Welcome to Dining Guides, an intermittent series on what the many dining hubs around the greater Phoenix area have to offer. From breakfast to happy hour drinks, quick coffee to sit-down dining, we break down some of our favorite places in each neighborhood. Today: zeroing in on downtown Mesa.
Mesa’s Main Street has seen a fair amount of growth in the past few years. The Nile Theater has returned, the antique shops never left, and the dining options have exploded. There's now enough going on along this iconic strip to make a full day of it — everything from coffee to cookies to beers to now-famous sandwich shops to some of the most sought-after pizza in town.
Lost Dutchman Coffee Roasters12 North Center Street, Mesa
Got a day of antique shopping ahead of you? Stop in at the Lost Dutchman coffee shop, and they'll get you set up. Yes, there's the usual options (Americano, cappuccino, cold press), but hyper-local orders like the Gold Rush and decaffeinated Flying Dutchman steamers are also available. In addition to a cup of coffee, you can grab green coffee beans for home roasting, or a quick treat from the in-house Lombardo's Gelato Company. The setup is perfect for a laptop day or a hang with a small group of friends.
Jarrod's Coffee, Tea, & Gallery154 West Main Street, Mesa
Find coffee, tea, smoothies, and Italian soda at Jarrod's — plus blended, ice cream-based, Italian “Espresso-Yo-Self” beverage options like Caramel Kick, Mocha My Day, and Green Tea D’Lish. There’s also a small gallery in the coffee shop, some local jewelry and gifts for sale, and weekly events like poetry nights and live music.
The Nile Coffee Shop105 West Main Street, Mesa
This coffee shop and vegan eatery is connected to the Nile Theater, which originally opened as a cinema in 1924. It has since been a restaurant, nightclub, church, different retail businesses, and finally a three-room music venue. The theater’s most recent addition is The Nile Coffee Shop, which opened in 2015. Their menu is new-and-improved American fare, including toasted bagels with coconut cream cheese, almonds, berries, and agave, or topped with vegan ham, green chiles, chipotle mayo, potatoes, and cheddar. Wash it down with a cold brew, or give the lavender latte a chance. Either way, when you've settled in at this coffee shop, you’re also soaking in the Valley's history.
Downtown Rendezvous20 East Main Street, Mesa
For a quick weekday breakfast, the Fitch family-run Downtown Rendezvous is a go-to for classic American options. Put the word “breakfast” in front of burrito, sandwich, and even taco for a morning version of your favorite hands-on foods. Downtown Rendezvous also offers crepe omelets, pancake platters, French toast, bacon and eggs, and a la carte items like a bagel, croissant, toast, and country-fried potatoes. It’s open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday to Thursday, for the early starters.
Worth Takeaway218 West Main Street, Mesa
Worth Takeaway is located along quaint Main Street in downtown Mesa, but be prepared for an ultra-modern experience inside. This sleek restaurant offers coffee and craft sandwiches, including the Crispy Chicken, which includes battered chicken strips soaked with a Sriracha honey spread, mayonnaise, and juice from the house-made sweet-and-spicy pickles. Those pickles and Bibb lettuce top the protein, and it can come between two slices of ciabatta or upon a bed of Steadfast Farms organic greens. There are also veggie, Reuben, French dip, grilled cheese, Cuban, and turkey options.
Nunthaporn's Thai Cuisine17 West Main Street, Mesa
Fresh and simple is the name of the game at this downtown Mesa spot. Rather than relying on thick and overly sweet pre-made sauces like many other Thai places do, Nunthaporn's Thai Cuisine uses fresh, authentic ingredients prepared on the spot. The pad khing shows off bright, acidic flavors with ginger, garlic and onion, and contrasts them with a more umami palate that utilizes soybean and black fungus. The attention to balanced flavors shines through in each dish, creating a completely unique-to-the-Valley Thai dining experience.
Mango’s Mexican Café44 West Main Street, Mesa
This no-frills Mexican food spot is a stalwart of the downtown Mesa lunch scene, and for good reason. Look for the colorful outdoor seating and the small Lupita Medina Villa mural near Mango's, then order the tostada voladora topped with a blend of shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, and sour cream over a small pile of roasted pork chile verde and a crispy white flour tortilla. We also recommend the shrimp tacos, which come with lightly grilled shrimp and are enhanced by some Tapatio-based salsa. Homemade tamales are also on offer here, just so you know.
Myke’s Pizza31 South Robson, #103, Mesa
Myke's Pizza makes one of metro Phoenix's absolute best pies — a particularly incredible feat, given that, until recently, owner Myke Olsen didn't even have a pizzeria to call his own. After baking pies in portable ovens on a Mesa sidewalk, persevering despite the elements and Sonoran heat that made the process of handling dough much more difficult, Olsen now has his own permanent location inside Cider Corps — which happens to be the top cidery in town. As you'll discover, cider and pizza make a good pairing.
República Empanada204 East First Avenue, Mesa
This hip Latin restaurant is set a block east from Mesa Arts Center and specializes, as its name suggests, in empanadas. The recommended dish at República Empanada is the Boricua, a Puerto Rico-inspired empanada packed with ham hock and arroz con gandules. The Cubana is also a winner; it comes with slow-roasted pork and ham, mozzarella, and dill pickle. For dessert, we suggest the Dizzy Fig, an empanada stuffed with Mesa-grown figs, wrapped in mozzarella cheese, and touched up with dulce de leche.
Margaritas Grill10 West Main Street, Mesa
Head here for combo platters of enchiladas, burritos, rellenos, tacos, and fajitas, served with the restaurant’s frijoles borrachos, as well as margaritas (if you didn’t guess). Off the Margaritas Grill menu, we recommend the chile verde burrito and the house shredded tacos in either well-marinated beef or chicken. The restaurant's specialty, the shrimp enchiladas, is a plate of grilled shrimp in a tangy homemade tomatillo sauce. It's easily one of the best orders in the house.
Oro Brewery Co.210 West Main Street, Mesa
A taproom and nano-brewery, Oro Brewing Company features varieties of beers like the Inside the Park Blonde, the Red Fury Irish Red, and Singularity (made with El Dorado Hops). Happy hour happens every weekday from open to 6 p.m., and the neighboring Worth Takeaway is more than happy to bring a sandwich your way.
il Vinaio270 West Main Street
The Mediterranean-influenced il Vinaio is an ideal spot for a quick beverage or happy hour, thanks to a lengthy drink menu and old-school settings. There are a handful of Mesa-based craft beers from the neighboring Desert Eagle, specialty drinks like a wine margarita, sangria available in 64-ounce pitchers, and over a dozen options each for red and white wines. The happy hour runs daily from 2 to 6 p.m., with $6 plates of bruschetta, croquettes, and shrimp cocktail shooters.
Desert Eagle Brewing Company150 West Main Street, Mesa
Opened in October 2012, Desert Eagle Brewing Company was one of the first places to grab a beer if you were heading to a show at the Nile Theater. Its hand-crafted beers include Main Street Blonde, Black Cherry Blonde Ale, Imperial Adler IPA, and the rare Das Dunkel. There are also upscale sandwiches, wings, and starters like spicy battered pickles and sweet potato fries on the menu. Happy hour is daily from 3 to 6 p.m.
Chupacabra Taproom14 North Robson, Mesa
Last summer, historic downtown Mesa welcomed yet another beer shop, this one at Robson and Main Street. Chupacabra Taproom is a 28-tap craft beer and wine bar housed in a 900-square-foot brick building built in 1949. Coes it sell Montucky Cold Snacks? You better believe.
Smith-o-Later124 West Main Street, Mesa
A vintage-inspired handmade cookie shop, Smith-o-Later is known for custom-decorated sugar cookies, baked daily. This is where you go for special occasion cookies: heart shapes for Valentine’s Day, icing that spells out a special thank-you note, pink and blue baby shower cookies, desert-themed treats for all occasions, and so on. It also hosts baking classes and workshops.
Sweet Cake’s21 West Main Street, Mesa
Featured years ago on TLC’s Best Food Ever as one of the Top 10 Most Bodacious Bakeries, Sweet Cakes is known for big cookies. You'll find all the classics (chocolate chip, peanut butter, snickerdoodle) as well as originals like oatmeal butterscotch. But the real killers are the cookie bars. Our favorites include the Scotcharoos (think Reese's peanut butter cup meets Rice Krispies treat) and cinnamon rolls. Have mercy.
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12 West Brewing Co.12 West Main Street, Mesa
On weekend nights, 12 West Brewing Co. is the spot for high-end bar food fare. A snack might (or should) include the Bretzel or Blap! Blap! fries, or, for something more substantial, opt for a salad or a handheld. The katsu chicken sandwich, made with an extra-crispy fried chicken thigh, might give Worth a run for its money, while the steak sandwich is a highly aromatic handheld served open faced. Of course, you'll be pairing all of this with one last beer — or cocktail, or glass of wine.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on March 27, 2019. It was updated on February 13, 2020.