Best of Phoenix®

Best Of 2014

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Best Indian Restaurant
Little India
Jackie Mercandetti

There certainly are larger Indian restaurants in town, as well as a large number that offer a wider array of dishes than this tiny Tempe spot. But that doesn't mean we don't have an irresistible urge to head to Little India at least once every few weeks. It's our favorite place in the Valley to get the made-to-order Indian snacks called chaat. The options range from the familiar — think samosas hot out of the fryer and served with a side of Tamarind chutney — to the more exotic, as in aloo tikki chaat, a plate of potato patties covered in yellow peas, yogurt, tamarind, cilantro, and a slew of other spices. The restaurant is actually located inside an Indian mini mart, so leave time to wander the store's aisles for a few unique grocery items to take home.

1813 E. Baseline Rd., Tempe, 85283
MAP
480-730-7770
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8140 N. Hayden Rd., Scottsdale, 85258
MAP
480-794-1404
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6810 E. 5th Ave., Scottsdale, 85251
MAP
480-794-1404
Best New Restaurant
The Local
Lauren Saria

We had some doubts about the young chef who told us he "just wanted to have fun," and yet every time we eat a meal at The Local, Chris McKinley proves he truly knows his way around the kitchen. The chef's unique style of modern American cuisine pulls influences from around the world. He's won us over with his Pig Ear Pad Thai — an offal-y dish that blends toasted peanuts, bean sprouts, pickled Fresno chiles, and XO sauce to make a crunchy starter that's big on flavor — as well as with excellent handmade pastas, grilled vegetables, and sweet desserts.

The concise menu seems to offer something for everyone, but if it doesn't, there's always the chalkboard of daily specials, which have ranged from a killer bowl of ramen to fried green tomatoes and a lobster roll. The hot new dining spot also benefits from the talents of co-owner/general manager/barman Adam Hargett, who mixes top-notch cocktails using housemade, barrel-aged, and local ingredients.

1011 N. 3rd St., Phoenix, 85004
MAP
Best Chef
Josh Hebert at Posh Improvisational Cuisine

Phoenix may not set every trend, but thanks to chef Josh Hebert, we have at least one restaurant that's undeniably innovative. At Hebert's sleek Scottsdale dining spot, you can belly up to the chef's counter and have an experience unlike any other. The restaurant offers no set selections. Instead, Hebert and his staff craft tasting menus for diners based on dietary restrictions and personal preferences. It seems like a risky proposition — that is, until you've had your first taste of Hebert's cuisine. The chef navigates the fine line between using impeccable technique to craft sophisticated food and knowing full well when to let his top-quality ingredients speak for themselves. The best way to understand it for yourself is to take a seat at the counter and let him regale you with stories and facts about his craft. It's impossible to not walk away impressed.

7167 E. Rancho Vista Dr., Scottsdale, 85251
MAP
480-663-7674
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2814 N. 16th St., Phoenix, 85006
MAP
602-636-0240
Best Culinary Adventure
#PM31 at T. Cook's

Once a week (every Wednesday, to be exact), T. Cook's chef Paul McCabe takes a small number of fortunate diners on an unforgettable culinary journey. The multi-course dinner experience — named #PM31 after the chef and the number of the restaurant's communal chef's table, at which the dinner is likely to take place — features an improvisational menu crafted that day based on available ingredients. It's the best way to get a good sense of McCabe's style of cuisine: thoughtful, well-balanced, and quite exciting. The menu changes from week to week, but you can expect a seemingly endless lineup of picture-perfect dishes artfully plated and featuring top-quality meats, locally sourced produce, and housemade accoutrements. During our dinner, McCabe wowed with a sous vide Spanish octopus with black-eyed peas, a playful take on classic barbecue flavors.

5200 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 85018
MAP
602-808-0766
Best Food Truck

Long before Mexican fusion food was trendy, Michael J. Brown dreamed up the Jamburrito. It's a simple but ingenious creation that offers New Orleans flavor in a novel and easy-to-eat form. The classic chicken Jamburrito features Cajun chicken etouffee, jambalaya rice, smoked Andouille sausage, cheese, and lettuce wrapped in a sturdy tortilla. And though wrapping a favorite Southern dish in a tortilla might not seem like the most innovative idea, it's enough of an alteration to turn an otherwise unwieldy dish into excellent street fare. Since starting the Jamburritos food truck in 2010, Brown has turned his signature dish into a favorite of Phoenix food truck enthusiasts, who can choose from a slew of varieties, including steak, vegetarian, and catfish Cajun burritos. Best of all, Brown has no plans to slowing. These days, he's busy getting a second truck up and running and launching a Jamburritos catering business.

No address listed, Phoenix,
MAP
Best Place to Take a Foodie
Binkley's Restaurant
Sarah Whitmire

On the national stage, there's really only one chef from Arizona who consistently makes a splash, and that's Kevin Binkley, a three-time James Beard Award semifinalist. Ask just about any foodie in the Valley and they'll tell you that Binkley's flagship restaurant in Cave Creek is the best restaurant in the state, on par with some of the most awarded restaurants in the whole country.

We're still trying to wrap our heads around the reason Binkley hasn't taken home the Beard Foundation's Best Chef Southwest award, but in the meantime, we know that flooding the dining room with food lovers certainly can't hurt. Go and see for yourself how Binkley transforms local and seasonal ingredients into impeccable plates of modern American cuisine.

Readers Choice: Quiessence

6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, 85331
MAP
480-437-1072
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6106 S. 32nd St., Phoenix, 85042
MAP
602-276-0601
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Best Indian Restaurant: Little India

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