Best of Phoenix®

Best Of 2002

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Food & Drink

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Best Chinese Restaurant
Gourmet House of Hong Kong

It's faded powder blue paint on the outside and cotton candy pink on the inside, but all over, it's the most authentic Chinese anywhere in town. Keep in mind that authentic means adventurous, with dishes like duck feet with greens.

The menu of more than 400 items can be intimidating. But order the way we do, filling up lazy Susans on the big tables with lots of varieties, then spinning it among friends to sample and share. With such cheap prices, even if we find that beef belly in casserole isn't to everyone's liking, it's fun to at least taste it. Everything is incredibly fresh, even in the run-down-looking operation, with oceans of fresh seafood, crisp vegetables, friendly service and explosive flavors.

Our short list includes delicacies like deep-fried soft shell crab, frogs' legs with pepper salt, steamed whole head on shrimp in garlic and chile pepper, and new Hong Kong-style cooking like long green pea with red snapper. The fish list is remarkable, showcasing red snapper, rock cod, flounder, clams, whole live lobster, crab, mussels, oysters, squid and shrimp. And vegetarians feast, too (soy bean cake with black mushroom is exquisite).

Gourmet House is the place for lunch, packed with people like us who've discovered the amazing three dozen lunch combos alone for as little as $3.27. Familiar dishes abound, but they're a step above the rest, with expertly crafted kung pao, curry beef, sweet and sour snapper, moo goo gai pan and a dynamite house plate of shrimp, scallop, chicken, pork, snow pea, mushroom, celery, carrot and bamboo shoot (just $5.61).

1438 E. McDowell Rd., Phoenix, 85006
MAP
602-253-4859
Readers Choice

BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Salt Cellar Restaurant
550 North Hayden, Scottsdale
480-947-1963

BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT
P.F. Chang's China Bistro
several Valley locations

BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT
Sophie's French Bistro
2320 East Osborn
602-956-8897

BEST MEDITERRANEAN RESTAURANT
The Persian Room
17040 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
480-614-1414

BEST INDIAN RESTAURANT
Delhi Palace
several Valley locations

BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT
Olive Garden
several Valley locations

BEST JAPANESE RESTAURANT
RA Sushi Bar Restaurant
several Valley locations

BEST BARBECUE JOINT
Honey Bear's Bar-B-Q
5012 East Van Buren
602-273-9148
and
2824 North Central
602-279-7911

BEST BAKERY
Vie de France
14202 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
480-483-5656

BEST PLACE TO POP THE QUESTION
The Melting Pot
8320 North Hayden, Scottsdale
480-607-1799
and
3626 East Ray, Ahwatukee
480-704-9206

BEST JUICE/SMOOTHIE SHOP
Jamba Juice

BEST VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT
Pita Jungle
1250 East Apache, Tempe
480-804-0234
and
1949 West Ray, Chandler
480-855-3232

BEST COFFEE HOUSE
Starbucks

BEST NEW RESTAURANT
Vie de France
14202 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
480-483-5656

BEST OUTDOOR PATIO
Zipp's Sports Grill
7551 East Camelback, Scottsdale
480-970-9507

Best Superhero Restaurant

The fact that Cafe ah Pwah boasts a beautiful, contemporary European menu in a charming, cozy bistro setting is deserving of an award in itself. The fact that its owner Karen Kapraszewski was brave enough to set it in the tiny country center of main street Gilbert makes her our restaurant hero.

This place could be kicking butt among the best in Scottsdale, but here it is, nestled among antique stores, barbecue shops and farm tool rental yards. Chef Mark Rubin is blazing new paths in a strange new world, and for that, we salute him.

He's got great cuisine under his cape. Grilled hanger steak (French) goes Southwest with marinated onions and smoked Gouda in a tortilla. Pork takes an Asian influence with hoisin glaze, wasabi-dusted focaccia, napa cabbage slaw and sweet potato crisps. And skillet-seared sea scallops have rarely been so well-treated as they are here with goat cheese polenta, tomato confit and saffron jus lie.

Faster than Superman, Kapraszewski takes us on an edible voyage around the world. That's pretty super stuff.

Best Steak House
The Grill
Jackie Mercandetti

Beef. It's what's for dinner. Particularly if it's dinner at The Grill, the Valley's shrine to prime, dry-aged meat. The restaurant is part of an AAA Five Diamond Resort, and looks it, complete with breathtaking views of the 18th hole of the emerald green Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale stadium golf course. Cigars? Martinis? Of course. But we're here for our favorite entree on the hoof: the classic grilled prime, dry-aged rib eye, paired with "Yorkshire'' mushroom waffle and baby broccolini. It's toothsome, buttery tender, and spills luscious golden red juices when cut. Sure, it's an expensive investment, but worth it. Because when it comes to the best beef, the steaks are high.

7575 E. Princess Dr., Scottsdale, 85255
MAP
480-585-4848
Best Cowboy Steak House
The Horny Toad
Courtesy of The Horny Toad

The story of the Horny Toad is pure cowboy yarn: "Sometime during the last century, an old prospector working the area a few miles northeast of the little town of Phoenix, Arizona, came upon a small watering hole. He thought to himself that this here was mighty purty scenery and he'd bet them Easterners would give an arm and a leg for some of this property. They could build them some roads and put up funny names on the street signs and everybody'd be carefree, even if they had to live in caves and drink from the creek.

"His aching feet reminded him not to buy any more of those 2 for $5 boots. As he eased the boots off to soak his tired feet, he saw the many calluses they had given him, and he said to himself, I sure am getting horny toed.'"

Hmm. We seem to remember a more racy yarn a few years back (the restaurant prompted another down the street, the Satisfied Frog), but these days Cave Creek is turning into a family town. Whatever. The Toad still delivers mouth-watering barbecued beef and baby back pork ribs, barbecued chicken, fried chicken and chicken-fried steak. Fancier plates feature things like New York strip steak, top sirloin and prime rib. And in good cowboy tradition, meals include a variety of the fixin's -- soup or salad, potato, cowboy beans, garlic bread and veggies. Yee haw!

6738 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, 85331
MAP
480-488-9542
Best Cult Restaurant

She is the Supreme Master Ching Hai, a self-proclaimed reincarnation of Jesus and Buddha, and millions around the world believe her. Phoenix is just one of many cities where the Master's faux-meat recipes satisfy hungry vegetarians who clamor for soy chicken, duck or lobster, brought to your table by followers who wear the Master's image on amulets around their necks. The atmosphere is new-age dental office, the walls Pepto-pink and hung with the Master's mediocre paintings. And then there's the video bar, where you can watch the Supreme Master addressing the masses at her public appearances, and where there are many oh-so-holy items for purchase, including soy jerky, videos, audio cassettes, and large cans of Tuno.

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Best Chinese Restaurant: Gourmet House of Hong Kong

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