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 Uptown Plaza and beyond.
So much has changed at Uptown Plaza over the years, as well as the dining options at Central Avenue and Camelback Road. While yes, it is still home to the busiest Applebee’s in the Southwest, this super-concentrated part of town has a slew of less commercial options, too. From Chula’s second spot to cookie dough counters, micro-breweries, and one of the best brunches in town, here’s your dining guide to Uptown Plaza that will take you beyond the AJ’s salad bar.
Coffee and Juice
Kream5102 North Central Avenue
This multi-roaster specialty coffee shop offers a weekly rotation of coffees, and has partnerships going with roasters all over the country. Kream’s interior is small, sleek, and modern, with pops of literal neon hanging from the ceiling. Come here with a laptop or a friend, but certainly with anticipation for handmade coffee creations.
Nekter Juice Bar100 East Camelback Road, #196
Uptown Plaza’s Nekter Juice Bar has everything from toxin flushes to fruit fusions, plus fresh juices, smoothies, and handcrafted acai bowls. For the extreme clean, there are also cold-pressed juice cleanses available. And you can also grab a quick shot of turmeric or ginger, or a grab-and-go juice like the Classic Greens — a blend of pineapple, orange, cucumber, cilantro, spinach, and kale.
Flower Child100 East Camelback Road
This Fox Restaurant Concept (for now) keeps it simple with a tight but effective breakfast menu. Flower Child offers a breakfast burrito, supergrain oatmeal, and crushed avocado toast for starters. but some more imaginative breakfast items include the blueberry açai toast, the smoked turkey scramble, and the berbere-spiced vegan hash. And to drink, there are all kinds of coffee and juice choices.
Elly’s Brunch and Cafe100 East Camelback Road, #166
The menu at Elly’s isn’t overtly regional, favoring instead staples that will be recognizable to pretty much anyone familiar with the concept of brunch. Pancakes, French toast, fruit-stuffed crepes, omelets, frittatas, waffles, and specialty mimosas — these are the building blocks of a memorable brunch at Elly’s. The restaurant also serves a full lunch menu, and there’s a small coffee and pastry bar at the front of the restaurant where you can grab drinks and snacks to go.
Windsor5223 North Central Avenue
Windsor has an award-winning brunch. Seriously, we gave it an award for best brunch in 2019. The neighborhood staple offers killer cocktails, a stunning patio, and a hip dining room. But for brunch, nothing beats that build-your-own Bloody Mary cart, those $5 morning cocktails, or signature dishes like the Windsor eggs Benedict, southern-style sausage and gravy, or the cinnamon roll.
Zookz Sandwiches100 East Camelback Road
A Zookz sandwich, for the uninitiated, has a blueprint like ravioli. The entire filling is encased in a wheat-based exterior, in this case, bread. The bread is crimped on the circumference, making fillings invisible and creating a sandwich in the shape of a flying saucer. Don’t sleep on the No. 20 — turkey with bacon, avocado, tomato, and cheddar cheese, complete with the Zookz sweet heat mustard sauce.
Cheese n Stuff5042 North Central Avenue
Cheese n Stuff has been around for more than 60 years, meaning management here asks you keep phones on silent and take your calls outside. For those who love turkey sandwiches, the Doughboy is a real treat — turkey, yes, plus bacon, Swiss cheese, avocado, and mayonnaise. This lunchbox-friendly square sandwich is served on tangy sourdough (other options include rye, whole wheat, and a sub roll) and warmed, which you can feel through its tinfoil wrapping. When you see the iconic neon sign at Cheese n Stuff humming with life, you better hook in.
Federal Pizza5210 North Central Avenue
This pizza parlor is a bustling yet intimate place offering food like roasted vegetables, pasta, salads, wings, and puffy-crusted pizzas. The salads are festive bowls of lively greens punctuated with ingredients like currants, fennel, and smoked almonds — which makes this an ideal lunch spot. But the main attractions at Federal Pizza are the 12-inch pies with a crispy outer crust, a thick, puffy edge, a slightly chewy interior, and a harmonious flavor balance of toppings applied deftly by the kitchen. There is also a tidy and thoughtful list of wine and local and craft beer.
Sauce Pizza and Wine25 East Camelback Road
Sauce Pizza and Wine is one of those quick-service lunch spots you’re grateful for — especially when it offers pizza, salad, soup, and pasta. The chicken and pine nuts salad is a midday godsend thanks to the organic spring mix, romaine, tomatoes, gorgonzola, and gorgonzola vinaigrette. And the meatballs and mozzarella panini is a killer combo with the house-made red sauce. Pair that with a Pellegrino, unless you have the afternoon free, in which case, go for the San Tan Brewing Co. hefeweizen or quick glass of pinot noir.
Huss Brewing Co.100 East Camelback Road, #160
This Tempe brewery made its way to Uptown Plaza, settling in a back-corner spot with a cozy patio and open dining area. At Huss Brewing Co. you can grab an icy cold helping of the Papago Orange Blossom or the Koffee Kolsch, which is especially encouraged during happy hour — 3 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Pitchers are $6, and wine is $1 off (oh yeah, there’s also wine and cider). But the big treats are the $3 sliders. We recommend the caprese, but the green chile pork and roast beef are also pretty killer.
Joyride Taco House5202 North Central Avenue
In this town, you can’t really beat tacos and margaritas on special — so plan accordingly to visit Joyride Taco House. From 2 to 6 p.m. on weekdays, tacos are $2 and margs are $5 a pop. So yes, you can pile up a plate of crispy fish, carnitas, or pork adobada tacos, paired with a cucumber serrano, pineapple mojito, or blood orange margaritas. And on Taco Tuesdays, happy hour goes from 2 to 11 p.m.
Chula Seafood Uptown100 East Camelback Road, #17
Raw, wrapped, sliced, smoked, bowled, seared, or sandwiched, the fish at Chula Seafood is some of the best in town. Chula devotees will quickly recognize old favorites at the Uptown spot: the Hawaiian poke bowl, the tuna confit sandwich, the smoked fish platter. The best thing may be grilled oysters laid over grilled Noble bread soaked with butter and chalked with char. But there are also swordfish tacos, clam chowder, and fish and chips.
Postino5144 North Central Avenue
Wine with dinner is a pretty wonderful combination. Especially when you pair that wine, or craft beer, with snacks and staples like an olive plate, a bruschetta board, or a soup and salad deal. But the paninis at Postino are also pretty great, including the Tuscan tuna, the roasted turkey, the chicken and mozzarella, or the vegetarian. Pair that with local beers like the Four Peaks Kiltlifter Scottish Ale or just split a bottle of the Espiritu malbec with the table.
St. Francis111 East Camelback Road
The long standing — in most ways — St. Francis offers a number of main courses ideal for an intimate dinner. You could go for the filet mignon, New York strip, or pan-seared salmon, but we wouldn’t blame you for getting distracted by entrees like the Parmesan shrimp risotto, the forbidden rice bowl, or the gnocchi. Even the pig dip — wood-roasted pork loin, bacon, onion marmalade, Dijon, gruyere, and pork jus all served on a baguette — seems mesmerizing. No matter the choice, we recommend you pair it with wine or a house cocktail like the Santa Rosa or almond margarita.
Scoopwell's Dough Bar100 East Camelback Road, #164
Scoopwell's started as an edible cookie dough pop-up at Tempe Public Market. Now the husband-and-wife operated brick-and-mortar store is found in the back corner of Uptown Plaza. This isn’t an ice cream or frozen yogurt shop. It’s a gourmet, from-scratch, cookie dough parlor. Flavors include brownie batter, rainbow sprinkle, and lemon poppyseed with seasonal flavors ready to wow. And this being the age of customization, mix-ins range from chocolate fudge to peanut butter chips, pretzels, Twix bars, marshmallows, and way more.
Churn5223 North Central Avenue
Churn mixes modern style with a classic ice cream shop feel, bringing out the inner child in kids and adults. Inside you’ll agonize over flavor options like Madagascar vanilla, cookies and mint, and Vietnamese coffee. And once we’ve settled on a flavor there are still plenty of choices to be made: Do you want your ice cream in a cup or a cone? A waffle cone, cake cone, sugar cone, or pretzel cone? You can always have the friendly scoopers build you an ice cream sandwich; you get to choose the ice cream flavor and pick your own cookies.
Bonus Round24 West Camelback Road, Suite DE
Proclaiming itself to be the Valley's only nerd bar, Bonus Round offers not only craft beer and cocktails, but also food and free arcade games. That’s where the nerd bar part comes in. What’s more, the craft beer list is long and weird, promised cocktails include The Banana Stand and Duck Duck Pamplemousse, and there’s definitely wine for a calmer night at the joystick.