Food & Drink

  • Best Gourmet Mexican Restaurant

    La Hacienda

    Don't expect to find any piņatas, colorful serapes or beer-touting sombreros here. This reproduction of a 19th-century Mexican ranch house is impeccably tasteful, down to the last carved, dark wood chair, white linen tablecloth and soaring silk flower arrangement. But the lavish decor is just visual garnish for the most upscale Mexican food the Valley has to offer. Chips? No… More >>
  • Best AZ-Mex Restaurant

    El Bravo

    A glance at El Bravo's menu is deceptively ho-hum -- beef burros, chicken tacos, chimichangas, combo plates. Don't be fooled. This food may sound like Taco Bell, but it tastes authentic. Everything is made fresh in the restaurant's open kitchen, and owner Carmen Tafoya isn't shy about sneaking in the spices where appropriate -- her red chile beef packs a… More >>
  • Best Chorizo

    La Cabana

    We're not morning people. We admit it. If God had meant for people to be awake in the morning, he wouldn't have had to create alarm clocks. There's little that can convince us to leave our warm bed at the crack of dawn (has anyone else noticed that a mattress never fits so perfectly as it does just before we're… More >>
  • Best Fish Taco

    Rita's Mexican Food

    Who'd have thought that something so simple could be so good? While other places may fry their fish in batter and pile on the sauces and cheese, chef-owner Rita Aramburo leaves the Mrs. Paul's approach to seafood tacos to others. The catfish here is remarkably flavorful, sautéed in chunks with tomato, onion and a touch of seasoning. The vegetables are soft,… More >>
  • Best Mexican Seafood

    San Carlos Seafood Restaurant

    Sure, we could tell you that the seafood cocktails here are so fresh that you'll swear you can hear sea gulls overhead. Or that the Sea of Cortez cookery (try the garlic shrimp with rice and beans) is so authentic that you'll actually think you can smell the salty ocean air. Or that a visit to San Carlos Seafood is so… More >>
  • Best Green Corn Tamales

    Carolina's Mexican Food

    Had Fannie Flagg, author of Fried Green Tomatoes, grown up in south Phoenix and not Alabama, she might have written Green Corn Tamales instead. And if she had, her inspiration couldn't have come from a more mouth-watering specimen of the titular delicacy than the steamed fluffy packets offered up at Carolina's. Long famed for her tortillas, Carolina really shows her culinary… More >>
  • Best Carne Adovada

    Blue Adobe Grille

    Chile experts warn us never to touch any sensitive part of our body after handling spicy peppers. The Blue Adobe Grille's carne adovada will remind you why. Red chiles grown in New Mexico are notorious for their wicked heat -- a fact that the chefs here adroitly exploit in their torrid sauce of this incendiary pork chili. Dig pain? Drip some of… More >>
  • Best Gourmet Restaurant

    Mary Elaine's

    We know we're in for a fancy meal when our server brings cute little stools on which our purses can rest. We've got a hint of fine things to come when we peruse a multi-course chef's tasting menu, ambitiously priced at $110 per person, plus $55 additional if we'd like paired wines (and of course we do). A "starter" sampling… More >>
  • Best English Pub

    George & Dragon Pub & Restaurant

    Christened after the allegorical tale of dragon slayer St. George, a man who later became the patron saint of England, the George & Dragon pub does well upholding the honor of a contemporary English tavern. Its wood-framed walls, high ceiling and massive beams affect a Tudor-style English pub of yore (who'd-a thunk this was once a Shakey's Pizza parlor?) and… More >>
  • Best German Restaurant

    Haus Murphy's

    Tagessuppe? Bratkartoffel? Szegediner gulasch? Nein, these only look like a bunch of bum Scrabble racks. In reality, they're soup of the day; German fried potatoes; and pork and beef with pepper, sauerkraut and spätzle -- all specialties of the haus. Haus Murphy's, that is. But instead of worrying about the correct pronunciation of these Deutsch tongue-twisters, simply dig into some of the best… More >>
  • Best French Restaurant

    6th Avenue Bistrot

    It's an inaccurate stereotype that the French are rude to Americans. Look at how they treat Jerry Lewis. Need further proof? Just drop into the 6th Avenue Bistrot, where chef-owner François Simorte will be on you like a flash, greeting you warmly, shaking your hand, inviting you into his cozy little cafe. Sacrebleu! One can only guess how he treats his… More >>
  • Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

    Middle Eastern Bakery & Deli

    It isn't very pretty what a town without pita can do. Thanks to the Middle Eastern Bakery & Deli, that's one problem Phoenix hasn't had to face in more than 20 years. Much more than a place simply to buy authentic Middle Eastern manna, this exotic deli's our choice for Mediterranean treats such as dolmades, spinach pie, gyro meat, baklava, falafel, hummus… More >>
  • Best Pacific Rim Restaurant

    Kona Grill & Sushi Bar

    When it comes to Pacific Rim cuisine, Kona isn't coasting. Get past the spectacular decor (a 1,000-gallon aquarium, rich mahogany accents and more beautiful people than you can shake a tiki torch at) and you'll discover there's some real creativity going on in this kitchen. The Pan-Asian cuisine inspires such delights as Maui tacos, stuffed with blackened catfish; and Pan-Asian noodles,… More >>
  • Best Italian Restaurant

    Maria's When in Naples

    Maria Ranieri charmed us back in the '80s, when she evolved as the magic behind the award-winning pasta at Tomaso's restaurant. Then she bought another Tomaso enterprise, When in Naples. That was more than a decade ago, and since then, Ranieri has developed her restaurant brilliantly. Recently renovated to add a gardenlike enclosed terrace, the sumptuous space is decorated with seaside… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Italian Restaurant

    That's Italiano - CLOSED

    The owners of That's Italiano pride themselves on the fact that everything in the tidy, exposed kitchen is made on the premises. In fact, they claim to do everything on-site "except butcher the chickens." But who's squawking? The tantalizing menu lists everything you'd expect to find in an Italian mom-and-pop operation -- 13 pastas and eight entrees, plus salads, focaccia, pizza… More >>
  • Best Steak House

    Harris' Restaurant

    Have any doubts about the quality of the cuts at Harris'? You can meet your meat, proudly displayed in the aging coolers off the restaurant's entry. All the Certified Angus Beef is dry-aged on the premises for 21 days. The soothing, Southwestern motif here might not instantly scream "steak house," but wait until your meal arrives. There's nothing light and fluffy… More >>
  • Best Chimichanga

    Mangos

    When made correctly, a chimichanga is a wicked indulgence of crisp shell and juicy innards. Mangos knows this. It also knows that for a killer chimi, the staples, including the hubcap-size flour tortillas, must be freshly made. Equally important is meticulous deep-frying. The shell must be good enough to eat on its own, and never hidden under buckets of sauces,… More >>
  • Best Cowboy Steak House

    Reata Pass - CLOSED

    This funky cowpoke cantina has been slinging steaks since the 1950s, dished up chuck-wagon style with all the fixin's -- tossed salad, baked potato, beans and squishy rolls. In true saddle-tramp style, there's nothing fancy to speak of here, just an honest, mesquite-grilled slab of juicy, marbled-for-flavor beef. The 14-ounce New York steak hits the spot just fine, although ravenous… More >>
  • Best Bread Bakery

    Willo Baking Company

    Need to stock up for your next Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes? The angel-kissed golden crust of the bread churned out seven days a week at Willo is a real miracle in itself. This small boutique bakery uses no sugar, meat or dairy products in preparing its heavenly roll call. We're especially partial to Willo's cranberry-hazelnut rolls and bread, generously… More >>
  • Best Greek Restaurant

    Greekfest

    The Greeks had a word for it. And after dining at Greekfest, so do Arizonans: Delicious! What makes Greekfest so great? For one thing, owners Susan and Tony Makridis don't hold back on flavors, tempting us with dishes heavily perfumed by aromatic olive oil, lemon, garlic, dill, mint, oregano and other herbs. The variety of dishes is a mouth-watering romp through… More >>
  • Best Mexican Bakery

    La Purísima Pasteleria

    Short of driving three hours to Nogales, La Purísima is the most authentic south-of-the-border-style bakery you're likely to find. Among its straight-from-the-oven offerings are pan dulce, a traditional slightly sweetened bread. Other Mexican taste-tempters include libros and orejas fashioned from flaky puff pastry and sprinkled with sugar, fruit-filled empanadas (including pumpkin and pineapple), galletas (cookies) frosted with eyeball-searing hot pink… More >>
  • Best Wine Store

    Sportsman's Wines, Spirits and Other Flavours - CLOSED

    "It doesn't matter how a wine is drunk, as long as you are." So said legendary culinary writer M.F.K. Fisher. She was kidding. Great wines are serious stuff, and no one knows that better than the oenophiles at Sportsman's. The Staff here is the most knowledgeable in town. We've never been able to stump them, even when it comes to arcane… More >>
  • Best Middle Eastern Grocery

    Yusef's Middle Eastern Restaurant, Grocery & Deli

    Yusef's is the one-stop-does-it-all shop for exotic Middle Eastern cooking ingredients -- so essential if you're in the throes of planning a big Ali Wood-style bash. Though it may be short on veiled belly dancers, Yusef's does manage to cram in hundreds of fresh, frozen, canned, bottled and dried supplies your regular grocer would never dream of stocking in a… More >>
  • Best Place to Find the Wurst

    Schreiner's Fine Sausage

    Better cancel that flight to the Bavarian Alps you booked because you're craving authentic, homemade European-style sausages. They're being stuffed and cranked out right here in the Valley by Schreiner's, whose funky smokehouse store has remained virtually unchanged since it opened in 1958. On the off chance you can't find anything you like from more than 100 different international recipes… More >>
  • Best Indian Restaurant

    Taste of India - CLOSED

    Indian cuisine is renowned for its creative use of spices, and Taste of India doesn't hold back. The seductive scents hit us as soon as we walk in the door -- onion, cumin, garlic, turmeric, coriander, chili powder, mustard, fenugreek and ginger root. Whether we're there for the bargain-priced lunch buffet, or for the equally affordable dinners, the smell has us… More >>
  • Best Brew Pub

    Four Peaks Brewing Company

    This is getting annoying. Four Peaks is the Tiger Woods of Valley brew pubs, consistently topping every local publication's "best of" lists despite facing ever-increasing competition. This year, the Tommyknockers Brewery & Pub chain opened a franchise near Bank One Ballpark, and damn, it was a close call. But Four Peaks' malty stout, its airheaded blonde and smoky-smooth amber triumphed… More >>
  • Best Healthful Eating

    Green Leaf Cafe

    The road to health -- like that to hell -- is paved with good intentions. Not to mention scads of diet-busting restaurants and fast-food joints serving up nutritional no-no's guaranteed to steer you off course. But thanks to the good -- and good-for-you -- eats at the Green Leaf Cafe, you may finally make it to the finish line in fine… More >>
  • Best Selection of 40-Ounce Malt Liquor

    Roland's Market

    With its high alcohol content and low cost, a 40-ouncer of malt liquor is simply the cheapest way to get tanked. So it's no surprise that this bitter, golden blend is readily available in areas where most pants pockets jingle with welfare coins, minimum-wage earnings and the grimy coin of hard-earned handouts. Near downtown Phoenix, the malt shop of choice is… More >>
  • Best Home-Delivered Certified Organic Produce

    Boxed Greens

    Remember when deliverymen brought glass bottles of milk and fresh loaves of bread right to your doorstep? Neither can we. But even if you aren't old enough to conjure up those comforting memories, you can indulge your nostalgia for the Good Old Days you never knew existed by calling Boxed Greens. They'll put you on their home delivery route for fresh,… More >>
  • Best Japanese Restaurant

    Hiro Sushi

    Yearning Japanese? Then head east to Hiro Sushi, home of the Valley's most inscrutable eats. Fourteen lunch combinations present a dizzying array of teriyaki, tempura, gyoza, katsu, sushi and sashimi. Dinner combos, meanwhile, are a veritable feast of build-your-owns, conveniently priced per how many items you order. Your customized meals are prettily laid out in red lacquer trays and decorated with… More >>
  • Best Ice Cream

    Mary Coyle Ice Cream - CLOSED

    Everyone's heard of the proverbial "golden oldie." And if you've lived in the Valley any length of time, you're already well aware of our own "colden oldie." That would be Mary Coyle Ice Cream parlor, the local ice cream standard by which all others are judged. For 50 years, Coyle's take on everyone's "I scream, you scream" frigid dessert has… More >>
  • Best Korean Restaurant

    Arisoo Korean Bar-B-Que

    What's a nice grill like you doing in a place like this? At Arisoo, the grill is installed in a table, cooking up some sensational meats over gas flames. Treats like gal bi (short ribs marinated in soy), bul gogi (thinly sliced marinated beef tenderloin), dak bul gogi (chicken) and deaji bul gogi (pork). Guests spread lettuce leaves with bean paste, rice,… More >>
  • Best Bagels

    Chompie's

    Man does not live by bread alone. He needs a good bagel, too. For more than two decades now, Chompie's has been surpassing our bagel expectations with always -- always -- the best bagels we've ever found in this town. Chompie's was king of the bagels before the doughy works of art were cool (remember the bagel explosion in the '80s?). While… More >>
  • Best Camarón

    Acapulco Bay Company

    The shrimp here are served in a molcajete, a large bowl carved out of lava rock and sent to the table bubbling hot and furious. The dish is called Camarón Azteca, and the volcanic container keeps the fresh-from-the-oven meal wickedly warm. It's a good thing, too, because it takes us a long time to work our way through the Vesuvius-size… More >>
  • Best Cheese Selection

    Duck & Decanter

    Tired of cheese choices at your local grocery store being limited to Cheez Whiz, Velveeta and boursin-in-a-box? Cheeselike food substances are conspicuously absent at Duck & Decanter, whose long list of not-for-the-lactose-intolerant dairy specialties would turn the head of even a hardened Wisconsin Cheesehead. This place is the only one we've found around town that seems to always stock manchego… More >>
  • Best Puerto Rican Pastries

    K-Rico Cafe & Bakery

    K-Rico Cafe & Bakery is tiny, but those with a nose for things sweet should keep sniffing 'til they find this tropically appointed strip-mall storefront. Owner Elsie Lara, a native of Puerto Rico, packs a lot of fabulous Caribbean-style pastries into her shop. It's worth a cross-town trek to bite into one of K-Rico's flaky quesitos, made of buttery puff… More >>
  • Best Seafood Restaurant

    Restaurant Oceana

    Restaurant Oceana prides itself on serving just-caught seafood on a daily changing menu. For us, this means sparkling ahi, Maine day boat scallops, Atlantic salmon, Hog Island oysters, Dungeness crab, Alaskan halibut and more. And though such seafood is available at many other places around town, Oceana gets highest marks not only for its unparalleled freshness, but also for creative… More >>
  • Best Place to Get Free Potato Chips

    Wild Oats

    Most people go to Wild Oats for the organic fruits and vegetables. We go for the potato chip samples. During a recent visit, five different flavors were presented for our gustatory inspection: sweet potato chips, cheese puff chips, garlic-flavored chips, blue chips and corn tortilla chips, all proffered with a generous helping of sample salsa. Which should we buy? Hmmm,… More >>
  • Best Grocery Store Takeout Pizza

    AJ's Purveyor of Fine Foods

    When the dinner hour is approaching and we have to stop off at a grocery store to pick up a few things anyway, we welcome the grab-and-go meal ideas designed to make our hectic lives easier. But since discovering that some AJ's feature hand-tossed cooked-to-order pizzas, we have taken those other plastic-wrapped pizzas off our in-a-pinch menu list. At AJ's… More >>
  • Best Cocido

    Lulu's Taco Shop

    Should soup be served in a wine goblet? Only if it's as special as the cocido crafted by Israel and Lourdes Aviles, owners of Lulu's. For more than a decade now, the Avileses have been tempting us with their authentic, Guadalajara-style cooking, including dreamy cocido, a traditional beef stew. Thinking Dinty Moore? Don't. Cocido is more like soup -- but soup… More >>
  • Best Place to Find Fresh Fish

    99 Ranch Market

    Fish don't get much fresher than when they're flopping around in a tank of water, like they do at 99 Ranch Market. This upscale Asian supermarket's large aquarium tanks virtually teem with live catfish, tilapia, freshwater blue eel and Dungeness crab. And if you just can't bear the thought of ending one of our piscine pal's lives prematurely, there's always… More >>
  • Best Vegetarian Restaurant

    In Season Deli - CLOSED

    We were good kids and always ate our vegetables. We'll never refuse a radish, sneer at a squash or thumb our noses at a tomato. Particularly not when they're crafted into such decadent creations such as the blue corn tamales served at In Season Deli. Seven different garden-fresh veggies are blended with three kinds of ground corn and spices, formed by… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Aardvark to Zebra

    Gourmet Imports

    You're planning on throwing an important dinner party for a bunch of fussy gourmets. They're snobs -- you know the type. "Oh, grilled swordfish and Gulf prawns over smoked mussel fried rice and mango papaya relish again?" they sniff. An order from Gourmet Imports will shut their mouths -- at least until it's time to chew. But you have to pick… More >>
  • Best Hot Pepper Sauce

    Kim Bong International Market

    The first time we heard about "the jerk in the restaurant" 10 years ago, we thought we were being told about some lout on a cell phone. But it was a dish new to the Valley, Jamaican jerked rabbit, served at RoxSand. Today, jerk is available on many menus, usually involving chicken. Basically, it involves rubbing meat, fish or vegetables with… More >>
  • Best Upscale Southwestern Restaurant

    Vincent Guerithault on Camelback

    Chef Vincent Guerithault long has reigned supreme as master of high-end Southwestern cuisine. When he first introduced the concept in the mid-'80s, he was considered radical for his innovative combination of classic French cooking and flavors of Mexico and the American Southwest. A decade and a half later, little has changed about his menu, cooking philosophy, or his well-deserved status… More >>
  • Best Mole

    Hacienda Mexican Food Restaurant

    Only a supernatural being would have thought to combine more ingredients than those which make authentic mole. There are as many recipes for mole as there are regions in Mexico. But our local favorite -- a rich, velvety sauce containing a dozen types of dried chiles, nuts, seeds, vegetables, spices, plantains and chocolate -- can be found at Hacienda. You'll have… More >>
  • Best Casual Southwestern Restaurant

    Coyote Grill

    Coyote Grill shows us why good Southwestern food will never be the flash-in-the-pan trend critics thought it would be back in the '80s. Who could turn their nose up at citrus-crusted catfish in spicy orange chipotle sauce; or Southwestern beef Wellington, stuffing filet mignon in puff pastry with mushrooms and hot cascabel chile sauce? Not us, certainly. No, we've got our… More >>
  • Best Bargain Sushi

    Ichi Ban

    Good sushi needn't cost an arm and a tentacle, although it usually does. Happily, Ichi Ban turns the tide on steep-priced swimmers with its buffet-style sushi spread, a staggering array of Pisces-in-the-raw that will set you back just $13.95 at lunch, and $20.95 at dinner. Except for the price, there's nothing cut-rate about this all-you-can-eat fish fest that offers more than 50… More >>
  • Best Paleteria

    Flor De Michoacán

    It's almost impossible to walk five blocks in any Mexican city on a summer day without passing at least one stand or parlor that specializes in paletas. Paletas are a traditional, distinctly Mexican take on the Popsicle concept: frozen natural-fruit bars that border on a survival necessity in the withering Mexican heat. So it's a bit ironic that the definitive Valley… More >>
  • Best Dim Sum

    C-Fu Gourmet

    C-Fu's got excellent Chinese food, and then some. It's got meals on wheels, and dim sum. The huge restaurant becomes an autobahn during lunch seven days a week when the dim sum carts come careening out, their drivers dodging giant tanks full of fish, clusters of tables and quick-footed waiters clearing plates and refilling beverages. Customers wave the carts in like… More >>
  • Best Nueva Mexican Restaurant

    Norman's Arizona

    Chef-owner Norman Fierros has been wowing us for two decades with his offbeat, innovative approach to Mexican food. From a small stand in a dicey south Phoenix neighborhood to his current, tony locale, he hasn't lost the innovative edge that put him on the map. And when it comes to the culinary map, Fierros isn't afraid to go all over it,… More >>
  • Best "New American" Restaurant

    Lon's at the Hermosa

    Executive chef Patrick Poblete does a Southwestern-accented American comfort cuisine that is pure, rich indulgence with lots of heavenly fat. This is Arizona luxury at its best, with surroundings to make every meal special. The gorgeous "cowboy" hacienda with its upscale dining room is tucked away at Paradise Valley's Hermosa Inn. Chef Poblete grows his own fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs, and… More >>
  • Best Margarita

    Old Town Tortilla Factory

    Old Town Tortilla Factory has a "connoisseurs guide" to its more than 100 premium tequilas. That's nifty. But even better is that we can upgrade our margaritas with any of their fancy tequilas for just an additional dollar. The custom option is just one of the things that makes Old Town's margaritas so good. Fresh-squeezed lime juice and the house standard… More >>
  • Best Place to Eat Cheap and Fast

    Bombay Grill

    Tired of paying too much for junk food? Head to Bombay Grill, where, Monday through Saturday, you can enjoy a marvelous, all-you-can-eat feast for just $6.95. The buffet makes it a quick operation to fill your plates, stuff yourself and get back on the road. Bombay Grill doesn't try to trick you with the typical all-you-can-eat spread of dozens of mediocre… More >>
  • Best Selection of Mexican Imports

    Mercado Mexico

    In the market for authentic Mexican furniture? No need to head for Nogales; just go south of the Tempe border, down Guadalupe way. Mercado Mexico quite possibly has the most comprehensive inventory of Mexican home furnishings in the Valley. Statues, fountains, furniture, dishware and, yes, piņatas are regularly imported from Guadalajara and Mexico City. And if your tastes run to the… More >>
  • Best Vietnamese Restaurant

    Pho Bang Restaurant

    Friend of pho? Then you'll find plenty to like in this Third World hideaway specializing in the namesake soup that's a staple of Vietnamese cuisine. The menu lists 15 different varieties -- huge, steaming bowls of broth chock-full of rice noodles, a variety of cuts of beef, bean sprouts, serrano chile, lime and fresh herbs. Move beyond soup and sample… More >>
  • Best Chinese Restaurant

    Gourmet House of Hong Kong

    We admit it: Chinese calligraphy is Greek to us. That said, that's the part of the menu we immediately go to when feasting at Gourmet House of Hong Kong. Sure, the funky, fluorescent-lighted, coffee-shop-style restaurant offers the usual "one from Column A, one from Column B" suspects -- moo goo gai pan, kung pao, teriyaki, curry and fried rice. But adventuresome… More >>
  • Best Contemporary Chinese Restaurant

    Flo's -- An Experience in Chinese Cuisine

    Forget about red lanterns, lacquered screens and laughing Buddhas. True to its adage, Flo's is "an experience in Chinese cuisine" -- and one unlike any other in town. Instead, this high-tech eatery turns the stereotyped notion of a Chinese restaurant on its head with gray varnished concrete floors, gray sponge-painted walls, rows of blond wood tables and an innovative menu that… More >>
  • Best Chips and Salsa

    Pica Poco Taco

    Some Mexican restaurants have great chips. Some have great salsa. The red and green neon lighted salsa bar at Pica Poco Taco has them both. The chips here are homemade, stacked high in a large bin atop the bar, where they're kept warm and replaced constantly through the day. They're thick and crisp, and customers are free to scoop to… More >>
  • Best Spanish Restaurant

    Altos Latin Bistro

    Altos Latin Bistro reminds us that authentic Spanish dining is a romance of flavors; a cuisine built on vibrant spices; a food celebrating the bounty of the Mediterranean. How do we know? Hey, it says so right on its decorative, leather-bound menu. Not that you'll have any doubts after delighting in this colorful eatery's mouthwatering tapas, paellas, crema de mariscos… More >>
  • Best Creole/Cajun Restaurant

    Justin's Ragin' Cajun Cuisine

    We like this spicy Cajun stuff. Like grilled shrimp dipped in rémoulade, an infernal mix of mustard, mayonnaise and horseradish. Or hot boiled Louisiana crayfish, bobbing with new potatoes and corn in fiery spiced broth. Other Cajun places around town may not believe how much we like the heat -- why else would they be so timid in turning it… More >>
  • Best Mexican Takeout

    El Norteņo

    Don't feel like cooking? El Norteņo has been a Valley takeout favorite for years. The small space is nothing fancy, but the food is. El Norteņo's kitchen cranks, even producing menudo on weekends. The staff has you fed morning to night: Breakfast on spicy, homemade chorizo-and-egg burros; lunch on green enchiladas, red tamales and tacos; and return to pick up… More >>
  • Best Authentic Mexican Restaurant

    San Diego Bay Restaurant

    Anyone who's spent time in Mexico knows that the food there isn't what we're used to seeing on our chain restaurant menus around town. All it takes is a four-hour drive to Puerto Peņasco to discover that authentic-style Mexican food is lighter, more crisply flavored than we might expect, and highly reliant on fresh herbs, spices and vegetables. There's also… More >>
  • Best Hideaway Eating Establishment

    Taco stand at Hacienda Mexican Restaurant

    Sometimes we crave a good meal but don't want to put up with overly chipper waiters, bright interiors and hostesses telling us to have a nice night. That's when we head to Hacienda Mexican Restaurant and the tiny taco stand hunkered in the shadows outside the kitchen door. The cart's an extension of the sit-down, full-menu restaurant, but operates only… More >>
  • Best Tacos

    Tacos de Juarez

    At Tacos de Juarez, the cooks stuff their soft tacos with generous portions of mild-mannered tripes de leche (chunks of beef small intestines), pork, cabeza (beef cheek), carne asada and chicken. Hard tacos -- slicked with just enough oil to leave the slightest sheen on our fingers -- are crunchy vessels for moist carne desebrada (shredded beef), chicken and carne… More >>
  • Best Designer Taco

    Golden Swan
    Hyatt Regency Scottsdale

    Ordinarily, the prospect of paying $12.50 for a single taco would be enough to send even the most ardent Mexican-food lover into, well, shell shock. But that's before beholding Golden Swan's majestic model, a saffron-infused corn tortilla about the size of a tea saucer. Presented on a bed of creamy corn spritzed with yellow and red pepper oil, the pricey gem… More >>
  • Best Refried Beans

    Rosa's Mexican Grill

    More than just a side dish, frijoles are the glue that holds a dish together. They're the heart of a truly good Mexican meal. What's an enchilada, after all, without soft, gloppy beans to mix into the cheesy sauce between bites? Fish can be the finest, but it soars to new levels when tucked into a bean-smeared tear of tortilla. And… More >>
  • Best New Restaurant

    Medizona

    This small enterprise features a constantly evolving repertoire of Mediterranean flavors that provide a mischievous zing to our Southwestern staples. Everything, from the crusty, baked-on-site breads nestled in a painted wooden box with ramekins of dips, to the signature prickly pear tiramisu, is a work of art. Ordering is always intriguing. Will it be baklava with nubbins of plump rabbit, fig,… More >>
  • Best Place to Take a Foodie

    Gregory's Grill

    So how do you entertain an out-of-town "foodie," that live-to-eat restaurant buff who wants to sample our city's edgiest cuisine? If you're lucky, you secure a reservation at Gregory's, where chef-owner Gregory Casale has put together a menu that takes world cuisine on a whirl. Ginger and lemongrass-cured albacore tuna (Thai) shares the pages with mussels vindaloo and naan bread (Indian),… More >>
  • Best Upscale Breakfast

    Bistro 24
    The Ritz-Carlton

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And it sure feels special when we lounge in Bistro 24's gold-and-green-striped silk booths, taking in country French accent pieces, sophisticated artwork and peeks at Valley glitterati sucking down $7.50 French press coffee. This is where the lords and leaders of our economic, political and social scene come for designer dishes like… More >>
  • Best Continental Breakfast

    Pierre's Pastry Cafe

    There's just something so civilized about a continental breakfast. It makes us want to toss on a long silk robe, tuck our tootsies into monogrammed slippers and snap open an Important International Newspaper to read while we nibble. Unfortunately, our bathrobe is coffee-stained terrycloth, our dog ate our slippers, and we don't subscribe to any papers without a comic section. So instead,… More >>
  • Best Place for a Grease-Soaked Hangover Breakfast

    Bill Johnson's Big Apple

    Your head feels like it's going to wrench itself violently from your body. Your stomach's threatening to eject its contents all over your shoes. You shouldn't have had that last drink. Now, you need grease. The kind of good, old-fashioned, fatty, dripping grease served at Bill Johnson's to coat your stomach. The Big Apple means big breakfasts, served country style in a… More >>
  • Best Sunday Brunch

    Marquesa
    Scottsdale Princess Resort

    Anyone can serve a huge Sunday brunch. It takes alarmingly little skill to toss together pedestrian scrambled eggs, table after table of mayo-based salads, endless wheels of cheeses, chicken done in by chafing dishes, and roast beast carved by sleepy resort staff. Most skilled chefs can easily fashion a high-quality, dainty Sunday brunch, too. A talented chef can impress with sumptuous… More >>
  • Best Reason to Visit the State Capitol

    Capitol Coffee Co. - CLOSED

    The area around the Arizona Capitol has always been pretty grim, and not just because it's populated half the year with the humorless mouth breathers we elect to represent us in the Legislature. The area is dense with government offices and run-down buildings, and there's never been so much as a decent cuppa joe within walking distance -- until now.… More >>
  • Best Place to Eat a Meal Stoned

    Richardson's Cuisine of New Mexico

    Booths shaped like couches, throw pillows provided for the lumbar-conscious and portions so large they'd stymie late stoner Chris Farley -- Richardson's is the place to be after an early-evening bong session with your buddies, wife, dog or whomever. Who needs the harsh light of reality when you can't even remember your PIN number? Richardson's dimly lighted adobe/ranch thing is… More >>
  • Best Downtown Lunch

    Coronado Cafe

    From the raspberry iced tea to the fresh-baked cookies, lunch at Coronado Cafe is the highlight of any workday. Nestled in an old house in a historic corner of downtown Phoenix, the restaurant features a breezy patio and cozy rooms decorated with the work of local artists. Diners are seated in old school chairs, but don't expect cafeteria fare. The menu… More >>
  • Best Lunch-Hour Getaway

    The Farm Kitchen

    Long to escape the ugly, overheated concrete of downtown Phoenix during your noon repast? Located just 10 minutes from downtown, this pecan grove-cum-country oasis is the perfect lunch-hour antidote to civilization. From September through June, The Farm Kitchen serves hearty sandwiches and delicious salads -- complete with bread and veggies made/grown on the premises -- in sturdy baskets, picnic-style. Lounge… More >>
  • Best Lunch Hideaway in an Industrial Park

    Crackers and Co. Cafe

    Location, location, location? Don't tell it to the owners of this culinary find, a swell little soup 'n' sandwich joint hidden away in the bowels of a Mesa industrial parkway. Despite its less-than-high-visibility locale, however, Crackers and Co. sees a lot more business than many of its high-profile competitors. Arrive early for lunch to avoid the crunch of regulars who congregate here… More >>
  • Best Place to Get Aroused While Waiting for Your Burro

    Dos Gringos

    The consummate scene for Scottsdale's partypoids, this Rocky Point-themed taco joint offers several walls of shame with hundreds of patron photos. Many depict that most peculiar of modern mating rituals known as the Body Shot, which is always more about the body than the shot. The bodies shown here belong to bronzed guys with "set clippers on two" haircuts and… More >>
  • Best Late-Night Alternative to Denny's

    Punky's Corner Cafe
    816 East Camelback
    602-265-6956

    Looking for the best place in town to start the morning after? Then end your evening at Punky's after-hours breakfast bar, Phoenix night owls' noshery of choice. Open from midnight to 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, the all-you-can-eat $6.95 buffet offers a staggering array of tempting breakfast fare: eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, biscuits and gravy and hash browns. The… More >>
  • Best Place to Eat Burgers and Shoot Pool at Lunch

    Harvey's Wineburger

    Why go to a bar in the middle of the day when you can't down a few brews because you have to head back to work? At Harvey's, the burgers and a quick game of pool are reason enough. Harvey's is small -- just a few booths, tables and a bar. Harvey's is dark -- most of the lighting comes from… More >>
  • Best School Meal

    The Desert Oasis
    Scottsdale Community College

    The Desert Oasis makes a mockery of the term "starving student." This restaurant showcases the skills of students enrolled in Scottsdale Community College's Culinary Arts Program, and it offers complete five-course meals for a mind-boggling bargain of just $17.50 per diner. So maybe the students aren't being treated to the multicourse feasts they prepare, but we'd bet there's a whole lot… More >>
  • Best Place to Take Your Harley to Dinner

    The Hideaway Grill

    Harley-Davidson owners are a special breed. After spending multi-thousands to buy their bikes, and many thousands more customizing their wheels into nothing short of motorized art, it's understandable that they wouldn't want to be separated from their bicycle babies. Even if it's more of a stripped-down warrior ride, a Harley becomes an extension of its owner on the road. Indeed,… More >>
  • Best Place to Get Sauced and Sloppy

    Dusty's BBQ

    This charmingly messy 'cue joint is doing things a bit differently. Step up to the counter, order your choice of meat or poultry -- even prime rib and trout -- in whatever quantity you want. As Dusty's menu says, "by the pound or by the slice, how much you order determines the price." The friendly gent behind the counter hacks off your… More >>
  • Best Place to Have Dinner Pushed Through the Wall

    Hart & Soul

    Normally, having your meal slid through a small opening in the wall isn't a good thing. It reminds us of a brief time when we had a little, shall we say, less liberty than we do now. Of course, it was all a big misunderstanding, and as far as we know, our records were wiped clean years ago. Still, there's… More >>
  • Best Place to Expect the Unexpected

    Chary's Place

    Downtown dining. What's it mean to you? Sports bars galore? Coffee shops? Nondescript pizza parlors and burger joints? How about top-quality, inexpensive Cuban chow? Chary's is something special, situated unexpectedly in what's otherwise pretty much a culinary no man's land. From the lighthouse mural called Castillo del Morro La Habana Cuba that's painted on the west side of the building… More >>
  • Best Room With a View

    Wrigley Mansion

    Must be nice to be rich. We've never gotten a 50th wedding anniversary gift like the one Ada Wrigley received from her husband, William, back in 1929. For his beloved bride, the chewing-gum magnate put a bow on a $1.2 million mansion, perched high atop a hill overlooking the Arizona Biltmore. But we can pretend we're well-off, since current owner Geordie… More >>
  • Best Place to Eat If You're Starting a Diet Tomorrow

    Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe

    Call it the dieter's bachelor party. The choice of where to indulge in a final meal before bowing to Jenny Craig is simple: Mrs. White's. There's no need to get gourmet with descriptions here -- just imagine the best-ever Southern fried chicken, pork chops, smothered chicken, chicken and dumplings, chicken-fried steak and fried fish ever to bless your tongue. Picture… More >>
  • Best Place to Step Back in Time

    Somewhere in Time Tea Room

    It's the millennium. Babies know how to use computers. Pets have cell phones. Great-grandmothers surf the Net. Sometimes it all seems so crazy. When we need an escape, we disappear into Somewhere in Time. The clock has stopped in this quaint shop, with creaking hardwood floors, the scent of roses in the air, and a comforting jumble of Victorian furniture,… More >>
  • Best Romantic Restaurant

    Convivo

    For some folks, a romantic restaurant means being insulated from the world, tucked in a tiny space, preferably sitting in the dark. That's all well and good, but we can get that at home, especially when we don't pay our APS bill. No, for us, romance thrives in a little more open setting, where we can show off the love of… More >>
  • Best Old Arizona Charm

    House of Tricks

    Newcomers may find it hard to believe, but there once was a time when the Valley offered more than stucco-wrapped pink houses with red-tile roofs. It's true. Once upon a time, we had a lovely landscape of eclectic, Victorian-inspired homes. You can still see one of those relics, a charming, 1920s cottage that now houses some of the Valley's most satisfying… More >>
  • Best Place to Romance Your Lover

    T. Cook's at the Royal Palms Hotel

    Just walking through the Royal Palms makes us swoon. Built around a 1929 Mediterranean-style mansion, this grand property flourishes with exotic palms, lush shrubs, specimen trees, cactuses and masses of flowers. T. Cook's is set to the back of an intimate, fountain-strewn courtyard, and decorated with breathtaking antiques. But what grabs our attention, even more so than the spectacular view… More >>
  • Best Place to Break Up With Your Lover

    The Melting Pot

    We, of course, are so universally adored that no one would ever consider dumping us. But should someone ever do us wrong, prompting us to end a relationship in a dramatic fashion, we'll be doing it at the Melting Pot. The setting is discreet -- there's even a private dining table closed off with velvet curtains -- and the fondue… More >>
  • Best Place to Take Visitors

    Crazy Ed's Satisfied Frog - CLOSED

    First-time visitors to Arizona give us a chance to go to some of those slightly cheesy places we secretly love but never get to on our own. The Satisfied Frog is one of those; it's an outright hoot, and it gives our guests that warm, Western welcome they're expecting. It's comfy, casual -- the kind of place where you could… More >>
  • Best Place to Have Your Portrait Painted While Eating Dinner

    Beeloe's Cafe & Underground Bar

    Forget those goofy Polaroid photos many tourist restaurants try to push on you. For a true memoir of a fun evening out, nothing beats the original portraits created by Beeloe's "resident" artists. In this funky restaurant/art gallery, local artists and craftspeople create their unique pieces amid the din of raucous diners and live jazz, seven nights a week. Their works are… More >>
  • Best Place to Eat After Working Out

    Fitness Cafe
    Plaza Shopping Center

    Anthony Angelini operates his cafe under the quaint premise that all of us are potential hunks, if we will just buckle down. Well, a guy can dream. Still, with his impressive pecs and other musculature, Anthony himself looks like he's been eating right and lifting major weights for years. We'll stick with the eats part, and as for exercise, we'll… More >>
  • Best Place to Eat at the Bar

    McCormick & Schmick's - CLOSED

    We love a bargain. We love beer. We love bars. And we love burgers. So it makes sense that we're at our happiest when we're perched on a stool in the bar at McCormick & Schmick's. This upscale place is known for its fresh seafood, with diners paying upward of $25 for a nice, aquatic entree. Good enough, but we won't… More >>
  • Best Chain Restaurant

    Roy's Pacific Rim Cuisine

    Most people crave consistency. They seek out the safety of sameness. They want to know that no matter where they go, they haven't really left home. That in part explains the incredible popularity of chain restaurants. It's comforting to know that dinner at a chain will be the same whether you're in New York, Alaska, Turkey or Tokyo. When the experience… More >>
  • Best Place to Watch First Wives and Lounge Lizards

    The Velvet Room

    Go to this sultry joint for the people-watching -- parades of twentysomething, swing-dancing poseurs rubbing shoulders with aging lounge lizards in crazy-wide lapels. Both are perfectly in style with the 1940s and "Golden Age of Jazz" theme at this funky supper club. The kids, some decked out in sporty hats and coats, swing to the live sounds of Alice Tatum and… More >>
  • Best Place to Catch a Wave

    Aloha Kitchen

    Sometimes, we're surfing for a fast, simple, inexpensive supper. That's when we say "Aloha!" to the Hawaiian-themed kitchen of the same name. Short of the slow-roasted sow you'll find at a South Pacific luau, there's nothing better than the luscious Kalua pig served here -- tender, subdued and tossed with steamed cabbage. Breaded fish fillet and charbroiled salmon are definitely fast-food… More >>
  • Best Place for Old-Fashioned Tableside Preparation

    Le Sans Souci

    Sans souci is French for "without a care." That may be true for us, the lucky diners relaxing in this elegant French chateau, but not for the servers concentrating on preparing our elaborate meals right next to our tables. These professionals, under the watchful eye of legendary Valley restaurateur Louis Germaine, are dedicated to making sure every tableside trick results in… More >>
  • Best New Arizona Charm

    Rancho Pinot Grill

    It's a kinder, gentler Arizona these days, where upscale restaurants don't limit themselves to impressing us with exotica from faraway lands. The new fine dining experience celebrates the products born and raised in our own Valley of the Sun. Chefs like Rancho Pinot's Chrysa Kaufman insist on using locally grown or raised organic produce, eggs and dairy products as much as… More >>
  • Best Drive-Through Gourmet Food

    Latino Express

    Can't face another drive-through meal of burger and fries? No problem. Latino Express comes to your rescue with gourmet, South American treats created by local chef Erasmo "Razz" Kamnitzer, owner of the upscale Razz's in Scottsdale. Housed in a former Jack in the Box, the drive-through accommodates gourmet motorists with a decidedly un-fast-food menu featuring the likes of grilled ostrich,… More >>
  • Best Appetizers

    Ridge Cafe

    The status of appetizers has changed in American restaurants. It used to be that most starters were mild-mannered offerings, designed to keep diners quiet while the kitchen had time to work on the main event. Appetizers used to be little more than tossed salad, soup, deep-fried veggies and, in a nice place, perhaps a shrimp cocktail. Today, in good restaurants, appetizers… More >>
  • Best Frozen Custard

    Ritter's Frozen Custard

    It's all a matter of priorities. Do you want to live 90 years eating Dairy Queen, or 40 years eating Ritter's? When given the choice to Live (fat) Free or Die, we and our Dionysian fat friends invariably choose the latter. Ritter's gourmet custard (glorified ice cream) is sumptuous, voluptuous and fat on rich flavor. This strangely retro little malt… More >>
  • Best Couscous

    Bravo Bistro

    All couscous is not created equal. Some are achingly dry, like herby dust. Some are sadly sodden, like seasoned moss. Some, like the kind served at Bravo Bistro, are spectacular. Bravo's couscous is Moroccan, which means it's larger and moister than the tiny seffa variety served around town. These caper-size beauties pop in the mouths, exploding with wholesome, grainy goodness. Bravo… More >>
  • Best Place for a Twilight Drink

    The patio at Persimmon Bar & Grille
    Anthem Golf and Country Club

    It's a hefty drive -- some 35 miles north of downtown Phoenix -- and there's not a lot to look at on the lonely stretch of highway leading to this massive master-planned community in the middle of nowhere. But that's exactly what makes the final destination so spectacular. Once parked on the patio at Persimmon, there's nothing to compete with the… More >>
  • Best New York-Style Pizza

    Pizzafarro's

    Why are pizzas in New York so insanely large? It's not like there's a lot of spare room in this crowded city. The typical Gotham City pie is so immense that even someone the size of the Statue of Liberty would have difficulty scarfing down more than a few slices. But the real head-scratcher is why many of the pizzas found… More >>
  • Best Midnight Snack

    Barmouche

    At a time of night when other restaurants along Camelback's gourmet row have long since rolled up the kitchen, Barmouche sizzles with its first-rate, creative French cuisine. Midnight munchies include portobello lasagna with made-on-site mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, goat cheese and spinach, an 18-ounce New York sirloin with choice of sides (Belgian frites and sweet-pea mashed potatoes are sublime) and a… More >>
  • Best Macho Pizza

    Western Pizza

    This primo pie is not for wimps. The large pie (18 inches) is about two and a half inches thick, and weighs almost 20 pounds. The big and tall men among us may be able to wrestle the huge slice into their mouths, but the rest of us are forced to use utensils to avoid muscle strain in our elbows. At… More >>
  • Best Gyro

    Super Gyros

    After eating too many fair-to-middling versions of this Greek standard to remember, we were inclined to agree with Tina Turner when she sang. "We don't need another gyro." Or something like that. Of course, that was before we discovered the Hellenic heroes served up at Super Gyros. A two-handed feast of Olympian proportions, the generous mound of pressed lamb and beef… More >>
  • Best Smoked Salmon Appetizer

    Houston's Restaurant - CLOSED

    Last year, Houston's unceremoniously removed its signature smoked salmon appetizer from the menu for a trial period. The reaction from customers was not a pretty thing. Folks whined and ranted to the waiters. They e-mailed nasty-grams to the corporate powers that be. Some even threatened to boycott the restaurant. They mourned the loss of the silky, melt-in-your-mouth fish flesh Houston's… More >>
  • Best Sweet Potato Pie

    Chez Bubba's

    Got a hankerin' for a real slice of sweet potato pie? Hightail it down to this cozy Cajun hole-in-the-wall where Chef Bubba Stephenson bakes a pie fit for Queen Ida herself. Bubba lines a delicate homemade pie crust with a hearty, spicy filling made from fresh, not canned, sweet potatoes. Each generous slice (about a quarter of a pie) is… More >>
  • Best Southern Greens

    Marcella's Chicken & Fish
    6339 East Greenway Road, Scottsdale
    480-367-9144

    Mention "greens" in Scottsdale and most people will think you're talking about a golf course. But that was before Marcella's opened for business, dishing out the verdant veggies that are a hallmark of any soul food menu. Kale, cabbage or collard, they're all prepared essentially the same way. Steamed with bacon or ham hocks until soft and tender, the leafy treats… More >>
  • Best Barbecue

    Honey Bear's BBQ

    Honey Bear's owners Mark Smith and Gary Clark started cooking their mouth-watering barbecue out of their apartment almost two decades ago, based on recipes from their grandmother. Later, they moved to their dimly lighted, no-frills digs on Van Buren. A few years back, success led them to open a new location on Central Avenue. Today, their Tennessee-style barbecue continues to draw… More >>
  • Best Barbecue Beans

    Joe's Real Barbecue

    This is the Southwest. How could we not honor the region's unofficial steak-house side dish? Particularly when they're as seductive as the barbecue pit beauties served at Joe's? Forget those canned baked beans of backyard weenie roasts of yore. This is a killer combination uniting kidney, lima and navy legumes thickened with shards of cooked-on-site sausage, chicken and beef. They're… More >>
  • Best Place for Coffee and Dessert Under the Stars

    Coffee Talk

    You can grab an after-dinner latte and biscotti just about anywhere these days. But you'll gladly drive past strip mall coffeeterias and shopping center java joints to relax in this charming little spot. Located just north of Main Street in downtown Mesa, its sparkling white decorative lights will lure you in. A trellis, framed by fragrant vines and trees, leads… More >>
  • Best Use of Batter

    Texaz Grill

    You haven't eaten chicken-fried steak until you've had it here at this 15-year-old bastion of beef 'n' batter. Smothered in thick, white gravy, this pair of pounded beef patties crackles with crunchy, deep-fried cholesterol nirvana. The chicken-fried chicken is also incredible, as are several other enormously tasty breaded-and-fried items. First-time visitors won't want to miss the wall of chili (hundreds… More >>
  • Best Soup

    Arizona Bread Company

    Good soup is more than a meal; it's comfort. When the Soup Doctor prepares it, it cures whatever ails you, too. The Soup Doctor is Gilles Desrochers, a wild-haired, rumpled chef who makes some of the most magical soups (72 homemade varieties) we've had the pleasure of slurping. That's him behind the counter, chopping garden loads of fresh vegetables that… More >>
  • Best Fry Bread

    Angelina's Mexican Food Restaurant
    Inside SwapMart

    Fry bread is a part of Arizona's heritage, a symbol of Indian intertribal unity. Unfortunately, however, this obscenely caloric totem is usually found only at state and county fairs. Or at least that used to be the case before this fry bread fortress pitched tent inside the west Valley's SwapMart. Angelina's makes pouf-perfect fry bread from a recipe handed down… More >>
  • Best Private Party Room

    Dick's Hideaway

    To say that this private party room is a little hole in the wall is entirely accurate. It's hidden, in fact, behind a door set inconspicuously into the paneled wood wall of the tiny bar called Dick's Hideaway. There's no sign anywhere -- not even outside, for the bar itself. You've just got to know where to look. The search is… More >>
  • Best Rotisserie Chicken

    Hearty Hen Cafe

    Hearty Hen Cafe boasts that it serves home-cooked meals. Perhaps, if your home includes a huge brick oven, speared by gleaming steel rotisserie wands stacked with a dozen twirling chickens over a roaring, gas-fed fire. The birds are lightly rubbed with paprika and spices, then roasted in their glass-fronted coffin for up to three and a half hours. The fat… More >>
  • Best Potato Salad

    Sabuddy Israeli Restaurant

    Being an Israeli restaurant, this exceedingly cool little place features, logically enough, a variety of European dishes rethought in Middle Eastern terms. It's very likely the only place in town where you can find schnitzel and falafel on the same menu. You can also find our favorite riff on the picnic lunch staple: Russian-style, fresh and zingy, loaded with carrots,… More >>
  • Best Private Dining Room, Upscale

    The Praying Monk
    The Phoenician

    It's so hard to get good help. Sometimes the serfs at our castle revolt against us, and refuse to cater the elaborate dinner parties we like to throw. How gauche. No matter, we've got a back-up with the ultra-luxe private dining room we can reserve at the Phoenician resort. Happily, it looks just like a castle, replete with Renaissance-era decor, barrel-vaulted… More >>
  • Best Vegetables

    Quiessence Culinary Center

    One of our favorite Lost in Space episodes of all time is when Dr. Smith is turned into a stalk of celery by an unfriendly planet dweller. When his space shipmates come to his rescue, he demurs, waxing on how lovely it is to be a vegetable -- "so cool, so green." After tasting the produce of Quiessence chef-farmer Hallie Harron,… More >>
  • Best Domestic Liver

    Don & Charlie's

    Let others worry about cholesterol and such: We want rich, satisfying foods. We want to line our gullets with the good stuff. The higher the fat, the better. That makes Don & Charlie's pâté a winner in our world. The fact that it's served free as a prelude to a gut-busting steak dinner including salad, potatoes and all the bread we… More >>
  • Best Pasta

    Il Pescatore

    We almost broke down in tears when, at a recent food show, we saw vendors hawking the "newest trend in spaghetti for upscale restaurants seeking convenience" -- premade, precooked gourmet pasta that's vacuum-packed and ready to serve after two minutes in the microwave. It's reassuring to know that any salesman trying to push these pseudo-pasta products on the folks at Il… More >>
  • Best Sandwiches

    D'Atri's Cinema Paradiso

    A hero may be nothing but a sandwich, but at D'Atri's Cinema Paradiso, a sandwich is nothing short of a feast. With her compact menu of eight hot sandwiches, bubbly owner/TV personality Jan D'Atri has elevated a simple meal to an art form. How else to describe massive monuments of D'Atri's own Italian sausage, roasted chicken breast, marinated steak and more,… More >>
  • Best Place to Tell Mom and Dad You're Having a Love Child

    Romano's Macaroni Grill

    This category reminds us of an old schoolyard gag: Q: Are you in favor of matrimony? A: Only with cheese. But seriously, ladies, when it comes time to tell the folks you're in the family way without the benefit of wedlock, we can't think of a better place to bite the bullet than this clamorous pasta palace. With dishes clanking, an opera singer wailing… More >>
  • Best Brisket Sandwich

    Miracle Mile Delicatessen

    Where's the brisket? In the Valley, at Miracle Mile Deli. A Valley tradition since 1949, Miracle Mile understands the importance of slow cooking for optimum flavor -- and of lightning-fast service when the crowds arrive. By the time the doors open for lunch in this '60s-style deli, the brisket meat has been simmering for hours in its own juices. It's been sliced… More >>
  • Best Aardvark Pot Pie

    Mary Richardson's Country Pot Pies

    Well, okay, we haven't actually tasted the aardvark. It's right there on the menu, though, under "Special Order Pot Pies": "Aardvark (in season)." The man behind the counter of this eccentric little joint in an East Indian School strip mall, who claims the Mary R. of the name as "me sainted mother," will only smile coyly when asked when aardvark… More >>
  • Best Meatball Sandwich

    Pasta Brioni

    There are sandwiches, and then there are sandwiches. And then there's Pasta Brioni's meatball-and-bread concoction, which, while billed as a sandwich, is actually an entire meal that just happens to be tucked into a roll. The sandwich is huge, of course. But it's a gentle giant, showcasing the old-fashioned Italian cooking that's largely disappeared in the era of cheese-stuffed pizza… More >>
  • Best-Kept Restaurant Secret

    Palm Court
    Scottsdale Conference Resort

    The Palm Court has been around for years, quietly catering to a dedicated clientele of conference and convention guests, plus savvy business lunchers who know a good thing when they see it. It's a little worn around the edges, as any grand old dame is wont to be. But the lady's got more life than most folks may realize. Without abandoning… More >>
  • Best Black Bean Soup

    Havana Cafe - CLOSED

    Fidel Castro-style fatigues, bad hangovers from Bacardi rum, Elián Gonzalez -- these are a few of our favorite Cuban things. But none can hold a candle to good Cuban black bean soup, a Caribbean classic raised to a memorable art form by Havana Cafe. Originally hailing from Havana themselves, cafe owners B.J. and Gilbert Hernandez must be genetically predisposed to… More >>
  • Best Breakfast

    The Farm House

    Farmers used to start their days in a big way. Stacks of pancakes as high as a silo. Backhoe loads of bacon. Troughs full of toast, spread thick with jam, butter and cheese. Eggs, ham, waffles. Of course, nowadays even farmers can't afford to eat like that every day, much less we couch potatoes. But when we're feeling more than peckish… More >>
  • Best Cheese Steak

    Uncle Sam's

    The actual home of this Philly fave is the City of Brotherly Love. But here in the Valley, the local cheese steak fraternity pledges allegiance to Uncle Sam's. The red-white-and-blue sandwich shop never lets us down, no matter the time of day, no matter how busy. And it gets very, very busy as soon as the doors open, until every seat… More >>
  • Best Turkey Sandwich

    Arcadia Farms

    Arcadia Farms likes to promote itself as the place for "ladies who lunch." No argument there -- if the ladies in question happen to eat like lumberjacks. But even an ax-swinger with XY chromosomes is going to have his work cut out for him with the Farms' hefty turkey sandwich. Delectable, thick slabs of real, Thanksgiving-style roasted turkey breast (raised in… More >>
  • Best Italian Beef Sandwich

    Luke's

    The DelPrincipe family first introduced its Italian beef recipe back in 1968, at a little store in Chicago. Fortunately for us, some of the family decided to escape the snow and set up shop in the Valley. Today, the Phoenix and Tempe locations are run by different family members, with friendly, often vocal competition between themselves to be better than… More >>
  • Best Burger

    The Chuck Box

    There are plenty of places around town that make fancy hamburgers. They stuff them with exotic cheeses, lay them on designer buns and present highfalutin condiments like crushed mustard seed, garlic-infused mayonnaise and wasabi ketchup. That's all well and good, but we prefer a far simpler approach to America's favorite sandwich -- an uncomplicated serving of quality ground beef, plopped on… More >>
  • Best Iced Tea

    The Coffee Plantation
    Biltmore Fashion Park - CLOSED

    If The Sound of Music had been set in Phoenix instead of Austria, Rodgers and Hammerstein would surely have scuttled the "a drink with jam and bread" lyric in favor of "ti -- a drink that's filled with ice." And for our do-re-mi, you won't find a better glass of the ubiquitous chilled brew than, ironically, at a place best known… More >>
  • Best Cheesecake

    Christopher's Fermier Brasserie

    Under most circumstances, "cheesy" is usually a pejorative term. But when applied to a description of the cheesecake at Christopher's, it's the highest praise possible. The rival of any similar dessert in its New York deli homeland, this model is decadence on a plate -- huge, delectably creamy and, of course, obscenely caloric. There are no superfluous toppings here, just a sprinkle… More >>
  • Best Desserts

    Galileo Bread Emporium

    Chef-owner Giovanni Scorzo studied baking in Alassio near Genoa, Italy. He continues his craft in this magical little bakery tucked next to his award-winning restaurant Lecabaffi. Everything here is to diet for, with sinfully rich tiramisu, zuppa inglese, cannoli, almond puff pastry, fruit tarts, and budino di riso (butter pastry topped with rice pudding; it makes our toes curl). We could… More >>
  • Best Mushroom Dish

    Morton's of Chicago

    The Chinese have long considered mushrooms to be aphrodisiacs. After tasting the seductive 'shrooms at Morton's, you may well agree. Morton's takes an exotic blend of crimini, oyster, shiitake and portobello mushrooms, sautés them in a heady garlic herb butter, and serves them steaming in a ceramic crock. We get high just off the aroma, and melt when the mushrooms… More >>
  • Best Garlic Dish

    Garlic Custard at Cafe Terra Cotta

    Garlic custard?! Leave it Chef Donna Nordin to come up with something as innovative as this mystical, addictive flan. Impossibly silky, this breathtaking use of the stinking rose is abloom with mellow garlic. Served warm, the custard wobbles and shimmers as you poke it with your fork, then ladle great smears on thick, chewy pieces of the jalapeņo cheese bread… More >>
  • Best Antipasto

    Va Bene Ristorante Italiano

    If you're sneaking off for an intimate dinner with someone you're seeing on the sly, under no circumstances should you order the antipasto platter at Va Bene Ristorante Italiano. The minute your server ferries the gigantic appetizer platter out of the kitchen, every eye in the house will be on the table where you're sitting with your no-longer-inconspicuous other. An unbelievable… More >>
  • Best Frogs' Legs

    Bistro Provence

    The disturbing image of frogs on crutches won't go away, even years after seeing Kermit battle an evil fast-food frog-leg czar in the original Muppet movie. The vision is resurrected at Bistro Provence, which serves the legs intact, showing knobby knees and all. It takes just one bite, however, to get over it. The amphibian flesh is firm, vaguely sweet… More >>
  • Best Real Arizona Buffalo

    The Arizona Kitchen
    The Wigwam Resort - CLOSED

    A long time ago, buffalo roamed the vast prairies of the West. Until someone killed most of them. Today, most people have to see their buffalo at the zoo. But you can also find the beefy beast on the menu at the Arizona Kitchen, served in delicious glory. This buffalo is so good, it almost makes you understand why entire herds… More >>
  • Best Hummus

    ZakeE Mediterranean Eatery

    The Middle East is famous for its soothing dips, and ZakeE serves its hummus with creamy finesse. Owner Sal Alqardahji takes pride in this dish, and it shows in every silky bite of garbanzo beans, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and tahini (sesame seed paste), served with pita bread scoops. ZakeE means "very delicious" in Arabic, Alqardahji tells us. We've got to… More >>
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