Editor's Note: We've made wish lists before, but this one began with a maple bacon bar. A friend asked where she could find one of those famous donuts she's been hearing about. Rainbow Donuts, we told her -- but not just any Rainbow Donuts, you'll have a long drive to north Phoenix. "Now that's something downtown Phoenix needs," our friend declared. "Maple bacon donuts!" We agree. And Nikki Buchanan has a few other items on her own wish list.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Downtown Phoenix is coming into its own. We've been hearing that fairytale for years now. Shall we talk about all the places we've lost -- Oakville, Sens, Vitamin T, Urban Grocery, Roosevelt Tavern and whatever else I'm forgetting? While it's true that the center of our city finally has a discernible pulse (thanks in large part to ASU's downtown campus), it still has some great big gaping holes in the food and drink department.
Here's my wish list for downtown Phoenix, eight places that would get me -- and keep me -- down there more often.
A 24-Hour Coffee Shop It's not that we lack for great java joints downtown, but most of them cater to early birds, not night owls, closing their doors long before the hours turn wee. Jobot is the lone ranger, staying open until midnight on the weekdays and 24 hours on the weekend, but that's cold comfort to a college student pulling an all-nighter. We need a coffee shop (not a coffee house) that's open 24/7: an old school, Edward-Hopper kind of place with a counter and cushy booths (ix-nay on the couches), serving breakfast food, great chili, sandwiches, house-made cinnamon rolls, coffeecake, pie and waitresses (yes, waitresses) who keep the coffee coming. The one modern touch would be wifi.
Hana Japanese Eatery Wouldn't it be great if one of our favorite sushi bars had a satellite operation downtown? And while we're at it, let's imagine Hana also offers donburi (meal-in-one rice bowls, including katsudon and oyakodon) and the bento boxes they already serve at lunch in carry-out form. It couldn't hurt to add a couple of izakaya items -- maybe yaki onigiri (crunchy, flattened fried rice balls) and yakitori. Oh yeah, and beer. We need Japanese beer and sake, so let's give Hana #2 a liquor license. An Oyster Bar Maybe it was true 25 years ago, but the old story about not being able to get fresh seafood in the desert is hopelessly out-of-date (ever heard of Fed-Ex?), which means there's no reason in the world we can't have a nice simple oyster bar with an abbreviated seafood menu featuring pristine seafood. I'm thinking something along the lines of 100-year-old Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco: a long counter, a handful of seafood options (oysters on the half shell, Dungeness crab, shrimp, Boston clam chowder and smoked fish) and a handful of craft beers. That's it, maybe with good sourdough bread from MJ.
A Rooftop Beer Garden Sam Fox is opening a beer garden on Seventh Street, and Brat Haus offers a great beer list with house-made sausages in Scottsdale. But I want a beer garden with a view right in the heart of downtown -- so I can watch the sunset through a cool skyline and drink from a serious beer menu while eating the hearty stuff that goes well with it: sausages, soft pretzels, fondue, rillettes, maybe even raclette. It wouldn't hurt to throw in a few decent wines either.
Sweet Republic Frozen yogurt is fine if you're desperate for something cold and sweet, but really, how can any self-respecting downtown NOT have an ice cream shop? And not just any old corporate churn but something artisanal and insanely creative, something like Sweet Republic, which has earned loads of national attention for good reason. It would be heavenly to have Salted Butter Caramel, Earl Grey Tea, Mayan Chocolate, Honey Blue Cheese and Basil Lime Sorbet three minutes from the office. Helen, are you listening? A Gourmet Shop How about a spot that manages to be what Oakville Grocery couldn't -- which is to say, a small, charming, independently owned outfit selling wine, cheese, bread and local artisanal products, as well as creative sandwiches and salads with wines by the glass. Oh wait. I've pretty much described a conflation of Bodega, Baratin and AZ Wine Merchants. Yes, that would work -- as long as we could expand the cheese selection to include great regional cheeses. Who doesn't want Charleen Badman's potted Jidori chicken liver with toasted bread and house-made pickles for lunch? Tack on that glass of wine if you're dropping in after work.
Sonoran Hot Dog Stand Out-of-town visitors stay downtown without ever getting a true taste of Arizona. I have to think Sonoran hot dogs would be a hit with tourists (not to mention time-crunched office workers), and surely we can find a parking place in one of those mostly empty lots -- say, the one at Washington and First Street.
Phoenix Palace Dim sum doesn't have to be a leisurely weekend brunch situation. At Phoenix Palace, the dishes come out so quickly, you can mow through a gut-busting lunch in 45 minutes or less. Seems like a perfect fit for downtowners who want to get in and out in a hurry. And if there's better dim sum in metro Phoenix, I haven't found it.
This short list represents a start in the right direction, but you tell me: what else do we need?