Food & Drink

  • 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… More >>
  • Best Superhero Restaurant

    Cafe ah Pwah

    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… More >>
  • Best Steak House

    The Grill

    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… More >>
  • Best Cowboy Steak House

    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… More >>
  • Best Cult Restaurant

    The Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association Vegetarian House

    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.… More >>
  • Best Vegetarian Restaurant

    Desert Greens Cafe

    Desert Greens' menu insists that it creates "gourmet culinary creations for your heart and soul." We believe them. Who'd have thought that the dread term "vegetarian" (or, scarier, "vegan") could be so satisfying? We'd eat this stuff even if it weren't good for us. Oh, the herb polenta grilled golden brown on a bed of brown rice with steamed vegetables and… More >>
  • Best Gourmet Restaurant

    Gregory's World Bistro

    Gourmet is much more than complicated, expensive food. It's a symphony of spectacular ingredients, carefully selected and matched for a "wow, what is this gorgeous thing" dish. It's a compound effect, where each course builds on another, like rising drama of theater. That having some knowledge of its workings can be used to impress the hell out of friends and… More >>
  • Best French Restaurant

    Christopher's Fermier Brasserie

    Christopher's has racked up the awards since opening in 1998 (James Beard, even!). The bistro is a little lower-profile these days, but still a model for magical, traditional, ooh-la-la-inspiring French cuisine. Adding flair is a huge collection of wines, thoughtfully paired with dishes and available for tastings. Most dishes are prepared in a wood-burning oven, the better to show off their… More >>
  • Best Italian Restaurant

    Acqua e Sale

    The only thing we've got more of than so-so Italian restaurants in this town is mediocre Mexican. Yet until someone can come up with the incredible Italian cuisine that is the baby of Acqua e Sale owner Daniel Malventano, we're just chalking up those other Italian places as average shops hawking everyday pizza, pasta and stuff we've seen a thousand… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Italian Restaurant

    La Famiglia

    Every city needs a little pizza and pasta place to call its own -- a hole in the wall where people can cozy up with a masterful meatball, a magical marinara, a perfect penne, a ravishing ravioli, a stunning Sicilian sausage pie. Friendly, robust conversation with the owners and with fellow customers just adds to the flavors. Or we can… More >>
  • Best Thai Restaurant

    Touch of Thai

    Thai food is all about dynamic flavors -- spice, seasonings, sizzle. And Touch of Thai puts much more than just a touch of that into its dishes. This place is nuts for the fiery chile peppers, but in a very, very good way. The taste always shines through its veil of flame. We're not looking for apologies, just more food, when… More >>
  • 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… More >>
  • Best Vietnamese Restaurant

    Pho Bang

    We're nothing if not completely dedicated to preserving the integrity of our Best of Phoenix picks. Day in and day out, we're pounding the streets, scouting, sampling, checking once and checking twice to make sure our selections are, indeed, the very best. Consider Pho Bang. We check on this Vietnamese restaurant, oh, about 50 times a year. And we've never,… More >>
  • Best Japanese Restaurant

    Sushi on Shea

    There are only, like, a gazillion Japanese restaurants in the Valley these days. But as many new, exciting places open up, we find ourselves returning each time to Sushi on Shea. We've been darkening its doors since it first opened in 1994, and have yet to find anything but a perfect experience. Under the direction of chef Fred Yamada, the energetic… More >>
  • Best Korean Restaurant

    Tabletop Grill & Sushi - CLOSED

    We love taking newbies to Korean restaurants. It's so fun to casually mention that Korean cuisine contains pickles. Then to watch our guests' eyes bug out when, like at Tabletop, some 13 little plates arrive, each bearing a different type of vegetable, marinated and spiced to varying heat levels (ranging from mild puckery to call the fire department). At Tabletop, the… More >>
  • Best Indian Restaurant

    Maharaja Palace

    If a food has thrived for some 5,000 years like Indian cuisine has, we've got to believe there's something pretty special about it. For proof, all we have to do is stop in at Maharaja Palace, home to the Valley's most exciting display of what makes Indian so interesting. Here, we find how sublime the food can be, involving an… More >>
  • Best New Restaurant

    Atlas Bistro

    The past 12 months have seen the introduction of not just one incredible destination, but several. What happened? Did serious chefs finally wake up and realize how many Valley folks have lots of cash to spend on their evenings out (not us, but we've heard of such people)? For once, it was hard to choose the best new restaurant. Yet there's… More >>
  • Best New American Restaurant

    House of Tricks

    What do we love best about House of Tricks? It must be the setting, a small 1920s cottage with just 12 tables and an old river rock fireplace. Or maybe it's the patio, feeling like someone's front porch under a canopy of grapevines. Even as the restaurant has grown -- the property now includes a 1903 brick and adobe house… More >>
  • Best Mediterranean Restaurant


    We're not the only ones enchanted with this amazing experience -- the resort's signature restaurant is rated AAA Five Diamond and Mobil Four Star. The decor alone is mouth-watering, rich in the colors of the Mediterranean region with polished marble, soft leather and 16th- and 17th-century Spanish Colonial antiques and paintings. A garden patio with a fireplace overlooking the McDowell… More >>
  • Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

    Sabuddy Israeli Restaurant

    Sabuddy is well-versed in the art of Middle Eastern cooking. There's a little bit of everything European on this lengthy menu -- baba ghanouj, chicken liver pâté, Russian potato salad, matbuha (North African tomato salad), shish kebabs, schnitzel and goulash. No matter what we order, we know it'll arrive fresh, homemade, hearty and impossibly cheap. Soups are particularly mesmerizing, the lentil… More >>
  • Best Seafood Restaurant

    C-Fu Gourmet

    In Manhattan's or San Francisco's Chinatown, our criterion for selecting a seafood restaurant is simple. It must have live fish, and lots of it, on display. While the Valley lacks a Chinatown, we've found the fresh fish alive and swimming at C-Fu. The choices change with the seasons, but we can usually count on shrimp, Dungeness crab, lobster, oyster, tilapia,… More >>
  • Best Old Valley Charm

    El Chorro Lodge

    In this town, "old" is anything predating the '80s. But when we say old, we mean ancient. Such as the heritage of El Chorro, a local landmark since 1937. Very little has changed over the years at this adobe building, formerly Judson School for Girls and later a restaurant frequented by such celebrities as Clark Gable and Milton Berle. Its… More >>
  • Best New Valley Charm

    Paisley Violin - CLOSED

    It was just seven years ago that downtown Phoenix welcomed its first McDonald's. Given the frenzy stirred up by the media, we must have thought we'd finally joined the ranks of downtown Manhattan or Los Angeles. How embarrassing. Then, last year, there came Paisley Violin. And finally, we wiped the sleep from our ennuied eyes and thought, Yes! Phoenix truly… More >>
  • Best Fusion Restaurant

    Eddie Matney's

    Back in the '80s, fusion cuisine was the hottest thing around. Folks marveled over this mix-and-match approach to cooking. It was like a Reese's peanut butter cup commercial -- hey, your foie gras got in my kung pao! Today, nobody keeps the fad as fresh as Eddie Matney's, with a menu that's all over the map with its touches of the… More >>
  • Best Southwestern Restaurant


    For a place that's about as Southwestern as they come, the Valley sure doesn't have a lot in the way of Southwestern cuisine. Yet when we've got Southwestern along the lines of Medizona, we don't really need any more restaurants than this one. Medizona is where we send every single visitor we know, so proud we are to show off… More >>
  • Best Restaurant To Impress A Client

    The Latilla Room

    Just tell that client -- the one who controls whether you make your mortgage -- that you're taking him or her to your favorite little hole in the wall. Actually, it's more like a hole-in-the-rock, tucked into the Sonoran Desert foothills that make up the fabulous Boulders resort, surrounded by the 12-million-year-old granite boulder formations that dot the landscape. The restaurant's… More >>
  • Best Patio Dining

    The Farm Kitchen

    When we want to unwind, we head to south Phoenix and park our posteriors at the Farm Kitchen, a bucolic hideaway that operates first as an organic farm, second as a restaurant celebrating the great outdoors. After passing through the ordering line, we sprawl in the rosy sun on a lawn dotted with picnic tables, on a brick patio crisscrossed… More >>
  • Best Place To Hide In The Dark At Lunch

    Bosnian Atmosphere Cafe

    When it's time to escape to another world, there's no finer midday dark retreat than Bosnian Atmosphere Cafe. There's nothing fancy here, and we're happy to lounge on scuffed purple fabric chairs, taking it slow under wobbly ceiling fans. The windows are blacked out; we first guessed it was a restaurant because of the daily "specials" sign outside (in Bosnian,… More >>
  • Best Place To Go In De-Nile

    Blue Nile Cafe - CLOSED

    Sometimes we enjoy escaping daily craziness to this charming little cafe stuffing ourselves with delightful kik alitcha (warm yellow split peas simmered in a mild sauce of onion, herbs and spices), and tebbs (tender sautéed chopped beef in a sauce flavored with onion, tomatoes, green chile, seasoned butter and spices). We choose to sit in the traditional Ethiopian section of the… More >>
  • Best Place To Make An Ass Of Yourself

    Bare Buns Bistro

    Yes, folks, it's Arizona's first and only nudist restaurant, parked, appropriately enough, in a nudist resort. Here, bellying up to the bar takes on a new meaning, with men, women, and even children lounging for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the altogether. Chair seats are fabric, but out of courtesy and sanitation, guests are required to park themselves on personal… More >>
  • Best Cheap Date


    We're the first to admit that dating sucks. Usually it's a waste of time; almost always it's a waste of money when we find out the person across the table from us at dinner should have warned us he or she was a vegetable, not a vegetarian. There are several reasons we like to test our potential partners with a… More >>
  • Best Place To Satisfy Ilks Like Elk

    Cowboy Ciao

    Like all our great Valley restaurants, Cowboy Ciao changes its menu on a regular basis, all the better to keep us interested in its creative cuisine: modern American food influenced by the flavors of Italy, the Southwest and Mexico. But we can always count on something special, manly and cowboy charming. Sometimes it's pesto-crusted elk loin, the strip grilled medium… More >>
  • Best Kids' Meal

    Pei Wei

    Why anyone would want to ruin an evening out by bringing along screaming little monsters who appreciate good food only if they can throw it, we'll never know. Haven't these people heard of baby sitters, or at least closets with locks? Which is why, if kids must be part of the equation, we appreciate Pei Wei. It's already deafeningly loud, so… More >>
  • Best 24-Hour Restaurant

    Hap's Real Pit BBQ

    We've been fans of Hap's slow-smoked 'cue for more than a decade, since the place started as a cart in front of a family car dealership in south Phoenix (the smoker was the frame from an old GMC truck). This has been a long love affair for us, drawn in by meat that's meltingly tender. This comes from long slow… More >>
  • Best Place To Learn German

    Shar's Bosch Kitchen Center

    Not the language, but the cuisine. Sure, we could be cynical and say that the classes are basically infomercials to promote Bosch kitchen appliances. But who cares? The seminars are free (periodically there's a small fee, like $5), and the information is valuable. Their lesson plans span the globe. There might be an evening in Vienna, with Wiener schnitzel, spaetzle… More >>
  • Best Place To Buy Aardvark To Zebra

    Daniel's Prime Meats & Seafood

    Who wants to eat hamburger every day? There's a big, exciting world of exotic animals out there, just begging to become part of our dinner. Antelope, rattlesnake, alligator, zebra and lion we've heard of people eating before, but since when did species like giraffe, beaver and kangaroo become popular? Leave it to game cravers to get creative -- owners Daniel… More >>
  • Best Classy Convenience Store

    Grocery Station/La Crème Deli

    We wish Circle K could catch up with the times. Sure, once we convenience shoppers were a crowd craving beef jerky, soda and slushies, maybe a six-pack of Schlitz. But these days, we'd rather spend some extra time going into a real store for real quality deli noshes, fine wines and service from someone older than minimum age. Still, it's… More >>
  • Best Gourmet Groceries On A Tight Budget

    Trader Joe's

    Imagine being in a grocery store check-out line with a cart chock-full of fancy-schmancy foods: a chunk of French cheese, a bag of exotic baby greens, some imported olive oil, a fresh slab of herb focaccia, Belgian chocolates and an assortment of attractively packaged, luxurious and completely unessential items, like sea salt body scrub and almond-scented soap. Now imagine the… More >>
  • Best Tea House

    Akbar's Finest Teas

    Long considered by Asia to be a boon from the gods, tea is now supposedly being recognized by modern science to contain a treasure trove of health-giving and health-maintaining properties. So says Akbar's promotional literature. What do we know, except that it's what we love to drink crystal cold on ice during the summer, and vapor cloud hot during the… More >>
  • Best Wine Store

    AZ Wine Co.

    AZ Wine Co. is one of our favorite places to explore wines. With some 20,000 bottles, it's the largest wine shop in Arizona, but the folks here aren't hung up on snobbery. Here, the attitude is relaxed, and the wines remarkably well-priced. We never feel intimidated as we wander concrete floors lined with long, collapsible tables topped with box after… More >>
  • Best Bread Bakery

    Willo Baking Company

    If the bread for the bread and water diet being served to Sheriff Joe's unruly inmates comes from Willo, we'll be the first ones leading riots in Tent City. The bakery cranks out these miracle loaves seven days a week, and they're outrageous. So good, so golden crusted, they're almost worth doing time for. There's no sugar used in these… More >>
  • Best Italian Market

    Guido's Chicago Meats & Deli

    Sometimes we go into Guido's and just stare. Even if we're not hungry (a rare occurrence) or if we have no money (way too frequent an occurrence), we just love to look around, sniff, and imagine the many flavors on our mind's tongue. The only thing small about this place is the shop. It's filled floor to rafters with everything… More >>
  • Best Middle Eastern Grocery

    Middle Eastern Bakery & Deli

    Middle Eastern eats are so outrageously delicious they transcend any culture. We still remember that first time we popped a dolmade in our mouth, relishing the tart grape leaf against strident beef, lamb, rice and spices. We shudder happily in the memory of when we first ventured in to try kifta, a patty of lean beef and lamb tucked with… More >>
  • Best Asian Market

    Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket

    We recently needed a water dish for our goats. It had to be plastic, so it wouldn't heat in hot weather. It had to be big, so the goats couldn't tip it over. It had to be cheap, because it's for, well, goats. We found the perfect thing at Lee Lee, in the form of a $4 wading pool, bright… More >>
  • Best Coffee House


    Husband-and-wife team Daniel Wayne and Felicia Ruiz-Wayne have got a great gimmick. Don't spend any money on decor, just focus on premium coffees, sweet snacks and way cool reading material (funky magazines, art books, trendy tabloids). And don't hesitate to charge the big bucks for the experience. Is it vintage? Is it modern? We can't tell, but we get a kick… More >>
  • Best Caterer

    Dad's Catering Service

    We interviewed a dozen different caterers, in search of one who would handle every last detail of a casual Sunday night cocktail-and-hors d'oeuvres party for 90 people. Then we remembered the chic buffet dinner we'd enjoyed at a friend's wedding, catered by Dad's. The chefs had fused Italian cuisine with a Mexican fiesta menu and made it work. We worried… More >>
  • Best Farmers' Market

    La Grande Orange

    Typically, our farmers' markets are a collection of locally grown produce, maybe some kettle corn, perhaps some bottled salsas and honey lined up on tables under a tent in the park. We've usually got to plan our weekend around them, since they're open intermittent Saturdays, depending on the weather. Now we've got La Grande Orange, a charming oasis that's open every… More >>
  • Readers Choice

    BEST DOWNTOWN EXECUTIVE LUNCH Durant's 2611 North Central 602-264-5967 BEST LATE-NIGHT MEAL Denny's several Valley locations BEST HANGOVER BREAKFAST Denny's several Valley locations BEST GOURMET PIZZA California Pizza Kitchen several Valley locations BEST DESSERTS Cheesecake Factory several Valley locations BEST HERO SANDWICH Subway several Valley locations… More >>
  • Best Breakfasts

    J.P. Pancake

    It takes a lot to get us out of bed before noon. Cold cereal won't do it. An everyday scrambled eggs 'n' bacon breakfast from Denny's most certainly won't. But J.P. will. All the expected items are available, but they're unexpectedly good. A biscuit combo mounds a duo of fat dough rounds with two eggs, cubed grilled potatoes and ladles… More >>
  • Best Upscale Breakfast

    Cafe Ted

    Cafe Ted is one of the most beautiful restaurants we've ever seen. That has a lot to do with its tranquil setting, off a private garden in an office complex in the high Sonoran Desert. Rather than following signs, we hunt the place down by following the slinky aromas of freshly baked muffins, Italian coffees and homemade cinnamon coffee cake.… More >>
  • Best Grease-Soaked Hangover Breakfast

    New York Bagels 'n' Bialys

    We know we're getting older when it's a Saturday morning and our brain isn't pounding. We also know we're getting older when, if we do go out and drink, we're in a horrible world of hurt the next day. The kind that even hair of the dog won't heal. But we're not ready to give up the grapes. So now, we… More >>
  • Best Bagel

    New York Bagel Cafe

    We know Chandler is so far east that it feels like New Mexico, but if you actually know the difference between a bagel and a doughnut, and wouldn't eat a fruit bagel if someone pinned you and shoved it down your throat, it's worth the drive. Yeah, they have fruit bagels and fancy cream cheese, too, but they have real… More >>
  • Best Pretzels

    Walker's Cafe

    Pretzel carts are the first things we leap upon whenever we hit Manhattan; at a buck, pretzels are the only remaining bargain to be found in the big city. So imagine our glee at the opening of Walker's, a shrine to handmade soft pretzels. Don't be confused; Walker's is an entire cafe, with a full, impressive menu of soups, salads, sandwiches,… More >>
  • Best Comfort Food

    The Weather Vane

    We actually hate the term "comfort food." It's been used so much over the last year that it makes us think the world is full of babies needing their blankies. But the truth is, some dishes invite us to curl up and cuddle more than others. When we miss our grandma and grandpa, we head to Weather Vane, where we… More >>
  • Best Downtown Casual Lunch

    Focaccia Fiorentina

    We start thinking about lunch around, oh, 9 a.m., pretty much as soon as we've finished our breakfast bagel. On some days, our lunch escape is the only thing that makes slaving in an office bearable. Yet, in downtown Phoenix, it can be hard to find something quick, inexpensive and relaxed that's more interesting than just another sandwich. Which is why,… More >>
  • Best Downtown Executive Lunch

    Kincaid's Steak, Chop & Fish House

    If ever a restaurant looked like it was built for the noontime spirits and cigar set, it's Kincaid's. Sure, it's a chain, but a mighty fine one, and if it takes corporate money and vision to bring such a class act to our barren downtown dining scene, we're all for it. Rich cherry woods, acres of sparkling glass, gleaming brass… More >>
  • Best Tequila-Fueled Lunch

    El Camino Cafe

    The folks at El Camino Cafe have a sense of humor. Here's how they tell us to find their restaurant: "Drive around aimlessly while parched and hungry and then call us up blabberin' about some road we've never heard of until we hang up on you." Yet then, once we arrive, the laughter fades. They call their cuisine "Western ranch… More >>
  • Best Granola

    Arcadia Farms' Apricot Granola

    We love homemade treats, but who has the time? Martha Stewart's been one-upped once again, with the discovery of Arcadia Farms' granola. One of the Valley's best little cafes rolls oats, roasted pecans, dried apricots, pumpkin seeds and brown sugar to make the perfect breakfast cereal or anytime snack. You can buy the granola at Arcadia Farms, or call and… More >>
  • Best Restaurant Potato Chips

    Jilly's American Grill - CLOSED

    No snack has fallen harder victim to the chauvinism of body-conscious health nuts than the potato chip. All that starch and fat, you know. But no one around here does them better than Jilly's. You can keep your fat-free pretzels and (unhh) veggie platters -- these chips are the phattest fattening snack you could hope for. Paper-thin, crisp as communion… More >>
  • Best Sandwiches

    Miracle Mile Deli

    No one makes everyday meats and cheeses as exciting as Miracle Mile. The Mile doesn't mess around, carving up towering portions of roasted turkey breast, honey cured ham, rare roast beef, pastrami, corned beef, brisket, barbecued chicken, even liverwurst and kosher salami. These are honest deli delicacies -- homemade albacore tuna, seafood, chicken or egg salad. It's impossible to leave… More >>
  • Best Tuna Salad Sandwich

    The Desert Grind

    A tuna salad sandwich is a peculiar thing. It can be pretty basic -- fish, mayo, bread. But for some people, including us, it approaches an art form where we're mighty particular indeed. No dark meat tuna. No Miracle Whip. No fancy throw-ins like capers or balsamic. No soggy bread. Yet then, it's hard to please all the people all… More >>
  • Best Club Sandwich


    It's without doubt the crowning achievement of the art of sandwichery: the club. It takes slabs of turkey -- one of the most healthful meats around -- and slathers it with layers of mayo and a ration of bacon. Lettuce and tomato are added not as mere garnish but as actual food, and a third slice of bread is oftentimes… More >>
  • Best Escargot


    They're listed as escargot Provençal, even though they're served in drawn butter and not the cream sauce that snails are generally served in au Provence. But we don't care what this, our favorite late-night dinner spot, calls them, because these slugs are our favorite escargots in town. Baked in a wood oven, these little devils are served in drawn butter… More >>
  • Best Antipasto

    Postino Winecafé

    We feel almost guilty that we don't spend every waking moment at Postino, a hip, happening wine cafe in a converted post office. Postino has an incredible wine list, rotating selections as the mood hits. We particularly like the Folie a Deux, a California Menage a Trois white. The Smoking Loon Syrah gets points just for its funny name. As for… More >>
  • Best Mac-N-Cheese

    Roaring Fork

    We grew up on mac-n-cheese, homemade with ooey-gooey neon orange Velveeta. It was one of our all-time favorite meals. When we left home for college, we were too lazy to cook it Mom's way. Mac-n-cheese devolved to the boxed variety, powdered sauce mixed with milk and butter. It was still pretty good, and we thought we were mighty fancy when… More >>
  • Best Gazpacho

    Iguana Lounge

    Gazpacho may be a summertime soup. Yet in the Valley of the Sun, it's summer almost year-round. So in our minds, gazpacho should be Arizona's state soup -- it symbolizes everything the shimmering hot Southwest needs. Chilled relief. Vibrant flavors that grip us by the lapels and send sparks to break our sweat. Enough substance that, when paired with a… More >>
  • Best Hot Dog

    Chicago Hamburger Co.

    It seems kind of sacrilegious to honor a hamburger shop for its hot dogs, but the two go together like baseball and, well, hot dogs. And when the dogs are as topnotch as the ones served at the Chicago Hamburger Co., it only makes too much sense to us. The dogs in question are all-beef Viennas imported from Chicago. Our favorite… More >>
  • Best Burger

    Harvey's Wineburger

    Why on Earth would anyone bother with a Big Mac when for about a buck more they could have one of the most glorious, juicy burgers known to man? Harvey's isn't about ambiance -- it's dark and grungy, and on any given lunch hour we can bet we'll find more than a few beer-suckers at the bar. But those burgers,… More >>
  • Best Chicago Beef


    We went to Chicago recently, and while we were there, we made it our personal mission to sample as many Chicago beefs as humanly possible. We never knew our bellies could handle such massive quantities. Interestingly enough, we had originally fallen in love with the Windy City's signature sandwich right here in Phoenix, when one of our friends, a Chicago… More >>
  • Best French Fries


    We'll never be able to go back to Ore-Ida. Our heart is taken with Roti-Joe's fabulous fries. These deep-fried beauties come in a woodpile serving of hand-cut Belgian-style spuds, enormous steak-fry logs of primo potato spiced to high heat and dipped in Bohemian mayo dip (lots of hot, hot pepper). Sometimes we get them with rotisserie prime rib or chicken.… More >>
  • Best Garlic Dip

    Pita Jungle

    How could such deceptively simple food -- "smashed" potatoes, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic -- be so utterly addictive? That's the question we attempt to answer every time we frequent Pita Jungle for a garlic dip fix. Cheap, delicious pita sandwiches and salads have always been reason enough to visit this artsy cafe, but once we discovered the strong,… More >>
  • Best Cheesesteak

    Uncle Sam's

    We've been going to the original Uncle Sam's on Shea as long as we can remember, after it replaced a grimy Pizza Hut at least 15 years ago. After all this time, though, we have yet to find any other shop approaching the magnificence of these extraordinary cheesesteaks. The secret's in the meat, imported beef thinly sliced/chopped, tossed on the grill… More >>
  • Best Drive-Through Gourmet Grub

    Maxie's World Grill

    We don't turn our snouts to the sky over fast food. Hey, the idea is great. It's just that so much of the actual eats are so awful. Greasy burgers, limp tacos, stale sandwiches and watery rice bowls aren't worth it, even if they allow us to shave a few seconds off our busy day. Then there's Maxie's World Grill, a… More >>
  • Best Gourmet Pizza

    Classic Italian

    Classic Italian owner Halim Nefic notes that some call this comfortable rustic spot the Pizzeria Bianco of the East Valley. That a place as terrific as Classic Italian competes with one of our Valley's greatest pizza shops says a lot. That we agree says even more. We love Bianco, but have to give bonus points to Classic because sometimes we… More >>
  • Best Chicken

    Nonni's Kitchen

    We remember the days of straightforward chicken. No vertical presentation, no poke-in-the-eye spears of rosemary, just honest, nice poultry. Of course, the chicken we reflect back on wasn't all that great. The plain Jane bird rarely gets enough respect, hence the phrase (shrug required) "it tastes like, well, chicken." And usually, greasy chicken. Leave it to Nonni's to make the best… More >>
  • Best Chicken Soup

    La Parrilla Suiza

    A while ago we didn't feel well. We felt really sorry for ourselves. We figured we were going to die, and summoned all our last strength to dial the phone. Please, we whined to a friend, Parrilla Suiza, puhleez. This is a good friend; he knew what we meant and made haste to the restaurant, picked up a giant bowl… More >>
  • Best Prime Rib

    Harris' Restaurant

    We love steak. But perfectly prepared prime rib is like a drug to us, exhilarating down to its every last silky horseradish-slathered, salty jus-dunked, juicy-firm bite. It's got to be the real thing, the highest USDA grade available. At Harris', they're so proud of their meat that they display it in aging coolers off the restaurant's entry. It's Certified Angus Beef… More >>
  • Best Chicken-Fried Steak

    Texaz Grill

    Since 1985, Texaz Grill has been making good, old-fashioned Texan-style grub "one meal at a time." Well, as the restaurant celebrated this year its 500,000th chicken-fried steak sold, that's an awful lot of meat pounding, hand-battering, fried to crispy golden work. There's simply no better substantial lunch than the chicken-fried steak, cubed beef double dipped and served with fluffy mashed potatoes,… More >>
  • Best Barbecue Joint

    The Barbecue Company

    We like the Barbecue Company because, while its silky, smooth barbecue sauce is topnotch, it doesn't rely on it to hide lesser-quality meat. There's a lot of work that goes into cooking here, like its rib tip plate, one full pound of rib tips that have been dry rubbed, slow smoked and grilled with just a touch of Q-Sauce (more… More >>
  • Best Shepherd's Pie

    Rula Bula

    The shepherd's pie at Rula Bula Irish Pub and Restaurant comforts us as much as the soft sheepskin blankie we had when we were wee ones. This version rules, the loose pot pie stocked with ground sirloin, carrots, potatoes, parsnips and peas in a rich broth of red wine and a garden full of fresh herbs. The blend bubbles under… More >>
  • Best Vegetables

    Rancho Pinot

    Another upscale, contemporary American restaurant might be puzzled, or even insulted, that we decided the best thing about it was its vegetables. True, the entrees are wonderful at Rancho Pinot. But what really gets us going is the garnish. Nobody has a better eye for selecting, and a better hand at preparing, nature's finest bounty of garden goods than does… More >>
  • Best Passionate Potatoes


    A potato is no simple spud. There are hundreds of varieties grown around the world, each with a distinct shape, skin, color, texture and taste. There's a different potato that's best for different uses, such as mashed, French fries, chips, salad, boiled. But we're not concerned with what type of potatoes the kitchen uses at Peruanitos, an outrageously delicious Peruvian restaurant… More >>
  • Best Bargain Sushi

    Sushi 101

    We've dreamed of being trapped in a sushi restaurant. We try to run, but everywhere we turn, there teems more maguro, hamachi, tako, uni, ebi, sake, tobiko. The problem is not in escaping, it's in catching the slippery fish and shoveling it into our mouths before we wake up. Now we're living the dream at Sushi 101, where there's an all-we-can-eat… More >>
  • Best Place To Pop The Question

    El Encanto Mexican Cafe

    A big part of popping the question is the style of how it's done. None of that "Well, we might as well get married, I guess" kind of stuff. The thing about El Encanto is that it's centered on a beautiful lake, bobbing with graceful ducks and geese. While we're getting fed truly delicious Sonoran food (viva la margarita!), the waterfowl… More >>
  • Best Sunday Brunch

    T. Cook's

    With just 166 rooms but Four Diamonds, it's clear that the Royal Palms understands how class cohabits with intimacy. Rather than catering to the masses and impressing with sheer quantity, Royal Palms puts exquisite effort into the tiniest details of every single element of its operation. While other brunches use the flash factor of acres of food to draw oohs… More >>
  • Best Wine List

    Kazimierz World Wine Bar

    When we began investigating Kazimierz's wine list, inspired by next-door cafe's Cowboy Ciao (same owner), we knew we had our work cut out for us. What a masterpiece of obscure, cult, sensual and surprising wines. The list spans page after page, and would be entirely intimidating if not for the fun narrative to help us along. If we had a… More >>
  • Best-Kept Restaurant Secret

    Peter's Budapest Cafe

    If people knew Hungarian food like we know Hungarian food, they'd be at Peter's Budapest Cafe every night of the week. Prepare to indulge heartily here, and heavily. Hungarian food mostly is enormous platters of tender, juicy beef piled atop plump noodles; breaded, fried veal cutlets nestled alongside great hunks of buttery fried potatoes; and deep-fried mushrooms, proud of their… More >>
  • Best Cookies

    Chocolate Star Bakery

    We're choosy about our cookies. None of the prefab, out-of-a-bag stuff for us, thank you. We want fresh-baked, with only the finest all-natural ingredients. And this is exactly what we've found at Chocolate Star, where the ovens are always on and the larder is always stocked with delights like Ghirardelli chocolate, fresh whole eggs, Arizona pecans, real butter, black strap… More >>
  • Best Kosher Cookies

    Cookies Amour

    Cookies Amour owner Lynne Wellish doesn't just have to keep her customers happy. She's got to answer to the Greater Phoenix Vaad Hakashruth, the authority that determines whether a Jewish kitchen is kosher. She had a rabbi approve it before opening and pays a fee for ongoing inspections. The result for her kosher-cookie-craving customers is a wide variety of premium treats,… More >>
  • Best Ice Cream

    Angel Sweet

    A friend has been gushing to us -- endlessly -- about this exciting ice cream shop he'd found in Chandler. Huh, we thought, we certainly respect his taste, but could a small store be that much better than the superpremium, handcrafted scoops we find in our local gourmet restaurants? Oh yeah. We finally got out there to try it, and now,… More >>
  • best Healthful Eating

    Persian Garden Cafe

    This stuff is truly good for you, and truly special. You can eat like a pig, yet leave still feeling petite. Even better, it's one of the only health food places in town that looks like a real, elegant restaurant rather than a hippie hangout hut. What's magical? How about merza farangee (grilled eggplant with sautéed onion, garlic, tomato, fresh herbs,… More >>
  • Best Place To Get Iced

    Island Ices

    Damn, it's hot. No matter what time of year you're reading this, we feel pretty safe in saying, damn, it's hot. So we find great relief in soaking our skulls at Island Ices, a funky place specializing in soft water Italian ices and frozen premium custards. A specialty of the house is ice and custard blended together as an Island… More >>
  • Best Smoothie Shop

    Fresh Blenders Juice, Smoothie and Coffee Bar

    When we're looking to get fresh, we head to Fresh Blenders. We have our reasons. It could be the two free "super nutrients" blended into each smoothie. And these options are tangible substances -- bee pollen, oat bran, soy protein -- rather than chemical cocktails with vague, fancy names (a bowlful of "Femme Booste," anyone?). It could be the immense variety.… More >>
  • Best Desserts

    Coup Des Tartes

    We know these tarts are special, since they're spelled in the très European "tartes." Each little jewel is handcrafted by the bistro's "Tarte Goddesses," and they're to die for (or at least diet for). We're thrilled with the expertly balanced flavors and the restraint in cloying, tooth-shattering sugar. The signature tarte is a symphony of chocolate crust brimming with bananas… More >>
  • Best Dessert For An Awkward First Date

    Fondue at 6

    On the episode wherein he scheduled a date with a deaf woman, Jerry Seinfeld made a fine suggestion: "How about six? Six is good." While numbers never were our strong point, we can appreciate a simple mathematical formula now and again. Here's one: Gooey fondue plus swanky lounge plus tiny pitchforks plus sticky fingers equals sexy with a capital SEX. No… More >>
  • Best Butcher

    Hobe Meats

    Hobe has been with us for 42 years, though the last decade has been a bit of a bumpy ride for the purveyor of fine meats, seafood and poultry. About 10 years ago, it was sold from its original family, and a roller coaster of quality ensued. Now, though, it's back in the hands of someone who really cares, Eric… More >>
  • Best Place For Pigs

    Smokey O's Roast Pigs

    Let's be clear: This is the best place to get a pig. This is not necessarily the best place to actually be a pig. Because Smokey O's specialty is whole roast pig, delivered hot and ready to serve (or raw, for people who have a hankering to dig their own pit and fill it with flames). What's the use? Why,… More >>
  • Best Expensive Everything

    Mary Elaine's

    Mary Elaine's rates tops in our foodie books partly because of the fact that its dishes are all printed with capital letters. Not just lobster, but Butter-Braised Maine Lobster With Grilled Apple and Heirloom Tomato Fondue, with a suggested wine pairing of Messmer Muskateller Kabinett Halbtrocken, Pfalz, Germany, 1996. Prices are spelled out, none of those tacky numerals (A Service… More >>
  • Best Truck-Drivin'-Man Grub

    The Peppersauce Cafe

    Our handyman knows how to fix anything. He also knows how to eat: hearty, heaping portions of he-man grub like chicken-fried chicken, meat loaf, chili, burgers, and breakfasts big enough to fuel him through a hardworking day. His favorite place to fill up when on the run for more building materials, and now ours, is the Peppersauce. It's pretty much… More >>
  • Best Place To See Flying Saucers

    Cosmic Pizza & Deli

    When we were in college, we saw lots of things spinning through the air. But now that we have a firmer hold on reality, we realize that, yes, a pizza actually can come from some far-away planet. If it's crafted by the creative cooks at Cosmic Pizza. The place is tiny (order through a cutout in the wall), yet the… More >>
  • Best Place To Quell Stoner Munchies

    Mickey's Hangover - CLOSED

    We love to party. Who doesn't? Yet we have still to figure out why, the more we abuse our bodies, the more our bodies cry out for even more rough treatment. Places like Jack in the Box or Denny's are quick fixes, but we can never respect ourselves in the morning. We rub our blurry eyes the next day, see that… More >>
  • Best Place For An It's-So-Late-It's-Early Breakfast

    Western Pizza

    It's a fairly frequent occurrence that we're working, puttering, reading, retiling the roof, solving quantum physics, when suddenly we realize that, oops, it's the middle of the night and we haven't eaten for more than 24 hours. The only thing in our fridge is something we might recognize if it weren't covered in green fur, and we're not about to… More >>