My goal over the past couple years has been to get out and explore the city I live in. Seems like a pretty simple task, but it wasn’t at first. Thankfully, I have two super great friends that frequently like to try out new places and things so they are never short on ideas. I realize there are actually a lot of really cool places especially in the Downtown area which is changing its reputation. It’s becoming a really awesome hub for cool places to go and things to see. There’s live music everywhere from the arena to the smaller venues on the outskirts of the city. The lightrail and petty cabs make getting around even easier. One of the coolest things are the small sub-sections (or rows) that have taken older homes and turned them into restaurants and cool places to hang out.
If you’re visiting or live here and just want something fun to check out, these are a few of my favorite places in the Phoenix area.
Where to get Coffee: DeSoto Central Market [Website]
915 N. Central Ave, Phoenix
DeSoto Central Market is coffee shop, bar, meeting place, market, and contains multiple places to catch a bite to eat. It feels similar to the Grand Central Market in Los Angeles except less congested and with fewer vendors. Located in the 90 year DeSoto building, the 1930s era building has been remodeled to include group seating inside and outside, a dog-friendly patio, and space for games. They pride themselves on using fresh local ingredients in their food and drinks. DeSoto offers a variety of events and classes monthly including yoga and the third Wednesday of every month is Speakeasy night!
Where to Shop: Stinkweeds [Website]
12 W. Camelback, Phoenix
Stinkweeds has been a Valley institution since the 1980s. They are independently owned and operated. It’s the best place to pick up new and used records because they genuinely love music. They have a focus on independent bands and labels which makes finding something new, under the radar, and worth listening to super easy. Every year for Record Store Day they have one of the best celebrations with live music, food, and a large selection of special releases. Their used selection of records is just as amazing as the new collection. Where else could I get the soundtrack to Miami Vice for such a great price? PS: they still have classic music store listening stations to check out before you buy.
Where to Get Food: Ocotillo [Website]
3243 N. 3rd Street, Phoenix
Ocotillo is a modern eatery which just named one of the best new restaurants by the Phoenix New Times. Ocotillo features a very modern looking full bar, dining room, and outside patio area featuring live music (and event space). They pride themselves on using fresh, local, seasonal ingredients in interesting ways. They offer a weekend brunch and have a coffee bar on premise. Dinner is a bit more pricy but the smoked beef ravioli is well worth it.
Where to Catch a Movie: FilmBar [Website]
815 N. 2nd St, Phoenix
Another locally owned and operated gem is FilmBar. Opened in 2011, FilmBar shows a little bit of everything including new movies, indie films, cult classics, and locally made films daily. The atmosphere is one of the best things about hanging out there. There is B film roll playing on television, interesting music, and every once in a while there will be a film professor sharing insights (and discussions) about classic films. They used to have monthly themes with the cult movies which I miss, but they still offer a free movie for your birthday!
Where to Hang Out: Cobra Arcade Bar [Website]
801 N. 2nd St, Phoenix
Literally right next door to FilmBar is the Cobra Arcade Bar. A 21+ video game arcade with themed drinks. There are 40 classic arcade games (including Super Mario Brothers!) and there’s no dingy mall to worry about. You do have to purchase tokens just like way back when, but it’s ridiculously fun. There’s a DJ playing music from the 70s, 80s, and 90s (Hannibal Buress was the DJ once), so it truly contains everything you could need to be soaked in pure nostalgia.
Where to get Nachos: Bliss ReBar [Website]
904 N. 4th St, Phoenix
Bliss ReBar has the best nachos and I know this because my friends LOVE going there and consuming ungodly amounts. There are a few different places to hang out both inside and outside. It’s super chill and there’s a party atmosphere at night with a DJ and bar. There’s a group therapy drink which you can share with multiple people (I think up to 6). They have a really solid brunch complete with breakfast nachos. Yes. Breakfast. Nachos.
Where to Test Your Decision Making: Bitter & Twisted [Website]
1 W. Jefferson, Phoenix
Bitter & Twisted is located in the former Arizona prohibition headquarters in the Luhrs building. It’s an incredibly hip place both because it’s a bar in the former prohibition headquarters AND because cocktail bars are all the rage. There are tons and tons of offerings which come in an incredibly designed booklet filled with vintage illustrations. The ingredients are fresh and there’s always something interesting to try. Plus the drinks are real strong. They offer food including a late night menu once the alcohol has run its course. There’s even a ramen burger which I’m still deeply undecided about. There’s always a bit of a line so get there early or prepare to stand around for a bit.
Images are not my own and can be removed by request.