It's back-to-school week for Arizona State University’s downtown students, and knowing your nearby eateries is as important as knowing where to park. Whether you're new to the whole college thing, or just new to ASU, you'll find that the culinary landscape of our urban center is brimming with old haunts to new spots.
And they’re within walking distance of the ASU downtown campus.
Matt's Big Breakfast825 North First Street
If you choose to park in some of the metered spots around campus, there's a good chance you'll be walking up McKinley Street toward campus. That means you'll be passing one of the city's best-known breakfast joints, Matt's Big Breakfast. Since the restaurant moved to bigger digs just up the street from its original location, the waits haven't been quite as long, but they never stopped hungry students from making this a popular weekend morning spot. Matt's serves breakfasts of scrambled eggs, fluffy pancakes, and thick-cut bacon all day long.
Jobot Coffee333 East Roosevelt Street
As we've said before, Jobot's patio is Phoenix-famous. Most coffeehouses in town have a couple of tables outside or don't have anywhere to sit outdoors at all, so when the weather is actually nice, there's no coffeehouse more hauntable than Jobot. That's not to mention the incomparable people-watching of those strolling Roosevelt Row. Its ample out-front seating also comes with high-quality coffee choices as well as menu items like Chicano steak and eggs, vegan curry, and Buffalo cauliflower.
El Norteño1002 North Seventh Avenue
El Norteño might not look like much from the outside, but it delivers on solid machaca, chorizo, Sonoran enchiladas, and one of the best breakfast burritos in the entire city. You can't beat the homestyle daily specials, like breakfasts, which include the likes of huevos rancheros, plus inexpensive lunch plates and dinners. The joint is takeout only unless you want to eat al fresco on the little weathered patio. It's a bit of a walk, and cash-only to boot, but so worth it.
Céntrico202 North Central Avenue
Céntrico, a Mexican restaurant inside the historic San Carlos Hotel, has that ideal downtown patio. The antojitos ("little cravings") menu includes standard plates like chips and fresh salsa, fresh guacamole, and queso fundido served with rajas and flour tortillas. The chilaquiles are laced with caramelized onions and Oaxaca cheese, slicked with a layer of beans, and topped with fresh herbs and papery rounds of shaved radish. Carne asada tacos served on powdery soft flour tortillas, feature hunks of marinated skirt steak and juicy nubs of grilled nopal cactus.
Arizona Wilderness DTPHX201 East Roosevelt Street
The Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. downtown Phoenix beer garden opened with the goal of being the living room of Roosevelt Row. Its biggest draw is the patio, a bird-friendly beer garden covered with a big sunshade. It's also right against the street, so people watching can happen while sipping that Sonoran Prince or another fantastic beer, as well as Arizona wine and on-tap cocktails. There's also food — upscale pub fare like burgers, salads, and fries — and an indoor seating area.
Cornish Pasty Co.7 West Monroe Street
The downtown Phoenix location of Cornish Pasty Co. is located in the heart of ASU land — Monroe Street and Central Avenue along the light rail line. Signature pasties are made to order, and the prep station behind the bar has room for roughly three dozen pasties. The classic order is the Oggie, which includes steak, potatoes, onion, and rutabaga with a side of red wine gravy or ketchup. Other offerings run the gamut from chicken tikka masala pasties to pesto chicken and artichoke, along with wings, soups, and salads. The best part? Cornish Pasty Co. serves late into the night.
Welcome Diner929 East Pierce Street
Just a half-mile from campus, in a mostly residential part of downtown, you'll find Welcome Diner. The menu lists from-scratch Cajun options with local ingredients. Dishes include the seafood etouffee with seasonal seafood, trinity vegetables and Banyuls vinegar over rice, and the jambalaya with Red Bird Farms chicken, andouille, trinity, tomatoes, and Cajun spices served over jasmine rice and paired with Noble sourdough bread for soaking. But a signature dish is the gumbo — Schreiner’s andouille sausage, house-smoked chicken nopales, trinity vegetables, Cajun spices, and dark roux. Be sure to order a hurricane too.
The Grand718 North Central Avenue
Constructed to be reminiscent of an old Victorian train station, The Grand lacks neither charm nor opening hours; the establishment is up and running 24 hours a day — all week, all semester, all year. The eclectic bistro, bar, coffee shop, and market offers a spot to relax, grab a bite, and possibly make a friend. Enjoy a burger, B.L.A.S.T. (a BLT with avocado and Swiss cheese), or Buffalo cauliflower sammy on a brioche bun with blue cheese dressing. Or go for a side of onion rings or house fries with roasted garlic aioli and a quick cup of mac and cheese.
Carly's Bistro128 East Roosevelt Street
Touting itself (correctly) as Roosevelt Row's favorite bistro, Carly's offers views of the city skyline and that all-patio right on the sidewalk. The menu offers appetizers like creamy jalapeño artichoke dip and chicken, cheese, or chorizo quesadillas, plus soups, salads, sandwiches, and desserts. There's also a list of rotating draft and bottled craft beer and wine, plus signature cocktails like the Carly's Colada.
Seamus McCaffrey's Irish Pub & Restaurant18 West Monroe Street
This pub is authentically Irish, from the Guinness on tap to the Emerald Isle memorabilia scattered around the bar. Founded in 1991 and next door to the Hotel San Carlos, you might think you're in Ireland after knocking back a few pints in the dark wood booths or at the lengthy bar, never mind the incredibly urban patio area. The menu includes corned beef and cabbage, fish and chips, shepherd's pie, and potato skins.
The Churchill901 North First Street
This 9,000-square-foot, shaded, air-conditioned, dog-friendly outdoor courtyard is surrounded by 10 businesses — including four restaurants and more than enough drink options. Inside The Churchill’s walls, find pizza, sandwiches, acai bowls, and Mexican fare in a food court-style setting. There's also a killer brunch on the weekend if you also happen to live downtown. Current occupants include The Brill Line, Freak Brothers Pizza, Foxy Fruit Acai Bowls & Smoothies, and more.
Hanny’s40 North First Street
This department store turned restaurant and bar is another good drinking and dining spot near ASU downtown. Hanny's is usually bustling, making you feel like you're really downtown. With an expansive menu of classic cocktails, as well as shareable plates and salads, it's easy to order like an adult and feel like one, too. Try the Heckish Old Fashioned or the English Garden, or browse the beer and wine list (especially during happy hour).
Pizzeria Bianco623 East Adams Street
Pizzeria Bianco has become a Phoenix institution after being named one of the best places to get pizza in the entire country. Lucky for downtown Phoenix campus students, it's located less than a mile from campus. The handcrafted pizzas will cost you more than Domino's, but considering the quality and the fact that they are made by a James Beard Award-winning chef, they are well worth a few extra bucks. Try the classic Margherita made with fresh mozzarella and basil, the Wiseguy, topped with wood-roasted onion, house-smoked mozzarella, and fennel sausage, or go for the most famous and unique of chef Chris Bianco's pies, The Rosa.
Anhelo Restaurant628 East Adams Street
For years, the Silva House operated as the Rose & Crown — an English pub and haven for college students — till its closing in 2018. By spring 2019, the house became Anhelo Restaurant. This upscale dinner spot with a soft, modern interior is is where pop-up chef Ivan Jacobo is operating in Historic Heritage Square. The menu of contemporary American fare offers Hudson Valley Foie Gras to black truffle gnocchi and scallops, so this may be more of a special occasion place.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on August 14, 2013. It was updated on January 11, 2021.
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