From the Arizona Room is a weekly column examining the historic, reuse and infill structures in Downtown Phoenix. The inspiration for this column stems from the ever-expanding resources in Burton Barr Central Library’s Arizona Room (located on the fourth floor). For further information on this and other historic structures in the area, visit the Arizona Room during normal library hours.

801 N. 1st St. in Evans Churchill

Photo by Katie Charland

Historic… not quite yet. Legendary… of course. We all know and love Matt’s Big Breakfast, Phoenix’s oft-written TV star of a griddle shack. But, not much is widely known about the tiny building’s history. Built as an extension to the equally quaint Coronado Hotel next door, the Matt’s building is only 55 years old, but it has seen quite a lot in that time.

It was used as storage; it has gone through many a façade change; it has seen some hard times on this Evans Churchill corner. Built in 1955, it is a Modern-style commercial structure. The flat roof and concrete foundation remain unaltered, but the original stucco veneer was blasted away prior to the opening of Matt’s to expose the original brick wall. Before that, there were so many paint jobs and colors it must have measured a half-inch thick.

In the 1980s, El Gallo, a Mexican restaurant resided in the space, promising nothing but “the real thing.” It was known for tender chicken, but does it compare to Matt’s Chop & Chick? I have my doubts.

Source: Arizona State Historic Property Inventory

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  • Jacob Wipf

    The breakfast sandwich is definitely where its at at Matt’s. I’m always astounded that a restaurant fits into a place with the size and aesthetic appeal of a storage shed, (interesting to hear that it was actually used as such) especially with the amount of people that are crowded outside every morning. One word of warning however: The propietor of the Coronado doesn’t seem to take kindly to Matt’s customers waiting in line outside in front of his building. Or maybe he was particularly bothered that we were a bunch of sketchy teenagers driving away his hordes of clients by standing on the sidewalk. Hopefully Matt’s will stick around long enough to hit historic status; the food makes it definitely worth keeping around another 50 years and beyond.