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Best Of 2016

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Best Market
AZ International Marketplace
Evie Carpenter
Az International Marketplace.

If your childhood fantasy is an entire grocery aisle full of candies from all over the world, then you need to make a trip out to Mesa's AZ International Marketplace, where all your sugary dreams can come true. This gargantuan market is a sort of international Wal-Mart, with everything from dozens of varieties of soy sauce to binders, backpacks, and dog toys on its shelves. The selection of international foods is the biggest draw, with shelves stocked with everything you could need to whip up a recipe from any corner of the globe. There are giant jackfruits in the large produce section and any piece of a cow you could want to eat, packaged up in plastic wrap over in the meat cases. In bulk, you can buy more than a half-dozen varieties of dried chilis, and in the frozen-food case, you'll find everything from spicy Chinese sausage to more flavors of mochi ice cream than you could ever have dreamed up as a kid. You want it? They got it. And if they don't, just ask. The staff is always willing to help hunt down items you can't find.

1920 W. Broadway Rd., Mesa, 85202
MAP
602-633-6296
Best New Restaurant
Ocotillo
Jackie Mercandetti
Ocotillo.

Located on the southeast corner of Third and Flower streets in central Phoenix, Ocotillo is much more than just a neighborhood eatery — though it certainly qualifies as that, too. With a full-service restaurant, coffee shop, and outdoor beer garden, this dining and drinking destination is a sort of catchall intended to meet all your needs. The restaurant, however, is the true centerpiece and an edible homage to the bounty of the Sonoran desert. Chefs Walter Sterling and Sacha Levine offer up an ever-changing, vegetable-focused menu highlighted by wood-fired roasted chicken, handmade pastas, and local produce often treated with globally inspired preparations. The sweet, earthy roasted cauliflower that's complemented with chiles and mint is not to be missed, nor is the signature Ocotillo chicken, which comes steeped in the flavors of local honey and herbs. General manager and sommelier Dave Johnson heads up the service team and has crafted a fun, approachable wine program with a list that offers a symbol-based tasting note key.

3243 N. 3rd St., Phoenix,
MAP
602-687-9080
Best Chef
Chrysa Robertson

When it comes to badass women chefs in metro Phoenix, no one can hold a candle to Chrysa Robertson. For more than two decades, she's been serving simple, seasonal, Italian-influenced cuisine at her Rancho Pinot restaurant, now one of the Valley's longest-standing dining spots. But Robertson's career in the culinary arts goes back much further than that. She got her first job at 16, and has spent time working with some of the most legendary women chefs in Arizona, including Carol Steele of C. Steele and RoxSand Scocos of RoxSand, over her career. She founded the Phoenix chapter of the Slow Food Convivium in the '90s — long before "farm-to-table" became one of the food world's biggest buzz words — and continues to showcase the desert's bounty through her food, often using local produce, fresh eggs, and homegrown herbs in the Rancho Pinot kitchen.

6208 N. Scottsdale Rd., Paradise Valley, 85253
MAP
480-367-8030
Best Culinary Adventure
Posh Improvisational Cuisine
Lauren Saria
Goma ramen at Posh Improvisational Cuisine.

"Serious Food, Extemporaneous Style" is the mantra at Scottsdale's Posh restaurant. And chef Josh Hebert truly means it. At this improvisational restaurant, chefs create specialized menus based on diners' preferences — imagine a Choose Your Own Adventure book translated into a one-of-a-kind dining experience. Here's how it works: Show up, select a number of courses, let the kitchen know what you'll eat (and what you won't), and wait for the magic to happen. Hebert and his team are known for creating thoughtful, modern fare, including "cheesecake" topped with raw uni and veal sweetbreads served over carrot puree with zucchini. Not a picky diner? Opt for the Chef's Omakase, which means the kitchen team gets the freedom to throw down whatever their hearts desire.  

7167 E. Rancho Vista Dr., Scottsdale, 85251
MAP
480-663-7674
Best Place to Take a Foodie
Noble Eatery
Lauren Saria
A sandwich at Noble Eatery.

Most people who love good food can appreciate the subtle details that make great sandwiches stand out from merely good ones. And that's why a true food lover will surely appreciate Jason Raducha's simple-yet-elegant Noble Eatery, where rustic house-made breads serve as the foundation for excellent sandwiches loaded with imported Italian meats and cheeses and local vegetables. The menu at the lunch spot changes almost every day, but you can count on a concise selection of sandwiches, pizza, smorgas (open-faced sandwiches of Swedish descent), and the Ramon Navarro bowl. The last has become something of a Noble Eatery staple: a bowl of heritage grains like durum white wheat, lentils, and Khorasan wheat mixed with vegetables and seeds and dressed in oil. There's only a handful of seats, and they're nearly always full, but we like to think the wait just makes the experience seem all the more exclusive.

2201 E McDowell Rd., Phoenic, 85006
MAP
602-688-2424
Best Place to Take a Scenester
Crepe Bar

It isn't a hidden gem, per se — after all, chef Jeff Kraus' south Tempe breakfast and lunch spot has won awards from just about everyone in town, and it's right there in plain sight in the middle of a strip mall — but for some reason, Crepe Bar does seem to fly below the radar. Except, that is, with the Valley's food and drink devotees, who pack the restaurant's dining room each and every chance they get. And it's easy to understand why. The menu at Crepe Bar features sweet and savory crepes that show the chef's knack for creating food that's as fun as it is delicious. Kraus also offers a new expanded selection of sides that includes dishes ranging from tiny salads of local tomatoes, purslane, and tahini, to house-made "Rolos" for dessert. And it's not just the food. Crepe Bar is also one of the Valley's top spots for inventive coffee drinks. Always made with top-quality ingredients, Crepe Bar's caffeinated creations range from coffee brulee (as in, coffee covered in a layer of burnt sugar) to the singular Moroccan latte, which combines espresso, spices, and honey for a truly inspired pick-me-up.

7520 S. Rural Rd., Tempe, 85283
MAP
480-247-8012
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Best Market: AZ International Marketplace

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