Getting Around in Phoenix; FQ Story, Grand Avenue District, Melrose District, Fry Bread, & a Honky Tonk

Phoenix is a huge city I have not yet completely wrapped my brain around, but we quickly learned that is partly due to the absence of a defined city center.

Locals will tell you that there is a different surrounding town to go to depending on which type of entertainment, shopping, or nightlife you are looking for, like Tempe, Scottsdale, or Mesa.


FQ Story
We recently stayed at a rad AirBnB on Portland Street in the historic FQ Story neighbourhood, two blocks north of Roosevelt Street and about two blocks from Grand Avenue.

FQ Story is bound by McDowell Road to the north and Roosevelt Street to the south. It runs west to east between 17th Avenue and 7th Avenue, with I-10 cutting right through it.

It is conveniently located right in between Midtown and Downtown Phoenix, with the Grand Avenue District on the west side. Getting around downtown was a cinch.


Frances Quarles Story was a wool and textiles merchant from Massachusetts who was also known for making Sunkist soda famous.

He never lived in Phoenix, but he had his hands in the design of Grand Avenue’s 100-feet wide thoroughfare and building the street car line that serviced the area.

The entire neighbourhood, and many of its 600+ houses built between the 1920s-1940s, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Having our very own pool and hot tub at the Air BnB was pure heaven.


Grand Avenue District
At the west end of Portland Street, turn left onto 15th Avenue, then immediately left again onto Grand Avenue.


Grand Avenue was Phoenix’s gateway to Los Angeles long before the interstate was built.


It remains a busy crossroads, and the strip of Grand Avenue that runs between Roosevelt Street and Van Buren Street is packed with restaurants and galleries, a tattoo studio, Grand Avenue Records, the Trans Am Café, Grand Arthaus, Bacanora Sonoran Restaurant, Grand Avenue Brewing, the Phoenix Trolley Museum, Bones After Market, and Bikini Lounge.


We instantly fell in love with Maggie Keane’s mural of Prince on the Rodriguez Boxing Club building.


The mural wall continues with other icons like MJ, the King, Amy Winehouse, John Lennon, and Selena.


You can read more about the FQ Story Neighbourhood mural projects here.


It’s a good mix of gritty and glitz here, bouncing back and forth between auto shops and art exhibits, junk lots and gardens.


One of my must-see recommendations is the mosaic planters along the Grand Avenue, especially those in front of Blue Feather Boutique. Look at these beauties!


The giant mosaic-covered plant bins are from the Grand Avenue Planter Project that started in 2013.

Phoenix received a grant from the EPA to beautify and add greenery to Grand Avenue, so they purchased 55 concrete planters and sent out a call to artists who wanted to decorate them.


Despite being more than a decade old, they look sparkling new.

One stipulation of the grant was that the community must be responsible for maintaining them after the initial six months beyond installation, and they have taken that task seriously.


Roosevelt Row
From Blue Feather Boutique, go back up Grand Avenue and make a right onto N 11th Avenue. Follow it north a few blocks, then make a right onto Roosevelt Street.


Here, Roosevelt Street called Roosevelt Row, a collection of blocks known for the abundance of murals and street art that unfolds as it stretches toward 7th Street.


Cool places here include the Palabras Bilingual Bookstore, The Great Arizona Puppet Theatre, Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix, Roosevelt Row Welcome Center, and a comically named bar called the Killer Whale Sex Club, all wedged between dozens of restaurants.


Five15Arts @ Chartreuse is a wonderful collective with frequently changing exhibits and events.


Check out the Roosevelt Row mural trail, the Phoenix Murals Map, and some of Phoenix’s other most famous murals.

The massive 1 1/2 Street Mural Project has a mural by the The Churchill on First Street.


At the east end of Roosevelt Row, the Alwun House on Roosevelt Street was a fun visit.


Alwun House is a community center that hosts art shows, live music, cultural events, classes, and erotic poetry slams. I am in love with the colour scheme.


There are always new works of art popping up in the lawn and inside the Alwun House, and there is never a dull moment inside.


There are some really interesting buildings across the street on 12th that were in the process of being renovated. I could not find any property or leasing signs but it appeared as though people were living there, and when you look on Google Maps now they are all painted grey and cleaned up.


From Alwun House, you can go down N 7th Street to learn about Phoenix’s history at the Rosson House Museum & Heritage Square. It located near the Arizona Science Center on the Arizona State University campus.


In Midtown, north of Roosevelt Row, check out the Great Arizona Puppet Theater, The Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix, the Irish Cultural Center, Yayoi Kusama Firefly Infinity Mirror Room at the Phoenix Art Museum, the Arizona Jewish Historical Society, and the Rainbow Crosswalk at Portland & 1st Avenue as you reach the Melrose District.

Melrose District
We continued north into the Melrose district to eat at the Fry Bread House, which was the number one thing on my Phoenix bucket list.


We shared an order of fluffy fry bread and a bowl of spicy posole with roasted pork and hominy. I don’t even have the words…


With full bellies, we found ourselves wandering around various shops in Melrose and landed at Retro Ranch.


This place was a riot.


My best friend loves vintage and antique shops and I love seeing her run loose, doing her thing.


I popped outside to admire some of the murals on nearby buildings.


The Melrose District is a one mile stretch along 7th Avenue between Indian School Road and Camelback Road.


Melrose District is an anything goes kind of neighbourhood full of antique and thrift shops, kitschy western boutiques, and trendy restaurants with awesome patios.


It is also called “The Gayborhood” due to the number of LGBTQ+ bars, dance clubs, and other pridefully inclusive businesses that line the blocks.

Melrose District is vibrant and alive, and we had a great time scoping it out.


We loved the band, Jenny Don’t & The Spurs, that Retro Ranch had playing on the sound system while we were shopping. As luck would have it, they were playing a show that night at the Dirty Drummer honky tonk.

Dirty Drummer calls itself the “eatin’ and drinkin'” place and we were expecting icky bar food, but they serve a mean burger and an impressive fresh veggie plate along with other clean options and non-alcoholic bevvies.


The Munchies
A little outside of FQ Story and Midtown, we perused the chocolate selection at Mint. They have several locations in the area, but only one sells fresh hot food and desserts made with legal cannabis.

You can find the Mint Café on Priest Drive in Guadalupe, if that is your thing.


Sonoran Cuisine
On the topic of food, my other culinary bucket list item was to find a place that serves Sonoran delicacies.


Sonoran Mexican Restaurant on W. Thomas Road hit the spot. Everything on the menu is in Spanish and they only speak Spanish. If you don’t speak Spanish, not their problem. I absolutely loved it.


We shared chilaquiles and a platter with Sonoran carnitas and a unique beef stew.


We could not eat another bite, but still basically had our noses against the glass while inquiring about each of these dishes below.


Another night, out of pure exhaustion, we laid around the pool and ordered about half the menu from Sr. Ozzy’s Tacos y Mariscos. Food delivery service really makes this a great time to be alive, huh?


Above is a carne asada taco and pollo taco.

Below is one of their specialties, a Sonoran hot dog with bacon, beans, grilled onions, and a variety of veggies and homemade sauces.


We also tried a Vampiros, a super oniony taco that I had seen on menus around town. I love finding local delicacies.


Getting Around
Driving around Phoenix was a blast. I was too nervous to drive my share over the steep ridges and sideways curves we encountered during our Colorado expedition last year, but Phoenix was chill.


If you find yourself up in the Camelback village, politely and distantly creep on some fancy billionaire homes and gawk at the incredible architecture grounding these places right into the cliffs.

Camelback Area1

High buttes and mesas, and an endless stretch of cacti fill the desert landscape. It is beautiful and intriguing no matter where you go.


A few days in Phoenix was not long enough to scratch the surface, and we look forward to many returns and exploring different parts of the city.

On my list for next time is the Pueblo Grande Museum, Mystery Castle, Curious Nature Taxidermy Emporium, the Phoenix Bat Cave, and a jaunt over to the Wigwam Motel. What did we miss?


In the area for a while? Follow me to Sedona, the Buddhist Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park, Verde Valley, Jerome, Scottsdale, Desert Botanical Gardens and Tovrea Castle, or on a hot air balloon ride across the Sonoran Desert.

© Copyright Fernwehtun, 2015- Current. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Fernwehtun and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

6 thoughts on “Getting Around in Phoenix; FQ Story, Grand Avenue District, Melrose District, Fry Bread, & a Honky Tonk

  1. Pingback: Amitabha Stupa; Sedona’s Serene Buddhist Peace Park | Fernweh

  2. Pingback: Verde Valley; The Heart of Arizona Wine Country | Fernweh

  3. Pingback: Scottsdale’s Historic Old Town District; The West’s Most Western Town | Fernweh

  4. Pingback: Stunning Sonora; Arizona’s Desert Botanical Gardens & The Tovrea Castle | Fernweh

  5. Pingback: Greetings From a Hot Air Balloon, 4500 Feet Above Phoenix | Fernweh

  6. Pingback: Wicked City, Jerome; America’s Largest Ghost Town is Full of Surprises | Fernweh

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s