the south end of the street is a super idea, well executed. Our favorite Sixth Street story is the one about Margaret Gabaldon — stepmother of author Diana Gabaldon — who grew up on the block and bought her parents' house so she could stay there. If you haven't been to Sixth Street, take a pass next time you're on Roosevelt, and you'll see why we're kinda jealous.
The Duce
Where do we begin? That's the problem we have when we visit The Duce, and it's our problem now, as we try to figure out how to describe it to you. Trust us, it's the kind of problem you want to have.Steve and Andi Rosenstein ditched Chicago for Scottsdale, only to realize once they'd arrived that, um, there's not much to do in these parts. Enter The Duce, a ginormous old warehouse in what was once the produce district in what is now largely abandoned South Phoenix. The Rosensteins treat the warehouse as their playground and have created what Steve describes as a city block under a historic roof. We have to admit that a year ago, when we described the vision in our "Best Retail Vision" entry in the 2009 Best of Phoenix, we never imagined they'd make the dream come true. But they have, and it's even better than we hoped for, with a funky vintage retail space, bar, soda fountain, restaurant, and trees literally growing through the roof. There's a charm to the hands-on approach Steve Rosenstein is taking. He sends out e-mails himself about musical guests, lunch specials, and delivery options, and literally sends out a refurbished school bus on First Fridays to take folks to his new spot in style. He's just as excited about The Duce as we are.
There is so much to love about POOL, a retail co-op just getting off the ground in a former Mervyn's. The floors are concrete, the ceilings are high, the lighting's groovy, the garage-style windows even groovier. There's a coffee bar with a horchata latte and a florist next door and a farmers' market on Thursdays. And then — well, then, there's work to be done. The booths are mostly occupied, which is good, but we'd frankly like to see fewer electronics and carved wooden giraffes and more handmade goods like the cute baby clothes made from upcycled T-shirts. This place has so much potential, but we wish someone's grandma had bequeathed him the Mervyn's at 20th and Camelback in Phoenix, rather than the one at Main and Stapley in Mesa. This is a tough neighborhood — not even particularly close to downtown Mesa. Home, frankly, to nothing cool. Except POOL. Hey, no one ever thought Marfa, Texas, could be hip and happening. If you build it — and lose some of the tacky imports — we just might come back.
Walk into an antique store to check out some vintage dishes, jewelry, and furniture. Then pop into a fashion boutique for 20-something women that's filled with hot pink tulle, bedazzled skulls, and roller derby-like attire. Feeling hungry? Roll into a burger joint and chow down on some American fare. Then get through the digestion drowsiness by walking down the street to a world-renowned museum. Sounds like San Francisco or New York, right? Wrong. It's Downtown Glendale. We're talking about antique stores like Granny G's Shady Nook or Strunk's Hollow; restaurants like A Touch of European Café or Haus Murphy's; and, of course, the Bead Museum. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to historic Glendale. Oh, yeah, believe it.
In a world of electronic communication, libraries are feeling the pinch. But Scottsdale Civic Center Library has figured out a way to move gracefully into the Digital Age while maintaining a healthy respect for the printed word. This airy, modern building hosts a broad spectrum of events, from opera-appreciation groups to an after-hours battle of teen bands. Charitable programs benefit local food banks while helping you work down your library fines. The courteous librarians give the impression that you are checking into a swanky Scottsdale resort, a feeling that continues as you settle into one of the many comfortable seating areas. And did we mention that they have books?

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