Before I lived in Mesa, I lived in downtown Phoenix; I was forced to by Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. One girl at my orientation discovered this and was so appalled she immediately changed her major. My dorms were brand spanking new, which was nice, but the security measures (identification necessary to enter, no more than five people in a room at a time including two roommates), prevented a lot of “the dorm experience”. Not to mention, ASU students living in my dorm were asked to call a security escort when walking to the parking lot and back. My parents bought me pepper spray and wished me luck.
I wasn’t living in the slums, but downtown Phoenix is much different from the main ASU campus in Tempe. Downtown Phoenix is hip, unique and urban. The tall skyscrapers are contrasted by small, independent shops and restaurants. Homeless people (hence the security measures) and residents from all over the Valley flock here for the atmosphere. Bars, restaurants and shops keep people who come to the main attractions – huge concerts, the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Diamondbacks – interested in downtown Phoenix’s appeal.
As far as restaurants go, aforementioned Cibo is a little distant from the main hub of downtown, but worth the extra five blocks. Pizzeria Bianco is absolutely famous, especially for its three hour wait times and three month advance reservation period. Besides the hostess hassle, pizza is hand-cooked and supervised by chef Chris Bianci, although his presence in the kitchen has been diminished due to horrible asthma (Arizona Republic). For breakfast try Matt’s Big Breakfast, which is also famous for its wait times; because the restaurant is so small, crowds have to wait outside the one-room restaurant. Luckily, iced water is provided to temporarily keep your hunger at bay (I’m just kidding), as well as your heat stroke. The Breadfruit serves traditional Jamaican food, such as jerk chicken, and has a ton of vegan and vegetarian options, all surprisingly delicious! Also recommended – Alice Cooperstown, its one pound, 22-inch, Big Unit hot dog covered in more than you can eat, garnished enough fame to be featured on Travel Channel’s Man v. Food, although it wasn’t what host Adam Richman had to conquer.
Five Guys Burgers & Fries (try them Cajun style) just opened at downtown’s new attraction, CityScape. CityScape has a new bowling alley, grocery store and the popular clothing store Urban Outfitters. The grand opening featured free performances from Third Eye Blind and local talent. Third Eye Blind performed old and recent material, as well as a notable “Semi-Charmed Life” and Nelly’s “Rid Wit Me” mash-up. The day before the Third Eye Blind concert, Macy Gray drew a crowd, as well as the monthly downtown Phoenix Art Walk. The longest-running in the nation, the art walk weaves between stands featuring homemade goods as well as studios with expensive art. The great thing about the art walk is that it’s free, so in the fancy art studios you can see anyone from gangsters and thugs to people in Japanese manga costumes. If the art isn’t enough for you, the people watching will be.
It’s too bad the girl who changed her major couldn’t take advantage of all downtown Phoenix had to offer – she might have discovered the city had more than meets the eye.Follow @ivymorris