Welcome to Dining Guides, an intermittent series on the many dining hubs around the greater Phoenix area and what they have to offer. Breakfast to drinks, quick coffee to sit-down dining, we break down some of our favorite places in each neighborhood. Today, we want to zero in on the Melrose District.
The Melrose District, especially the Melrose Curve along Seventh Avenue in central Phoenix, is one of the most colorful neighborhoods in the city. Businesses range from TV repair to music and bike shops; antique stores to salons and retro outfitters. But Melrose is also known for its dining scene thanks to quirky coffee shops, new taverns, family-owned restaurants, and fry bread.
A prideful neighborhood, Melrose offers nightlife in the form of bars like The Rock, Boycott, Pat O's Bunkhouse Saloon, and many more. There's walkability, history, food, and drink ready to explore.
Copper Star Coffee4220 North Seventh Avenue
This locally owned coffee shop has everything you might expect — caffeinated hot and cold drinks, Wi-Fi, tables and chairs — but there’s something else it has in droves. That’s lots and lots of character. Copper Star Coffee offers local art on the walls, live music, and menu items like smoothies, teas, bagels, sandwiches, and salads.
The Refuge Café4727 North Seventh Avenue
This place offers coffee for a cause. Roasting single-origin, ethically sourced, 100 percent Arabica coffee, the Refuge lists drip coffee, nitro cold brew, specialty espresso drinks and more on its menu. That menu also offers breakfast, lunch, wine, and cocktails to boot. And as you may have guessed by the name, the Refuge funds some local nonprofit organizations with portions of its proceeds.
Melrose Kitchen4306 North Seventh Avenue
This family-owned diner is a welcoming, quick dining retreat that is heavily over decorated in the best possible way. The Melrose Kitchen breakfast menu lists classic items like steak and eggs to build-your-own omelets and breakfast burritos, stuffed French toast, and a bacon waffle. There’s also a lunch menu, desserts, and plenty of coffee. And when weather permits, an outdoor patio welcomes diners and pets.
Joe’s Diner4515 North Seventh Avenue
A retro diner if ever there was one, Joe’s Diner boasts best pancakes in Phoenix, and offers a packed menu full of breakfast, brunch, and lunch items. Think omelets, tuna melts, croissant sandwiches, eggs, burgers, coffee, and more eggs. The family-owned Joe’s started in 2010 farther south, and moved to the curve to reestablish the open-daily diner with more room.
Thai Long-An4447 North Seventh Avenue
This petite restaurant and take-out counter offers authentic Thai cuisine in the form of Thai egg rolls, lemon grass soup, and spicy tofu salad. For you noodle fiends, Thai Long-An lists Drunken Noodles and Pad Thai as well as entrees like Pad Woon Sen. Curries include the usual red, green, and yellow, plus mussamun, Pa-Naeng, and duck. Lunch specials reign supreme here, and there are a few beer and wine options.
Fry Bread House4545 North Seventh Avenue
If ever there were a restaurant hinting at what’s on its menu by its sign, it’s the Fry Bread House. The family-run restaurant has been serving traditional Tohono O'odham food since 1992 and offers plain fry bread as well as a number of specialties. Try the pillowy stuff jammed with ground beef, beans and cheese, or alongside stews or beneath sweet chocolate. Other menu items include tacos, burros, and chippies and salsa.
Diamond Chinese Restaurant4402 North Seventh Avenue
This no-frills Cantonese restaurant offers lunch combinations that could keep you trying something new for a while. Think Chinese eatery staples, including Kung Pao chicken or beef, pepper steak, shrimp with lobster sauce, orange chicken, and more. And while at Diamond Chinese Restaurant, be sure to grab a piping hot crab puff if you’re feeling extra hungry.
Thunderbird Lounge710 West Montecito Avenue
The new Thunderbird Lounge has added some even newer happy hour specials, so come 4 p.m., you’re free to head over to the Wagon Wheel building. Post up at the colorful bar, one of three booths, the living room-style lounge area, or the spacious backyard patio. Happy hours specials include $4 wells, $1 off drafts, and $5 for Skrewball whiskey from 4 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Restaurant Progress702 West Montecito Avenue
This 37-seat dinner spot is hard to pass if you’re anywhere near the corner of Seventh and Montecito Avenues and hungry. The smell alone, and especially coupled with the light chatter, clinking of dishes and silverware, and twinkling décor, will definitely draw you in to Restaurant Progress. Classic American fare is upscaled by chef and owner TJ Culp. There’s no set menu, so the five-course tasting menu comes recommended. And FYI, here lies excellent wine and hand-crafted cocktails.
Short Leash Hotdogs & Rollover Doughnuts4221 North Seventh Avenue
Once a food truck, next a spot on Roosevelt Row, Short Leash has been a Melrose District tenant for a few good months already. There are salads, loaded fries, and starters like cauliflower wings and cheese curds, but the the signature hot dogs are the real deal here. The Lady is a killer with chipotle cream cheese, sautéed onions, and fried pickles, and the Bear is just fun. There are also more than 80 craft beers available, and scratch-made brioche doughnuts.
PHX Burrito House4140 North Seventh Avenue
This colorful house turned Mexican food joint offers salads, quesadillas, tacos, and breakfast, but as the name might suggest, you should get a burrito. A flour tortilla is wrapped around options like Mexican rice, black or pinto beans, cheese, sour cream, and choice of protein. The meats include pork in green chile sauce, beef in red chile sauce, pork carnitas, carne asada, and shredded beef. Other burrito options at PHX Burrito House include shrimp, veggie, bean and cheese, and, for breakfast, machaca.
Char's Has the Blues4631 North Seventh Avenue
A staple of the Melrose District, the roadhouse-style Char's Has the Blues is part bar, part constant wedding reception. There’s always live music and dancing in the perfect confidence-boosting setting. That means it’s totally dark inside, with the dimmest hint of red light guiding you to the bathroom, your seat, or back to the bar. Get ready to get down to blues, soul, and funk — just try not to spill your drink on the dance floor.
The Quail Lounge4134 North Seventh Avenue
Just north of the Melrose District arch, the Quail Lounge has operated under that name for roughly seven years. Inside the boxy structure there’s a bar backed by two pool tables, some tables and chairs, a few TVs for football season, and an internet jukebox. The bathrooms are remodeled, but the rest is pure dark dive. You can bring your own food or come for a Cardinals game potluck.
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Dino’s Napoletana710 West Montecito Avenue
Part of the Restaurant Progress culinary team, Dino’s Napoletana is a late-night pizza operation only making pies behind the ‘30s-era Wagon Wheel Building. Meaning if you’re hanging out in Thunderbird’s backyard-style patio area and have some cash (and only cash), you can get one of its three styles of pizza. The zucchini, ricotta, pistachio, and mint topped pie is recommended.
Filiberto's4201 North Seventh Avenue
Can’t go wrong with late-night, drive-thru acquired Mexican food when the evening calls for it. Do we even need to explain the Filiberto's menu?