Austin holds out high hopes for the street. "It's a unique boulevard and it's going to be a great boulevard," he says. "I think it lends itself to the nostalgia of old Phoenix--of the way it used to be."
My Pleasure Cafe , 1837 East McDowell, sounds like G-strings might be involved, but they aren't. If your pleasure is St. Louis-style barbecue, mark this place on your map. Cap'n Dave has already given My Pleasure Cafe kudos, and let me concur. This is some of the best 'cue I've ever had. All three sauces--hot, mild and honey--are superior, the meat tender and tasty, the go-withs great. Place your to-go orders at the window outside or eat in My Pleasure Cafe's surprisingly charming dining room. And please note: your best bet for parking is to turn south on 19th Street, drive around the block and pull in through the back lot.
As we drive west from My Pleasure Cafe, we'll see the only establishment on McDowell that still uses the street's old nickname. The Miracle Mile Mart was once a famous shopping center, but no more. Old-timers may remember when long-departed Kern's Cafeteria was the eating attraction there in 1958. Just past the mart is the Sears Distribution Center: in 1952 on this very spot, the mansion of Arizona's first state Governor George W.P. Hunt was razed to make room for commercial progress.
Though many of the storefronts in the Miracle Mile section from 18th to 16th Streets stand empty, signs of the area's rebound are everywhere. See the new sidewalks and landscaping, the young trees, the newly painted lampposts? You can send your compliments to the East McDowell Civic Association. The city and the association worked together to pay for these upgrades.
You know, all it would take to turn this section of McDowell into the funky Mill Avenue area many residents long for in Phoenix is a few small business visionaries. Miracle Mile could be the Melrose Avenue of Phoenix if someone would provide a cafe for lunch or cappuccino, a shoe boutique, a bookstore, a bakery.
But enough daydreaming, our next stop is Brookshire's Coffee Shop , 1602 East McDowell. Established in 1951, Brookshire's serves up basic American food 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Talk about community service! What you'll get at this pre-Denny's coffee shop is down-home Arizona service (most of the help has been around for at least ten years) and solid home-style cooking. The next time you're feeling nostalgic for roast pork with applesauce or homemade vegetable soup, remember, there's a booth waiting for you at Brookshire's. There's no building at 1521 East McDowell anymore, but I'd like to point it out to you. This is where the Miracle Mile Deli originally stood (hence the name). You can find branches of this venerable cafeteria restaurant now at Park Central, Christown, and Camelview Plaza.
Gourmet House of Hong Kong , 1438 East McDowell, has been pulling people from all over the Valley to McDowell for five years. Located on the site of a 1960s-Dick's-Drive-In-turned-1970s-medical-supply-store, Gourmet House offers authentic and delicious Hong Kong-style Chinese cooking. It may not be glamorous, but it's real. I come here for the noodles, but the fresh seafood is always compelling, too. One of McDowell Road's shining stars, for sure.
Shall we stop at Rainbow Donuts , 1347 East McDowell, for a quick one? A former Dunkin' Donuts now privately owned and run, this place has the best assortment of beverages I've ever seen in a doughnut shop: Bigelow herb teas, OJ, chocolate and strawberry (!) milk as well as sodas and, of course, java.
As our drive west continues, the hospital and medical complex of Good Samaritan floats ahead of us on the horizon like the lost city of Atlantis. Across the street, the Tenth Street Deli , 1002 East McDowell, is perfectly poised to serve this burgeoning medical community. I'm not too impressed with the food here, but the atmosphere is pleasant and calm. Most of the seating is booths for two, so it's a good place to come if you're eating alone. We'll pass the Lois Grunow Memorial Clinic on our right as we leave McDowell's medical corridor. Open for nearly sixty years, the Grunow Clinic, among other claims to fame, once employed trunk murderess Winnie Ruth Judd as a medical secretary.
Starting at Seventh Street, giant palms line McDowell as we motor ever west. Small, green Townsend Park is on our left; glossy, circular Edward Oldsmobile on our right. We'll make two more stops before we cross Central Avenue.
Our first stop is The Courtyard Cafe , 202 East McDowell, in the Los Olivos Executive Hotel. Don't make a special trip to visit. The Courtyard Cafe is more like an airport snack bar than a restaurant. While the pastel and glass block decor is soothing, the food is strictly utilitarian. Probably because most of its customers are business travelers, it's a bit pricey, too.