101 Reasons to Get Psyched About Valley Dining

Editorial StaffJanuary 13, 2021
Share This
Creamy spinach + chicken dip at Persepshen. Read more below
Creamy spinach + chicken dip at Persepshen. Read more below

New Discoveries! Hidden Gems! Old-School Favorites!

Before we embark on this rambling, uninhibited celebration of Valley dining, let’s acknowledge its limitations: There are A LOT more than 101 dishes, restaurants and dynamic food-and-drink personalities worth honoring in our little desert town. In fact, for every one of them we wrote about, two or three more sprang to mind. But we had to stop somewhere, right? So don’t read this as gospel – read it as reorientation, as we begin to emerge from nine months of quasi-quarantine, and get down to the important work of supporting the restaurants and bars that managed to stay afloat.

By Nikki Buchanan, Jess Harter, Marilyn Hawkes, Leah LeMoine, M.V. Moorhead, Craig Outhier & Madison Rutherford 

Photography by David Blakeman, Mirelle Inglefield, Shelby Moore & Sarandon Raboin

1. Noble Bread’s country loaf.

The Phoenix artisan bakery puts out crusty sourdough-tinged wheat bread with insides as soft as cake. Makes memorable cinnamon toast and gins up any sandwich. Fight for the crunchy heel. noblebread.com

2. The gazebo at Quiessence at The Farm at South Mountain.

Tucked away on a verdant, half-hidden plot to the side of the rustic restaurant stands the Q’s vine-entwined gazebo. The quaint little shelter includes a table for two to four people and a hearth, where a crackling fire makes al fresco dining under the stars blissfully cozy. qatthefarm.com

Photo courtesy Noble Bread
Photo courtesy Noble Bread

3. Anything and everything atEssence Bakery Café in Arcadia Lite.

French-trained chef-owner Eugenia Theodosopoulos turns out beautiful tarts, the city’s best macarons and sticky, buttery kouign-amann (only on weekends) to rock your world. essencebakery.com

4. Curry udon at Hana Japanese Eatery in Phoenix.

Silky udon noodles exist in perfect harmony with tender slips of beef or pork, cabbage, carrots and onion, all afloat in mild, luscious curry broth. It’s pure Japanese comfort, courtesy of chef Lori Hashimoto. hanajapaneseeatery.com

5. The alpha and omega at Tarbell’s in Phoenix.

Start with the exquisite Elixir No. 1 (a clarified cocktail with hints of pineapple, allspice and nutmeg) and finish with Tarbell’s legendary cheesecake, draped in rosemary caramel sauce. tarbells.com

6. The red beans and rice at Welcome Diner.

This weekly blue-plate special, chunky with ham hock and spicy andouille sausage, sets the mouth aglow in Downtown’s Garfield District. welcomediner.net

Chef Mark Tarbell; Photo By Shelby Moore
Chef Mark Tarbell; Photo By Shelby Moore
Photo courtesy Welcome Diner
Photo courtesy Welcome Diner

7. Valley Food Trend

Asian Fusion, V2

The Valley has a rich history of Asian fusion eateries: Chino Bandido, SumoMaya, Toro Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar, Cherryblossom Noodle Café, Clever Koi. But two relative newcomers have our attention lately: Deez Buns and Smoked TaKO, both in Tempe. The former proffers inventive bao with pan-Asian fillings (we love the pho version), while the latter has rice noodle-stuffed burritos, bulgogi tacos and five spice roasted pumpkin quesadillas. deezbuns.com, quelinaryconcepts.com/smoked-tako

8. The fresh shattered potato chips at Ingo’s Tasty Food.

Razor-thin and instantly addictive. Some emerge crispy like a chip, and others are crunchy outside and supple inside, like a french fry. Dipping sauces include lebni, a rich and creamy yogurt-like affair with a thick sour cream texture; and a fiery lacto-fermented green hot sauce. Pro tip: Dip once in lebni and then swipe through the hot sauce. Sublime. ingostastyfood.com

8. The fresh shattered potato chips at Ingo’s Tasty Food.

Razor-thin and instantly addictive. Some emerge crispy like a chip, and others are crunchy outside and supple inside, like a french fry. Dipping sauces include lebni, a rich and creamy yogurt-like affair with a thick sour cream texture; and a fiery lacto-fermented green hot sauce. Pro tip: Dip once in lebni and then swipe through the hot sauce. Sublime. ingostastyfood.com

9. Creamy chicken + spinach dip at Persepshen in Uptown Phoenix.

Crunchy-topped, gloriously gooey, scooped with house-made lavosh and completely addictive. persepshenarizona.com

10. The Versace on the Floor cocktail at The Americano in Scottsdale.

Bartender Christopher Cuestas name-checks a Bruno Mars ballad for this frothy best-seller made with chile-infused vodka, coconut, mesquite honey and basil foam. Just as rotten-sexy as the song. theamericanorestaurant.com

Persepshen’s creamy spinach dip, deconstucted. See final version, opening photo above; Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Persepshen’s creamy spinach dip, deconstucted. See final version, opening photo above; Photo by Mirelle Inglefield

11. The Valley’s best omakase at ShinBay.

In Old Town, you’ll find traditional Japanese dishes made modern, followed by course after mind-blowing course of pristine nigiri. Consider it sushi haiku. shin-bay.com

12. The view from Talavera’s patio at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale.

Sunset diners at this North Scottsdale Resort are rewarded with purple mountain majesties and the glittering lights of the Valley. talaverarestaurant.com

13. Pasta at Tratto in Phoenix.

Famous for his pizza, yes, but Chris Bianco also turns out the best pasta in town with the help of chef Cassie Shortino. Cavatelli with braised guinea hen, rapini and fennel pollen being an exemplary case in point. trattophx.com

14. Seasonal ice creams at Sweet Republic.

Eggnog, gingerbread, King cake, carrot cake, horchata, sweet corn, peaches and cream – something true-flavored and intense for every season and holiday. sweetrepublic.com

15. The global dinnerware at Binkley’s.

Much like the food at überchef Kevin Binkley’s Phoenix dining theater, the dinnerware is by turns elegant, artisanal, playful and unique, collected wherever he travels with an eye to creating yet another next-level experience. binkleysrestaurant.com

Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Photo by Mirelle Inglefield

16. Tamara Stanger’s pies at Cotton & Copper in Tempe.

Her outstanding pastry crust (sturdy, flaky, buttery) is the vehicle for creative pies like chocolate chess, purple sweet potato and pink apple with Red Hot cinnamon candied crust. Sold by the slice. cottonandcopperaz.com

17. Eating at the bar at FnB and Rancho Pinot.

The two best dining bars in town for people-watching, chatting with fellow customers or discussing liquor and literature with friendly bartenders. fnbrestaurant.com; ranchopinot.com

18. The tasting menus at Confluence in Carefree.

Three tasting menus (four-course, $65; five-course, $80; seven-course, chef’s favorites, $95) offer a splendid way to sample more of Brandon Gauthier’s crazy-delicious food, maybe even walk on the wild side (frog legs, anyone?) at bargain prices. restaurantconfluence.com

19. The bacon at Prep & Pastry in Scottsdale.

Thick-cut, hickory cold-smoke pork belly, rubbed with coarse black pepper and brown sugar and baked to salty, sweet crispiness. Are you fainting yet? prepandpastry.com

20. The Vig McCormick Ranch.

Neighborhood vibe. Dark clubby interior feels like a comfy cocoon. Our favorite Scottsdale bar north of Old Town. thevig.us

Photo courtesy Prep & Pastry
Photo courtesy Prep & Pastry
Photo courtesy The Canal Club
Photo courtesy The Canal Club

21. Fried plantains and smoked black bean purée at The Canal Club.

Newly installed head chef Alex Pasco ups the game at Cuban-inspired CC, where bacon-y black beans are so flavorful you might lick the plate. thecanalclubaz.com

22. The roast beef sub and inimitable potato salad at Casella’s Italian Deli.

Scottsdale family-owned sub shop. House-cooked roast beef on puffy white sub roll and creamy potato salad made with little bits of potato and gobs of mayo. Cash-only operation where everybody knows your name.

23. Sonoran Pasta Co.’s bucatini.

Fresh tubular noodles (think spaghetti with a hole running through the middle) made with stone-milled heritage grains from local Hayden Flour Mills offer the perfect venue for meatballs and sauce. Or toss with olive oil and parmesan cheese. You can’t go wrong. sonoranpasta.com

24. True Food Kitchen’s chopped salad.

Salads are a dime a dozen, but True Food’s chopped salad is a brilliant mix of tastes and textures: sweet Medjool dates and dried cranberries, crunchy jicama and organic apple, salty Manchego cheese, nutty farro and buttery Marcona almond morsels bathed in a light Champagne vinaigrette. Scottsdale and Phoenix locations, truefoodkitchen.com

Photo courtesy Sonoran Pasta Co.
Photo courtesy Sonoran Pasta Co.

25. The Nooner sandwich at Duck and Decanter.

One of the earliest in its breed, this build-your-own-sandwich spot in Phoenix has been stamping out hunger pangs since 1972. Try the stellar albacore tuna. duckanddecanter.com

Photo courtesy Grassroots Kitchen & Tap
Photo courtesy Grassroots Kitchen & Tap

26. The smoked brisket sandwich at Grassroots Kitchen & Tap in Scottsdale.

Christopher Collins puts out a first-rate cherry and applewood smoked brisket sandwich with a layer of cabbage slaw and mayo on a Noble Bread French baguette. Tender, smoky and soul-satisfying. Salt-crusted fries will steer you into comfort food nirvana. grassrootsaz.com

27. Salad & Go founder Roushan Cristofellis and her $6 Caesars.

It took an elementary school teacher with almost no restaurant experience to create $5.74 salads that not only taste great but also are conveniently available at two dozen drive-thrus around the Valley. We give her an A+. saladandgo.com

28. FLINT by Baltaire’s spicy short rib hummus and wood-fired pita.

Everything about this dish screams delicious, from the tender pulled short rib meat peeking through creamy chickpea hummus to the pillowy, flame-kissed, wood-fired pita. One pita doesn’t do this spectacular hummus justice. Ask for more or use a spoon to eat the rest. There won’t be leftovers. flintbybaltaire.com

Photo courtesy Salad & GO
Photo courtesy Salad & GO

29. The magnificent veggie patties at Eden’s Grill.

Heavenly patties made from cauliflower, shredded potatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and secret spices, per the owner. Fried in olive oil and served with fragrant basmati rice. Will win the heart of any meat lover. edensgrill.com

30. The new barman at Jade Bar at Paradise Valley’s Sanctuary Resort.

He’s been on board since November (having formerly worked for celebrity chef Suzanne Goin at her L.A.-based The Lucques Group restaurants), but mixology powerhouse Christiaan Rollich is destined to restore Jade Bar to its former glory – and perhaps surpass it. His garden-gorgeous, easy-drinking cocktails eloquently express the farm-to-table philosophy he presents in his 2019 cocktail book Bar Chef, rife with recipes for syrups, tinctures, bitters and liqueurs. Rollich does it all, and as Goin herself says, it’s his “mindfulness of texture and mouthfeel” that “truly sets him apart.” sanctuaryoncamelback.com

Photo courtesy Jade Bar at Sactuary Camelback mountain Resort
Photo courtesy Jade Bar at Sactuary Camelback mountain Resort

31. The waffle fries at AZ 88.

Scottsdale’s venerable cocktail lounge may be famous for its martinis, but the waffle fries are Hall-of-Fame-worthy, too. Crisp. Salty. Habit forming. az88.com

32. Valley Food Trend

Oblong Pizza

You’ve had traditional, circular wood-fired VPN pizza (Bianco, La Piazza, Pomo). You’ve had Detroit-style square pizza (The Rec, Sam Fox’s Fly Bye). But have you had pizza in the shape of a track-and-field pitch? Following in the revolutionary steps of Pizza a Metro in Phoenix, sister pizzerias Little O’s and PV Wine and Pie are bravely blazing into the market, delivering tablet-shaped, Sicilian-Neapolitan-hybrid delights to a pizza-crazed public. pizzametroaz.com, facebook.com/littleosaz, pvpieandwine.com

33. Pizza muffins at Floridino’s in Chandler.

Besides seven everyday varieties of its signature menu item, the popular Italian eatery creates a special muffin of the month (with a punch card to earn swag) as well as four new flavors for quarterly pizza muffin beer dinners. The muffins even have a dedicated food truck. floridinos.net

34. The hilariously named pop culture drinks at The Brickyard Downtown in Chandler.

Beverage director Bobby Kramer’s 13-page cocktail book offers many temptations, but his bodacious 1980s- and ’90s-themed libations with monikers like Machaman Brandy Savage, Girls Just Want to Have Rum and Kir Royale With Cheese are totally gnarly. brickyarddowntown.com

Photo by David Blakeman
Photo by David Blakeman
Photo by David Blakeman
Photo by David Blakeman

35. Orange chicken and a show at Singing Pandas in Chandler.

The Chinese food is mostly Americanized and the stage shows tend to be kitschy, but the former is delicious and the latter always entertaining if you’re looking for a unique night out.

36. The Monday Night Supper at Worth Takeaway in downtown Mesa.

Every Monday, the artisanal sandwich shop offers limited servings of a special entrée, ranging from chicken pot pie to shoyu ramen, often courtesy a guest chef. Our tip: Order online when the dish is announced Sunday, because it always sells out. worthtakeaway.com

Photo courtesy Worth Takeaway
Photo courtesy Worth Takeaway
Photo by CAPSFOTO International
Photo by CAPSFOTO International

37. Spellbinder IPA at Wren House Brewing Co.

No craft beer style has trended more mightily over the last few years than the New England-style (aka “hazy”) IPA. And Phoenix, you might be interested and delighted to know, has the very best one in the world. Such was the conclusion of the learned judges at October’s prestigious Great American Beer Festival awards. When the smoke cleared, Spellbinder deservedly was wearing the gold medal – arguably the gaudiest PR chit claimed by any Arizona brewery to date. wrenhousebrewing.com

38. El General Patton sandwich at Caldwell County BBQ in Mesa.

Why choose just one (or two) of the succulent smoked meats at this critically acclaimed smokehouse? This carnivore’s pipe dream stacks sausage atop pulled pork atop brisket. caldwellcountybbq.com

39. The food and beer pairings at The Beer Research Institute in Mesa.

You can complement almost any food with craft beer, and approximately every other month the brewpub tests this hypothesis by pairing four of its excellent ales with different bacons, egg rolls, Halloween candies or whatever. thebeerresearchinstitute.com

40. Sinking our fangs into a Taproom steak sandwich at Keegan’s Grill on Camelback.

Served open-faced, these tender, perfectly seasoned medallions are everything you want in a piece of meat, accompanied by your choice of sides. keegansgrill.com

41. The sheep barbacoa special at El Tlacoyo.

On Saturdays in Tempe, one of the wonders of the Valley’s Mexican barbecue scene drops: Hidalgo-style pit-cooked sheep. Shredded into twisting ropes, the meat is dark and earthy with a mineral zing, the flavors often enriched by the strumming of a traveling mariachi player. eltlacoyo.com

42. Valley Food Trend

Downtown Mesa’s No-Longer-Hideous Dining Scene

Once the butt of culinary jokes – we used to call Main Street “Nil Avenue” – Mesa’s dining options aren’t a laughing matter anymore. In addition to established gems like Worth Takeaway and Cider Corps, these new additions are turning the Valley’s second city into a bona fide dining destination.

12 West Brewing

The Gilbert favorite opened a mothership location on Main Street last December, with a generous pub-grub menu featuring chicken katsu, pork belly Benedict and other innovative concoctions. 12westbrewing.com

Myke’s Pizza

Who needs a Bianco when you have hand-crafted, wood-fired pies, served in the back of Cider Corps taproom? mykespizza.com

Tacos Chiwas

The Downtown-ish cult favorite throws up a satellite location on Main Street, serving its signature Chihuahuan-style tacos. tacoschiwas.com

12 West Brewing; Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
12 West Brewing; Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Que Chevere

One of a small handful of Venezuelan eateries in the Valley, specializing in pseudo-Caribbean delicacies like cachapas (masa pancakes) and pebellon criollo (rice plate). Several other genre-defying restaurants – such as Herb ’N’ Smoke BBQ, Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken and Proof Bread – are on the way. quechevereaz.com

Top 5 Dishes Redux

Five years ago, PHOENIX food writers picked and ranked their favorite 75 dishes in the Valley of Sun. Short of redoing the entire list, we updated the Top 5 with our current crop of critics.

No. 1

What We Said Then: Grilled octopus at Virtù Honest Craft
What We Say Today: Brisket at Little Miss BBQ
Hey, the Virtù octopus is still the bomb. But everyone does it now. And the brisket feels more timeless.

No. 2

What We Said Then: Brisket at Little Miss BBQ
What We Say Today: Mackerel fried rice at Glai Baan
The fried rice that launched a thousand dinner junkets to East-Central Phoenix.

No. 3

What We Said Then: Stetson salad at Cowboy Ciao
What We Say Today: Chula hiramasa ceviche at Vecina
Alas, Ciao is no more. And the ceviche is our lead critic’s current No. 1 pick.

No. 4

What We Said Then: Cochinita pibil at Barrio Cafe
What We Say Today: Short rib hummus at FLINT by Baltaire
A deceptively simple, but profoundly transportive dish.

No. 5

What We Said Then: Pappardelle Bolognese at Pizzeria Bianco
What We Say Today: Grilled quail with polenta at Rancho Pinot
Five years on, the pappardelle pick seems impressionistic (the Wiseguy pizza is king at Bianco, no?). We’ll round out the list with a Chrysa classic.

43. The whole craft chocolate craze, in particular DNA Chocolate.

Using devices like a workaday oven and a MacGyvered homemade winnower, Denae Hostetler transforms Criollo cacao beans into chocolate in her Chandler guest house. Your favorite big-name bar? Tastes like wax next to hers. dnachocolate.com

Photo courtesy DNA Chocolate
Photo courtesy DNA Chocolate
Chefs Justing Beckett; Photo by David Blakeman
Chefs Justing Beckett; Photo by David Blakeman
Claudio Urciuoli; Photo by David Blakeman
Claudio Urciuoli; Photo by David Blakeman

44. Virtual cooking classes with Justin Beckett and Claudio Urciuoli.

Both are chef-owners – of Beckett’s Table and Pa’La, respectively – who successfully made the pandemic pivot while keeping their restaurants going strong. Beckett offers three options: chef cooking demo; dinner food kit and chef presentation; or interactive cooking class with dinner. (For details, contact him at info@beckettstable.com.) Urciuoli often teaches one dish at a time, using easy recipes that are started at 5:30 p.m. and completed in time for dinner. His Instagram handle is @saltato2020.

45. Sucking down a tall one at The Shop Beer Co. tasting room.

Dazzling IPAs, from mainstay Church Music to more limited tropical, dry-hopped and other hazies. Roll by this young-classic Tempe brewery on can release days for peak freshness. theshop.beer

46. Having an off-season turkey feast at My Mother’s Restaurant.

Why wait until T-day for a proper turkey dinner? This Phoenix diner achieves the Platonic ideal: bird, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce and two sides, most appropriately mashed potatoes and green beans, but Irish potatoes and corn on the cob work just fine, too. mymothers.business.site

Photo by Mikel Anne Arnce/The Shop Beer Co.
Photo by Mikel Anne Arnce/The Shop Beer Co.

47. Getting the good kind of Delhi belly at Curry and Scoop.

One taste of this South Tempe shop’s Indian ice creams – in flavors like carrot-flecked halwa and rose petal jam – will leave you wondering why we venerate chocolate and vanilla. curryandscoop.com

48. The malty brews of Oro Brewing Company.

A cold beer. A long bar. A TV with the game. This “nanobrewery” in downtown Mesa is more than a haven of dependable imperial stout and red ale – it’s a great place to kick back and just be. orobrewing.com

49. The fried zucchini at Knock Kneed Lobster in Phoenix.

Firm, crunchy slices of battered squash, no marine accompaniment required at this South Phoenix seafood shack.

50. The chorizo omelet at Original Pancake House.

Arizona has only one outpost of the Portland, Oregon-based breakfast chain, and it serves an improbably airy five-egg omelet. Supposedly, the trick involves baking it in the oven. Whatever the case, it’s divine. originalpancakehouse.com

Photo by Sarandon Raboin
Photo by Sarandon Raboin

51. Valley Food Trend

Gas station dining

Put aside all the clichés about gas station grub (hot dogs with fur, sushi that crawls out of your hand). The Valley is home to an unlikely wave of cuisine-level restaurants where you can grab an excellent pizza, burrito or bento box and 10 gallons of premium unleaded.

New York Pizza & Wings in Mesa

Killer bianca-style white pizza out of a Chevron. newyorkpizzawingsmenu.com

El Gordo Mexican Grill No. 2 in Chandler.

A Mobile this time, serving up quesabirria (braised goat with cheese) tacos.

Diamond Dot Market in Queen Creek

A go-to for breakfast burritos – and 30-stroke motor oil – in the EV.

Tempura Takeover in Gilbert

Mobile station to Michelin star? The lobster tacos are that good. tempuratakeover.com

Casa de Falafel in Peoria

Set in a Shell station, and purveyor of possibly the best falafel in the Valley. facebook.com/casadefalafelrestaurant.com

52. Everything about Andreoli Italian Grocer.

The world needs Giovanni Scorzo, the dangerously lovable owner of this Scottsdale market-restaurant hybrid. We need his lilting Calabrian accent and rock-solid good cheer. We need his housemade focaccia and unbeatable pastas, also. We just need him, damn it. andreoli-grocer.com

53. The apple pancake at Oak’s Diner & Flapjacks in Cave Creek.

Sure, you could order breakfast with all the trimmings, but this pancake is breakfast with no trimmings required. Budget an extra 20 minutes for prep and get there early – the batter runs out.

Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Photo by Mirelle Inglefield

54. Our new favorite bakery, La Belle Vie.

Sleepless home baker Nathas Kraus sells the eternal classics of his native France, like pain au chocolat and kouign-amann that flirt with perfection. His baked goods from other Mediterranean regions also impress. So do his riffs, like stuffed “rhino” croissants, horn-shaped Viennoiserie with sculptural mastery. Get them at the Gilbert and Uptown farmers’ markets on select days. labelleviebakery.com

55. Cracking open some littleneck clams at Taylor’s Chowder House.

Many are the maritime delights of this New England-style CenPho seafood eatery, but these sweet, steamed mini-mollusks are near the top of the list. Save room for the Boston cream pie.

56. The British import shop at The Codfather.

Running low on Simpson’s Spotted Dick Sponge or Ploughman’s Pickle? Brit expats and Valley anglophiles need not despair. Check out the in-house store in this North Phoenix pub.

57. Getting handsy with the tikil gomen at Café Lalibela.

This sunny mix of cabbage and potatoes is part of a delicious, nutritious lunch combo at Tempe’s Ethiopian eatery. cafelalibela.com

Photos by Sarandon Raboin
Photos by Sarandon Raboin

58. The dim sum at Great Wall.

Everything from pork buns to duck tongues might come by your table at this capacious dining room near Grand Canyon University, but in these tense times the goodies can also be carried out.

59. Drinking in the view from Lou’s Bar & Grill at Papago Golf Course.

The sight of the majestic ochre Papago Buttes goes great with a bowl of chili and a cheddar-green chile cornbread muffin.  Add a glass of iced tea, and you’ve got an authentic Southwestern experience. lousbarandgrill.com

60. Watching the duffers three-put at Caddyshack Grill at Rolling Hills Golf Course.

Not particularly fancy by golf clubhouse standards but more welcoming and friendly, this oasis at the City of Tempe course offers a fine view of the greens, and across the Rio Salado to Sun Devil Stadium.

61. The annual calendars at Rosita’s Place.

From mid-December through early January, the reliable Mexican establishment on East McDowell offers old-school calendars with vivid chromos of alluring señoritas, dashing caballeros, Aztec deities or the Virgin of Guadalupe. Free with a meal, five bucks without, they’re terrific, inexpensive gifts. rositasplace.menutoeat.com

62. The phad Thai at Siam Thai in Glendale.

Flawless noodles. Just a hint of tamarind tang. Breathtaking presentation. We’ve had dozens of phads in the Valley, and this one’s the best. siamthaicuisine.com

63. Pekka topoki at Da Pan in Mesa.

We wanted to try something new and interesting at Mesa’s new H-Mart Asian superstore and food court and boy, did we find it: sausages, spring rolls, rice balls and fat, chewy cords of rice pasta swimming in sticky, sweet tomato broth. Once you get past the WTF initial shock, it’s actually quite tasty. fresh.hmart.com

64. The once-a-week hot chicken at the larder + the delta.

It’s worth the wait ’til Thursday for an eight-piece bucket of Stephen Jones’s takeout hot chicken – craggy, spicy and sweet – with jalapeño-apple slaw, pasta salad and Noble Bread. thelarderandthedelta.com

Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Photo by Mirelle Inglefield

65. Valley Food Trend

Paitan-Style Ramen

Before Ramen Kagawa (ramenkagawa.com) and Origami Ramen Bar (origamiramenbar.com) opened in Downtown Phoenix and Ahwatukee, respectively, in 2020, your chances of bumping into paitan ramen – a creamy broth style made with chicken stock in lieu of more common pork-based broths – was quite slim. And that’s too bad, because it makes us think of all the food orgasms we missed before this utterly heavenly stuff walked into our lives.

66. Valley Food Trend

Grilled Endive

Yeah, grilled romaine is having a moment – you can even read about it on page 164 of this issue. But if you want to take your charred-lettuce game to the next level, check out this madman: firm, slightly bitter, cylindrical chicory hearts that hold up surprisingly well to a bit of caramelization on a hot grill. Rusconi’s American Kitchen and Different Pointe of View in Phoenix have been known to dabble, but the zenith of endive science is achieved at the new-ish Francine at the Scottsdale Fashion Square’s cluster of high-end restaurants in its resurgent “luxury wing” – which is something else we currently love in Valley dining. francinerestaurant.com

Photo by David Blakeman
Photo by David Blakeman
Photo by Shelby Moore
Photo by Shelby Moore

67. The $25 mead tasting flight at Superstition Downtown.

If you’re like most people, you know squat about mead. Consider this your bachelor’s program. Twelve generous pours of Superstition Meadery’s award-winning honey wine, served on handmade flight boards made from retired mead barrel staves. superstitionmeadery.com

68. Valley Food Trend

The West Valley’s Culinary Awakening

Finally, a prominent Valley restaurant group is seeing the West Valley for the underserved chef-driven-restaurant-desert it’s been. With the simultaneous opening of three restaurants – Hash Kitchen (hashkitchen.com), The Sicilian Butcher (thesicilianbutcher.com) and The Sicilian Baker (thesicilianbaker.com) – The Maggiore Group is hoping to start the same kind of culinary chain reaction in downtown Peoria that the Postino Central folks (Upward Projects) once pulled off in Uptown Phoenix. We know there’s demand for interesting food west of the I-17. Hopefully, other restaurateurs will follow suit.

Photo courtesy The Sicilian Butcher
Photo courtesy The Sicilian Butcher

69. Ramen birria at AZ Taco King.

The Asian-Latin fusion thing may have achieved its apotheosis in this unholy union of chile-braised goat and off-the-shelf ramen. Gamey, stanky and oh-so-good. facebook.com/aztacoking

Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Photo by Mirelle Inglefield

70. Vegan-friendly cocktails at Highball in Phoenix.

If you’re a vegan, you’re pretty much out of luck with the pisco sour, which typically combines Peruvian brandy, lemon and sugar with egg whites. Mitch Lyons and co. have a solution at their new cocktail lounge near the Willo Historical District. Trading organic matcha, a green tea powder originating from Southeast Asia, for the egg whites and adding fernet, Chartreuse, lime and pineapple gives the pisco-esque Shogun Powder cocktail both a fruity and earthy edge. The wild card? “Using vodka with the pisco because this is Phoenix and people do love their vodka,” Lyons says. highballphx.com

71 .The Redfish Ponchartraine at Da Bayou in Gilbert.

Sometimes, you just want a succulent piece of grilled fish smothered in cream, salt, shellfish stock and various vegetables. Is that so frickin’ hard? Not at this delightful Creole newcomer. dabayoucreolekitchen.com

72. Chain drinking at Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour and Little Rituals.

After spending much of the pandemic in hibernation, the adjacent Downtown sister properties – each conceived by cocktail maestro Ross Simon – awakened in November. We believe it’s your civic duty to spend an evening grazing on their ridiculously tasty, Asian-influenced bar food (two words: dumpling burger) and insanely textured cocktails. bitterandtwistedaz.com; littleritualsbar.com

73. The orange “chicken” at Veggie Village in Phoenix.

Crave-worthy soy chicken slathered in a tangy citrus sauce. No meat – and no doubt you’ll want seconds. vegvillage888.com

74. Valley Food Trend

Southern Cuisine Rises Again

Beyond longtime favorites like Lo-Lo’s Chicken and Waffles, Flavors of Louisiana and Baby Kay’s, the cuisine of the American South is blowing up in the Southwest. New restaurants representing soul food (Hint of Soul, Flavorz Fish&Chicken), Cajun-Creole fare (Da Bayou, Harbor Seafood Cajun House) and Deep South barbecue (Dubb Ya Bee’s BBQ, Eric’s Family Barbecue) all opened in the last 12 months. And that’s not just whistling you-know-what. hintofsoulcatering.com, dabayoucreolekitchen.com, harborseafoodphoenix.com, dubbyabeesbbq.com, ericsfamilybbq.com

Photo courtesy Hint of Soul
Photo courtesy Hint of Soul

75. The veggie flautas at Earth Plant Based Cuisine.

Say goodbye to gross gas station taquitos – rolled tacos are a revelation at this vegan haven in Phoenix, which specializes in healthy iterations of authentic Mexican comfort foods. The potato flautas are stuffed with creamy spuds, spinach and epazote (a pungent herb used in traditional Latin dishes) and garnished with lettuce, radish, avocado crema and cotija “cheese” and served with scratch-made salsa. They’re a plant-based paragon that will instantly have you craving más. earthplantbased.com

Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Photo by Mirelle Inglefield

76. The no-meat Baja pescado tacos at GuacStar in Tempe.

The beer-battered trumpet mushrooms in this scrummy street-style dish are a sneaky substitute for crispy cod. Topped with shaved cabbage, homemade habanero crema and sliced jalapeños, the tacos are a meat-free masterpiece that might just convince even the most carnivorous foodies to forgo fish. guacstar.com

77. The black bean chipotle chili at Whyld Ass in Phoenix.

This smoky, southwestern stew is a staple for Valley vegans. “My style of cooking consists of Southwest flavors with Southern roots and comfort foods,” chef-owner and North Carolina native Keith Wyatt says. “Chili encompasses all three of these, so it just seemed natural to have it on my menu.” The spicy concoction comes with a slice of gluten-free cornbread for sopping. “Not going too heavy on the cornmeal helps to keep it nice and fluffy,” Wyatt explains. whyldass.com

78. Cellar Dinner at LON’s at The Hermosa Inn.

The only thing cooler than dining on LON’s gorgeous patio? Dining in its chilly subterranean wine room. Bring a sweater. hermosainn.com

79. Valley Food Trend

Stoner Pizza

Sometimes you want an authentic Neapolitan margherita or a dependable pepperoni pie. But sometimes you want to get a little crazy. When your cravings careen toward cuckoo, we suggest the pizza stylings of Paradise Valley Pizza Company in North Phoenix, Grand Avenue Pizza Company in the Grand Avenue arts district and Pizza People Pub in Downtown Phoenix. For these pizzaiolos, dough is truly a blank canvas where they can express their munchie madness: the Elote with corn, red chile, chipotle crema, lime, queso fresco and cilantro (Paradise); the Manny with jalapeño cream cheese, pepperoni, bacon, red onion, chile flakes and fresh avocado (Pizza People); and the Jimmy Legs with pesto, chicken, bacon, red onion, broccoli, heirloom tomato and cheddar (Grand Avenue). PVPC and GAPC also come up with insane rotating specials like the latter’s angel hair pasta-topped number, which we remember fondly. paradisevalleypizzacompany.com, grandavenuepizzacompany.com, pizzapeopleaz.com

Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Photo by Mirelle Inglefield

80. Sip, Sip, Pass at CRUjiente Tacos.

Its tacos are the pride of Arcadia, but CRU’s rotating cocktail series – with margaritas designed by local notables – is also worth toasting. crutacos.com

81. The house-made limoncello at Luccicare.

This North Phoenix Italian spot makes almost everything from scratch – bread, pasta and this perfectly balanced sweet-tart liqueur. luccicarephx.com

82. The vampiro al pastor from City Tacos Phoenix.

Succulent, sweet and tangy pork al pastor is heaped on a melty cheese-smothered crunchy tortilla for a taco that takes the best features of tostadas and quesadillas and leaves the rest. tacosdelrancho.com

83. Bashas’ Donut Flavor Craze Contest.

This annual doughnut competition (usually held in late spring) emboldens regular folks to dream up their zaniest and most crave-worthy concoctions. The winning doughnuts in the adult and children’s categories are sold in Bashas’ markets statewide for a month. bashas.com

Photo courtesy Bashas
Photo courtesy Bashas

84. Valley Food Trend

Eastern Euro Wine Lists

You’ve sipped France’s finest Bordeaux, Italy’s greatest Sangiovese and Spain’s tastiest Tempranillo, but have you tried Georgia’s loveliest Saperavi? You can at Mesa’s All Pierogi, which boasts wines from Georgia, Moldova and Crimea. Tempe’s Caffe Boa offers vino from Croatia, Slovenia and Georgia. And you can frequently find wines from Slovenia, Austria and Germany at FnB in Scottsdale. We hope this trend continues, because West isn’t always best when it comes to winemaking. allpierogi.com, cafeboa.com, fnbrestaurant.com

Photo courtesy Sweet Republic
Photo courtesy Sweet Republic

85. The Notorious R.B.G. ice cream at Sweet Republic.

Liberal or conservative, you have to admit this ice cream homage to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is delicious: rum-butter-glazed ginger cake in rum custard ice cream. Locations in Scottsdale, Phoenix and Tempe. Call to verify the current ice cream lineup before you go. sweetrepublic.com

Photo courtesy Toro Latin Restaurant & Rum Bar
Photo courtesy Toro Latin Restaurant & Rum Bar

86. The Surf & Turf roll at Toro Latin Restaurant & Rum Bar.

Hate sushi? Have a friend or relative who does? Begin the conversion process with this gateway roll at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess’ pan-Latin eatery. Spicy crab, tempura shrimp and avocado get swaddled by New York steak, truffle chimichurri and churrasco aioli. scottsdaleprincess.com

87. The white bean hummus at Hush Public House in North Scottsdale.

It’s somehow lighter and creamier than its chickpea predecessor, and we like the Italian vacation its garnishes of toasted pine nuts, Pecorino Romano and gremolata take us on. hushpublichouse.com

88. The fried corn at Flavorz Fish & Chicken.

This Sunnyslope fry shack throws whole cobs of corn in the deep fryer until they’re golden and crisp, the natural sugars in the corn lightly caramelizing. Why don’t more restaurants do this? facebook.com/flavorzaz

Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Photo by Jeannine McChesney/La Campagna Homestead
Photo by Jeannine McChesney/La Campagna Homestead

89. La Campagna Homestead and its ravishingly bizarre veggies.

Ever get produce envy dining at FnB, Cotton & Copper and other restaurants, with their arsenals of unique vegetables like Chinese pink celery and onion scapes? Blame this 2.4-acre homestead in Queen Creek, quietly supplying the Valley’s best menus with specialty produce. facebook.com/la.campagna.homestead

90. Fun food trucks.

Follow them on Instagram, track them down and thank us later: Bites Donuts (@bitesdonutsaz), Morning Kick (@morning_kick) and Beignet Babe (@beignet_babe).

91. D’Agostino’s Bakery’s caffeinated cookies.

These chocolate chip cookies will give you a bit of a buzz thanks to the hint of espresso in the dough. Dunk one in a latte for a double jolt. Online orders only. dagostinosbakery.com

92. Fegato alla Venezia at Veneto Trattoria.

Sounds a lot more elegant than “liver and onions,” doesn’t it? Served with polenta, Venetian-style, this Old World comfort classic has been soothing Scottsdale hunger pangs for close to three decades. venetotrattoria.com

93. Valley Food Trend

The Return of Weekly Specials

A perk of being a regular: You eat at your favorite restaurant often enough that you know their blackboard special rhythms by heart (see: our salute to Stephen Jones’ once-a-week hot chicken at the larder + the delta, #64 on this list). Hit the below restaurants on the suggested days for special-menu goodness.

Chula Seafood

Thursday for pastrami salmon sandwiches, Saturday for smoked salmon or lox bagel (Scottsdale location, chulaseafood.com)

Little Miss BBQ

Thursday for pastrami brisket; Friday and Saturday for beef short ribs (University and Sunnyslope locations, littlemissbbq.com)

Nelson’s Meat + Fish

Wednesdays for lobster rolls; Saturday for lox-like gravlax (meat.fish)

Photo courtesy the Tamale Store
Photo courtesy the Tamale Store

94. The tamale con chilaquiles at The Tamale Store in North Phoenix.

For texture freaks, this combo is paradise: soft, moist masa from the tamale contrasting with crunchy tortilla chips drenched in sauce and cheese. thetamalestore.com

95. The shrimp soybean paper rolls at Yen Sushi & Sake Bar in Glendale.

These rolls taste more like salad than sashimi – all the better to tempt raw fish haters. Cooked and chilled shrimp mingle with asparagus, avocado and rice and are wrapped in soybean paper instead of seaweed. yensushi.net

96. The blended drinks at Enroute Coffee & Tea House in Goodyear.

If sugary Frappuccinos are your thing (no judgment) but you want to shift your coffee spending to a local shop, try these icy wonders. You can get any drink blended, customize your own or choose from En Route’s funky flavors: honey cornbread, chocolate chip cookie, churro and peanut butter and jelly, to name a few. enroutecoffeeaz.com

97. The best, most unexpected happy hour: Fry’s Marketplace.

Belly up to the grocery store bar and enjoy inexpensive glasses of vino or beer. Hungry? Buy anything you want in the store and bring it over to eat. Our go-to: fried chicken from the hot counter and bubbles at the wine bar. Locations Valleywide. frysfood.com

98. Valley Food Trend

Fair Food All Year Long

Why reserve our gluttony for October? Anything skewered or deep-fried can be deemed fair food, but for us it’s all about the fried dough. We love gorging on Lucky’s deep-fried biscuits, served with honey, syrup, cinnamon and/or powdered sugar, at ATL Wings (locations Valleywide). Phoenix institution The Fry Bread House is always there to scratch our fry bread itches – sweet and savory. Feeling fancy? The churro tree with horchata cream, Mexican chocolate and strawberries at LON’s at The Hermosa Inn will transport you to a chic street fair in Mexico. atlwings.com, facebook.com/frybreadhouse, hermosainn.com

Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Photo by Mirelle Inglefield

99. Chula Seafood’s swordfish tacos.

Chunks of fresh, grilled swordfish marinated in a garlic-laced mojo sauce and snuggled into warm corn tortillas, topped with shredded cabbage and fresh corn. A blissful experience. Phoenix location only. chulaseafood.com

100. Valley Food Trend

Cider, Cider Everywhere

If your personal history with so-called “hard” cider is limited to a warm can of Angry Orchard at a pool party, maybe it’s time to give artfully fermented apple juice another shot – specifically, by patronizing one of Arizona’s swelling number of craft cideries. In addition to cider-only operations like Cider Corps in Mesa, Crush Craft Cider Co. in Tempe, Stoic Cider in Prescott and Bawker Bawker in Tucson, the crisp, versatile beverage is embraced by producers like Superstition Meadery and Desert Rock Winery & Distillery in Scottsdale. What you’ll discover: a very pairable, nuanced tipple; not too sweet; and altogether wine-like. cidercorpsaz.com, crushcraftcider.com, stoiccider.com, bawkerbawker.com, superstitionmeadery.com, desertrockin.com

101. The California-style burritos at Carnitas Way.

You don’t have to be a California transplant to appreciate these burritos stuffed with juicy carnitas and fresh veggies and bronzed on the griddle. Locations in Uptown Phoenix, Scottsdale and Mesa. carnitasway.com