Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Chowing your way through the Great Recession

I rock the North Central area of Phoenix, and I’m darned proud of it. I love Kitchen Sink’s barrio, but go home to the Central and Camelback area at the end of each day. And while recently we’ve seen a very-welcome restaurant cluster pop up near the studio here at 3rd Street and Garfield, what I’m seeing in North Central right now is downright prolific.

See, I thought I read something about some sort of recession, but it seems like everyone and his dog is opening a restaurant in North Central. It’s to the point where pretty soon, North Central may start to rival Old Town Scottsdale as the Valley’s premier restaurant destination. To wit:

• Recently opened near Central and Camelback: The new Postino and Maizie’s Café. And, rumor has it, the new Postino will be joined by its sister grocer, La Grande Orange, in the coming months.

• Seven million years old, but in case you haven’t heard: Cheese & Stuff at Central and Camelback had a sandwich that was written up in Esquire Magazine last year as one of the best sandwiches in the country.

• I don’t even need to remind you: Pane Bianco, Lux Coffee and the George & Dragon between Indian School and Camelback on Central.

• 7th Street and Camelback stalwarts: Lola Tapas, Ticoz, Two Hippies Burritos, Rosie McCaffrey’s, Oregano’s, Sonoran Brewing Company.

• A little further north: Richardson’s, TexAZ Grill, Phoenix City Grill, Rokerij, Luci’s Healthy Marketplace.

• Even further north: Bomberos Wine Bar and Corbin’s, both at Central and Dunlap-ish.

• Just popped out of the oven: Parlor Pizzeria (18th and Camelback…a little more toward the Biltmore, but still).

• Need a coffee fix in North Central? Dutch Brothers Drive-Thru Coffee at Central and Camelback, and the new Lola Coffee (from the folks who brought us Lola Tapas) at Central and Campbell.

• Still in the oven: St. Francis Restaurant at 111 E. Camelback, by renowned chef Aaron Chamberlain (Rubicon in San Francisco, which I’ve actually been to, believe it or not, and Jean Georges in New York).

• Also still in the oven, and in the heavy construction phase: Hula’s Modern Tiki, in the same center as the new Lola Coffee. The first AZ outlet for this concept…the others are in Monterey and Santa Cruz, California.

How are all these new places getting construction financing? How are all these old stalwarts surviving the Great Recession? Beats me, but I’m hungry just thinking about it. In any event, it’s a refreshing little boom in business and the kind of trend that threatens to turn Phoenix into a “real” city.

And if you’re not into these? Hey, there’s an Applebee’s at Central and Camelback as well.