Paint the Town

You don't fool me for a minute. You're admiring that Jeff Falk painting, maybe even whispering to your companion about Jeff's confident use of tempura and his canny allusions to Marc Chagall, but I know what you're really thinking. You're thinking about the turkey and Brie sandwich at My Florist Cafe. You're wondering if the Garden Party still has that cool Vernonware coffee set you saw there last week. You're hoping there's enough time to stop at a dollar store for a new bathmat and a couple of cheap hostess gifts on the way home.

Tell the truth: You love art, but not nearly as much as you love eating and shopping. Hey, me, too. I won't leave the house -- not even to look at art -- unless I can drop some cash on more crap to shove into my basement or something tasty to cram into my pie-hole. Fortunately, I live in downtown Phoenix, where, except for this one weekend each year, there's more eating and shopping than there is art.

If you've come downtown to gawk at wild-haired hipster types, look no further than Counter Culture Cafe (2330 East McDowell Road, 602-231-0762), a coffee house and hookah bar that's open 24/7. In honor of Art Detour, the cafe's booked hot DJs Nappe and Doctor Bones as its First Friday entertainment. You're unlikely to find anyone sucking on a water pipe at Lux Coffeebar (4404 North Central Avenue, 602-266-6469), but the place does serve old-fashioned drip brew to scenesters and boring people, too. Unfortunately, Lux will be closed on Sunday.

Fair Trade Cafe (1020 North First Avenue, 602-354-8150), which will feature ceramic sculptures by Jan Peterson during Art Detour weekend and beyond, is less edgy (perhaps because it's affiliated with Trinity Cathedral Center for the Arts, part of the cathedral's commitment to the city's cultural community), but it still serves a mean cup of joe. Fair Trade is located close to the Art Detour action, but not as close as Willow House (149 West McDowell Road, 602-252-0272), the granddad of all hipster hangouts. Open until 1 a.m. on weekends, Willow House always offers free Wi-Fi connection, and on First Friday this month will feature the music of Tucson folkies Ronstadt, Ramírez, and the Santa Cruz River Band. Willow House also serves pastries and a full line of sandwiches and side salads.

If it's heartier breakfast fare you're after, and if the sausage-and-eggs gods are with you, you might find a seat at Matt's Big Breakfast (801 North First Street, 602-254-1074), Phoenix's hottest downtown pancake place. But beware: This joint is jumping even when there aren't hundreds of people roaming around downtown looking at sculptures and paintings. If waiting for a table isn't your thing, Pat's Family Restaurant (1747 Grand Avenue, 602-252-8283) is open until 1 p.m. on Saturdays, serves a mean pile of biscuits and gravy, and is a quick skip up from several Art Detour galleries.

Also on Grand and in brand-new digs is Paisley Violin European Cafe (1028 Grand Avenue, 602-254-7843), a combination beatnik cafe and performance space with a full menu of Mediterranean dishes. My Florist Cafe (530 West McDowell Road, 602-254-0333) is great for lunch or a light supper of soup and fancy sandwiches; right across the street, a quicker lunch-on-the-go can be had at Zoë's Kitchen (521 West McDowell Road, 602-716-0070), a sort of high-end fast-food joint that serves salads and wraps. Quicker still is a visit to Ed "The Hotdogger" Haramina, who's not only a downtown fixture but a member of ArtLink, besides. Ed and his yummy wieners can be found most days on the corner of First Avenue and Jefferson Street.

On Art Detour weekend, Fate (905 North Fourth Street, 602-254-6424) is sure to be a mob scene of art fans who want some of owner/chef Johnny Chu's Saigon egg rolls and pork pot stickers. And don't even think about getting into Pizzeria Bianco (623 East Adams Street, 602-258-8300) or Ruby Beet (628 East Adams Street, 602-258-8700) without a wait; these places have lines in front of them pretty much year-round. Durant's (2611 North Central Avenue, 602-264-5967) takes reservations, and you can't beat this classic supper club for downtown ambiance.

If shopping is your true sustenance, and if Studio 777 (4442 North Seventh Avenue) is on your Art Detour list (and even if it isn't), drop in on the Garden Party Vintage and More (4302 North Seventh Avenue, 602-604-1831). Phoenix's newest vintage furniture and collectibles shop is run by a couple of eagle-eyed tchotchke aficionados who know a good deal when they see one, and aren't above passing their savings on to you. Wall-to-wall discounts on mid-century and deco furniture is my idea of high art.

Farther south on the same block is an entire intersection of good antiquing, and a cool dollar store to boot. Antique Market (1601 North Seventh Avenue, 602-255-0212) has recently remodeled, adding, among other things, a new booth devoted entirely to Fiestaware and a whole room filled with rare and unusual old books. Directly across the street, Historic District Antique Mall (539 West McDowell Road, 602-253-3778) offers lots of lower-end collectibles and furniture, and seems to specialize in kitchenware and vintage paper. Right next door is DA's Modern, which keeps odd hours and is dedicated to amazingly mint-condition mid-century furniture and accessories at comparatively reasonable prices. And next door to that is Banzai 99 Cent Plus, 527 West McDowell Road (602-442-0778), a dollar store that towers above all other dollar stores in the Valley. Last time I visited, I came away with a half-dozen designer baby toys (who knew Gucci made pacifiers?), a two-foot-tall donkey made of old corks, and an acrylic wine chiller decorated with a Bambi decal and the words "Pretty Pretty Cotton Hold." Now that's art worth the detour.