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Best Of 2001

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Readers' Choices

Best Breakfast Spot
International House of Pancakes
several Valley locations

Best Downtown Executive Lunch
Durant's
2611 North Central
602-264-5967

Best Romantic Restaurant
The Melting Pot
8320 North Hayden, Scottsdale
480-607-1799
3626 East Ray, Ahwatukee
480-704-9206

Best Healthful Eating
Pita Jungle
1250 East Apache, Tempe
480-804-0234
1949 West Ray, Chandler
480-855-3232

Best Late-night Meal
Denny's
several Valley locations

Best Outdoor Patio
Dos Gringos
4209 North Craftsman Court, Scottsdale
480-423-3800

Best Happy Hour
Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar
several Valley locations

Readers' Choices

Best Margarita Spot
Macayo's
several Valley locations

Best Mexican Restaurant
Macayo's
several Valley locations

Best Salsa
Blue Agave Oyster & Chile Bar
Shops at Gainey Village
8787 North Scottsdale Road, Suite A-102, Scottsdale
480-607-9222

Readers' Choice

Best Bakery
Paradise Bakery
several Valley locations

Readers' Choices

Best Classic Pizza
Papa Johns
several Valley locations

Best Desserts
Cheesecake Factory
15230 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
480-607-0083

Best Gourmet Pizza
Pizzeria Bianco
623 East Adams
602-258-8300

Readers' Choices

Best Barbecue
Honey Bear's Bar-B-Q
5012 East Van Buren
602-273-9148
2824 North Central
602-279-7911

Best Chinese Restaurant
P.F. Chang's China Bistro
several Valley locations

Best Coffee House
Starbucks
several Valley locations

Best French Restaurant
La Madeleine French Bakery and Cafe
several Valley locations

Best Greek Restaurant
Greekfest
1940 East Camelback
602-265-2990

Best Indian Restaurant
Delhi Palace
5050 East McDowell
602-244-8181
16842 North Seventh Street
602-942-4224
933 East University, Tempe
480-921-2200

Best Italian Restaurant
Olive Garden
several Valley locations

Best Japanese Restaurant
RA Sushi Bar
411 South Mill, Tempe
480-303-9800
3815 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
480-990-9256

Best New Restaurant
Garduo's Margarita Factory
Shops at Gainey Village
8787 North Scottsdale Road, Suite A-102, Scottsdale
480-607-9222

Best Sandwich Shop
Subway
several Valley locations

Best Seafood Restaurant
Red Lobster
several Valley locations

Best Smoothie/juice Shop
Jamba Juice
several Valley locations

Best Southwestern Restaurant
Z'Tejas Grill
several Valley locations

Best Steak Restaurant
Outback Steakhouse
several Valley locations

Best Tortillas

Grocery store tortillas tend to be thick and doughy, and bear as much resemblance to the real thing as does Roman Meal to a crusty loaf of French bread. While dreadful tortillas will do if you spread distractions like cheese and salsa all over them, you'd never just pop one in your mouth, plain. But La Sonorense's thin, tasty, fresh tortillas, which somehow manage to be chewy and flaky at the same time, are the exception. This little bakery can be hard to spot, because the bottom half of the sign's letters are missing. But word is out; you're likely to stand in line behind several people, and though this appears to be a full-service Mexican bakery, most of them are there to purchase still-warm bags of perfect tortillas. One disclaimer: Don't come crying to us if you snuff the life out of these babies by putting them in the fridge. Eat them all, and quickly.

Best Cheap Mexican Food
Guedo's Taco Shop

Usually, we've got enough just in pocket change to cover the tab at this pink adobe taco hut that's always hoppin' to the beat of lively salsa music. Sometimes, the cooks get in the groove, singing along as they bang pots and pans.

It's a short menu, with just a few quesadillas, tacos, burros, tortas, flan and Mazatlán mud pie. Everything is made fresh to order, though, with top-quality stuff. Beef is sirloin Angus, and soft flour tortillas are homemade, as are the killer salsas in an array of tomatillo, chunky, mild and red hot. And what a deal! Nothing costs more than $4.75, not even the huge torta, a fresh grilled roll stuffed with onions, cilantro, salsa, avocado and your choice of charbroiled pork, beef or marinated chicken. We can make a meal of the Guedo burro, a large tortilla brimming with the same torta ingredients plus from-scratch frijoles and cheese. You go, Guedo's.

71 E. Chandler Blvd., Chandler, 85225
MAP
480-899-7841
Best Day Of The Dead Crafts
Museo Chicano

Finally, a place for anyone who's been dying to find that elusive skeleton basketball player shooting a lay-up in midair. The Chicano museum, located downtown, has a great gift shop filled with Day of the Dead crafts, as well as a wide variety of Mexican artwork, books and furniture. Dia de los Muertos collectibles range from the classic skeleton bride and groom and papier-mché skulls to colorful shadowboxes depicting scenes of the dearly departed drinking, cooking and shooting pool. Our personal favorite is a glass candle adorned with a skeletal femme fatale cooing, "If I had lips, I'd kiss you."

147 E. Adams St., Phoenix, 85004
MAP
602-257-5536
Best Margarita
El Encanto Mexican Cafe

Recipe for a good margarita: 11/2 cups gold tequila, 3/4 cup Triple Sec, 3/4 cup fresh lime juice, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons kosher salt, 6 lime wedges.

Recipe for a great margarita: Run, don't walk, to El Encanto.

There's just something about the margs at Valley landmark El Encanto. Perhaps it's the quality ingredients. Perhaps it's the fact that they're so killer strong we're on our butts after just one. It doesn't hurt that the setting is so spectacular. Sit on the courtyard patio overlooking the huge pond at the old, mission-style building and watch the ducks and geese (be nice, and spring for a cup of birdseed from the bubblegum machine nearby). Service is another bonus: These folks have been around, they don't take any guff, but they know Arizona history and they melt like butter when you treat them right. Cheers, El Encanto.

6248 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, 85331
MAP
480-488-1752
Best Mexican Takeout

Our casa es su casa. Just keep your cotton-pickin' hands off our comida -- when it's Mexican takeout night, that is. At this to-go-only place, we can buy the basics if we want to cook at home: corn husks, Mexican cheeses, chile sauces, three kinds of chorizo, masa, hominy, blue corn and white corn tortillas, or fresh chips and salsa. But we'd rather take the night off, shell out $3 to $6, and stuff ourselves on dishes fresh from Albuquerque's kitchen: blue corn enchiladas fragrant with fiery green chile sauce; medium-hot red chile or mild green chile; and sour cream enchiladas with two cheeses and Mexican cream. Or posole, a luxurious pork and hominy stew with red chile broth, lemon and oregano; tender carne adovada; chile rellenos; plus a pint of green chile stew with pillowy sopaipillas to dip into it. We always save room for empanadas, a filled pastry pocket dessert (we recommend the pumpkin).

Best Az-mex Restaurant
Mangos Mexican Cafe

There's a definite gluttonous appeal to most American-style Mexican places, with their dishes heavy with sauce, sour cream, guacamole and ungodly calories. That's okay when we're craving a good, old-fashioned bomb in our bellies. But we hate to sacrifice real Mexican flavor and spice under all those toppings. That's why we love Mangos, where everything is made fresh, from its pizza-pie-size tortillas to its just-squeezed tropical fruit juices. Homemade tamales don't hold back the heat, dimpled with fiery shredded pork, green chile strips and jack cheese. Shredded beef enchiladas kick up a flurry of burning spice in their wake. Carne asada, overflowing a burrito with large chunks of perfectly grilled beef, packs a back-of-the-throat punch, thanks to lots of gutsy chiles.

44 W. Main St., Mesa, 85201
MAP
480-464-5700
Best Place To Take A Foodie

Foodies are so easily bored. But they won't be singing their "been there, done that" song at Medizona, an intriguingly novel restaurant from star chef Lenard Rubin.

Rabbit, fig and pine nut baklava with quail egg and chive sauce? Oh, sure, we had that for lunch. Eggplant tacos with lamb, arugula, Kasseri cheese, cucumber-radish relish and roasted tomato-garlic sauce? Yawn. Yeah, right.

Chances are even the most cultivated culinary diva hasn't experienced such extraordinary pairings as baby greens with roasted goat cheese, sun-dried pears, almond-honey brittle and balsamic-cactus fruit vinaigrette; or charbroiled beef tenderloin with potato-leek gratin, butternut squash, spinach, smoked bacon and provolone-filled green chile on a pool of sun-dried cherry barbecue sauce.

Medizona can get even the most jaded foodie to eat up and take notice.

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