Once the northern extremity of the Valley of the Sun, the resurgent micro-hood is in the heart of the city’s urban bustle, with a walkable menu of day trip items worth checking out.

Upper Downtown/Monroe & Central/aka Monrovia

Written by Austen Browne Category: Lifestyle Issue: December 2016
Group Free

Once upon a time, when Phoenix was a mere 320-acre townsite, the Downtown area around Central Avenue and Monroe Street represented the northern extremity of human habitation in the Valley of the Sun. Now, the resurgent micro-hood (we’ll call it “Monrovia”) is in the heart of the city’s urban bustle, with a walkable menu of day trip items worth checking out. MO-HO-ROW? According to City of Phoenix historians, the earliest structures along Monroe were adobe row houses used to board prostitutes from nearby saloons. The houses were demolished in the 1920s. MONROE DECO: Builders began to stretch out from the Jackson Street area in the late 1920s into “northern” Phoenix with a series of ambitious skyscraper builds, including the Professional Building on Central and Monroe, cited as a classic specimen of Art Deco architecture. Originally designed to house physician and dentist offices, the 1932 structure was recently converted into the Hilton Garden Inn. MODERN BOOM: A second wave of construction hit Monrovia in the early 1970s – including Arizona’s tallest building, the Valley Center, now known as Chase Tower – leaving the area with its distinctive old/new skyline.  

Cornish Pasty Co.
Founded by Cornwall native Dean Thomas in 2005, Cornish Pasty has expanded from its Tempe roots all across the Valley, with a Downtown Phoenix location set to open its doors in the coming months. Its unique menu of delicious pasties – essentially portable pot pies, or gourmet Hot Pockets – has become a hit with hungry customers who want a little taste of the U.K. in the desert. The classic Oggie pasty is a savory treat, loaded with steak, potatoes, onion and rutabaga and served with red wine gravy or ketchup.
3 W. Monroe St.

Esoteric Audio
With its modern décor and spacious setup, Esoteric Audio boasts a welcoming atmosphere for home studio customers tired of the usual cramped audio shop experience. Founded in Scottsdale, it was  purchased by current owner Andrew Papanikolas in 2013 and moved to the heart of Downtown Phoenix. From high-end CD players to fancy turntables, Esoteric is an audiophile’s paradise.
111 W. Monroe St., 602-247-7677

Noodle Bar
From the combined remains of Otakumen and Pat & Waldo’s (which shuttered in September), comes this revamped, newly named concept that morphs the carbohydrate powers of Italian pasta and Japanese ramen under one roof. Its late-night menu debuted in October, offering patrons a sophisticated cocktail menu and authentic Italian and Japanese bites with a modern twist until as late as 3 a.m. on weekends. Chef/owner Marco DiSanto says customer favorites include spicy miso soup and yakisoba.
114 W. Adams St., 480-454-7905

Hidden Track Bottle Shop
Tucked away in the ground floor corner of a high-rise, Hidden Track is every bit what its name suggests. Opened in the summer of 2015, it has gained popularity for its assortment of Spanish and Arizona wines curated from smaller wineries and for prices that don’t put a dent in your wallet. With wine tastings slated for every Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon, Hidden Track “transforms from a shop to a social gathering” says co-owner Danielle Middleton.
111 W. Monroe St., 602-566-7932