Desoto Central Market Opens Downtown Phoenix

Desoto Central Market opening in downtown phoenixI don’t know who is doing the PR for the Desoto Central Market but they are doing a great job. Significant articles about the Desoto Central Market can be found on DPJ’s site, AZ Central, New Times and the Phoenix Business Journal.

Surly one of the reasons for the buzz is everyone loves food and downtowners especially like food when it is combined with a great adaptive reuse project. I’ll start with the adaptive reuse part of the equation and move on to the culinary experience and final thoughts.

The Desoto Central Market – Building Info and History

The Desoto Central Market is housed in a nearly 90 year old building. It is called the Desoto Building as it once housed a Desoto automobile dealership. Desoto was a division of Chrysler Motors and produced a number of very popular cars from 1928 to 1961. The building remained a car dealership until the mid-1950’s. Since that time it housed a number of businesses, mostly antique sellers, until it went fully vacant in the late 1990’s/early 2000.

De_Soto_UPE_Six_Convertible_Coupe_1931Many thought the building would follow the fate of many others and be demolished. Thankfully that did not happen or we wouldn’t have the place to write about and Phoenix would have seen another fine building vanish. Below is an except from a Downtown Devil article about the salvation of the Desoto Building.

Now, the building is owned by a man, Ken Cook, who made his living in trucking, and has begun investing in real estate.  After wintering in Phoenix for some time, and maintaining a private, historic garage along a funky stretch of Grand Avenue, Cook decided to invest in something more permanent, “want[ing] to get more involved,” in the words of Graham. And so he hired Graham and his firm, Motley, to rehab the facility as a sort of “hobby project”.

Obviously, the “hobby project” became much more. This is largely due to the vision of Shawn Connelly a long-time restaurant guy with strong supply-chain management skills and a keen sense of vision. He contacted Cook with his ideas and the two formed a partnership.

According to a DPJ article, Connolly has these thoughts:

“Downtown Phoenix has seen tremendous growth recently in all sectors from housing to business, the Roosevelt Row Arts scene to ASU, but it still lacks a central food hub to get the basic grocery goods.” He envisions a spot where downtown dwellers can grab a bite, hold a meeting, relax with some music and attend community events — with plans for cooking classes, wine tastings, and much more.”

The Desoto Central Market – What’s Happening in 2015

desoto central market (51 of 5)The Desoto will offer a variety of dining and grocery options. We are told there will be 7 or more restaurants housed in the building and all with some oversight by former Blue Hound executive chef Stephen Jones. According to a Phoenix Business Journal article, The Desoto Central Market will also be an incubation space for up and coming restaurant operators. That, to me, makes this place pretty cool and special. As a former restaurateur, I would have loved to have a place to learn the ropes from seasoned pros.

Thus far, the following restaurants are scheduled to open in the beginning of the Desoto’s, hopefully, long-time stand on Central Ave,

  • DCM – The DeSoto Central Market burger bar offering a variety of artisan burgers from breakfast to dinner.  Also available: Craft beers, wine and cocktails.
  • Tea & Toast Co. (Maybe AKA TeaSpressa) – Enjoy some coffee or specialty tea paired with pastries and toasts.
  • Walrus & the Pearl – A raw bar features fresh oysters and other seafood delights.
  • desoto central market (54 of 5)yard bird + the larder — Chef Stephen Jones is known for his southern style cooking and this will be his baby. Expect some great fried chicken and more.
  • Radish — Radish is a farm-to-table, fast- casual restaurant serving delicious salads and cold-pressed juices.
  • Adobo Dragon — Chef Allan Inicencia’s Latin/Asian fusion creations.

The space at Desoto Central Market features lots of textures and movement. You’ll find some great public art, metal work and other eye-catching features.

In addition to the restaurants there will be a small public market. I do have some concerns based on what I’ve read about the market. It may be a little too “organic” and/or expensive to attract the variety of shoppers needed to sustain the space. We’ve seen this happen to at least 2 other specialty grocery stores. Hopefully, their price point will be competitive with Trader Joes or Sprouts and they’ll offer items that are viable for the area demographics.

A large dog-friendly patio fills out the space. The patio is well designed with lots of seating, umbrellas and what we are told is pass-through spaces to some of the market’s vendors.

Parking is a bit limited, The good news is it lies on the Roosevelt Light Rail line and has some very nifty bike racks for those coming by bike,

The Desoto Central Market – Final Thoughts

I am a bit split about this project. On the one hand I am delighted the building has found a new face and body. It’s a beautiful space and extremely well thought. Plus, the idea of making it  a place where newbies to the restaurant world can get advice and mentorship is awsome. The problem I have is it’s another restaurant space. I’d prefer to see more opportunities for light manufacturing, AKA widget production. Restaurants provide jobs but do not create an exportable product, something needed as we look at ways to expand our local economy. Since the #dtphx region has a significant number of dining options, it would be wonderful to see creative minds find more non-service industry business opportunities.

Despite being a bit torn, I do want to give a BIG thumbs up to Ken Cook, Shawn Connolly, the gang at Motley, Stephen Jones and so many others for their vision and outright passion. Their type of zeal for downtown Phoenix is what is/has made the region climb out of the ashes of obscurity to become a model of core rehabilitation and growth.

The Desoto Central Market is located at 915 N Central AVAed, Phoenix AZ 85004. They will be open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Check out their web site for more details and latest info. . Naturally, the Desoto Central Market is one of our 100 Things to do in Downtown Phoenix under the restaurant category.

Gene Urban


  1. I have been to DeSoto a few times already since it opened just over a week ago! The concrete car jack tables and lounge areas upstairs are awesome. It’s really cool how there are car-themed elements everywhere. Do you know who did the Interior Design for the building?

  2. Author

    Hi Jennifer. How’s life at Dominic & Co. You still there? I understand that Motley Design Group did the build-out design work.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.