Photos by Jack Fitzpatrick
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After entering Sticklers, a sandwich shop surrounded by seemingly every government building in Phoenix, my friend and I felt like we had been transported to another city — a bigger, busier one, like Washington D.C.
City Hall employees and police officers hurried through Sticklers’ ordering line for a quick sandwich to go, and the cashier shouted out names to waiting patrons. As we waited for our food, we watched men and women in business clothes walk hurriedly to their next destination.
For a resident of the quiet, artsy Evans Churchill neighborhood, a trip to this bustling part of downtown was like going to a different city.
At first glance, Sticklers’ exterior looks like a case study of tacky architecture. It seems to mimic the design of courthouses with Greek columns, which comes off as a lame attempt at a theme.
But inside, the building is like a museum. Old photographs of downtown Phoenix hang on the rustic stone walls. The building, it turns out, was built in the 1920s and its architect planned to use its neoclassical style before the nearby Phoenix Municipal Court was built. So the ancient Greek look is still phony, but the building’s history and architecture is authentic.
The building was built by local businessman J.W. Walker and served as the headquarters for the Arizona Light & Power Company, among many other roles, before becoming a restaurant.
I ordered the “Traffic Jam,” an aptly named sandwich for a restaurant with such a big-city vibe. It had so many ingredients that they all blend together into one delicious taste. Salami, turkey, ham and roast beef were topped with Swiss cheese in a soft but crunchy roll of French bread.
The Traffic Jam came wrapped in paper for those in a hurry. I unraveled the sandwich and enjoyed its simple but tasty ingredients. In several visits to the restaurant, I’ve never had a sandwich on stale bread. The salami gives the sandwich its most distinct flavor, making it similar to a basic Italian sandwich.
Another highlight is at Sticklers is the roast beef sandwich. It’s not particularly fancy, or quite as good as “The Carver” at Hob Nobs, but if you like roast beef sandwiches, this will do. As with any other sandwich at Sticklers, I recommend getting this on French bread. The roast beef sandwich was the first thing I ever ordered at Sticklers, and it was good enough to get me to return for a second and third time.
Even more important than the sandwiches are the shakes. Sticklers’ Oreo shake may be better than even the best chocolate malt at Lenny’s Burger. It’s a stiff competition, but in the race for Phoenix’s best milkshake, Sticklers is a contender.
My only complaint about Sticklers is that it needs sturdier straws. The milkshakes are so thick and chunky — I once found almost an entire cookie in the Oreo shake, which is a good thing — that it is often necessary to use the straw as a spoon to scoop the semi-solid shake.
I’ve been to Sticklers three times and have learned to appreciate it more with every visit. The mood in the restaurant is more utilitarian than at most of the cafes and restaurants that most downtowners like, but it is a comfortable place to sit, eat and enjoy being downtown.
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