A Guide to Phoenix’s ‘Gayborhood’ From the Original Miss Gay Melrose America

Happy pride!

Melrose, known as Phoenix’s ‘gayborhood,’ might only be a mile-long, but its vibrance and cultural significance can’t be underestimated. Located on 7th Avenue between Indian School Road and Camelback Road, this neighborhood brings color, vitality, and a feeling of inclusivity to downtown Phoenix with its iconic Melrose arch, rainbow crosswalk, and LGBTQ+ friendly businesses.

To help you enjoy the very best of this one-of-a-kind neighborhood, we talked Piper M’Shay, the first-ever Miss Gay Melrose America, and a Melrose resident of three years. You can find her at one of the neighborhood’s best-loved bars, Charlie’s, five nights a week performing show-stopping drag shows.

Piper M’Shay in pride flag dress
Photo courtesy of Piper M’Shay

“Serving as Miss Gay Melrose America was nice because I felt like I was representing a title that was true to where I live and the community, I’m a part of,” she said. “I live and work right in this district which felt true and genuine to me.”

M’Shay, who’s been doing drag shows for ten years, has become a local favorite—even making the top five in Miss Gay Arizona America.

“I was in the theater program at ASU because I thought I wanted to act, but I wasn’t identifying with any of the characters,” she said. “Drag was my way to cheat the system because I could create my own character and it’s been the best thing for me. I’ve met so many people in the community too, which is great.”

Bars & Nightlife

When M’Shay isn’t performing or spending time with friends at Charlie’s, you’ll find her at other popular Melrose bars—like the retro, 70s-style arcade bar Thunderbird Lounge, drag show haven Stacy’s @ Melrose, or Pat O’s Bunk House Saloon

For a night out, we also recommend checking out the newly opened Don Woods’ Say When Rooftop Bar at Rise Uptown Hotel just off 7th Avenue for its stunning city views of Camelback Mountain and Downtown Phoenix, comfortable mid-century modern atmosphere and creative, retro spritzes. During the day, you can also head to LYLO Swim Club downstairs for an Instagrammable poolside drink, like the Dole Whipped.

And while Melrose is largely known for its nightlife, the neighborhood has more to offer than many realize.

“There’s a lot to be seen here if you just take the time to look,” said M’Shay. "There are a lot of cool businesses, great shops and great people working here. And it’s not just bars—there’s restaurants and vintage shops to check out as well.”

Restaurants

For diner-style breakfast you can’t go wrong with a breakfast burrito from Melrose Kitchen or biscuits and gravy at Joe’s Kitchen.

For a delicious, no-frills lunch we recommend the pork carnitas burrito from PHX Burrito House or a gourmet hot dog from Short Leash Hotdogs. We love the all-beef Chicago Dog with bacon fries and classic, old fashioned vanilla donut. Plus, we recommend everyone stop by Fry Bread House, a community staple since the 90s, for a plain fry bread—or load yours up with beans, cheese or chorizo.

For dinner, there’s nowhere better than the award-winning Restaurant Progress known for its elevated American fare and unforgettable craft cocktails. Just don’t forget to make a reservation—the restaurant gets busy, fast.

“There’s a lot of local businesses to support, and I hope people do, because there’s a lot of opportunity for growth,” said M’Shay. “Because I’m part of the community I like to go and support other businesses and they really take care of the other residents too—it’s like a big family.”

Shops

If you’re looking to upgrade your space, Melrose is by far one of the best neighborhoods in town for unique, vintage home décor—especially at spots like Modern on Melrose and Retro Ranch. Sweet Salvage is another great market that opens its doors on the third Thursday of every month for four days of upscale, vintage home goods shopping.

Another fun fact about Melrose? It’s one of the only places in Phoenix where you’ll see a curved street.

“It’s funny because we’re built on a grid, and the only street that isn’t straight is in the gay district,” said M’Shay.

Jamie Killin is a Phoenix native and Arizona State graduate who specializes in lifestyle and features writing. You can usually find her at the spin studio, a concert, or trying new restaurants across the Valley. Follow her at @jamiefayekillin.