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Foodie Neighborhood Spotlight: One Day in Downtown Phoenix

By Elise Riley

If your palate’s primed for a day of pampering, check out our recommendations for a 24-hour feast for the senses in downtown Phoenix.

Start It Off Right

Mom always said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and Matt Pool certainly heeded his mother’s demands when he created Matt’s Big Breakfast, arguably the best breakfast joint in town. The chef/owner serves up fluffy pancakes, crisp waffles and a healthy dose of bacon. If there’s a wait, it’s worth it. Bring your appetite.

After you’ve filled your belly with carbs, take the 2-block walk to the Roosevelt & Central light rail stop (or hop in your car and head north about a mile) to feast your eyes on priceless works of art. Phoenix Art Museum is just one Light Rail stop away, at McDowell Road, and the world-renowned Heard Museum is another half-mile north at the Encanto light rail station. Each is perfect for 2 or 3 hours of casual perusing — the Heard also has one of the best gift shops in town.

Feed Your Inner Athlete

If all that culture is making you feel a bit too refined, no worries. Phoenix can cater to your more primal needs at lunch. Dan Majerle made a name for himself in the ’80s and ’90s as a player for the Phoenix Suns, but burger lovers look up to him for his quintessential Phoenix sports bar, Majerle’s. Just a block from the light rail, Majerle’s specializes in burgers and brews (there are salads, too). The afternoon crowd is mostly local business-folks, but stick around until evening and it’s not uncommon to spot Dan himself (now the head coach for Grand Canyon University’s men’s team), a member of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury or another prominent athlete.

Satisfy the Foodie Within

Just steps from Majerle’s, CityScape is home to boutique shopping, bars, a chic (yes, it’s possible) bowling alley and a jazz club. Your best bet is to stay for dinner because there’s nothing quite like a meal at Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails. Chef Stephen Jones presents a quirky twist on modern gastro-pub fare, with items like gourmet tater tots, spicy caramel popcorn and a “Flinstone-sized” short rib. Blue Hound’s mixologist will listen to your preferences and concoct something to wash down all the fun.

If your day in Phoenix happens to fall on the first Friday of the month, walk off your meal by participating in First Friday, a free public art show that occupies downtown each month. Stroll boutiques and exhibitions, watch street artists and listen to live music.

Finish your day at District American Kitchen and Wine Bar, which features one of the best late-night menus in all of Phoenix (it’s also great for happy hour). If you have a sweet tooth, ask for the bacon-wrapped dates — drizzled with a generous amount of maple syrup — and feel free to order another helping. If comfort food’s more your thing, the house-specialty mac n’ cheese is ooey-gooey-delicious and topped with Cheez-It crumbs.

From stacks of pancakes to gourmet tater tots and custom libations, downtown Phoenix has plenty of destinations guaranteed to satisfy your cravings. All those museums and artists’ dens are merely, well, garnish.

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