phoenix, az city guide {UPDATE}

Artwork by Jon Ashcroft

Today’s Phoenix City Guide Update comes from Aleta Lynch, a graphic artist and long-time Phoenician. Aleta moved from Phoenix to Chicago for college but couldn’t deny her southwestern roots and moved back in 2007. After realizing she was a suburban girl no longer, she planted roots right in the heart of downtown and soon fell in love. While she spends most of her time designing for a health and wellness company, Aleta also enjoys doing freelance art projects on the side and sunning herself by the pool whenever she has a free moment. Today she takes us on a lovely guided tour of this Arizona city. Thanks, Aleta, for the wonderful update! — Stephanie

Read the full guide after the jump . . .

Check out this Google Map with all the listings below!

Downtown Eat

Cibo
Set in a restored 1913 bungalow, Cibo (pronounced “Chee-boh”) is arguably the best pizza in town. (If nothing else, it rivals that of Pane — and Pizzeria Bianco.) Its charming ambiance and friendly service can’t be beat. Start the night off with their famous homemade mozzarella, dig into one of their wood-fired pizzas, and wrap up with homemade crepes.

Matt’s Big Breakfast
Owners Matt and Erenia have something special going at their tiny diner in the heart of downtown. Their menu is simple: hearty, good old American breakfast staples, featuring cage-free eggs, grain-fed natural pork and beef, and local organic produce.

Pita Jungle
Phoenicians are proud to say this small chain started right here in the Valley of the Sun. The Mediterranean menu is simple, fresh, and veg-centric.

Tammie Coe Cakes
You can find Tammie Coe cakes in a number of coffee shops and restaurants around the valley, but her home base is right in the middle of Roosevelt Row. Check it out for a wide variety of delectable sweet treats.

Giant Coffee
Giant has one of the most comfortable interiors of all the downtown coffee spots. On a nice day, the south wall of the cafe opens completely, creating an outdoor-in atmosphere, and a bar along one wall offers laptop-friendly outlets for guests hard at work. Giant shares its space with Bunky Boutique, so a break from work is just a couple feet away.

Downtown Shop

MADE
This little art gallery and shop is the highlight of Roosevelt Row. It boasts one-of-a-kind work from over 100 unique artists and has surprisingly affordable prices. Their selection is always diverse, and always changing, so stop in often.

Bunky Boutique
Bunky has received “best of” awards in Phoenix several years in a row now. Best style, best shopping, best boutique . . . whatever you want to call it, it’s a Phoenix favorite. Bunky specializes in funky, hipster clothing and also carries a fantastic selection of accessories and gifts.

Downtown See/Do

Crescent Ballroom
Boasting at least one free show a week, Crescent Ballroom is the place to hear local emerging talent. The lounge is open every night of the week until 2am and is the perfect place to grab a bite while waiting for the next show to start.

Urban Yoga
This yoga studio and spa is a retreat that’s not far from the action of downtown. It’s conveniently located right off a light rail stop in the ground floor of a condo high rise. An abundance of talented instructors are available to lead you into a soothing yoga practice, whether you’re looking for some power yoga or something more on the Zen side.

Japanese Friendship Garden
This beautiful 3.5 acre sanctuary is discreetly tucked away inside a large public park downtown. The main attractions at the garden are the Japanese Tea House and breathtaking koi pond. Admission is free on the first Friday of every month, October–May.

Downtown Stay

Hotel San Carlos
Opened in 1928, the San Carlos is Phoenix’s only historic boutique hotel. It stands out as a beautifully historic building in the middle of modern skyscrapers, within walking distance of many Phoenix venues. Each of its 128 guest rooms has a unique historic look and feel, and the rooftop pool and sundeck aren’t too shabby either.

Midtown Eat

America’s Taco Shop
If you want to sample the best carne asada Phoenix has to offer, look no further. America has been stationed here, in the heart of the Coronado Historic District, since 2008. Her hole-in-the-wall shop became so popular so fast that she had to open up several other locations to accommodate the growing demand.

Windsor/Churn
The latest incarnation dreamed up by the owners of Postino, Windsor is the comfiest neighborhood bar in town. Swing by to sample their extensive menu of savory upscale bar and comfort food, or save your appetite for homemade ice cream from Churn, their sweet treats shop around back.

Lux
This hipster coffee bar is one of Phoenix’s hidden gems. It’s a comfortable place to take your homework, a blind date or girlfriends for a girls’ night out. Try anything from the bakery counter; it’s all made in-house and will not disappoint, and when you get really hungry you can pop next door and check out the menu at Pane.

Pane Bianco
Pane is the lesser-known, almost incognito cousin of the famous Pizzeria Bianco, the pizzeria in Heritage Square known for its 2-hour (or longer) wait any night of the week. The great thing about Pane Bianco is its wood-burning brick oven and several pizza selections from the menu of Pizzeria Bianco, without all the fuss. Dine in Pane’s quirky, intimate indoor space, or take your order to go. This pizza promises to rival the best Tuscany has to offer.

The Vig
This neighborhood tavern boasts an indoor bocce ball area, a perfect escape from the Phoenix heat. Their Monday treat is the best tavern burger and fries you’ve ever had for only $5, and every Friday night they boast a live DJ.

Postino Arcadia
Located in the renovated historic Arcadia post office building, this wine bar draws its name from its history. Order their famous bruschetta, which is prepared with delicious, local ingredients, and feel free to linger in the comfortable indoor-outdoor atmosphere while taste testing their excellent selection of wine.

Hula’s Modern Tiki
This Hawaiian hangout is known for its inviting patio, island-style eats and colorful tropical cocktails. Stop by for their amazing brunch or fabulous happy hour, and pay special attention to their flavorful seafood offerings.

Midtown Shop

Frances
This boutique is an oasis for big-city girls and guys who are unimpressed with downtown Phoenix shopping. Its carefully curated wares give the sensation that you’re in a much larger, more developed city, in its funkiest shopping strip. Inside you’ll find everything from shoes to notecards, witty books to children’s toys. If your timing is lucky, a seasonal Frances pop-up shop will beckon you from two doors down, in addition to Stinkweeds, a record shop next door.

La Grande Orange Grocery
This organic breakfast bar has a funky “retail grocery” inside and pizzeria next door. Locals refer to it as “LGO” and don’t mind fighting for seating or parking because the food is just so darn good.

Slippery Pig
Whether you need a bike tune up or a new bike altogether, Slippery Pig is the place to go. You can find any type of bike here, from cruisers to professional racing bikes, and the staff is very knowledgeable.

Relics
Step into this extensive home and garden gallery, and you might as well be on an historic tour somewhere in Spain. It is clear that this exquisite collection has been hand-selected especially for art lovers, and it’s a delight to absorb even if only browsing. Their collection includes antique pottery, faucets, ironwork, lighting, and reclaimed architectural pieces.

photo by Aleta Lynch

Midtown See/Do

Snapdragon Salon
This salon is like a spa retreat for your head. Stephen Lynch is the recommended stylist known for his magical touch and precise eye for detail.

Spring/Fall Movies in the Park
When the weather is right, you can catch a flick every Friday night in the courtyard at the Biltmore Fashion Park. Pack a picnic or grab takeout, and tote your blanket and chairs to stake your territory on the grass. Dogs and children are always welcome.

Desert Botanical Garden
If desert-scapes start getting tiresome, it might be time to drop in on this 145 acre desert paradise. It boasts desert plants from around the globe, many of which look like they are straight from the colorful imagination of the famous Dr. Seuss. Take advantage of free admission on the 2nd Tuesday of each month from 1pm to 8pm, or check out one of many special music events in the garden.

Midtown Stay

Clarendon Hotel
This newly updated boutique hotel has a retro art deco feel. It boasts an elegant “oasis” pool area at the center of the hotel, which you can pay a small fee to enjoy even if you don’t have a room. Its rooftop sundeck is also a notable hangout, as it’s one of the best spots in the city to score a skyline view of downtown. Several days a week, you can drop in on a rooftop yoga class while enjoying this spectacular view.

Notable Locals
Jon Ashcroft
Tobie Milford
Ree Boado/Dearspeak
Noel Barto
Amber Hunter
Erin McFarland
Joseph “Sentrock” Perez
Hope Through Art
Obadiah Parker
Alice Cooper
Jennie Garth
Frank Lloyd Wright
Jimmy Eat World
Emma Stone

  1. and don’t forget to head out to the Sun Cities, and forage for all those delightful treasures you could find on garage sale days. My Grandma Dorothy lives there permanently, always going on about the great market out there. There’s also a goodwill if you don’t have time for garage sales… one of the best in the country?

  2. Jeriann says:

    So happy to see Phoenix represented well here. Props to those who mentioned the Cornish Pasty Co. (get the porky!), Delux, La Grande Orange and my fave CHINO BANDITO. I mean c’mon, where else can you get shrimp fried rice, a jerk chicken quesedilla AND a tee shirt featuring a big ass panda wearing a sombrero?

    Also,if your tastes run more “hole in the strip mall wall” than “fancy pantsy wine and cheese” check out Tokyo Lobby on Bell for sushi (desert sushi can be scary, but this place is safe) and Mrs. White’s Golden Rule for the catfish and sweet potatoes. For incredible yet cheap mexican food try Las Glorias on 19th Ave & Northern (99 cent margaritas) or Mariscos Sinaloa in Tempe (get the camarones aguachile and enjoy being surrounded by mexican cowboys).

  3. Anna says:

    I just moved to Phoenix ,and this blog was incredibly helpful! Catherine Slye is spot on with her recommendations, and I’ve already found my favorite coffee shop (Luci’s) and can’t wait to try out the different restaurants…Thanks more making Phoenix feel more like home!

  4. Anna says:

    I just moved to Phoenix, and this blog was incredibly helpful! Catherine Slye is spot on with her recommendations, and I’ve already found my favorite coffee shop (Luci’s) and can’t wait to try out the different restaurants…Thanks for making Phoenix feel more like home

  5. jenn says:

    check out my mom’s blog about the arts in arizona at http://www.rakstagemom.wordpress.com

  6. waterrose says:

    Love living in Phoenix and can’t believe I just found this guide. There is so much to do here…don’t forget to get out to the desert….it’s beautiful!

  7. rachel says:

    love the suggestions! cant wait to head out there on a roadtrip soon!
    anyone have hotel suggestions?

  8. Julie Belschwender says:

    I would add the succlentia located at 6106 S. 32nd St. – Amazing cactus and succulent collection from all over Arizona and the world. Also a good lunch spots located within “The Farm”. We went to red modern and I will agree that the collection is pretty amazing. Yet the owner was unbelievably rude and his prices were very unrealistic. Hence why there was no one there! I would not recommend this stop.

  9. Laura Trevey says:

    Fabulous artwork at the top and great suggestions as well! I would love to visit MADE – the cool art gallery you mentioned!!

  10. Katie says:

    Aww…you’re making me miss my hometown!

  11. Sarah says:

    Love this city guide! I’m a native and will second every one of these picks!

    Quick question: Who is the artist behind the beautiful second image?

  12. Regina says:

    For a fabulous dinner, make reservations in advance at FnB in Scottsdale…this is a restaurant that other chefs recommend eating at. My favorite place to eat of all…you will not be disappointed!!!!
    http://fnbrestaurant.com/#
    Also, for vintage and midcentury shopping check out the Melrose District at 7th Avenue and Melrose. You can park and walk from shop to shop featuring vintage furnishings, decor, and more. If you love midcentury modern furniture, Modern Manor is a must!
    http://www.modernmanorstore.com/

  13. Regina says:

    Also, not sure if it was mentioned, but for Mexican style food, the Barrio Cafe is a well-loved local favorite, and always packed. Go early and/or expect a bit of a wait.
    http://barriocafe.com/hourslocationcontactus.html

  14. Allison says:

    I’m so happy to see you mentioned Snapdragon! Alaina is AMAZING!!

  15. John Lynch says:

    Moving from Chicago to Phoenix, this guide gives me a happy feeling about my new hometown as it grows into a soul-satisfying urban culture! Thanks for the awesome review! I’ll be taking my wife to all of these places VERY SOON!

  16. canofworms says:

    Awesome list! I have a few PHX spots to add that will not disappoint you!
    • The Parlor: One of my new faves. Old mid-cent beauty parlor turned hip new dining. Fresh herbs grown by entrance. Repurposed material from the beauty parlor newly designed ever-so modern. http://www.theparlor.us/
    • The Main Ingredient: A super cool, neighborhood chill place with an awesome patio. http://www.tmialehouse.com/
    • Coup Des Tartes: French restaurant that screams sexiness. This is a waaay small little house that has some insanely tasty food and perfect for date-night. Your tastebuds will love you for this, I promise. http://www.nicetartes.com/

  17. Rose says:

    Can’t forget Practical Art or The Musical Instrument Museum!

  18. Amy B. says:

    This Phoenician moved away from Phoenix in 2010 for grad school. Reminding me of all there is to love and all that I miss, about my Phoenix.

    Very. Well. Done. Especially nice to see MADE on the list.

    Some additional recommendations:

    – a desert sunset . . . anytime of year. Best in late fall to early spring, due to the heat. Find a vista (look left or right), ascend with a blanket, bottle of wine, and calm in your heart.

    – Buffalo Exchange = terrific second-hand clothing and accessories store (with three locations), a touch pricey, but very hip.

    – Good Will = second-hand everything. While it has a reputation for being a bit dingy and grungy – which it is working on-, its prices will never be beat. One day a month, everything in the store is 50% off. Excellent location to hunt for material to ‘remake’ . . . furniture, frames, lamps, planters, name it. And, a very needy community benefits from the donation of your old goods and your recent finds.

  19. Elvida says:

    You have to check out Hanny’s! Great music, beautiful space, and delicious drinks! It was a department store back in the day and they have since brought the place back to life. When you go, do walk around and peek into all the nooks and crannies. But do this before you imbibe or bring a friend. You may get lost.

  20. boo louis says:

    Vive Phoenix!! I’m born and raised in Scottsdale and missing my roots from France! One favorite spot I never tire to visit is : Cosanti Bronze Foundary, the current residence and sculpture studio of Italian architect, Paolo Soleri in Paradise Valley. Soleri (now in his 90s) began work on these experimental buildings in the mid 1950s so it’s really a window into another era, desert-style. It’s also is designated as an Arizona Historic Site.

    Architectural wonder and desert gardens aside, the place is packed with thousands of his hand-cast bronze bells and wind chimes (for sale) — when the wind blows, you can imagine the sound is quite incredible….

    6433 E Doubletree Ranch Rd, Paradise Valley AZ 1-800-752-3187
    http://www.cosanti.com/

  21. Annette says:

    I’ve lived in central Phoenix for the last few years. This is a great guide! I’d also add grabbing a delicious dinner at Beckett’s Table. And as if a pool and rooftop yoga weren’t enough, the Clarendon also has a fantastic and fun Mexican restaurant within it (Gallo Blanco) plus flamenco singing and dancing on Wednesday nights.

    For those of you who have just moved here, Phoenix can be a tough place to meet new people. Check out this monthly community pot luck (Places, Spaces, and Faces otherwise known as PSF) – it’s a great way to reach out and meet fellow urbanites!: http://www.facebook.com/psfphx

  22. Jen says:

    wow, this is inspiring–as a Tucsonan, I am loathe to visit the big guy up the road; now, I’m curious!! thanks

  23. Jess says:

    I have visited Phoenix twice in the past five years, and I’ll keep this list in mind for my next trip out west! I stayed at the Clarendon last time, and it was a great hotel. Watching the sun rise and set from the roof deck was beautiful, and as Annette mentioned, they have a delicious Mexican restaurant called Gallo Blanco (http://galloblancocafe.com). We were hard put to choose between that and Lux for breakfast every day we were in town!

  24. Jan says:

    Cute microbrewery and restaurant on 3rd street and camelback road. Sun up brewing. Local owned and cute patio. Great ipa and cask beer. Good pub food. Local feel. Love the other suggestions too. Lost leaf is a cool beer and wine bar with live music and local art. Harleys is a great Italian restaurant on 7 th ave. cartel coffee and lux and lola are great for coffee. Stink weeds in Phoenix or Tempe, revolver records downtown and east side records are good for music and vinyl. Casey moores in Tempe is a great Tempe spot for food and drinks

  25. Regina says:

    another great place to eat and hang out, St. Francis restaurant…great vibe, outdoor bar area:
    http://www.stfrancisaz.com/

  26. Downtown Phoenix Public Market is wonderful. Food trucks abound on Wednesday afternoon and Friday during lunch (http://foodconnect.org/phxmarket/). In fact, we’ve got some pretty terrific farmer’s markets all over Phoenix. Another favorite is the new Central Farmer’s Market. (http://centralfarmersmarket.com)

    And the Melrose District is a great place to shop for eclectic furnishings (http://melroseon7th.com/).

  27. Kristin says:

    Great list! I would agree that Cornish Pasty Co. is a gem and should definitely be added to the list! Whenever we have company, the first place they want to go is Cornish Pasty Co.

  28. minty says:

    Check out a few more gems… Citizen Espresso Bar (coffee shop and vibe) http://www.citizenespressobar.com/ AND LA Condesa (best salsa and tacos!) http://www.lacondesatacoshop.com/

  29. Amber Karnes says:

    I’m making my second trip to Phoenix next month and came to see what I missed last time. That being said I can’t believe Taliesin West (Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert home and architectural school) isn’t on this list! It is a truly magical place if you’re even remotely interested in design.

  30. TC says:

    Another add in downtown PHX: Short Leash Hot Dogs – a food truck all grown up and now a restaurant.

    Bombero’s wine bar mentioned above on north central is now Timo. Still a nice place but has lost a little of the “buzz”. And for the beer drinkers, try North Mountain Brewing Co just up the road on Dunlap.

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