Phoenix's resurgent downtown core is rife with urban-cool experiences.
“Sorry Scottsdale. Love, Phoenix.” A T-shirt on a glacier-blonde millennial in Phoenix’s resurgent downtown core speaks to the savvy travellers who have also taken note, with many now splitting their time between a decidedly urban-cool experience downtown—rife with new hotels, restaurants, bars and art galleries—and the chaise longues and golf courses of glossy Scottsdale.
In the Action
The 104-suite Found:Re Hotel is at the nexus of downtown, convenient to the Phoenix Art Museum and the indigenously focused Heard Museum—plus a ton of other galleries. In fact, it’s a gallery itself—its lobby walls sprout a swift rotation of local contemporary art, and the rooms are a model of ergonomic, repurposed chic. The hotel’s Match lounge offers solid drinks and small plates; it’s where you’ll spot techy business youngsters in Lulus and floral tattoos (they’re in for happy-hour hookups before heading out to Roosevelt Street’s Restaurant Row—a.k.a. RoRo) and adorable art tourists in cashmere and pearls.
Watering Holes and Quality Foodstuff
Legendary (and asthmatic) pizza guru Chris Bianco suffered a career-shifting case of “baker’s lung” a couple of years ago and turned over his pie ovens to capable sous. Next door, on Camelback Road, the James Beard award winner built a whitewashed gem called Tratto. The simple, to-the-point menu describes Bianco’s Italian obsession, and the plates show a very deft hand—the short rib cavatelli and the roast chicken stand out, but the ragù is the reason you’re here.
On a desolate stretch of downtown’s eastern reach, Mrs. White’s Golden Rule Cafe serves inexpensive soul food: oxtail, red beans and rice, peach cobbler and the showstopper: made-to- order fried chicken.
Are there a thousand taco options in the valley? Close, but one that’s worth the Uber is Tacos Chiwas. Guilt-inducingly cheap (two of you will be challenged to spend more than $20, with beers) and deeply, sloppily satisfying. Order the frijoles charros (bean soup—$2.50!) and the tacos tripas (tripe) and lengua (beef tongue). The al pastor version resonates, too.
Claudio Urciuoli’s tiny lunchtime-only Pa’La restaurant’s centrepiece is the wood-fired grill, where beautiful chunks of fish rest briefly. The halibut ceviche and albacore salad are clever ripostes to the heat.
Phoenix counts all the major league sports teams. And sure, the MLB Cactus League Spring Training has its fans, as do the Phoenix Open golf tourney and the Barrett-Jackson car auction. But the best event might be its newest: the Lost Lake Festival. Featuring a farrago of leading and emerging acts—from folk to hip hop to rock—the stages are set on the rolling lawns of Steele Indian School Park. The food stands are carefully chosen, the drinks are icy cold—and it’s more relaxed and less crowded than Coachella.