When cruising down 16th Street, it doesn’t take long to realize why the New Times voted it 2010’s “Best Street in Phoenix.” The abundance of shops, boutiques and eateries has not only brought life to the once overlooked street, but also revitalized the businesses that have waited patiently for their time to shine.
Boom Boom LaRue, Universal Furnishings and Offerings, Two Hippies Beach House, Barrio Café and Ranch Market have all made their mark on the stretch spanning from Midtown to Garfield, whether intentional or not.
Boom Boom LaRue could easily go unnoticed from the thousands of commuters who make their way down the street daily, but it is a staple to a very present and colorful community planting its roots in the Valley. From designer wigs, to size 14 high heels, to custom jewelry, this store truly has something for everyone.
“Our clientele is literally across the board,” co-owner Joseph Paul explains. “We cater to everything from weddings, proms and drag queen pageants.”
Boom Boom LaRue has been in business for more than eight years, but moved to 16th just three years ago.
“The move to 16th Street was not intentional,” Paul continues. “A friend actually persuaded us to move down here. And, last year we expanded our store and now have a section for men — all this in a recession.”
Boom Boom and 16th Street couldn’t be a better pair. Paul credits the traffic partially to the fact that 16th is the first major street commuters hit when exiting SR-51 heading west into Central Phoenix.
The same curious shopper perusing the goods at Boom Boom LaRue can’t help but find him or herself wandering next door into a wonderland of refurbished and recycled goods.
Universal Furnishings and Offerings (UFO) has called 16th Street its home for nearly two years. Leonardo Ramirez, owner of UFO, said he had no idea what he was getting himself into.
“I was only going to rent an office space in the building for my graphic design business,” Ramirez recalls.
It was purely the right timing and perfect opportunity. Filling the space was easy, according to Ramirez, who had numerous storage units filled with collectibles ready to be sold. Aware this might not be the ideal time to open a new business, Ramirez understood resale is doing well, particularly in a recessionary economy.
While Ramirez admits he is struggling, he has faith that people will see the use in the reused, recycled and refurbished goods he has to offer.
“I invite people to see things differently,” Ramirez says.
Besides giving new life to old things, UFO offers sewing classes and wall space to local artists. And, while 16th Street became somewhat of an accidental home for UFO, Ramirez couldn’t be happier.
“There is a cultural variation on 16th Street that’s trying to deal with itself,” Ramirez says of the cluster of eclectic businesses (and mindsets).
When thinking of the “cultural variation” now overcoming 16th Street, one cannot pass by Two Hippies Beach House without taking a second look.
Opening its doors only seven months ago, Two Hippies already has neighborhood regulars who walk their dogs down the surprisingly quiet residential streets that branch off 16th Street and plant themselves on the porch of the Beach House. They know the owner Robert Miller by name, and come prepared to partake in the tasty and incredibly affordable street food. Miller says it was no accident that he landed on 16th Street.
“I lived in this area before and when the place came available, I thought it was a perfect match,” Miller says.
Although the Beach House has not been open long, Miller says business is good.
“People will come if you bring them something special and a little quirky,” Miller explains.
There’s no shortage of quirky at the beach house. The inside could easily resemble the set of a Cheech and Chong movie, but there’s also a certain comfort and old neighborhood feel that welcomes all.
The food is cheap and good, and Miller has somehow captured a true beach house feel in Central Phoenix, minus the sand and oceanfront, of course. The Beach House even hosts live music every second Saturday.
But Two Hippies aren’t the only ones with live music. Just a block south, Barrio Café features live entertainment on the weekends.
During the day, it might be easy to zoom past Barrio Café without realizing its presence, but nearly impossible to pass by at night. The custom ironwork, illuminated bar and line of patrons wrapped around the corner sparks the curiosity of countless drivers. But it’s not just the ambiance that keeps the customers coming back.
The restaurant planted its roots on 16th Street in 2002 and has no intentions of letting go. Partners Wendy Gruber and chef Silvana Salcido Esparza provide authentic southern Mexico cuisine and original creations in a modest locale that has food junkies from all over the Valley flocking to this unconventional location.
The laid-back café has only one golden rule: no reservations. Despite having only 17 small tables, patrons don’t mind waiting hours for a chance to indulge in the unique cuisine. In fact, they usually pass the time while sipping on decadent margaritas.
Richard Vick has worked at Barrio Café for just under six years.
“We’re always busy, every day of the week,” he says. “There really is no down time here, business is great on 16th Street.”
The bar, crafted out of an unfinished antique door with keyhole intact, is understandably tiny and only seats two. Outside, there is plenty of seating, allowing those who are waiting for their tables to watch the traffic go by and take in the urban vibe of the street.
As 16th forms the eastern edge of the Garfield neighborhood near Roosevelt Street, you cannot miss the mega grocery store that is Ranch Market.
The Hispanic supermarket is one of only nine in a chain that spans just three Southwest states.
Walk inside Ranch Market and you are sure to be overwhelmed. La Cocina, the kitchen, is the first of many departments you will encounter within the market.
Whether you’re in the mood for fresh baked goods, hot tortillas or homemade authentic Hispanic refreshments, La Cocina offers it all. But that’s just beyond the front doors. There’s an entire grocery store still left to explore.
Despite all the success Ranch Market is experiencing, there are still so many in the Valley who have yet to venture inside. It’s truly a world of its own, with foods, colors and smells inspired by Latin America.
16th Street has been overlooked for sometime, often serving as a quicker north-south route than 24th or 7th streets. But that is all changing, with artists, visionaries and chefs calling the humble street home. People are listening and making 16th Street a deserving Central Phoenix destination.
Boom Boom LaRue is located just north of Osborn Road at 3606 N. 16th St. Universal Furnishings and Offerings is a door south at 3602 N. 16th St. Two Hippies Beach House is just south of Earll Drive at 3102 N. 16th St. Barrio Café is a block south of Thomas Road at 2814 N. 16th St. Ranch Market is at the northeast corner of 16th and Roosevelt streets at 1602 E. Roosevelt St.
DPJ is proud to bring you the best Yelp reviews of your favorite Downtown restaurants, boutiques, venues and everything in between. Every week, visit DPJ for a finely crafted, tell-all account of a Downtown spot straight from the experts: the people!
There is a time when a nice couch and good lighting works wonders on the end-of-night brain. Such was the case with our evening jaunt to The Living Room.
I’d barely heard about the place previously, but am planning to return, try more food, look over their menu more thoroughly. When I do, I’ll report back, but my advice is go and see for yourself.
You might be in just the mood I was. A friend and I shared cheese fondue ($7.95) and we each had a Cherry Manhattan made with Beam Cherry Bourbon. The two other friends split a huge cheeseburger with fries and some chicken wings, but I have to say I hadn’t seen fondue in like a zillion years and it was fun and nice and great to split with a vegetarian.
Now the Manhattans were über sweet, a dessert drink really, but different. I’d look more closely next time. You ever just JUMPED a menu? Just pick a drink and a food that leaps out? That’s what happened and that’s why I want to further explore.
Why go back? SERVICE! Professional, friendly and really charming service. Chelsea and Jeremy were our servers, and it’s true, you feel comfortable in this place. What’s not to like about a modern leather sofa and servers who, seeing you are dipping fries into the fondue, bring over a whole plate of their seasoned fries gratis?
Nice people, nice place, deserving of more research!
And though they don’t have outdoor seating, it’s coming, so I’ll list it.
The Living Room Wine Café & Lounge is located at 2333 N. 7th St. in Coronado — 602.229.1289
The DPJ Yelper of the Week offers honest insight on a Downtown business to help you explore your core. DPJ hopes that by partnering with Yelp to spread the good word about well-loved Downtown spots, you’ll spread your patronage and support local business.
Yelp is a social networking and local search engine that provides the reviews of places and things that matter to you. Simply log in, pick a place and queue up your inner critic. You can write a beaming review of your favorite gelato spot, or a scathing portrayal of that rental car facility you had to use after that curb came out of nowhere. Yelp’s reviews are at once honest, uncensored, wildly hilarious and true. Heck, the site must be doing something right — it had 26 million viewers just last month!
Looking for more cheap eats from the food directory in the premiere issue of DPJ magazine? Food editor Justin Lee dishes out an expansive list of the best in affordable dining around Downtown Phoenix.
La Condesa Gourmet Taco Shop Mexican/Tacos
With a deep lineup of some of the most crave-worthy tacos in the city, La Condesa is a casual taqueria with updated leanings. From the hefty dogfish shark tacos, to their notoriously tender cochinita phibil tacos, the small central city eatery has proven itself delicious to a diverse stream of patrons. Along with one of the best salsa bars in a wide radius — it actually demands that you browse it — La Condesa manages to straddle that fine line between authenticity adherence and casual-eater accessibility very successfully. Monday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. 1919 N. 16th St. (602) 254.6330
Simple and unsuspecting, Carly’s is a neighborhood café and bar that offers you unpretentious eating in a comforting, locals-only setup. With live music on select nights, a casual display of sandwiches, salads, soups and other easy eats on the menu, as well as a straightforward offering of wines, brews and cocktails at the bar, it’s not difficult to understand why Carly’s is a smart option for the easy and inexpensive. Monday to Wednesday 11 a.m. to midnight, Thursday to Friday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to midnight. 128 E. Roosevelt St. (602) 262.2759
Phoenix Public Market/Urban Grocery & Wine Bar Market
This Downtown grocer is a respected source for the quick, healthy and responsible. Besides the bi-weekly farmers market held each Saturday morning and Wednesday evening in the adjacent parking lot, the indoor Urban Grocery & Wine Bar also carries an efficient selection of the reliably sourced and primarily organic. From local, seasonal produce, meats and dairy products, free-range eggs and baked goods, to a rotating menu of ready-made foods to go, the market has become a valued neighborhood asset to its surrounding community. Tuesday to Saturday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., 14 E. Pierce St. (602) 254.1799
Tammie Coe Cakes and MJ Breads Bakery/Pastry Shop
Skilled baker turned local baking luminary Tammie Coe, along her partner, MJ Coe, serve some of the best bread and pastries in the city at the Downtown branch of their popular enterprise. The restrained retail shop, overflowing with racks of well-crafted, homemade loafs of fresh bread, is a worthy waylay for a midday snack; or, grab a cup of coffee, turning the experience into a simple meal on the go. Monday to Thursday 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. 610 E. Roosevelt St. (602) 253.0829
Quirky, modern and bright, Verde brings smart, authentic Mexican eating to Downtown. Fast-casual in orientation, Verde serves up straightforward plates of slow-stewed meats — chicken, pork, beef — with their now-famous housemade tortillas for bite building and plate sopping. Add a large bowl of fresh-made chips, guacamole and a couple cervezas? Inexpensive, quick and delicious. Sunday to Thursday 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. 825 N. 1st St.
Baiz Market Al-Hana Restaurant Middle Eastern
A Middle Eastern must-try. Off the beaten track but traveled to from locations citywide, Baiz is an international specialty foods market that maintains its no-nonsense value with pride. The tiny Al-Hana restaurant — or sectioned sitting area amidst the market — has become a popular lunchtime anchor for those looking for the best in Middle-Eastern comfort foods. From chicken shawarma and lamb kabobs, to freshly baked pita and hummus so addicting you’ll surely need to stop the intake to save space for their voluminous selection of sought-after Middle Eastern pastries, Baiz Market is a hidden gem by the most honest of definitions. 523 N. 20th St. (602) 252.8996
Pro’s Ranch Market/Tradiciones Mexican/Grocery
More indoor Mexican bazaar than simple supermarket, this popular chain offers quality, variety and authenticity on the cheap. From the roving mariachi to the bright desert colors, Mexican is not only on the menu, it’s also on the agenda. For fast bites, the store’s one-stop “food court” is the ultimate draw. Selling fresh, ready-made goods like homemade tortillas, ceviche, tortas and pastries, as well as specialty daily-mixed refreshments from a dedicated beverage bar, it’s manufactured frenzy worth getting lost in. Have a little extra time? The market’s adjacent, sit-down restaurant, Tradiciones, is equally well worth the visit for tried-and-true, inexpensive Mexican eats that satisfy. 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. 1602 E. Roosevelt St. (602) 254.6676
Fry Bread House Southwestern/Native American
A secret still largely unearthed, one of Phoenix’s best kept gems is this humble institution to that special fried bread we all crave so dearly but rarely seem to eat that often. From the savory kind, to the oh-so sweet, Fry Bread House continues to serve its eponymous specialty with no remorse to over indulgence. In addition to the famous fry bread tacos and standard fry bread-plus-toppings offerings, the unfussy eatery also serves a list of house stews, traditional burritos (rolled in flour tortillas) and tamales. Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. 4140 N. 7th Ave. (602) 351.2345
Gallo Blanco Café Mexican/Contemporary
Notoriously focused La Grande Orange alum Doug Robson brings his independent culinary stamp to the Midtown dining landscape — with fantastic results. Located inside the trendy Clarendon Hotel, Gallo Blanco serves an efficient and refreshingly inexpensive menu of regional Mexican fare with a Mexico City bent. Nearly all ingredients are either made in house or sourced from reputable local purveyors. The modern, funky eatery offers an intelligent selection of starters, salads, a mélange of tortas and tacos (options include pork, beef, fish and vegetarian), as well as other selected house specialties. Equally as impressive, Gallo Blanco also presents a small all-day breakfast menu. 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday to Saturday. 401 W. Clarendon Ave. (602) 274.4774
Lenny’s Burger Shop American/Burgers
A Phoenix area institution since the 1980s, Lenny’s lively Midtown branch of the popular local burger chain proves you don’t need to sacrifice quality entirely when craving a greasy burger and fries. This popular weekday lunchtime pit stop, Lenny’s posts a simple menu of the basics, done well: burgers, hot dogs, fries and milkshakes. Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. 2825 N. Central Ave. (602) 263.8700
This homegrown institution since the 1960s — a temple to what true Sonoran-style Mexican food can taste like if done exceptionally well — Carolina’s original outpost just south of Downtown continues to draw locals and tourists alike in steady numbers. The infamous, practically eulogized tortillas, made daily in house, warrant a visit alone, if for nothing else: to stock up. The red sauce makes others bow, and their Oaxaca burrito (potatoes, chorizo, oh my) is indeed a crave-inducing offense. Monday to Friday 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. 1202 E. Mohave St. (602) 252.1503
Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles Southern/Soul
Chicken and waffles, done exceptionally. Lo-Lo’s continues to prove it’s of the best examples of the popular food combination anywhere, and it’s right in our own back yard. The original eatery, just due south of Downtown, continues to serve the masses with humble airs, leaving patrons full and already plotting their next return. Though fried chicken is king, Lo-Lo’s also serves equally comforting Southern standouts like mac and cheese, grits, fried okra, and yes, red velvet cake. Monday to Thursday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday to Saturday 9 to 9, Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 10 W. Yuma St. (602) 340.1304
That’s a Wrap Eclectic/Wraps
Tiny and efficient, That’s a Wrap serves an extensive menu of interesting wraps, as well as a smattering of salads and rice bowls. Great for a fast bite that won’t empty the wallet, the cheerful, fast-casual café emphasizes the healthy, but doesn’t stress it — satisfaction and flavor are essentials here. Throw in a glass of berry lemonade with your order, made fresh in house, and you can see why this place continues to be a popular neighborhood lunchtime layover. Monday to Thursday 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday to Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. 800 E. Camelback Rd. (602) 252.5051
This week, I had plenty of trouble deciding what to write about, but fortunately for yours truly, my sweet tooth won out. The sugar-acquiring prowess my palate holds is nearly unmatched. Thus, I was led abruptly to a sweet spot right in my back yard (well, sort of): Rainbow Donuts.
My adventure was initially a quest to branch out from my normal beverage consumption and partake in boba – which would have been a big step for your favorite Southern gent. Unfortunately, Rainbow was out of boba, but the dreamy concoctions and fresh sweets they are famous for were still well within reach.
After weeping softly in their orange booth over boba, my spirits were lifted at the realization that, perched behind the rounded glass next to some ramen and Ring Pops, sat a treasure trove of donut goodness. My heart leapt at the thought of the delicacies that I could select. With a raging thirst, I ordered the strawberry smoothie from the photograph on the wall.
On deck, impatiently waiting, was my hunger. My taste buds have never known of the words “restraint” or “overindulgence.” Therefore, no donut counter can be passed without at least a regular glazed being ordered. My willpower was useless in this place anyway, and I gladly salivated over the prospect of a trademark glazed donut in my possession.
With a smile, I was handed my freshly made treats. I was barely seated before I was mowing down each of my prizes. The donut was extremely dense, cushion-soft and sweet. It was a dinner all its own.
As for the sweet smoothie, it stood out as one of the best I have had the pleasure of sippin’. Needless to say, with a bevy of sweet strawberry and milky flavors, I was in smoothie heaven.
I’m fairly confident that a choir sang during this indulgent snack. So, Rainbow Donuts is worthy of your attention. It just might leave your taste buds in a harmonious mood.
Rainbow Donuts is located at 1347 E. McDowell Rd. in Coronado — 602.256.7404
If you don’t want to fight for a spot at First Friday but still feel like seeing amazing art and hear local music, well I’ve got one place for you. SuTRA Midtown Yoga is hosting a night full of beautiful photography by Shawn Anderson and acoustic sets by local artists.
If you haven’t heard of Shawn Anderson’s music blog, Electric Mustache, you need to open another tab and start discovering what you’ve been missing. His blog will open your eyes to mind-blowing music, open and trustworthy CD reviews and local and national band updates.
After Anderson started Electric Mustache, he started his website, Electric Shots, displaying his photography that makes you feel as if you were there the night of the show. He captures musicians at their purest on stage.
His photography will be displayed on the gallery walls on Friday and will stay up all month long.
On Friday, watch as his photos come to life, as Bears of Manitou and Matt Harris, who have been subjects of Anderson’s lens, also take the stage.
Bears of Manitou have quickly sprouted up in the Phoenix music scene. They opened up for Rocky Votolato in March and everyone was in awe that the duo were playing their first show and nailing it.
Gabe Williams, Laney Coletti and Brian Champ make up Bears of Manitou. They are a folk-indie group that has Williams on guitar, piano or ukulele; Coletti changing up her instruments every other song, from bongos to cello to maracas; and Champ on drums as the newest addition to the group.
Harris and Sorry Charlie will grace the stage with their soft, rich sound, adding to the soundtrack of the night.
Join everyone on First Friday at SuTRA Midtown Yoga, where they will supply the essentials: art, music and completely free (and delicious!) sangria.
SuTRA Midtown Yoga is located at 2317 N. 7th St. in Coronado — 602.253.9525