[Source: Howard Seftel, Arizona Republic] — A new cluster of restaurants looks poised to bring some energy to yet another part of downtown Phoenix. This time the location is the stretch along Roosevelt Street between Second and Third Avenues.
There’s Bambino Bistro, formerly Vinery 214. Chef/owner Leonard Jay threw in the towel on Vinery’s small-plate concept — the neighborhood didn’t get it, he says with a sigh. Now, armed with a new name and concept, the restaurant features sandwiches built around three kinds of homemade flatbread; from-scratch pasta; wood-fired, brick-oven pizza; burgers; mussels; and several off-beat specials… Bambino Bistro is a cute spot that could turn out to be a neighborhood sleeper. Jay, meanwhile, is determined: “We’ve made a commitment to the community,” he says. “No matter what it takes, we’re going to be here.”
A few feet down the block is Lola Coffee, the second branch of Daniel Wayne’s hip coffeehouse. (The original is at 4700 N. Central Avenue, just south of Camelback Road.) It opened Dec. 18 in the remodeled circa 1925 Gold Spot Market building. Why here? “Downtown is finally ready,” Wayne says, pointing to the growing number of neighborhood residents. He’s roasting his coffee beans and baking pastries on the premises.
Finally, the 10th Valley branch of Pita Jungle is coming to the same building as Lola Coffee. It’s scheduled to open by the end of March.
By my count, the area bounded by Fourth Avenue on the west and Fourth Street on the east, and Roosevelt and Fillmore Streets on the north and south, is now home to 10 new places in the past year. Along with Bambino Bistro, Lola Coffee and Pita Jungle, the list includes Nine 05, Local Breeze, Pasta Bar, Sens, Turf Restaurant & Pub, Moira Sushi and Phoenix Public Market Urban Grocery and Wine Bar. And several more restaurants are on the way. [Note: To read the full article, visit New restaurant cluster emerging along downtown Phoenix’s Roosevelt St.]
[Source: Howard Seftel and Megan Finnerty, Arizona Republic] — Looking past the current economic downturn, optimistic restaurateurs believe downtown Phoenix is poised to compete in the next few years with Scottsdale as a dining destination. The momentum has been jump-started by a group of independent chefs and entrepreneurs who believe in the area’s potential. They, in turn, have inspired a fresh wave of high-profile names with big plans to rush in and stake a downtown claim.
New arrivals say downtown Phoenix has reached a tipping point, energized in part by light rail and the Arizona State University campus. But some warn that the Valley has seen this sort of hopeful restaurant hype fail to live up to its promise before, pointing to troubles on Mill Avenue in Tempe and developments such as downtown Phoenix’s Arizona Center and the Mercado that never flourished. Others think downtown’s residential core is still not strong enough to support a restaurant community.
Meanwhile, CityScape is accelerating the downtown dining buzz. Fifteen restaurants are planned for the sprawling residential, commercial and retail complex set to open in 2010. Developers are targeting local chefs in hopes of complementing the fledgling dining scene, not squashing it. Although downtown had seen scattered individual successes in the past, like the wood-fired pizza at Pizzeria Bianco and classy comfort food of Matt’s Big Breakfast, their popularity didn’t create a movement. Winning national acclaim meant they became just as much tourist destinations as local joints. Now, however, chefs and restaurant owners are relocating from other parts of the Valley or opening additional locations.
Metro light rail, ASU’s downtown campus, the Downtown Phoenix Public Market and new residents are creating buzz for the area, they say. “It’s the spot to be,” said Linda Nguyen, whose bustling, 4-month-old Moira Sushi Bar & Kitchen offers Japanese fare. She considered Tempe and Scottsdale before opening in a space on East McKinley Street. [Note: Read the full article at A growing appetite for downtown Phoenix dining]