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 the Melrose District.
The Melrose District, especially the Melrose Curve along Seventh Avenue in central Phoenix, is one of the most colorful neighborhoods in the city. Here, you’ll find TV repair shops, music shops, bike shops, antique stores, salons, retro outfitters.
But Melrose is also known for its dining scene. It has a lot of great local history, and it’s quite walkable. Here’s a guide to what to hit up if you’re hungry or thirsty in the neighborhood.
Fuel up before your day in the Melrose District.
Copper Star Coffee
4220 North Seventh Avenue
This locally owned coffee shop has everything you might expect — caffeinated hot and cold drinks, Wi-Fi, tables and chairs — but there’s something else it has in droves: lots and lots of character. Copper Star Coffee offers local art on the walls, live music, and menu items like smoothies, teas, bagels, sandwiches, and salads.
The Refuge Café
4727 North Seventh Avenue
This place offers coffee for a cause. Roasting single-origin, ethically sourced, 100 percent Arabica coffee, the Refuge lists drip coffee, nitro cold brew, specialty espresso drinks, and more on its menu. That menu also offers breakfast, lunch, wine, and cocktails to boot. And as you may have guessed by the name, the Refuge funds some local nonprofit organizations with portions of its proceeds.
There’s nothing finer than being in your diner.
4515 North Seventh Avenue
A retro diner if ever there was one, Joe’s Diner boasts the best pancakes in Phoenix, and offers a packed menu full of breakfast, brunch, and lunch items. Think omelets, tuna melts, croissant sandwiches, eggs, burgers, coffee, and more eggs. The family-owned Joe’s started in 2010 farther south and moved to the curve to reestablish the open-daily diner with more room.
4306 North Seventh Avenue
This family-owned diner is a welcoming, quick dining retreat that is heavily over-decorated in the best possible way. The Melrose Kitchen breakfast menu lists classic items like steak and eggs to build-your-own omelets and breakfast burritos, stuffed French toast, and a bacon waffle. There’s also a lunch menu, desserts, and plenty of coffee. And when weather permits, an outdoor patio welcomes diners and pets.
One of the signature orders from Fry Bread House
Jacob Tyler Dunn
Fry Bread House
4545 North Seventh Avenue
If ever there were a restaurant hinting at what’s on its menu by its sign, it’s the Fry Bread House. The family-run restaurant has been serving traditional Tohono O’odham food since 1992 and offers plain fry bread as well as a number of specialties. Try the pillowy stuff jammed with ground beef, beans, and cheese, or alongside stews or beneath sweet chocolate. Other menu items include tacos, burros, and chippies and salsa.
4447 North Seventh Avenue
This petite restaurant and take-out counter offers authentic Thai cuisine in the form of Thai egg rolls, lemongrass soup, and spicy tofu salad. For you noodle fiends, Thai Long-An lists Drunken Noodles and Pad Thai, as well as entrees like Pad Woon Sen. Curries, include the usual red, green, and yellow, plus mussamun, Pa-Naeng, and duck. Lunch specials reign supreme here, and there are a few beer and wine options.
Diamond Chinese Restaurant
4402 North Seventh Avenue
This no-frills Cantonese restaurant offers lunch combinations that could keep you trying something new for a while. Think Chinese eatery staples, including Kung Pao chicken or beef, pepper steak, shrimp with lobster sauce, orange chicken, and more. And while at Diamond Chinese Restaurant, be sure to grab a piping hot crab puff if you’re feeling extra hungry.
The Lazy Daze cocktail, tropical juices jolted with Del Maguey mezcal, at Lylo Swim Club.
Lylo Swim Club
400 West Camelback Road
Lylo Swim Club is an outdoor bar in the new boutique hotel Arrive Phoenix with a drink menu crafted by Ross Simon (of Bitter & Twisted and Little Rituals). Here, you’ll find familiar cocktails like a mojito and caipirinha, as well as some signature drink orders. We recommend the Dole Whipped, the Opposable Rums, and the Lazy Daze.
The smell alone may bring you in, though reservations are highly recommended.
702 West Montecito Avenue
This 37-seat dinner spot is hard to pass if you’re anywhere near the corner of Seventh and Montecito Avenues and hungry. The smell and the light chatter, clinking of dishes and silverware, and twinkling décor, will definitely draw you into Restaurant Progress. Classic American fare is upscaled by chef and owner TJ Culp. There’s no set menu, so the five-course tasting menu comes recommended. And FYI, here lies excellent wine and hand-crafted cocktails.
4971 North Seventh Avenue
Belly is a two-story Southeast Asian kitchen and cocktail bar and the first restaurant opened by the Instrumental Hospitality Group. Menu items include crispy spring rolls, jackfruit fried rice, and a turmeric chicken thighs claypot. You might also want to snag a to-go glass of the lemon horchata. The anticipated eatery is now open for takeout only — noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Short Leash Hotdogs & Rollover Doughnuts
4221 North Seventh Avenue
Once a food truck, next to a spot on Roosevelt Row, Short Leash has been a Melrose District tenant for a few good months already. There are salads, loaded fries, and starters like cauliflower wings and cheese curds, but the signature hot dogs are the real deal here. The Lady is a killer with chipotle cream cheese, sautéed onions, and fried pickles, and the Bear is just fun. There are also more than 80 craft beers available, and scratch-made brioche doughnuts.
PHX Burrito House
4140 North Seventh Avenue
This colorful house turned Mexican food joint offers salads, quesadillas, tacos, and breakfast, but as the name might suggest, you should get a burrito. A flour tortilla is wrapped around options like Mexican rice, black or pinto beans, cheese, sour cream, and choice of protein. The meats include pork in green chile sauce, beef in red chile sauce, pork carnitas, carne asada, and shredded beef. Other burrito options at PHX Burrito House include shrimp, veggie, bean and cheese, and, for breakfast, machaca.
Pop Stand — or the check-in desk at the boutique hotel ARRIVE in central Phoenix.
400 West Camelback Road
When checking in (or just checking out) the boutique hotel Arrive, you may be in for a literal treat. The front desk is a handcrafted frozen-pop shop called Pop Stand that offers regular and even booze-infused paletas, including strawberries con crema, chile mango, pink lemonade, and frozen margarita.
Where you can pick up your to-go from Thunderbird Lounge.
710 West Montecito Avenue
The new Thunderbird Lounge has added some even newer happy hour specials, so come 4 p.m., you’re free to head over to the Wagon Wheel building. Post up at a spot on the spacious backyard patio. A walk-up window allows for orders on the fly. Think mixed drinks, Montucky Cold Snacks, canned wine, and O-ke-doke Cheese Popcorn.
The Quail Lounge (temporarily closed for remodeling)
4134 North Seventh Avenue
Just north of the Melrose District arch, the Quail Lounge has operated under that name for roughly seven years. Inside the boxy structure, there’s a bar backed by two pool tables, some tables and chairs, a few TVs for football season, and an internet jukebox. The bathrooms are remodeled, but the rest is pure dark dive. You can bring your own food or come for a Cardinals game potluck.
And a Ton More
Do we even need to explain the Filiberto’s menu?
4201 North Seventh Avenue
Can’t go wrong with late-night, drive-thru acquired Mexican food when the evening calls for it. Do we even need to explain the Filiberto’s menu?
Editor’s note: This story was originally published on June 21, 2019. It was updated on November 23, 2020.
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