Best of Phoenix®

Best Of 2015

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Best Pizza Slice

Grand Avenue Pizza's tiny dining room is jammed full of excellent and affordable by-the-slice Italian lunches. Owner and pizza chef Carson Wheeler, a native of Virginia, opened his pie shop about a year and a half ago in a long-vacant corner store at Grand and Fillmore, and set about pushing a menu designed after an old-school East Coast neighborhood slice shop, like the ones he knew from every corner of every borough in New York. Wheeler blasts his pies in a pair of standard gas pizza ovens, and his crusts are made using an old family recipe and topped with locally grown ingredients. What he does with flour and tomatoes and olive oil is worth checking out. Grand Avenue pies are wonderful straight from the oven and still tasty 20 minutes later — slices we've dragged home even passed the next-day, cold-slice-for-breakfast, eaten-over-the-sink-while-standing test: The refrigerated cheese and zippy red sauce hadn't soaked the crust, which retained the pliancy and flavor of bread, not cardboard. Another slice, please!

1031 Grand Ave., Phoenix, 85007
MAP
Best New Restaurant
Forno 301 Pizzeria
Lauren Saria

Italian-born owners Roberto Dadone and Luca Dagliano and Cuban native Mili Fernandez make up the trio behind Forno 301 Pizzeria, a lively restaurant that's brought European flair to downtown Phoenix. Both Dadone and Dagliano bring decades of restaurant experience from Italy — but it's the pair's dedication to doing things the traditional way that makes the restaurant stand out. Forno 301's wood-fired pizzas are made with fresh mozzarella and flour from Naples, but they're by no means the only things on the menu worth trying. The bruschetta and salads showcase beautiful, fresh ingredients and want nothing more than to be washed down by a cold Italian beer or glass of $6 house wine. Still, what seals the deal is the owners' over-the-top hospitality. Welcoming but not fussy, casual but not indifferent, Dadone and Dagliano more than live up to the Italian reputation for gracious hospitality.

Readers Choice: Union Barrelhouse

301 W. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, 85003
MAP
480-787-5654
Best Chef
Silvana Salcido Esparza

From humble beginnings in central California, chef Silvana Salcido Esparza has risen to become the reigning queen of Mexican food in metro Phoenix. Her original restaurant, Barrio Cafe, is nothing short of a local landmark and has drastically transformed the popular perception of Mexican food since opening in 2002 and these days counts restaurants at Sky Harbor International Airport and The Yard in Phoenix as sibling spots. But Esparza's not just about giving Phoenix diners excellent and affordable food. She's a chef in the true sense of the word, which means "leader" or "chief" in French. Esparza manages to run four restaurants and still finds time to mentor up-and-coming chefs, to give back to the community, and to grab the attention of national critics — including the James Beard Foundation, which has nominated her for awards on four occasions.

Readers Choice: Kevin Binkley

2814 N. 16th St., Phoenix, 85006
MAP
602-636-0240
Best Culinary Adventure
Blank Space at Crudo
Crudo

Last fall, Crudo launched a mystery dinner series that tested the creativity of some of the Valley's best chefs — and the trust of Valley diners. Called Blank Space, the monthly series featured big-name talent, including Kevin Binkley of Binkley's Restaurant, Gio Osso of Virtù Honest Craft, and Josh Hebert of Posh Improvisational Cuisine. Each chef collaborated with Crudo's Cullen Campbell on dinner menus with no restrictions or rules. Here's the catch: Diners didn't get to know the menu until they showed up to the event. The good news is that putting faith in local chefs paid off. Throughout the series, chef after chef put on one-night events that aren't likely to be forgotten by attendees. From Jeff Kraus' visually stunning plates and coffee-infused dessert to Binkley's signature series of "snacks," Blank Space highlighted some of the Valley's very best.

3603 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 85018
MAP
602-358-8666
Best Food Truck
Luncha Libre
Jackie Mercandetti

Considering that Luncha Libre is one of the Valley's longest-running food trucks, we wondered why owners Tim and Kim Cobb hadn't opened a regular restaurant. After all, their Lucha Libre-themed Mexican food truck has been featured on Food Network's Eat Street show and serves some of the best mobile food in town. Well, this year, they did open a brick-and-mortar spot, called the Taco and Dilla Parlor. But the truck is still where you'll find the newest Luncha Libre specials. The ever-changing menu draws inspiration from Thai, Mexican, and American cuisines, and you can always count on the signature bebidas (freshly made juices) and teas served in quart-size Mason jars.

602-399-4024
www.lunchadorsunite.com

Readers Choice: Short Leash

623-210-8598
Best Place to Take a Foodie
Noble Eatery
Lauren Saria

Claudio Urciuoli has been one of the most popular Italian chefs in town for years, but at Noble Eatery, he's offering rustic and unforgettable food that's unlike anything he's done before. Simplicity is the name of the game, and Urciuoli has dedicated himself to sourcing the very best ingredients and letting them shine. Of course, housemade Noble Bread serves as the foundation for most of the food, but there's also pristine produce, locally grown grains, and imported meats on the restaurant's ever-changing menu. We've enjoyed everything from a seasonal salad featuring grapefruit and marinated celery to a bowl of creamy wheat berries, farro, tomato, and corn in the cozy dining room of this lunch-only spot. Food lovers will appreciate the level of authenticity on every plate — and won't mind braving the extremely undersize parking lot in order to experience the cuisine.

2201 E McDowell Rd., Phoenic, 85006
MAP
602-688-2424
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Best Pizza Slice: Grand Avenue Pizza Company

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