For years, Jesus Rodriguez drove across the Valley selling tacos out of an old firefighter rescue truck he turned into a food truck. That was until a global pandemic changed everything.
“I didn’t have any work, I didn’t have anything to do,” Rodriguez said.
He opened his first brick-and-mortar restaurant, El Zaguan Bistro, with the hopes of bringing community and the tastes of Mexico to the heart of Downtown Phoenix.
“People have already come in saying they’ve been waiting for a place like this,” Rodriguez said. “I want to introduce different flavors to people, from working neighbors to people that live here. It seems like more and more people are coming out to downtown.”
Last year, more restaurants opened in Downtown Phoenix than closed, bringing new tastes and experiences to the city.
“Small businesses are vital to our distinct, street-level experience, and 82 percent of our restaurants are locally owned,” said Devney Preuss, president and CEO of Downtown Phoenix Inc. “They make our neighborhood truly special, and as more small businesses continue to move in, it makes downtown’s future feel very bright.”
Between October 1 and the end of December — 14 new Downtown Phoenix bars and restaurants opened. Here’s what you need to know about each.
Adam’s Table: Located at the Hyatt Place hotel, Adams Table opened in late September, with a perfect view of the historic Orpheum Theatre from the patio (located right across the street). Featuring American classics like burgers, deviled eggs, fish and chips, and a steak salad, you’ll also find entrees with a Southwest twist – like carnitas tacos, a chorizo chopped salad, and an “anytime” breakfast burrito.
Anhelo Restaurant: Relocating from the Silva House at Heritage Square, Anhelo opened on the ground floor of the historic Orpheum Lofts building in October. This upscale American restaurant was chef Ivan Jacobo’s first brick-and-mortar after a critically acclaimed pop-up dinner series called Hidden Kitchen Supper Club. Known for his inventive, detail-focused food –served a la carte or prix fixe — the young chef totally transformed the space into a culinary destination, complete with white table cloths and chandeliers.
Barcoa: The founder of the Phoenix Pizza Festival and Arizona Taco Festival, David Tyda, along with his business partner Ryan Oberholtzer (of The Churchill’s Provecho), opened Barcoa in November. Located in a historic building on Roosevelt and First streets, the tequila and mescal bar gets its name from the tool used to harvest agave leaves for fermentation – a “coa.” Barcoa shares the building with Xico Inc., an indigenous and Latinx art gallery and studio. “Our goal is to create a little slice of something that feels like a bar in Mexico in the middle of Downtown Phoenix,” Tyda said.
BYOB Build Your Own Bowl: Located on the Arizona State University – Downtown Campus, this fast-casual eatery serves sandwiches, smoothies, and build-your-own salad and protein bowls. It opened in November in the Cronkite building next to Bowl of Greens.
El Zaguan Bistro: A family-owned, casual Mexican restaurant, El Zaguan Bistro opened in the old Detroit Coney Grill spot in December. Serving street tacos, quesabirrias, burritos and more, owner Jesus Rodriguez says it is “the first authentic Mexican food restaurant in the heart of Downtown Phoenix.”
Garden Bar PHX: Designed by James Beard-honored mixologist Kim Haasarud, Garden Bar PHX has a quaint, communal vibe. The interiors are bathed in natural light, whites and splashes of earthy tones. Sourcing its ingredients from gardens and local vendors, with what Haasarud calls a “garden-to-glass” concept, it’s housed in a 1914 Bungalow that retains much of its charm. A space made for conversing, drinking and brunch – you’ll find delectable grazing (charcuterie) boards, educational pop-up events, and one-of-a-kind drinks.
Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken: This fried chicken spot opened in the historic Liefgreen Seed Co. building in October, built on a recipe that goes back 60 years. Originating in the small community of Mason, Tennessee, this now-famous fried chicken has taken the country by storm – Downtown Phoenix being the 35th franchise. Using fresh, never-frozen chicken (and hormone-free) — quality ingredients are the name of the game at Gus’s Fried Chicken. On the menu you’ll also find Southern favorites like fried okra, fried pickles, mac and cheese, greens, and old-fashioned desserts like pecan and chess pies. It’s casual – everything is served on Styrofoam plates – but you can get a beer or even a bottle of champagne when dining in.
Jacy and Dakota’s: Formerly known as Province Urban Kitchen & Bar at The Westin, Jacy & Dakota’s opened in October with a totally new menu and interior décor. Featuring an earthtone palette of greys, terracotta pinks and warm mid-century browns, the outdoor space is decked out with cozy patio furniture, Moroccan-style rugs and two giant saguaros dubbed (you guessed it) Jacy and Dakota. There’s a daily happy hour from 4-6 p.m., and plenty of seasonal, regionally-inspired options for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Jersey Mike’s: This New Jersey-based chain has been making subs for decades, with tremendous expansion in the past few years. The new Jersey Mike’s location at Arizona Center opened in December, and is the 63rd franchise in the state. In terms of sandwiches, you can’t go wrong with deli meats and cheeses sliced on the spot, and piled high on fresh-baked bread. Authentic cheesesteaks and other hot sandwiches are grilled fresh.
One Stop Nutrition: Known for its fruit smoothies and nutritional shakes, One Stop Nutrition opened on the second floor of CityScape in December. Located across from Eos Fitness, it’s a convenient place to fuel up before or after the gym.
Pedal Haus: The Tempe-based brewery opened its third location on Roosevelt Street in November, sharing the MonOrchid building with Kähvi Coffee + Café and the soon-to-open Sake Haus. All three concepts are locally owned by Julian Wright of Fork & Dagger Hospitality, with Pedal Haus spanning 6,000 square feet. Featuring an indoor dining room, outdoor patio, plenty of award-winning beer options, and even some craft cocktail options — it adds to Roosevelt Row’s ever-expanding bar and restaurant options. The menu includes pub food staples like burgers, nachos and wings, with gluten-free and vegan options.
Sweet Crimes: Featuring cookies, nostalgic candy, ice cream and sundaes — Sweet Crimes is the only locally-owned dessert shop in downtown. It opened in December on the ground floor of the historic Orpheum Lofts building, making everyone’s ice cream sandwich dreams come true.
Trapper’s Sushi: Unique sauces, local flavors, and fully-cooked sushi options sets Trapper’s Sushi apart from other Japanese eateries. Featuring accessible sushi entrees that cater to all ages and taste buds, you can choose from more than 60 signature rolls, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. The Washington-based restaurant was founded 17 years ago, and is known for its Asian-fusion rolls and nigiri, and all-you-can-eat sushi bar. There are also teriyaki dishes, tempura, and a kids menu for diners 10 and under.
Wren and Wolf: With a menu focused on locally-sourced ingredients, you’ll find flavorful cast-iron-cooked steaks, dry-aged meatloaf, house-made pastas, and fresh-caught seafood. But this is not your average, old-school steakhouse. At Wren & Wolf, large-scale murals adorn the walls, and taxidermy birds and “animals of the night” — including a coyote and a wolf— take center stage in the dining room and bar. From the restauranteurs behind Chico Malo at CityScape, Wren & Wolf opened in December on the ground floor of Renaissance Square.