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Food & Drink

  • BEST AUTHENTIC ARIZONA RESTAURANT

    Kai

    It seems so obvious. Arizona's indigenous foods -- delicacies like fresh local fish, wheat, melons, pistachios, olives, chiles, citrus and squash. Yet amazingly, no chef has really tried it here, until this year, with James Beard Award-winning chef Janos Wilder. Wilder, already famous for his innovative French-Southwestern Janos restaurant in Tucson, has brought us fine dining drawn from our state's… More >>
  • BEST VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT

    Pho Bang

    The cooks at Pho Bang continue to craft the most outrageously decadent Vietnamese dishes in town. This long-standing restaurant doesn't get hung up on pretense -- dishes come rapid-fire out of the kitchen, sometimes sloppy on their plates, sometimes with nary a smile from our server. But the prices are so low, and the food so cunning, we never quibble.… More >>
  • BEST MIDDLE EASTERN RESTAURANT

    Persian Garden Café

    Chef Mahmmud Jaafari knows his Persian cuisine. He also knows his Mediterranean, Italian, American, Mexican, Cajun and vegetarian foods, and even a smattering of Oriental influences. The result is one of the most exciting restaurants in this town, with cooking that is defined most simply as Middle Eastern. This is knock-your-socks-off caliber, with appetizers like pourani (parboiled spinach blended with… More >>
  • BEST HEALTHFUL EATING

    Soma

    We're all for eating healthfully. We just don't want to think about it -- all that balancing of nutrients and calories, and then, does the stuff even taste good? Happily, Soma has done the work for us. Everything on the extensive breakfast, lunch and dinner menu is broken down by protein, carbs, fat, fiber and calories. Everything is fashioned from… More >>
  • BEST SOUTHWESTERN RESTAURANT

    Windows on the Green - CLOSED

    This is the first place to which we direct diners when turning them on to the distinctive cuisine that is Southwestern. Many people think our Southwestern signature is standard Mexican stuff. Some think it's, gasp, Tex-Mex. Many think it's cowboy cookouts. Too many think we're all just sitting out in the desert here munching on cactus and lizards. One taste… More >>
  • BEST UPSCALE ITALIAN RESTAURANT

    Daniel's Italian Cuisine

    Chef-owner Daniel Malventano has been knocking our socks off with his spectacular Italian fare for more than a decade. Sometimes it's a little hard to keep up with him, given his penchant for changing the restaurant's name (it started as Il Forno, then became Acqua e Sale, and has just been rechristened Daniel's). Who cares what he calls it, though,… More >>
  • BEST UPSCALE STEAK HOUSE

    Drinkwater's City Hall

    We've been contemplating taking up the Atkins Diet. That's the only way we can justify the gluttonous meat orgy that is a meal at Drinkwater's. This place is a caloric menace, with massive steaks (33-ounce rib eye chop), veal (a full pound) and pork chops, entire 22-ounce racks of lamb and whole roasted chickens (one and a half pounds). … More >>
  • BEST SEAFOOD

    The Salt Cellar

    The best seafood in the Valley can be found in a dark room, buried in an underground building, across the street from a cemetery. But the owners of the Salt Cellar seem to understand that, when it comes to a fine tradition of excellent food, reasonable prices and a comfortable setting, it doesn't matter where the actual property is. So… More >>
  • BEST VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT

    Plaid Eatery

    We eat a vegetarian diet because we want to feel healthy. But that doesn't mean we don't want deeply flavored, interesting foods. Plaid delivers -- the kick-back, casual den strewn with sofas caters to a hip, multinational college student clientele. We like the salad "plaidders," omelets served all day, the "plaid" Thai noodles, Caribbean jerked tofu and lemongrass tofu served… More >>
  • BEST JAPANESE RESTAURANT

    Sushi on Shea

    Japanese restaurants have been proliferating all across the Valley like shiitake mushrooms after a rain. Why, within a mile or two of our beloved Sushi on Shea, there's almost a half-dozen of the ethnic restaurants. Yet as much as we were impressed with the quality of SonS when it first opened in 1994, we're that much more in love with… More >>
  • BEST SIX-SHOOTIN' COWBOY STEAK HOUSE

    Rock Springs Cafe & Saloon

    A half-hour north of town, it's worth a jaunt to this old-fashioned saloon with, yikes, honest-to-goodness real cowboys. Rock Springs has a history as delicious as its food, existing since the 1800s as an Indian encampment, a bivouac, a watering stop for miners, and a stagecoach stop. In 1918, it was enhanced to include a general store, hotel, and saloon.… More >>
  • BEST INDIAN RESTAURANT

    Indian Delhi Palace

    While Americans salute a cheeseburger and French fries as a national treasure, people in India feast on the signature dish of tandoori. That's chicken marinated in yogurt and mild spices, cooked in its own juices over red-hot charcoals, then roasted with onions in a tandoor (a special clay oven imported from India) to a crisp, tender copper brown. We have… More >>
  • BEST GREEK RESTAURANT

    Greekfest

    Greekfest owners Tony and Susan Makridis wish us "kali orexi" -- have a good appetite. And man, we're going to need it, because with one look at their expansive menu, we know we've got to have it all. This is a taverna absolutely brimming with good times (yes, the cheerful waiters yell "opa!" when they flame our saganaki cheese), and… More >>
  • BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT

    Christopher's Fermier Brasserie

    One of our friends is a chef, living in that fresh food capital, Berkeley. She came to visit, and we took her to dinner at Christopher's. Months after that meal, she still raves about the incredible truffle-infused prime sirloin she ate, the tender meat served with fareki (a Middle Eastern grain), shallot confit and rich red wine bone marrow sauce.… More >>
  • BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT

    Tao Garden

    The only problem we have with Tao Garden is deciding what to eat: Everything on the restaurant's 210-plus-item menu is spectacular. Sometimes we're in the mood for mainstream, so we fill up on perfect pot stickers, fiery kung pao chicken and black beef chow mein. Other times, we're craving adventure, so we order authentic Cantonese or Mandarin specialties like fish… More >>
  • BEST KOREAN RESTAURANT

    Tabletop Grill & Sushi - CLOSED

    The last time we tried cooking at home, we caused a fire (okay, so flaming dishes don't belong on wooden tables). Then, we went to Tabletop, where the staff actually encourages us to play with flames, because we cook our own food at the table, on centerpieces of shiny stainless-steel grills. We can grill our own bulgogi, thin slices of… More >>
  • BEST PACIFIC RIM RESTAURANT

    Sapporo

    We could gush over the hip-happening ambiance of Sapporo, packed to the rim with beautiful people sipping beautiful cocktails in a beautiful atmosphere. We love the sushi and teppanyaki. But it's the Pacific Rim menu items that get our hearts pattering like chopsticks drumming on a table. From the katsu fried calamari with sambal chile and rice vinegar to the… More >>
  • BEST GERMAN RESTAURANT

    Haus Murphy's

    Schnitzel! We love that word. But more than saying it, we love eating the tasty meat cutlets, dipped in batter and fried. At Haus Murphy's, we fill up on fine varieties including Wiener schnitzel, jäger schnitzel, Balkan schnitzel, paprika schnitzel, Holstein schnitzel, prager schnitzel, schweizer schnitzel and chicken schnitzel. Sausages! We adore sausages, and no one presents the wide variety… More >>
  • BEST CAJUN/CREOLE RESTAURANT

    Voodoo Daddy's

    Sometimes Cajuns and Creoles like to fight over food. Cajuns tend to think Creoles are stuck-up, what with their French-inspired cuisine and fancier ingredients. Creoles tend to believe that Cajuns are at best bourgeoisie, given to snacking on such lower-level swamp critters as alligator, crawfish and, yes, even squirrel. Voodoo Daddy's doesn't have squirrel, and it doesn't have luxe dishes… More >>
  • BEST NEW AMERICAN CUISINE

    Cowboy Ciao

    What, exactly, is New American food? Nobody really knows. But ultimately, it seems to come down to presenting diners with dishes they think they might know, but then, surprise! There's some crazy twist to keep you scratching your head. Often, it's delicious in an exciting kind of way; at Cowboy Ciao, the surprise is always spectacular. Executive chef Bernie Kantak… More >>
  • BEST NEIGHBORHOOD ITALIAN

    Giuseppe's on 28th

    This no-frills joint stuck in a strip mall between stores that sell cheap water and cigarettes has a devoutly loyal following, and with good reason. It's the place to go for happily inexpensive southern Italian fare, lunch or dinner. The owner, a Jewish Italophile who is the principal cellist for the Phoenix Symphony, is apt to greet you at the… More >>
  • BEST GOURMET RESTAURANT

    Rancho Pinot

    At some point, the meaning of "gourmet" has been lost. It's come to mean crazy, wild concoctions, with bizarre foods and even weirder combinations. But actually, gourmet means "a connoisseur of fine food and drink." So there's no better restaurant to celebrate fine food and drink than at Rancho Pinot. Co-owner Tom Kaufman is a wine genius, with a hugely… More >>
  • BEST BAKERY

    Willo Baking Company

    A friend of ours suggested we try losing some extra inches on one of those low-carb diets, but we just laughed. He's lucky we didn't belt him for suggesting we give up our romance with Willo Bakery, our favorite place to load up on the best-tasting carbs in town. Our pal doesn't realize that life without Willo's currant walnut rolls… More >>
  • BEST ORGANIC PRODUCE

    Litchfield Park Organics Natural Food Market

    At Litchfield Park Organics, owners Shaun and Cathy Kalos stock a beautiful variety of organic produce from local vendors, and from California (the lettuce is so fresh and beautiful we want to roll around in it naked). Primary shoppers for fruits and veggies are co-op members, but for the rest of us, they also stock organic pasta, cereal, canned goods,… More >>
  • BEST COFFEE HOUSE FOR THE HIP

    Lux Coffee Bar

    We had to walk out the front door of this place and take a peek down Central Avenue to be sure we really were still in Phoenix. With mismatched furnishings and concrete floors, Lux evokes the urban grunge vibe of Austin or Denver, but here it is, nestled in a small building that used to house -- well, that's not… More >>
  • BEST COFFEE HOUSE FOR THE REST OF US

    Xtreme Bean Coffee Company

    There are those who still mourn the (d)evolution of Gold Bar Espresso, the funky Tempe coffee house that sprawled in an old bank on Southern Avenue, using the vault for poetry readings and the drive-in to make business boom. Gold Bar moved last year to an old TCBY across the street, a victim of landlord battles, and the regulars swore… More >>
  • BEST TEA ROOM

    Teeter House

    We used to think that a worthwhile place to enjoy the British tradition of midday tea was as hard to find as a cool patch of shade in our town -- until we discovered Teeter House. Tucked away in downtown's Heritage Square, this posh spot offers several different tea ceremonies five days a week. We go straight for homemade scones… More >>
  • BEST ASIAN MARKET

    Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket

    Back in 1990, Meng Truong took a gamble and opened a 2,000-square-foot Asian grocery store. His risk paid off, because today, he is owner of a thriving 52,000-square-foot international bazaar. We've tried to take inventory of all the exotica carried here, and it's impossible, sort of "It's a Small World" of foods and accessories. Besides, we find it difficult to… More >>
  • BEST CHILE SELECTION

    Food City - CLOSED

    Stop in at Food City and pluck a couple different kinds of peppers out of the produce bins and off the shelves, take them home, roast them up. The fresh chiles are always waxy and pretty, like the Hatch chile verdes, pasillas, jalapeños, serranos and habaneros. The dried ones are convenient for quick meals, including chile de arbol, pasilla-negro, pasilla-ancho,… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO KEEP KOSHER

    Cactus Kosher Foods

    It's sure not easy keeping kosher. Not with keeping milk separate from meat, as in separate cookware, utensils, bowls and dishes in separate drawers and cabinets, plus two sinks, two disposals, two dishwashers and two ovens (all stainless steel, and blessed by a rabbi). Even shopping isn't easy. Creatures have to be slaughtered in a prescribed ritual and humane… More >>
  • BEST GOURMET FARMERS'MARKET

    Vincent's Camelback Market

    How we celebrate as the Valley slips into fall, and mourn the last days of spring. Not just because blistering summer means we'll no longer be able to touch any surfaces without wearing hot pads, but because summer is the only season we can't spend our Saturdays browsing through the luxury of Vincent's outdoor market. From 9 a.m. to 1… More >>
  • BEST SMOOTHIES/JUICES

    Surf City Squeeze

    Real fruit, real juice and non-dairy smoothie mix make chilling combinations like strawberry-banana, peanut butter-banana, pineapple-coconut-orange, blueberry-banana, and raspberry-banana. If we need an extra boost, we can add in such healthful stuff as protein powder, carbo powder, lecithin, wheat germ, bee pollen, ginseng, brewer's yeast, spirulina, wheatgrass, creatine, or multi-vitamin powder. In hot months, we gravitate toward slushies (guava strawberry… More >>
  • BEST CHEESE SELECTION

    Duck & Decanter

    The list of cheeses available at the Duck reads like a phone book, with more than 60 varieties from around the world. We've been stopping in at the place for years, trying different cheeses each time, and have never been able to catalogue all our adventures -- that's how often the cheese whizzes here update their fresh offerings. Every day,… More >>
  • BEST APPETIZERS

    Gregory's World Bistro

    Many chefs test their creativity on appetizers. ItÕs less risky to get wild with small-portioned dishes, and diners feel more comfortable sampling an exotic plate thatÕs not entree-priced. Chef Gregory Casale is a perfect case in point. WeÕve never seen such fantasy at any other fancy restaurant, with compelling, perhaps a bit crazy, choices like Southern fried frogsÕ legs over… More >>
  • BEST CATERER

    Michael's

    The fact that Michael DeMaria is a spectacular chef is reason enough to choose him to cater your next intimate party. The fact that he was trained at some of the Valley's best resorts makes him perfect for large corporate events, too. He handles each occasion with excitement and ease. DeMaria does on-premises catering in his high-tech kitchen studio adjacent… More >>
  • BEST COMFORT FOOD

    Barmouche

    Barmouche may be a fancy-looking restaurant, owned by a big-name celebrity chef (Mark Tarbell). It may have upscale dishes like "laitue," organic butter lettuce with Roquefort cheese and walnut dressing. But we go there for the things that everybody loves and understands -- mom's home cooking. Tuesdays through Saturdays, there are Blue Plate Specials (chicken fried steak, spaghetti and meatballs,… More >>
  • BEST SOUP

    Restaurant Cyclo

    Cyclo's owner, Justina Duong, loves to chat with her guests. One of her favorite stories to tell is about her chicken noodle soup, a classic comfort food she used to consume by the bucket as a child. It's one of the best sellers on her menu. Except Duong is Vietnamese, her restaurant is Vietnamese, and her chicken noodle soup is… More >>
  • BEST TORTILLA SOUP

    Milagros (in Fiesta Inn)

    We are so pleased to have found exquisite tortilla soup served at a most unlikely place: a restaurant inside the out-of-the-way Fiesta Inn resort at Priest and Broadway. It's a business hotel, a very nice one, but tucked on the edge of an industrial park. That's right, this is the best Mexican recipe we've come across. The rich broth is… More >>
  • BEST SMOKED SALMON

    Zinc Bistro

    Zinc could send out merely decent smoked salmon. Lesser quality fish could be hidden when wrapped in such perfect, pillowy crepes as it is here, the feather light batter infused with fresh herbs. Less succulent fish might be forgiven, when dipped in such rich lemon crème fraîche created by Zinc's chefs. Even only okay fish might seem fine when partnered… More >>
  • BEST ICE CREAM

    Flor de Michoacán

    Ice cream always sounds so good. But sometimes, the anticipation doesn't live up to the experience. What's with the thick, sugary, virtually tasteless artificial pastes some places dare to call the cold stuff these days? Not Flor, though. Here, the frozen treats are handcrafted with real ingredients, for real, vibrant flavor. These are Mexican recipes made with actual fruits and… More >>
  • BEST SALAD BAR

    Fogo e Brasa

    A salad bar is vegetables, right? Sure, unless you're in Brazil, where it's everything and anything that a creative chef can fit onto a long, self-service table. Or unless you're at Fogo e Brasa, a Brazilian restaurant where the lavish salad bar spans more than two dozen exotic dishes. Yes, there's traditional lettuce and such. But there are also king… More >>
  • BEST PRIME RIB

    Stockyards Restaurant

    Okay, so sometimes we're completely old-fashioned. We yearn for the days when we could order a meat dinner at a steak house and get . . . a meat dinner. Just a nice, normal cut of beef, with potatoes, salad, and maybe some veggies. None of these frou-frou 400-degree plates seen at high-end chop houses now, no sizzling… More >>
  • BEST DESSERTS

    Crackers & Co. Cafe

    We're thinking the reason Crackers is located in such an odd spot -- in an industrial park hidden behind a Holiday Inn and a Home Depot -- is that its owners need warehouse space to inventory the huge selection of desserts offered at this charming breakfast and lunch hot spot. On any given day, the Victorian-ambiance restaurant serves up at… More >>
  • BEST CHEESECAKE

    Giovanna's on Main

    Chef Giovanna Fox isn't making money on volume. Not with just two ovens that bake only three cheesecakes at a time. But her fabulous creamy cheesecakes, each crafted with special care, are the best. We were believers after the first bite of her basic New York model, traditional and entirely decadent. But now we like to stop into her cute… More >>
  • BEST PASTRIES

    Tammie Coe Cakes - CLOSED

    We were standing in line, waiting for the clerk to wrap up our cake, explaining to a fellow customer that the decadent "zebra" confection we had selected was for our special someone's birthday. Another customer nearby suddenly shrieked, "Oh my God! I just bought one of those cakes for my husband's birthday last week! It was the most amazing thing… More >>
  • BEST HUMMUS

    Caspian

    We still remember the first time our mom brought home some hummus. She was on her health food kick, and had been frightening us small children with strange "foods" like tofu, bean curd, and soy milk. Really, she promised, this time we would like it. We wrinkled our nose at what looked like beige baby food, tentatively dipped a carrot… More >>
  • BEST VEGETABLES

    Quiessence Culinary Center

    We love eating our veggies, especially when they come from Quiessence, a garden-to-table experience of contemporary American farm cuisine. Housed in a converted home amid the lush greenery of the Farm at South Mountain, the quaint cafe is open limited seasons, just Fridays and Saturdays, with one dinner seating each evening, and with reservations required (we recommend a month in… More >>
  • BEST GYROS

    Gyros Express

    We've eaten a lot of gyro sandwiches during our search for The Best, wondering if somewhere some eatery might be able to create something better. And now we're eating another gyro from Gyros Express, just to confirm that, yes, Gyros Express is absolutely the best in town. What's the secret? We don't know. We can just guarantee that there's no… More >>
  • BEST SUSHI

    Sea Saw

    We know, we know: Technically, sushi needs to be paired with sweetened rice to be sushi. And there isn't a speck of rice to be found on Sea Saw's menu. But we're going with the looser definition of sushi being tiny Japanese appetizers with fish as a starring role -- partly because there's no other way to describe the unique,… More >>
  • BEST CAESAR SALAD

    Élevé

    Chef-owner Michael Mishkin isn't yet 30, which may be partly the reason he's not hung up on the old-fashioned, tried-and-true of cooking. This creative guy has taken a new approach to the classic caesar, and bravo. His traditional toss of crispy romaine comes currant with spunky green chiles, crunchy frizzled tortillas, and cotija cheese, a salty white Mexican variety with… More >>
  • BEST GOURMET PIZZA

    Classic Italian - CLOSED

    At Classic Italian, we never have to wonder whether any pie we order will be less than perfect -- we can watch it baking right in front of us in a wood-burning brick oven. The personal-size pies are made with from-scratch dough daily, fresh yeast and no preservatives. Whole tomatoes are hand-crushed and blended with spices, then draped with homemade… More >>
  • BEST CHEESESTEAK

    Uncle Sam's

    We've got a little secret. We like mayonnaise on our cheesesteaks. It may seem like overkill, seeing as Uncle Sam's sandwiches are already the best on the planet, enormous torpedoes brimming with so much thinly sliced imported meat that we can't finish even half of one. These juicy beauties are draped in lots of gooey cheese, and our choice of… More >>
  • BEST SANDWICHES

    Guido's Chicago Meat & Deli

    This is a true story: Once we were in Guido's waiting in line behind an ancient, impossibly tiny lady. She might have weighed 80 pounds, and could barely see over the top of the counter. She ordered a capocollo and provolone sandwich. When the deli server slid the plate to her, she gasped. This monster sandwich was so huge, so… More >>
  • BEST FRENCH FRIES

    Sophie's - A French Bistro - CLOSED

    Sophie's calls this plate Les Frites – la Parisienne. It sounds completely intimidating until you realize that, hey, this is just a fancy name for French fries. But mon Dieu, these are not just any fries. For less than five bucks, you get a soup bowl full of exquisitely fresh-cut shoestring potatoes, perfectly deep fat fried to be crisp-skinned with… More >>
  • BEST BARBECUE

    Dillon's Restaurant

    (and 19900 North Remington, Surprise, 623-584-8494) Who says real barbecue has to be served in a dive, usually on paper plates, with plastic forks and nothing but reams of flimsy napkins to sop up the mess? The folks at Dillon's have figured out that, while we demand the best in our meat, we also don't mind some civilized surroundings while… More >>
  • BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT

    La Casa del Mariachi

    We expect a lot from our "best" Mexican restaurant. First, there's the food, of course. And La Casa delivers in delicious style, with home-style breakfasts of chilaquiles con queso; or lunches and dinners of shrimp-octopus cocktail, ceviche tostada, and mixed skillets of fabulously seasoned chicken, beef and carnitas or seafood. It's all fresh and fun, with our favorite dish being… More >>
  • BEST GOURMET MEXICAN RESTAURANT

    Acapulco Bay Co.

    We would love to take a tour of Acapulco Bay's kitchen. We think it must be enormous, to stock such an incredible selection of fresh seafood: red snapper, cabrilla, tilapia, shrimp, octopus, lobster tail, calamari, oysters, green mussels, scallops and crab. We'd love to dig through the chefs' recipe books -- the depth and creativity are astounding, with seafood prepared… More >>
  • BEST CHIPS AND SALSA

    Jordan's

    Jordan's has been a Phoenix landmark since 1946, and the place looks its age, with its dark interior, shiny, gold-flecked wallpaper and ragged red carpeting. Thank goodness for tradition, though -- the owners have seemingly never learned that so many restaurants these days are happy to shame us with food from bags, boxes and freezers. All food here is prepared… More >>
  • BEST MEXICAN BAKERY

    Azteca Bakery & Mexican Food

    Some of them look like dinner rolls dusted in psychedelic sugar. Some look like buns that have had a violent run-in with fruit. But they're called bunuelos, and they're actually little bundles of joy. The Mexican pastries are flaky, light, and usually just slightly sweet (most of the sugar comes from the colorful topping, in pink, yellow, blue and/or green).… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO GET BOXEADORES CON CARNE

    Pitic Restaurant

    If eating a bowl of menudo means you have a lot of guts, what better way to show it than by getting into a boxing ring just a few feet from your dinner table? You can do that every Wednesday night at Pitic Restaurant, famous for its caldo de res and green salsa. The attached lounge serves up amateur night… More >>
  • BEST MEXICAN TAKEOUT

    Phoenix Ranch Market

    If there's anything we can't find in this 24,500-square-foot south Phoenix mercado, all we have to do is visit its second location, a 40,000-square-foot monster in the West Valley. Pretty much the entire country of Mexico is contained within these stores, with a jaw-dropping display of staples like whole beef head, carne seca, fresh coconut, guava gel, mammee fruit, and… More >>
  • BEST MARGARITA

    Brasa Roja

    A margarita needs to be prepared properly. That's why we like the magical margs served at Brasa Roja. The place is a Colombian restaurant, but bartenders know their way around this specialty Mexican concoction like nobody's business. Each drink is made to order, not too sweet, and served in a rainbow of flavors like lime, peach and strawberry. We like… More >>
  • BEST MEXICAN SEAFOOD

    San Carlos Bay Seafood Restaurant

    Until we discovered San Carlos Bay, we never understood octopus. Sure, we'd eaten it as sushi, and were happy enough with the sometimes rubbery, often tasteless seafood. The novelty intrigued us, though never knocked us out. Yet now we know: There's simply nothing better than San Carlos' garlic octopus, impossibly tender, outrageously fragrant, and decadently buttery. It positively melts in… More >>
  • BEST HOLE-IN-THE-WALL MEXICAN JOINT

    Rito's

    For more than 25 years, Rito's owners have been telling folks to get out of their house. It hasn't worked. Even with no sign, limited operating hours, and an inconsistent list of daily menu offerings, people continue to flood the tiny converted dwelling for topnotch burritos, tacos, chimis and tostadas. The Salinas family doesn't even go out of its way… More >>
  • BEST TEQUILA SELECTION

    Via Delosantos

    Being dedicated professionals, we didn't simply take the restaurant manager's word that Via Delosantos, a madcap little Mexican restaurant in north Phoenix, serves more than 210 tequilas. First, we counted the listings on the menu, and we came up with almost 200 varieties. Then we went to look at the collection in person: A sign posted as we entered the… More >>
  • BEST TACOS

    La Tolteca

    Eating at La Tolteca is like eating in a Mexican market, because actually we are eating in a Mexican market. This place is part Hispanic grocery store, part kitchen accessory store, part bakery, part butcher shop, part fast-food takeout counter, part sit-down restaurant. The music is loud and boisterous, the servers are cheerful chatterboxes, and, most important, the food is… More >>
  • BEST CHEAP MEXICAN FOOD

    Restaurant Mexico

    See our wallet? It's fat and happy, just like us. The most we can spend at this peppy little hole in the wall is $8.50, and that's for a hefty platter of fajitas, grilled steak with green peppers, tomatoes, onions, refried beans, rice and flour tortillas. Just $5.75 gets us a combo of crisp beef picadillo taco, chorizo tostada, and… More >>
  • BEST MEXICAN FOOD TO GET FIRED UP OVER

    Los Dos Molinos

    Our out-of-town visitors were pooh-poohing us, saying that for all they'd heard about the spicy potency of Mexican food, they weren't impressed. Why, they'd had a cheese crisp, they'd had a taco, they'd had some chips and salsa at one of those big chain restaurants, and they barely felt a tingle. So we took them to Los Dos, starting with… More >>
  • BEST HORCHATA

    Barrio Café

    If you haven't tried horchata, the sweet, refreshing Mexican rice drink, you're depriving yourself of dessert in a cup. Made with rice, sugar and cinnamon, it's a beverage you'll find at most Mexican restaurants in the Valley. But there's something extra special about the horchata at Barrio Café. Served in a charming, old-fashioned glass bottle, it's got the luscious, creamy… More >>
  • BEST TORTILLAS

    Carolina's Mexican Food

    The menu at Carolina's offers these toppings for their tortillas: cheese, with red, green or machaca meat, or slathered with butter. We admit that we've made a major meal of ordering one of each. Pure heaven. What is harder to come clean on, though, is that before we leave the restaurant, we buy a dozen more tortillas, and have been… More >>
  • BEST AZ-MEX

    Carbajal’s

    The love affair with simple, satisfying Sonoran-style gringo food starts with the chips. They're spectacular, crispy light, warm, and sprinkled with lots of salt. The chunky salsa purée is flamed with just enough chiles to add spark without pain. It's tempting to eat an entire basket all by our lonesome. But we resist, knowing that owner Marina Carbajal is in… More >>
  • BEST MODERN MEXICANA RESTAURANT

    Los Sombreros

    When is something old actually something new? When it's old as in authentic, but when it's new to Valley taste buds. And the Mexican food served at Los Sombreros is excitingly new. This isn't the typical gringo ground beef taco with Cheddar cheese, but the regional cuisine of and around Oaxaca. That means some exotica in ingredients, like cotija (dry… More >>
  • BEST DRIVE-THROUGH FAST FOOD

    Coconut Joe's Teriyaki Grill

    This is the fanciest fast food to be found. Everything here is prepared to order, with fresh ingredients, and with sauces and dressings made from scratch. The family-run cafe keeps it simple but satisfying with a Hawaiian-Asian menu, meaning stir fries and rice bowls (no extra charge for white meat chicken!), teriyaki-pineapple-chicken salad, or a Big Kahuna burger, bringing a… More >>
  • BEST BREAKFAST

    New York Bagels 'n Bialys

    Sometimes, even before we rub the sleep from our eyes, we've already decided what we'll be having for breakfast. That's because the early morning fare served at New York Bagels 'n Bialys visits us in our dreams. The selection offered in this Jewish deli is mind-boggling, with almost three dozen delectable dishes. The Rabin family uses recipes handed down for… More >>
  • BEST NEW RESTAURANT

    Deseo

    The credit begins with Douglas Rodriguez, celebrity chef from back East, and father of the unique cuisine now known as Nuevo Latino. He's the big name behind Latin-influenced Deseo. But the award goes to Deseo's actual chef de cuisine, Mark Dow, who is flawlessly crafting Rodriguez's recipes and bringing brand-new excitement to the Valley's dining scene. We rarely see arepas… More >>
  • BEST NEW PHOENIX CHARM

    La Grande Orange

    Time was, not so long ago, that it was difficult to find even basic ingredients like cilantro in local grocery stores. Fennel was a plastic doohickey we used to change our car's oil, "greens" meant iceberg lettuce, and pizza came from Domino's. But Craig and Kris DeMarco have taken our fair Valley into the big leagues, with La Grande Orange,… More >>
  • BEST OLD PHOENIX CHARM

    Fry Bread House

    Fry bread actually isn't an authentic Indian dish (trust us). It comes from the time that white settlers arrived in the Valley hundreds of years ago. Two cultures have come together in a most marvelous fashion, and fry bread has become a favorite taste of Arizona. For all its history, there's only one place in town that truly does the… More >>
  • BEST PLACE FOR A FIRST DATE

    Kazimierz World Wine Bar

    Kazimierz is such a fun, upbeat place that instead of a typical happy hour, it features "early evening hours of joy." Who couldn't have a great time at such a stylish hideaway as this, a dark, intimate cave decorated like a castle with lots of wood, stone and stained glass? Your date will think you're totally hip, just knowing how… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO TAKE A FOODIE

    Fate

    Who says experiencing a "foodie fantasia" has to be some high-priced, completely complicated, rich and crazy (and expensive) undertaking? Fate chef Johnny Chu proves that the magic of fine food comes in complete respect for the most simple ingredients, left to their pure flavors and nudged to excitement by lightly applied but highly creative sauces. His Asian cuisine doesn't require… More >>
  • BEST PRIVATE DINING ROOM

    Charmian

    Wow, if we had way, way too much money to burn, this is where we would do it. This concept is a full restaurant, with a full staff and a full gourmet menu, but it's designed for just a single party. As in one table, seating just two to 12 guests. We like to think of it as our own… More >>
  • BEST PATIO DINING

    Postino Winecafé

    Are we inside? Are we outside? It can be difficult to tell the difference at Postino. The place is a refurbished post office, and what used to be loading doors are now retractable walls that open up to an expansive patio. Whichever side we're on, it's all beautiful, with walls of wine, royal-toned paint, an opulent mahogany bar and cushy… More >>
  • BEST PLACE FOR A TWILIGHT DRINK

    Greasewood Flats

    In its earlier days, Greasewood Flats was known only to a few folks lucky enough to have discovered the little place hidden off a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Those folks included John Denver and Glen Campbell, who would do impromptu performances. Today, the circa-1883 former stagecoach bunkhouse is more widely known, feeding up to 400 people a… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO IMPRESS A CLIENT

    Elements

    We read somewhere that when political/royal structures were built in the old days, they were made to be as huge, ostentatious and overwhelming as could be, so as to intimidate visitors from other countries. So imagine bringing that finicky client to the Sanctuary, situated on 53 acres on the side of posh Camelback Mountain, with breathtaking views of the north… More >>
  • BEST RESORT RESTAURANT

    T. Cook's at the Royal Palms

    The last thing we want when we're enjoying a luxury resort dinner is to feel like we're eating a luxury resort dinner. That's because so many resorts these days are enormous corporations, with sterile, appeal-to-the-masses menus that have us yawning in our caesar salad, roasted chicken and crème brûlée. Not T. Cook's, though. At T. Cook's, we feel like we're… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO HIDE IN THE DARK

    Durant's

    We're not vampires. Really. But we do admit to having a certain aversion to sunlight. It's just so hot. And bright. But when we want to chill out and calm down, we make tracks for Durant's, a Valley legend since 1950. In good, old-fashioned style, Durant's keep the lights turned way down low, even during the lunch hour. If there… More >>
  • BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH

    El Chorro Lodge

    Sundays are for sleeping in. Unless we've got a reservation for brunch at El Chorro, in which case we might not sleep Saturday night at all. Brunch is served in the cool months, October through May. El Chorro is stunningly beautiful, nestled below the red cliffs of Echo Canyon of Camelback Mountain. It's historic, built in 1934 as a school… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

    Manila Cafe

    There are times when just another meal of mainstream Italian, Mexican or American just won't do. We live on the edge, darn it, and our dinner needs to celebrate our daring, dashing nature. Food doesn't get any more exciting than at Manila Cafe. It's Filipino, a dramatic blend of Malay, Chinese and Spanish, with hints of Indian, Mexican, Arab and… More >>
  • BEST VIEW

    Acacia at Four Seasons Resort

    Frankly, we have all the view we need when we dine with our honey -- that face, those eyes. But we have to admit, it's mighty romantic to do our staring in a sumptuous setting, for when we do look away, the surroundings should be at least as gorgeous as our companion. For that special view, we are smitten with… More >>
  • BEST DOWNTOWN EXECUTIVE LUNCH

    Alexi's

    This must be the place to be since we've seen Governor Janet Napolitano and her entourage of burly security guards dining here (what they ate, we don't know -- the goons wouldn't let us near her table). Secrets can be spilled here, because with the din of closely packed important shirt-and-tie clientele, nobody is listening to anyone but themselves. The… More >>
  • BEST LATE-NIGHT MEAL

    Zen 32 - CLOSED

    We can't remember how many times we've gone to the theater, or a movie, or simply overslept the dinner hour (hey, we're night owls, and it happens). After 10, we've got no place to go, other than a noisy bar or some place slinging Grand Slam sadness. That's why we're so very happy to have Zen 32, where, no matter… More >>
  • BEST PLACE FOR DINNER WITH THE CHEF

    Monastery - CLOSED

    There's something exciting about watching a professional chef at work. The skill, the flair, the panache of a trained restaurant talent. We've never quite mastered the art, but with the Monastery, we can pretend we have. Here, at these casual, artsy restaurants, we get to be the chef ourselves. We like the original Indian School location the best, taken as… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO BAG A BITE FOR JUST A FEW BUCKS

    Cherryblossom Noodle Cafe

    Ever wonder how you can be so busy, yet so broke? So when your long hours and lean wallet get to you, treat yourself to a meal at Cherryblossom. There's nothing more expensive than $10 on this lengthy menu of big, tasty noodle dishes, and most ring in at $5 to $8. The variety is constantly interesting -- Japanese, Thai,… More >>
  • BEST DOWNTOWN LUNCH

    My Florist Cafe - CLOSED

    Okay, we confess: We eat more than just lunch at My Florist Cafe. We have breakfast there every Friday, because we can't get enough of their yummy baked oatmeal. And you'll find us there several nights a week, digging into the superlative pear salad and grooving to the impossibly swell stylings of pianist Nicole. But most of the time we're… More >>
  • BEST HANGOVER BREAKFAST

    JP Pancake

    Our brain is pounding. Our stomach is churning. Our eyes hurt, our mouth tastes like old eggs, and we've got that heavy, guilty misery that can only mean one thing: We drank too much again last night. Perhaps we should punish ourselves for our indiscretion with the evil spirits, but aren't we already suffering enough? Darn right we are, so… More >>
  • BEST SOLUTION FOR IT'S THE MIDDLE OF THE WEEK AND I'M TOO POOPED TO COOK

    Elie's Deli

    After slaving over a hot desk all day long, who really wants to face an hour or more working in the kitchen for dinner? Still, we'd like our families to enjoy a healthful, tasty, home-cooked meal, even if it isn't cooked in our own home. So it's Elie's takeout to the rescue! We love this tiny, family-run quick-stop casual shop… More >>
  • BEST ROMANTIC RESTAURANT

    Lon's at the Hermosa Inn -- Wine Cellar

    How the architect managed to figure out how to dig a wine cellar under the historic converted home that is Lon's, we'll never know. All we can say is that he did it, and beautifully. This brand-new room is hidden back behind the bar, behind a scrolled gate, and down a steep, winding flight of rock stairs. The temperature drops… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO EAT AT THE BAR

    Roaring Fork

    When we're worn out, the only thing we want to do for dinner is eat over the kitchen sink at home. Unfortunately, it's hard to find friends who want to do that with us. So on those nights, we ask them to meet us at Roaring Fork, where it's almost as comfortable, casual and homey. These people understand the need… More >>

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