Welcome to Dining Guides, an intermittent series on the many dining hubs around the greater Phoenix area and what they have to offer. Breakfast to drinks, quick coffee to sit-down dining, we break down some of our favorite places in each neighborhood. Today, we want to zero in on Calle 16.
Cruise down 16th Street and you’ll pass the iconic Barrio Café, bold murals, colorful coffee shops, and a mix of taco joints and global eats from the Middle East. On the watering-hole side of things, 16th Street boasts more excellent dive bars per capita than any other stretch in Phoenix proper (sure feels like it, anyway). This is Calle 16, several miles of road offering Mexican standouts and so much more.
COFFEE & BREAKFAST
Window Coffee Bar
2222 North 16th Street
Housed in the backyard of Hive on 16th, Window Coffee Bar may be small — like, 120 square feet small — but it’s big on personality. That’s mostly due to co-owners Marcus Sanchez and Homero Medrano who infused the coffee station with geometric tiles and pops of color, including a “Come as you are” pink neon sign, and infused the small but mighty menu with locally roasted Cult beans, plus vegan tarts and breakfast pastries from Süss Pastries and Noble Bread. The open-air courtyard where you can sip and socialize adds to the buzz.
1736 East McDowell Road
La Bohemia is big on pink, from the pink menu board and pastel chairs, to the pink concha cookies and pink peppercorn garnish on the mesquite honey miel latte. Owned by friends Alejandro Larios and Carla Chavarría, the rosy shade is also reminiscent of Mexico City, the inspiration behind the design-forward café that serves sips inspired by the capital, like café de olla (a traditional Mexican coffee drink) and Mexican mocha.
2428 North 16th Street
Descent Coffee serves the usual suspects. Drip, pour overs, cold brew, and macchiatos made with locally roasted Peixoto beans. But when you’ve got an owner like bartender-turned-barista Courtney Fagerlie, coffee drinks take on a mixologist’s flair for flavor. Consider the halva latte, a sweet, nutty espresso drink with house-made halva syrup (sesame, pistachio), and steamed milk spiced with a hint of cardamom. Or the spiced creamsicle sunrise with spicy vanilla syrup, coconut milk, fresh squeezed OJ, and cold brew. Walls covered in murals by local artists and vegan cookies and doughnuts add to the vibe.
Froth Coffee Roasters
1447 East McDowell Road
The drive-thru at Froth makes it so easy to cruise through for a frothy nitro cold brew, a vanilla latte, hibiscus nitro tea on tap, or the F-Bomb — a four-shot wake-up call that combines plenty of caffeine with caramel and chocolate sauce. Those are just the drinks. You can also order up smoothies, acai bowls, Rice Krispies Treats, and toast with all the toppers. But it’s a shame not to check out the coffee shop itself, where a friendly atmosphere and fresh scent of coffee — beans are hand-roasted on-site twice a week — are always there to greet you
Brunch your face off at La Cocina Economica Mexican Kitchen.
La Cocina Economica Mexican Kitchen
1550 North 16th Street
Like a Denny’s of Mexican eats, La Cocina Economica’s colorful menu is loaded with affordable all-day breakfasts, hefty lunch options, and combination plates, only instead of pancakes and bacon, you’ll find chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, stuffed poblanos, and chorizo burritos. Granted, the food is tastier than the chain and comes with made from scratch salsa, sauces, and homemade tortillas, plus the dining area gets points for its colorful chairs, painted tables, and caricature mural.
Lucky Boy serves up burgers and fries with a side of nostalgia.
Lucky Boy Burger Shop
3430 North 16th Street
“Don’t judge a book by its cover” does not apply at Lucky Boy. Topped by a hand-painted throwback sign that makes it impossible to miss, the iconic burger shack just north of Osborn Road promises nostalgic eats for cheap, and it delivers. Drive-thru or step inside the 60s décor (vinyl stools, black and white checkered floor) for beefy burgers on sesame-topped buns, fresh-cut fries, fountain drinks, and handspun malts and milkshakes. And like the sign says, a quarter-pound burger and fries is only $5.69.
Asadero Norte De Sonora
122 North 16th Street
Sure, Asadero Norte De Sonora can meet your solo dining needs. There are plenty of single-serve tortas, tacos and burros on the menu. But when you have a hungry family of carnivores craving capital “M” meat, there’s no better place. Known for their Sonoran-style grilled meats, popular picks are the whole chicken meal ($11.75) and the parillada ($23.50), a barbecue platter that comes with your choice of three meats, like carne asada, lengua, and pastor. Both meal deals come with housemade salsa, your choice of corn or flour tortillas, charro beans, and grilled vegetables.
Nino’s Greek Cafe
3102 North 16th Street
Nino’s Greek Cafe has the classics covered: Greek salad, crispy falafel, chicken shawarma, lamb souvlaki, gyro platters, and even spanikopita, as in crisp layers of filo dough stuffed with fresh spinach and feta. But the counter-service neighborhood café with a wraparound porch patio doesn’t just stop at Mediterranean marvels. Order up a gyro cheesesteak with grilled onion, mushrooms, and green peppers or a feta burger topped with feta.
Middle Eastern Bakery & Deli
3052 North 16th Street
Middle Eastern Bakery & Deli is not for the indecisive. Between its stacked market shelves to its packed bakery case, the restaurant-slash-bakery-slash-deli-slash-grocery serves up a slew of Lebanese and Mediterranean staples. Must-orders include zatar pita, baklava, traditional dolmades, tabouli, lamb kebabs, baba ganoush, creamy hummus, all made fresh in-house. But if we had to pick just one, the honey-sweetened rosewater lemonade is game-changing good.
TEG Torta Shop
2518 North 16th Street
All the tortas at TEG Torta Shop take two hands and a wide mouth to eat. Their alambre de res stacks grilled steak with bacon, onion, bell pepper, avocado, tomato, mayo, and quesillo for a melty, meaty monstrosity with plenty of veg. The pacifico packs in pork leg, ham, pineapple, and chipotle for a sweet, spicy, multi-textured bite. Tortas are the star of the show, all served on soft, chewy, housemade telera bread, but tacos, especially al pastor, and quesadillas, won’t disappoint.
Kabob Grill N’ Go
3050 North 16th Street
Yes, Kabob Grill N’ Go is all about kabobs, but these aren’t just any skewers. Opened by husband-and-wife team Hasmik and Tony Chilingaryan in 2020, walk into the pristine yet pint-sized shop and you’re greeted by a butcher case display loaded with metal spits of marinated meat — Armenian-style ground pork and beef koobideh, tender cuts of Angus beef, bone-in pork ribs, chunks of seasoned chicken — all grilled-to-order on screaming hot mesquite charcoal for a just-charred, deeply flavorful skewer. Combos come with blistered peppers and tomatoes, basmati rice, shirazi salad, and cucumber mint or chimichurri dip for a piled high to-go plate we dare you to eat in one sitting.
Ollie Vaughn’s is a pastry epiphany.
Ollie Vaughn’s Kitchen and Bakery
1526 East McDowell Road
Ollie Vaughn’s has that cozy, familiar vibe of a neighborhood joint. The counter staff knows regulars by name (and order) and there’s a good chance you’ll run into someone you know in line. It also has unforgettable pastries. Think impossibly flaky croissants hand-laminated daily, pucker-worthy lemon bars on a shortbread crust, and the best tea cookies in town, all baked in-house, plus decadent salads and sandwiches filled with fresh ingredients. You can thank owner Lindsey Magee, who cares as much about staff and customers as quality food.
2520 North 16th Street
Save room for dessert at Realeza Michoacana, a popular paleteria where regulars line up for frosty housemade Mexican treats. Slurp back heavenly raspados loaded with tamarind chunks, Japanese peanuts, Tajin, chamoy, and lime, polish off real-fruit paletas in mango-chili, strawberry, and guava, or indulge in a cone or banana split in a freezer of creamy flavors and relish in the fact that everything is fresh, natural and made in house.
Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza’s Barrio Cafe on 16th Street near East Thomas Road.
2814 North 16th Street
What hasn’t already been said about Barrio Café? The “Comida Chingona” (look it up on Urban Dictionary, okay) has been slinging bad-ass Mexican food since 2002. It has won dozens of awards. Its tableside guac, chiles en nogada, and sour orange braised pork cochinita pibil have been hailed as heavenly. Its tequila menu is miles long. And chef-owner Silvana Salcido Esparza has been inducted into the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame. It’s even given Guy Fieri a mouth meltdown. But the real treat isn’t in the accolades, but the eating. Mouth meltdown is an understatement.
Mariscos Playa Hermosa
1605 East Garfield Street
If you judge a restaurant by its number of diners, Mariscos Playa Hermosa is beyond Michelin stars. Packed to the gills from lunch to dinner, guests flock to the family-owned Sinaloan-style seafood restaurant, which has been pegged as some of the best seafood in Arizona. Among the hits: Its grilled shrimp michelada bathed in “chingadazo” sauce, spicy agua chiles, 24-hour marinated ceviche, and stacked seafood towers. The colorful ambiance and mixed drinks take on the same coastal flair with monstrous micheladas and fruity margaritas.
Casa Corazon Restaurant
2637 North 16th Street
Everything at Casa Corazon is elevated, from the soaring vaulted ceilings and tasteful art to the game-changing salsa bar and inspired entrees. Enchiladas come with red, green, or Corazon’s signature roasted beet sauce, a slightly sweet revelation you can’t help but sop up. The Yucatecan cochinita pibil is marinated in a house-made achiote mix and slow-roasted in banana leaves for a fragrant finish. Even the bar menu goes the extra mile with tequilas layered with fresh lime and colorful fruit purees
It’s always happy hour at Royale Lounge.
2310 North 16th Street
It’s always happy hour at Royale Lounge, the-been-there-forever spot on 16th that’s basically a box — no windows — with a red neon “Cocktails” sign. The outside isn’t much better with its paneled walls, pool table, pinball machine and that’s pretty much it, but the lack of décor is the joy. The bar isn’t trying to impress; it’s there for cheap drinks (pints are $2.75, domestic bottles $3, $1 Jell-O shots in 14 flavors) and a no-frills hang.
1560 East Osborn Road
Plazma wears the “gay dive bar” label well. Décor includes a year-round gay Santa mascot and marble statue of James Dean, the patio comes with rainbow flags and ashtrays, and the dimly-lit place has pool and darts. Come to Plazma for karaoke Sunday nights, two-for-one drinks all day Thursday, daily happy hour specials 4 pm. to 8 p.m., or any day of the week for an Absolut Vodka and lime and an absolutely unpretentious crowd.
3045 North 16th Street
Rips is a hole in the wall that comes with history. Open 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., the space-age building dates back to 1959, a geometric marvel that looks even cooler inside. Waylon Jennings and Charley Pride have drunk here. And the vintage sign, emblazoned with a big red arrow, is there to point characters, karaoke swingers, concert-goers, and pool sharks in the right direction.
3702 North 16th Street
Bar1 is more like four gay bars in one. There’s the cozy fireplace nook with its cushy seating and candle lighting. There’s the patio that feels like a vacation, especially while sipping a bellini or bourbon berry lemonade. There are pool tables and darts for diversions. And there’s the bustling bar and its long stretch of seats for happy hour sipping (10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily) and socializing.
La Frontera 1 food truck, going strong 31 years.
La Frontera 1
209 North 16th Street
For a late-night taco run (or early morning or midday), there’s no better place than La Frontera 1. Parked practically permanently just south of Van Buren 8:30 am to 2 a.m., the food truck fixture serves up flavor-packed carne asada, al pastor, lengua, tripa, barbacoa — more grilled meats than we can list — taco, tostada, torta, burrito, quesadilla, and vampiro style. Park yourself in the covered outdoor seating, douse your plate in house-made salsa, and wash it down with an agua fresca or Jaquita for one of the best street eats in town going on 31 years.
Taco Mich & bar #1
1602 East McDowell Road
Is it just us, or does the later it gets, the less discerning your taste buds become? That’s where Taco Mich comes in. No, they’re not the best tacos in town, but they’re cheap ($6.95 for five tacos and soda) and come loaded with cilantro and onions in a double corn tortilla. Not that the menu is limited to tacos. The brightly lit spot has sopes, burritos, tortas, tostadas, and even hot dogs, and a festive vibe, complete with piñatas, party flags, and mariachi music from morning to late night (open until 1 a.m. and 24 hours Friday and Saturday).
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