Downtown Phoenix cultivates its streets with local vendors

ASU downtown Phoenix students immerse themselves in the diverse food scene

Downtown Phoenix has a wide variety of culinary options for most every taste, but some students say it's hard to find good options in their price range.

Sierra Meyer, a sophomore studying public health from Gilbert, said the price range for food in her hometown has a lot more variety than in downtown Phoenix.

“It tends to get pricier (in downtown),” Meyer said. “There’s that student-level price that sometimes is hard to find.”

Meyer said the options for close and cheap chains like Panda Express and Jamba Juice are limited, especially near ASU’s downtown campus.

The closest Jamba Juice is up the road just north of Thomas and Central, and the closest Panda Express is at Indian School Road and 7th Street.

Despite paying the higher price for food, Meyer said people still visit downtown Phoenix looking for restaurants with trendy vibes.

“A lot of the restaurants try to uphold that artsy kind of hipster-looking type restaurant,” Meyer said.

Gail Sowers is the manager of the local downtown coffee shop called Fair Trade Cafe, located in Civic Space Park. She said the local food scene is empowering for the young adults looking to get work experience in a small business or restaurant. 

“Everybody that works here is expected to know everything,” Sowers said. “You’re not just a cashier. You’re not just a baker. You’re not just a barista. You’re not front of the house or back of the house. You have to do it all. It teaches (young adults) a lot about running a business.”

Fair Trade Cafe, along with many other coffee shops in downtown Phoenix, hangs posters with local concerts and shows around the area helping to promote the Valley music scene.

Marisa Jensen, a senior studying health sciences from Chicago, just finished her first year of working at Short Leash Hot Dogs at Roosevelt and 1st Streets.

Short Leash Hot Dogs partners with other small vendors in downtown Phoenix to put on events that not only promote the diversity in the food scene, but also support local artists and performers.

Jensen said local musicians are invited to perform at all of their events, and Short Leash Hot Dogs even showcases local artists’ work in its restaurant space.

Jensen said she finds almost everything she needs within walking distance from her apartment in downtown Phoenix.

The only time she leaves downtown Phoenix for food is to get a locally-made burger and fries, or a slice of pizza that isn’t from Pizza Hut.

She said the food scene in downtown Phoenix is different from that in Chicago because it supports so many small businesses.

“The downtown Phoenix (food scene) is very much more local whereas Chicago is more big chains,” Jensen said. “You have more options in downtown Phoenix. Everything is similar, but it has its own flare on it.”


Reach the reporter at esounart@asu.edu or follow @emmasounart on Twitter.

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