Food & Drink

  • BEST COFFEE HOUSE

    Lux Coffeebar

    The coffee at Lux is superb, but that's not what keeps the place packed. Instead, it's the super-cool vibe you find in the patrons and the decor. Both are downtown chic, looking straight out of New York or San Francisco, rather than central Phoenix. But no, here they are, the intelligentsia of Phoenix -- city council people canoodling with artists,… More >>
  • BEST WINE SELECTION

    Sportsman's Fine Wine & Spirits - CLOSED

    Sportsman's is the largest volume, single location, independent wine retailer in the state's history, which doesn't begin to tell the story. The 20 staff people have a combined 250 years' experience with the sauce, and that includes two certified wine specialists and three certified sommeliers. This might explain why Bon Appètit magazine selected Sportsman's as one of the top 50… More >>
  • BEST MIDDLE EASTERN MARKET

    Middle Eastern Bakery and Deli

    We can't pronounce most of the names on the shelves of this little central Phoenix market, but we know it's the place we go when we want the most delicious lemon soup we've ever had. Or the freshest pita, or tastiest kebabs and tandoori chicken salad. The Middle Eastern Bakery, which has been around for years and, lucky for us,… More >>
  • BEST ASIAN MARKET

    Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket

    As that sage philosopher Butt-head once remarked to his pal Beavis, "Variety is the spice of life, dillweed!" We couldn't agree more. Maybe that's why we think Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket is one of the coolest places on Earth. The 52,000-square-foot bazaar includes delicacies from all over the planet, and you could literally spend a lifetime just checking out all… More >>
  • BEST JAPANESE CONVENIENCE STORE

    Fujiya Market

    Here's a little-known fact: Japan has the coolest convenience stores in the world. Shelves brimming with colorful goods in irresistible packaging -- whimsical bags of candy in flavors like peach, yogurt and soda pop, a mind-boggling array of canned iced teas and energy drinks, fancy bottles of sake, pastel bottles of shampoo, and all the ingredients you'd need to make… More >>
  • BEST BAKERY

    Barb's Bakery

    There's nothing fancy about the inside of Barb's Bakery -- except the baked goods. We love to ooh and aah over the fake wedding cake samples, and we buy the iced sugar cookies (the house specialty is flowers, but they'll make any shape you want, if you bring them a cookie cutter, and we've never come up with a color… More >>
  • BEST JAPANESE BAKERY

    Arai Pastry

    If you've ever visited Japan or lived in a city with its own Japanese enclave, then you may be familiar with the delights of a Japanese bakery, wherein one can experience the uniquely Japanese take on certain Western baked goods as well as more traditional Japanese pan, or bread stuffed with any number of items. Arai Pastry is a perfect… More >>
  • BEST FLYING CHICKEN

    Bandera

    We called, we drove, we'd barely stopped the car when a cute guy with a big bag emerged from the back door of Bandera, and plunked an entire chicken in our laps. We love Bandera for the peanut coleslaw and the grilled artichokes, but mostly, we love the flying chicken park-and-pick-up system. Screw the Colonel. Pass the cornbread.… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO FIND SOFIA IN A CAN

    Cost Plus World Market

    We can't help but hate Sofia Coppola. Not only is she one of the hottest young film directors around, she gets to date all the cool guys. And her dad is Francis Ford Coppola, which was neat to begin with, but then he started a winery, and that was nice, but now the coup de grâce: He's named a wine… More >>
  • BEST CHEESE SELECTION

    Cheuvront Wine and Cheese Bar - CLOSED

    Unbridled turophilia, otherwise known as the love of cheese, knows almost no bounds. There seems to be an endless line of cheeses, endless variations upon variations, thereby proving the truth of what writer and critic Clifton Fadiman said when he called cheese "milk's leap toward immortality." Milk is milk, and can't change much while still remaining so. Cheese, by comparison,… More >>
  • BEST FARMERS' MARKET

    Guadalupe Farmers' Market

    Guadalupe not only has the distinction of being Phoenix's smallest suburb, but it's also the East Valley's favorite barrio. Residents from Chandler and Tempe come to the town for its shops and restaurants -- or maybe just to see how the other half lives. In any case, one of the more popular destinations is this rustic produce depot, with its… More >>
  • BEST PIZZA DOUGH

    Riccobono's Italian Bakery

    Pizza is not what it used to be. At least, not since pizza delivery chains introduced the conveyor oven, which may churn out more pizzas per hour than traditional pizza ovens, but reduces the quality of the pizza because of all the openings in the oven that prevent a good, even heat. We recommend you make it at home --… More >>
  • BEST GOURMET POPCORN

    Pass the Popcorn

    Our hands are stained with the amazing flavor dust (well, that's what we call it, anyway) that the geniuses of this wonderful snack spot sprinkle all over their delicious popcorn. We can't stay away from Pass the Popcorn, where we buy a daily bag of zesty seasoned kernels and sometimes eat the whole thing for dinner. When we're not glomming… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO LOW-CARB

    Low Carb Mall

    There are thousands of low-carb products on the market, which is a good thing, because most of them taste horrible. If you're looking for a little something to go with that plate of bacon and eggs -- maybe a low-carb tortilla or some chocolate for dessert -- it's all trial and error, 'til you find something edible. That's why we're… More >>
  • BEST SMOOTHIE

    AJ's Scoops

    A few years back, some New Ager ruined the simplicity of fruit and ice by calling it a smoothie and adding enough supplements to choke a steroid addict. But at AJ's Scoops, the art of the smoothie is returned to its essentials. You tell the nice folks behind the counter what fruits you like, and they'll purèe fine specimens… More >>
  • BEST BLOOMIN' COOKIE

    Cookies in Bloom

    These flowers won't wilt, but we can't guarantee they'll be around long. Cookies in Bloom will deliver your loved one a lovely bouquet of iced cookies for any occasion. We like to challenge the folks at this little shop to get really creative, and they never disappoint -- they can decorate a cookie with anything! Cookie monsters, this bud's… More >>
  • BEST DELI

    Chompie's Deli

    Many a wayward Gothamite has found himself or herself in the Valley thinking, "What the hell have I done?!" Sometimes you find them hyperventilating, in a state of shock that they can't find the Village Voice and the Daily News on every corner of P-town. There's even a special ward at the Mayo Clinic devoted to ex-New Yorkers who've never… More >>
  • BEST MARGARITA

    Salty Señorita

    There are several competing stories as to where the first margarita was mixed and by whom, and Lord knows, we're not going to do a tango with that tar baby. Still, most folks can agree that the traditionally tequila-and-lime-based concoction has been around for more than half a century. So you can pretty much bet the hacienda on the fact… More >>
  • BEST CHIPS AND SALSA

    Mariscos Ensenada

    You've probably heard many a Phoenician rave about Mariscos Ensenada's seafood pastas, like the bay scallops with cream chipotle sauce, or the prawns with spaghetti, olive oil, tomatoes and wine. Or maybe you've heard someone go on and on about Mariscos Ensenada's octopus, shrimp or sea snail tostadas. And some folks just can't shut up about the ceviche verde de… More >>
  • BEST MEXICAN BAKERY

    La Tolteca Mexican Foods

    Lunchtime at La Tolteca is as busy as Van Buren gets -- during the day. La Tolteca is a bright and cheery superstore, a bakery, restaurant, butcher shop and supermarket where you can buy tamarind candies, dried Jamaica flowers, beer, fresh cucumber juice and beef tongue. But the way La Tolteca is designed, it's the panaderia, or bakery section,… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO GET MENUDO AND A MAMACITA

    Phoenix Ranch Market

    If you're craving a foodie fiesta, look no further than either of the Phoenix Ranch Markets. With myriad Mexican meals available from any of the varied food stations -- offering up everything from freshly made-right-in-front-of-you shrimp tacos to the hangover-curing menudo (on weekends) -- your taste buds will forgive you for all those trips to the Del Taco drive-through. In… More >>
  • BEST HOLE-IN-THE-WALL MEXICAN JOINT

    Birrieria El Gordo

    In a place like Phoenix, where Spanish is the only language in some sections, there is no shortage of Mexican dives. But we suggest you try Birrieria El Gordo on 27th Avenue, about a block north of Indian School. The decor is sparse, and if your Spanish is rusty, you may have to get by with goofy white-boy sign language,… More >>
  • BEST PIÑATAS

    Sanchez & Sons Printing

    The youngster's B-Day is drawing nigh and he's been clamoring for a fancy-pants piñata, but no rainbow-colored donkey or bull will suffice this time around (especially after that Juicy Fruit commercial had him sleeping in your bed for weeks). He's already prepped a short list of the usual suspects -- Batman, Clifford, Yu-Gi-Oh!. So you head to Sanchez &… More >>
  • BEST MEXICAN NIGHTCLUB

    702 Dwntwn

    Ooo-wee! It is getting hot in here. Every weekend, the parking lot of this ritzy downtown Phoenix nightclub is packed with Hummers, lowriders and luxury sedans. There's a $10 cover most nights, a dress code (upscale casual -- no baggy pants, no athletic wear), and a security check at the door. The two dance floors stay shakin' until the wee… More >>
  • BEST MEXICAN SWAP MEET

    El Gran Mercado - CLOSED

    The Arizona State Fair comes and goes each October. How do the churro- and carnie-ride-obsessed deal with the next 50 or so weeks? A perfectly acceptable substitute is found at the Great Southwestern Swap Meet, a.k.a. El Gran Mercado. For the most part, the giant market is like the fair's commercial building gone Chicano, and the place certainly lives up… More >>
  • BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT

    Los Dos Molinos

    Ask a dozen folks where their favorite Mexican food is in town, and you'll get a dozen answers. Sometimes it's the place nearest to where you live or work. Or maybe it's the spot that makes chimichangas or flautas just the way you like them. It could even be the restaurant that has put a trendy, nuevo twist on old… More >>
  • BEST MODERN MEXICANA RESTAURANT

    Barrio Cafe

    Barrio Cafe may be the ultimate proof of the existence of karma. This slammin' little eatery on 16th Street has been hailed by all and sundry, from the New York Times and Food and Wine magazine to nearly every rag in P-town, save maybe for Erotica Phoenix. All Barrio needs now is for Yahweh to part the heavens and reenact… More >>
  • BEST GOURMET MEXICAN RESTAURANT

    La Hacienda

    As the name implies, La Hacienda has the atmosphere of a traditional Mexican estate; the decor reminds us of Like Water for Chocolate. Roving musicians provide the background to a menu that reinvents classic Mexican cuisine. The appetizer menu includes a sampler plate, "antojitos mexicanos," which includes squash blossom quesadillas and crabmeat enchiladas, but do not miss La Hacienda's… More >>
  • BEST TORTILLAS

    Carolina's Mexican Food Restaurant

    A visit to Carolina's is nearly a religious experience, one that's catholic, with a little "c," meaning it's almost universal in its appeal. Park yourself in front of the main entrance to the dingy, warehouse-like structure with its school-cafeteria tables and chairs, and you'll see what we mean. Every sort of person, regardless of class or ethnicity, walks through those… More >>
  • BEST TACOS

    Tepic Restaurant

    Some Mexican restaurants try to be so authentic in their decor, they neglect the food. Other Mexican restaurants prefer to let their food speak for itself. At Tepic Restaurant, which opened earlier this year at Phoenix's original Denny's restaurant on Van Buren Street, the authenticity is most notable in the restaurant's tacos. Juan Romero, who spent two decades working in… More >>
  • BEST ENCHILADA

    Casa Reynoso

    The enchilada is a hard dish to nail. We've found our favorite at a restaurant owned by the multi-generational Reynoso clan, who hail from the Globe-Miami area and create their dishes using family recipes. From the first bite, you experience the distinctively spicy yet smoky flavor of fire-roasted green chiles. The Reynosos don't skimp on the meat -- in… More >>
  • BEST MEXICAN HOT DOG

    Nogales Hot Dogs

    Hot dogs are as American as baseball and apple pie, but for many Mexicans, your typical stateside hot dog adorned with ketchup, mustard and relish is about as bland as a wet dachshund. Thankfully, we live in a border state where the Sonoran-style hot dog can be purchased at hot dog stands throughout the Valley. Wrapped in bacon and smothered… More >>
  • BEST MEXICAN SEAFOOD

    Serrano's Fishmarket and Restaurant

    When it comes to Mexican seafood cocktails, whether it's shrimp and octopus or shrimp and oysters, Serrano's beats the square pants off SpongeBob. This large, homey mariscos spot near 32nd Street and Shea may not be in the hippest neighborhood in the PHX, but you'll have a hard time finding its equal elsewhere in the Valley, unless it's the no-frills… More >>
  • BEST SOUL FOOD

    Stacy's

    Chef Stacy Phipps is the man when it comes to soul food in this town. Sure, there are a number of purveyors of Southern home cookin' in the PHX, but Phipps is the King of Collards, the Grand Pooh-Bah of Gizzards, the Prince of Pulled Pork, and the Supreme Sultan of Smothered Fried Chicken. Now, you could spend hundreds, maybe… More >>
  • BEST NEW RESTAURANT

    Blue Wasabi Sushi and Martini Bar

    If that ultimate stoner character Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High ever springs to life from your television set while you're peeping the DVD for the umpteenth time and asks you for directions to "some awesome sushi, mon," draw that young man a map to the Valley's Best New Restaurant, Blue Wasabi Sushi and Martini Bar, way up… More >>
  • BEST CAJUN/CREOLE RESTAURANT

    Baby Kay's Cajun Kitchen - CLOSED

    Dinner at Baby Kay's Cajun Kitchen makes us wanna bitch-slap Emeril Lagasse, it's so good. Of course, we never were crazy about that lame-ass honky and his brainwashed studio audience, which cheers every time the New Orleans-based chef yells "Bam!" and adds salt to a pot roast. Why, the guy's actually from MASSACHUSETTS, people! And he must shave between his… More >>
  • BEST UPSCALE ITALIAN RESTAURANT

    Daniel's Italian Cuisine

    You can hardly throw a rock without hitting an Eye-tie eatery in the Valley. But very few have what it takes to earn our loyalty. This is especially true of upscale Italian places where you might have to part with your Roth IRA to pay for some watered-down minestrone, a bowl of calamari, and a plate of pasta with a… More >>
  • BEST NEIGHBORHOOD ITALIAN

    Redendo's Pizzeria and Pasta

    Do not fear the tomato. The tomato is your friend. That's what we'd like to tell most Italian joints in Greater P-town. See, for their chefs, spaghetti and meatballs has become one of those quaint dishes of yesteryear, like baked Alaska and beef Wellington, that they've completely forgotten how to make. Judge them by what they serve up, when they… More >>
  • BEST GERMAN RESTAURANT

    Haus Murphy's

    Yes, there are other German pubs in the Valley, but none matches the cuckoo-clock-like quaintness of Haus Murphy's interior, with its German banners, portraits of King Ludwig II, embroidered tablecloths, lederhosen hung from the rafters, and that bewitching, mirror-backed bar from the set of the 1985 James Garner-Sally Field film Murphy's Romance. Barmaids in dirndls bring you 32-ounce schooners of… More >>
  • BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT

    Sophie's Bistro - CLOSED

    Was it the pan-seared foie gras that won our hearts? The pâtè du chef infused with Madeira, cognac and essence of white truffle? Or those divine lamb chops with the pistachio-sage crust? Sure, Sophie's has ambiance aplenty, set as it is in a cozy little cottage, with hardwood floors, roughhewn wooden beams holding up the ceiling, and tasteful abstract prints… More >>
  • BEST NEW AMERICAN CUISINE

    Ruby Beet Gourmet

    Slow foodies go gaga over this Martha Stewart-esque eatery with its reliance on mostly organic produce and meat, its soft, fruity bread baked every day on the premises, and a menu that changes with the seasons. They swoon over the fried, panko-breaded olives stuffed with feta, or the warm peach and prosciutto salad tossed with baby arugula. And they're practically… More >>
  • BEST UPSCALE STEAK HOUSE

    Drinkwater's City Hall

    Don't forget your bankroll when you waltz into Drinkwater's City Hall. This plush, ritzy chophouse/nightclub caters to Scottsdale's nouveau riche and those just passing through, like professional athletes and celebs for whom dropping $39 on a steak is nothing. Thing is, like the man said, you get what you pay for, and consequently the rich really do eat better than… More >>
  • BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT

    Gourmet House of Hong Kong

    Color scheme is not the Gourmet House of Hong Kong's strong suit: The exterior is the color of aqua-blue taffy; the interior, a sickly Pepto-Bismol pink with a dismal, though clean, gray tile flooring. The furnishings? Round tables and plain, armless chairs, with the occasional generic Chinese-style painting of a pool of fish. The ceiling is best left unremarked upon,… More >>
  • BEST JAPANESE RESTAURANT

    Cherryblossom Noodle Cafe

    This may be terrible to say, but now that Dr. Atkins is fertilizer, we can finally eat like human beings again, and that means the regular consumption of starch, especially as prepared by Cherryblossom Noodle Cafe. Of course, Cherryblossom does serve some items the late diet maven might have allowed, such as whole baby calamari in anchovy tomato sauce, crunchy… More >>
  • BEST VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT

    Pho Bang

    With Pho Bang being a perennial winner in this category, you might get the impression that there are no other Vietnamese joints in the Valley. Wrong again, beef-ball breath! There are actually Viet eats aplenty to be found throughout greater PHX, but Pho Bang overwhelms the competition with a massive menu and the most consistent and authentic Southeast Asian foodstuffs… More >>
  • BEST LOCAL EATERY WE WISH WERE A CHAIN

    The Fry Bread House

    Okay, so maybe it's not the most healthful food on the face of the planet, we think as we espy the opened can of Crisco sitting in the Fry Bread House's kitchen, but then it's not exactly as if Popeye's or Taco Bell serves diet food. Anyway, we'll put FBH's palate-pleasing puffs of flour, salt and shortening up against any… More >>
  • BEST THAI RESTAURANT

    Thai Rama

    For Thai purists, there's no better place for Siamese cuisine than Thai Rama, which has resisted the mainstreaming of Thai food that some places have championed. Nothing wrong with experimentation, of course, but we like our Thai restaurants to be an echo of old Bangkok, with Thai embroidery on the walls and classic dishes that taste the way Thai Rama… More >>
  • BEST KOREAN RESTAURANT

    Seoul Garden Korean BBQ Restaurant

    Psst. Hey, buddy, smell our hands. No, it's nothing gross, we promise. Just take a whiff. Know what that tantalizing fragrance is? That's the smell of Korean barbecue, and if there was a way to bottle it, we'd rub ourselves down in it from head to toe, but Chanel is still working out the kinks in its Eau de Beef… More >>
  • BEST WESTERN SWING

    Rancho Pinot

    Longtime fixtures on the Phoenix culinary scene, Tom and Chrysa Kaufman have created a low-key restaurant that winks at Western kitsch. From the Mexican kitchen altar to the Lon Megargee prints on the wall, the art is nearly as sly as the gourmet dishes posing as comfort food. … More >>
  • BEST AUTHENTIC ARIZONA RESTAURANT

    Pinnacle Peak Patio

    So just what the hell is "authentic Arizona" cuisine? Roasted javelina with a prickly pear salad and a side of chopped roadrunner liver? Hmm, come to think of it, that doesn't sound half bad. But until some gifted chef realizes our twisted culinary vision, we'll stick to Scottsdale's Pinnacle Peak Patio, which serves porterhouse steaks you can use as doorstops… More >>
  • BEST SEAFOOD

    Salt Cellar Restaurant

    Would you like to be under the sea, in an octopus' garden, in the shade? All apologies to Ringo, but that's the first thing that comes to mind upon descending two floors into the ground to the nautical-themed, wood-paneled dining rooms of Scottsdale's renowned Salt Cellar Restaurant. Well, it's either that, or the last time we watched Sealab 2021. There's… More >>
  • BEST UPSCALE DINER

    Welcome Diner

    The Welcome Diner is such a quaint little place, painted white with red trim on the outside, that it looks like Matchbox made it and you could pretty much pick it up and stick it in your pocket if you wanted. The interior is essentially a short-order kitchenette and a red counter surrounded by nine -- count 'em, nine --… More >>
  • BEST HIGH-CONCEPT RESTAURANT

    Cheba Hut Toasted Subs

    When we're not at home watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force with a bong full of Humboldt County's finest, you'll find us in Tempe enjoying a chronic blunt at Cheba Hut Toasted Subs. See, Cheba Hut calls its sub sizes nugs (4-inch), pinners (8-inch) and blunts (12-inch), and "chronic" is the name for a barbecued-beef sub. Thus to the staff of… More >>
  • BEST MEDITERRANEAN RESTAURANT

    Efes Turkish Cuisine

    Though there are a number of great Mediterranean restaurants in the Valley, sometimes you have to give it up for the newbie, and that's the way we feel about Efes Turkish Cuisine in Tempe, which has been open for less than a year. Efes is Turkish for Ephesus, that ancient city of Roman ruins and Christian shrines, and the name… More >>
  • BEST INDIAN RESTAURANT

    Royal Taj

    The best Indian restaurants not only serve fantastic Indian cuisine, but they transport you for an hour or two to some mythical Delhi or Bombay that you may otherwise only experience in films or picture books. Royal Taj facilitates this flight of fancy for us with its elegant furnishings, its tchotchkes from the Subcontinent, and its Saturday nights featuring live… More >>
  • BEST CHICKEN AND WAFFLES

    Lo-Lo's Chicken and Waffles - CLOSED

    We may be as agnostic as an ACLU weenie roast, but we have to give it up to that big beatnik in the sky and say a collective "God bless you" to Lo-Lo's Chicken and Waffles, the best thing to hit Phoenix since our pioneer forebears gave up eating beans seven days a week. Lo-Lo's is actually a riff off… More >>
  • BEST FRIED OKRA

    Lil' Mama's Soul Cafe

    If you've never had fried okra before, you're in for a true, Southern-styled treat, especially if you stop by Lil' Mama's Soul Cafe. The green, pod-like plant is believed to have originated in Africa, and was first brought to the American South by slaves, who also introduced the word "gumbo," the stew-like okra-laden dish with which it's associated. When boiled,… More >>
  • BEST DOLMADES

    Greektown Restaurant

    Now pay attention, biahtch, we're only going to explain this once. We know you just got finished watching Troy, with all that business about Greeks bearing gifts, yadda-yadda-yadda. But there's one Greek present you can enjoy without opening it, and it doesn't look anything like a wooden horse. Stumped, oh ye of little gray matter? We're talking about stuffed grape… More >>
  • BEST CHILI

    Roaring Fork

    Okay, we'll come clean. We'd kiss Robert McGrath's stinkiest pair of cowboy boots for one of those little cast-iron pots of green chile pork stew that he serves at his Southwestern-styled Roaring Fork restaurant. And dagnabbit, you may feel the same after a visit to one of the best restaurants in the Valley for a bowl of this desert ambrosia… More >>
  • BEST FROGS' LEGS

    Mes Amis Bistro and Bar

    Chef Georges Venezia of Scottsdale's Mes Amis Bistro and Bar whips up a mess of Provenal-style frogs' legs that would turn Kermit into a cannibal. According to Venezia, the frogs' legs were added only after a regular customer began to ask for them. So Venezia, who hails from Nice, began to prepare them as they do in southern France, in… More >>
  • BEST HAMBURGER

    Roaring Fork

    Roaring Fork chef Robert McGrath has achieved something we didn't think possible, something long sought after by cooks high and low, the Holy Grail of American grilling, if you will. That is, he's built a better burger. That's a 12-ounce Big Ass Burger, to be exact, one that you can only enjoy during dinner hours in the saloon area of… More >>
  • BEST VEGGIE BURGER

    Pita Jungle

    Back in our college days, we hung with the vegan crowd for so long that those damn hippies finally persuaded us to disavow our flesh-eating ways. Eventually, we came to our senses and sold out around the time that one bumper sticker ("If we aren't supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?") started making sense -- or… More >>
  • BEST FRIES

    Blac-a-Zoli Grill

    Fries are one of those sides we all tend to take for granted, and maybe that's why they're usually so forgettable. After all, when's the last time you had memorable pommes frites, people? Well, we don't know about you, but the last time we had an unforgettable frittered tuber was at Blac-a-Zoli Grill, a swankish little Eye-tie joint over on… More >>
  • BEST BLUE PLATE SPECIAL

    Wally's

    Wally's promotes a blue plate special nightly that evokes home cooking (provided one of your parents could actually cook). From spaghetti and meatballs to pot roast, each dish is the real McCoy. As you tuck it away, you can't help wondering: Whatever happened to make this kind of food vanish from local menus? Unlike at home, there is a good… More >>
  • BEST SANDWICHES

    Pane Bianco

    Culinary bad boy Chris Bianco is best known for his pizzas, but it's Bianco's other stab at digestive glory that garners our garlands: Pane Bianco, Bianco's sandwich shop next to the cooler-than-thou Lux Coffeebar. Bianco's panini don't taste overly sooty, a nice trick since they are house-made in a wood-fueled oven. The finished product makes for the perfect lunch when… More >>
  • BEST GOURMET PIZZA

    Patsy Grimaldi's Coal Brick Oven Pizzeria

    "Best Gourmet Pizza" is a spurious epithet as applied to Patsy Grimaldi's in Scottsdale, as the phrase "gourmet pizza" connotes pizza eaten with pinkie raised, the consumer smug in the knowledge that he or she has chosen the snootiest slice to be had. But there's nothing effete about Grimaldi's coal-fired pies, crafted with house-made mozzarella, sweet tomato sauce, and any… More >>
  • BEST SLICE OF PIZZA

    Slices

    Shut up and eat. That's the motto of Valley pie shop Slices, which has two locations, one in Scottsdale and one in Tempe, and we'll be damned if we couldn't say it any better ourselves. Atmosphere, shmatmosphere. This place is all about the pizza-by-the-slice, hence the name, Matlock. So expect nothing more ambiance-wise than stools, paper plates, and a TV… More >>
  • BEST GREENS

    Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe

    Greens are to soul food what tomatoes are to Italian cuisine: a culinary sine qua non. Indeed, every soul food place in existence has its take on this Southern-born side dish, sometimes just using collards and sometimes mixing them with other leafy greens, such as kale, turnip, and/or mustard greens. Our complaint regarding those served at many soul food joints… More >>
  • BEST USE OF A PEANUT

    The Thai Dipping Sauce at Plaid Eatery

    As repulsive as it initially sounds -- dipping corn chips into a thick glob of peanut sauce one step away from Jif -- the taste of Plaid's Thai sauce is irresistible. The "Thai" part of the moniker is a little misleading. At least, we've never had a peanut dipping sauce with any satay in any Thai restaurant that was quite… More >>
  • BEST USE OF AN EGGPLANT

    Zest

    Oh, how we adore aubergines, whether in eggplant Parmesan or in that Mediterranean eggplant dip known as baba ghanouj -- but in a cheesecake? Actually, it's not so odd, as a cheesecake can be either sweet or savory, and the eggplant cheesecake served at Zest is an example of the latter. The creation of chef/co-owner Rich Rathert, who has run… More >>
  • BEST LAMB CHOPS

    Rokerij

    All apologies to fans of the late ventriloquist Shari Lewis, but we love lamb chops, and not while they're still on the lamb. A lot of places in town make great lamb chops, but these days, you practically have to beg your server to bring you a side of mint jelly when you order them. Or you might have to… More >>
  • BEST LAMB SHANK

    Baghdad Restaurant

    Co-owners/chefs/cousins Rasul Alramahy and Ali Alhachami put every other restaurant in Phoenix to shame with their lamb and rice plate. For about the same as it costs to eat at some fast-food grease factory in town, their Iraqi eatery will serve you a heaping plate of rice, topped with a shank of lamb that can best many a plate of… More >>
  • BEST BEEF

    Deseo's Kobe Sirloin

    How now, browned cow? Delicious, if it's at Deseo. The Westin Kierland Resort's signature restaurant preps its 10-ounce Kobe sirloin with some surprising seasonings -- cinnamon and ground ginger among them -- then adds gourmet garnishes: sliced heirloom tomatoes, caramelized onions, blue cheese dressing and oregano oil. A mouth-watering example of multiculturalism, Deseo's "American-style" Kobe beef is a cross between… More >>
  • BEST VEAL

    Giuseppe's Italian Kitchen

    It doesn't pay to think about where veal comes from. After all, what did that poor little three-month-old bovine baby ever do to you? But then the veal pasta over at Giuseppe's tastes so heavenly. Those extra-tender nuggets of meat bathed in a light tomato sauce with carrots mixed into al dente spaghetti could turn even the most vehement vegan… More >>
  • BEST FISH AND CHIPS

    Rosie McCaffrey's Irish Pub

    Not only is Rosie McCaffrey's the coolest Irish pub in P-town, it makes a smashing plate of Harp-battered Gadus morhua and thick frittered sticks of pommes de terre. Confused? Well, let us get down off our high horse for a moment to let you know that this august establishment crafts the best fish and chips in the PHX: two fat… More >>
  • BEST TRADITIONAL SUSHI

    Shimogamo

    There are a number of great spots for traditional sushi in the Valley. But owner Yoshio Otomo's Shimogamo has the wow factor others lack. Maybe it's the energy that comes from being the new guy on the block, because, interestingly, this is Otomo's first venture into the restaurant biz. Prior to opening the upscale new eatery with its sleek black-and-gray… More >>
  • BEST DIM SUM

    C-Fu Gourmet

    These days, Chandler's about as close as the Valley comes to having its own "Chinatown," and we mean that term broadly, in the most Pan-Asian way possible. Not only can Chandler boast of having Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket, Restaurant Cyclo, Swaddee Thai, and Lotus Asian Cafe and Grill, but the diamond in its culinary crown is C-Fu Gourmet, where you… More >>
  • BEST BUNS

    Fate

    Who has the tastiest, most sublime buns in the Valley? Why, chef Johnny Chu does, of course. How do we know, you ask? Because we've tasted them, silly, at Chu's renowned Fate cafe in downtown. The buns in question are not the type you see in a Nelly video. Rather, they are a variation on cha sui bao, or Chinese… More >>
  • BEST BARBECUE

    A & J Chicago-Style Bar-B-Q - CLOSED

    We're slightly ashamed to admit this, but we've got this little cut in the corner of our pie hole that we won't let heal because we're hooked on the barbecue sauce at A & J Chicago-Style Bar-B-Q. That tangy, slightly spicy reddish-brown coulis gently stings our tiny wound, sending us into paroxysms of masochistic glee. The pleasure's all ours, as… More >>
  • BEST DEEP DISH APPLE PIE

    Bill Johnson's Big Apple

    Bill Johnson's Big Apple harks back to a simpler time in American culinary history, an era where the men were men, the sheep were scared, and the women were in the kitchen -- chained to the stove, cookin' up some apple pie. We're not sure who's chained to the stove at BJ's, but whoever that poor schlub is, he's baking… More >>
  • BEST FLAN

    Havana Cafe

    We have a dream, a dream that torments us nightly, and causes us to awaken in hunger. In this night vision, we are poised on a rafter in the America West Arena, overlooking a vast expanse of caramel-covered goo, an immense, yellow field of flan that calls out to us in that secret language of all flan lovers, beckoning for… More >>
  • BEST ICE CREAM

    Mary Coyle Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor

    No doubt many of you are too young to remember a time prior to reality TV, a world you may only vaguely glimpse in the occasional Leave It to Beaver rerun. You may also not be aware of the fact that in this distant era, not all ice cream came from chains such as Carvel, Baskin-Robbins, or Häagen-Dazs. Some folks… More >>
  • BEST DESSERT FOR ALKIES

    S`amus McCaffrey's Irish Pub and Restaurant

    So you've been on a bender all week long, you're suffering from a colossal hangover and you'd like a little hair o' the dog -- but you're afraid a shot of firewater will start a chain reaction that will leave you worshiping at the porcelain altar? Well, look no further than Sèamus McCaffrey's Irish Pub and Restaurant, under the proprietorship… More >>
  • BEST WATER CART

    Vincent on Camelback

    We had just settled into a comfortable chair at a perfectly appointed table at Vincent's one recent afternoon, when we almost spat out our tap water. We're well-accustomed to the concept of the dessert cart, but the water cart? Sure enough, here it was, wheeled with as much pomp as the tarts and cheesecakes -- except on it sat a… More >>
  • BEST WINGS

    Bobby C's Lounge and Grille - CLOSED

    Phoenix is full of frickin' wing nuts, and we don't mean the kind who have pinups in their garage of Vice President Dick Cheney buck nekkid on a bear rug. Instead, the Phiddy (i.e., Phoenix city) is wing-nutty about those defeathered and deep-fried chicken appendages, which everyone from Long Wong's to highfalutin chop houses peddle. We've eaten so many chicken… More >>
  • BEST ORIENTAL CHICKEN SALAD

    Kona Grill

    Most people think the key to a perfect chicken salad has to do with the chicken. Most people are wrong. It's the lettuce. We don't really care what kind of lettuce you use, but it must be finely shredded. Not too fine, just make it about the consistency of coleslaw. Kona Grill has that down pat, and it tops the… More >>
  • BEST CAESAR SALAD

    Durant's

    Why is something so apparently straightforward as a Caesar salad so difficult to obtain these days? The classic dish, invented in Tijuana, Mexico, in 1924 by Italian restaurateur Caesar Cardini, should ideally be tossed at tableside, using fresh romaine, grated Parmesan, croutons, a dressing made with lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce, and sometimes anchovies, either on the side, or ground… More >>
  • BEST ESCARGOT

    Gregory's World Bistro

    We slither all over the Valley, looking for the very tastiest snails -- and always leaving a moist, weary trail of disappointment behind. Or at least we did, until Gregory's World Bistro began serving its mind-bendingly delicious escargot phyllo purses. There's nothing freeze-dried about these garden bandits, which are wisely served with tender wild mushrooms and spiced with tasty basil… More >>
  • BEST BAKED OATMEAL

    My Florist Café - CLOSED

    We confess that we dine at My Florist Caf almost more often than we do in our own home, in part because we find its version of comfort food so, well, comforting. And we're profoundly comforted every time we dip into a plate full of My Florist's tasty baked oatmeal. Who knew that rolled oats, brown sugar, and a pinch… More >>
  • BEST POOL TO TAKE A DRINK IN

    JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa

    Resort life can be harsh. First, there's the decision of which one of six pools to swim in. Then, there's the tough call of which one of eight restaurants to dine at. And finally, we've all suffered the travails of finding a good tropical drink by the pool, without having to drip-dry across the courtyard to get it. Luckily, the… More >>
  • BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH

    Squash Blossom

    We love fancy hotels, but we don't like getting gussied up, particularly on a Sunday morning. That's why the brunch at the Hyatt's Squash Blossom is so perfect. No one expects you to dress up. Oh yeah, and don't get us started on the food. Well, since you asked, we recommend that you starve yourself all day Saturday, because this… More >>
  • BEST OLD SCOTTSDALE

    Pink Pony Steakhouse

    If the Pink Pony were a big, nasty redhead, we'd plant one right on her over-lipsticked kisser. You see, so much of what passes for the restaurant industry in this Valley of pawnshops and palm trees is so corporate and lacking in class that the historic Pink Pony looks better the longer we dwell here. Blimey, the Pink Pony's been… More >>
  • BEST PLACE FOR A TWILIGHT DRINK

    elements

    We love the drive up to Sanctuary, the super-chic hotel nestled up against the north side of Camelback Mountain, and we love the fiery hot wasabi nuts they serve in the cozy bar. After a cocktail or two at elements, the beautifully arranged bottles behind the bar twinkle, particularly at twilight. Or maybe it's just the cocktails. Either way, this… More >>
  • BEST PLACE FOR A FIRST DATE

    Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa lobby

    The lobby of the Biltmore is so elegant, you just can't help but feel your best as you sink into a chair in the lobby bar and eye that brand-new guy or gal. Good choice. A drink is the perfect first date. If you like each other, you can eat dinner at the hotel restaurant, or head a few blocks… More >>
  • BEST PATIO DINING

    House of Tricks

    One of the first things we do as soon as fall arrives is call House of Tricks for a lunch reservation. We love to sip a raspberry iced tea (the trick is real raspberries) on the patio in front of this decidedly non-chain restaurant right off Mill Avenue. There's still enough hustle and bustle to keep our eyes busy… More >>
  • BEST REASON TO LINGER AFTER DESSERT

    Nicole Pesce at My Florist Cafe - CLOSED

    You think you know "The Girl From Ipanema" until you've heard it played by Nicole Pesce, the resident pianist at My Florist Cafe. Ditto "Flight of the Bumblebee," which she's been known to pair with Elton John's "Rocket Man" or any of several Jelly Roll Morton numbers. Is it any wonder, then, that folks come from far and wide to… More >>
  • BEST MEAL DURING RED ALERT

    Sonora Brewhouse Pub & Restaurant

    There are enough police officers eating at this relaxed pub at all hours of the day to inspire confidence no matter what color the folks at Homeland Security announce. What are the cops eating? It sounds un-American, but everyone is here for gourmet burgers. An outfit called Snake River Farms imported to the States a herd of cattle from Japan… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO HIDE IN THE DARK

    The Emerald Lounge

    The Emerald Lounge is the CBGB of Phoenix. All the proper elements are there: a garage-like punk-rock stage where you can peep such acts as Hell on Heels, Smut Muffin, and Spaz Kitty; a cool bar with an even cooler bartender -- Don "Mr. Spock" Baber; ice-cold beers on tap; and the sort of inky darkness that takes your eyes… More >>
  • BEST LATE-NIGHT SUSHI

    Zen 32 - CLOSED

    When it comes to late-night decadence, it's hard to bite Zen 32's steelo. Not only can you order a plate of yellowtail sashimi or tuna rolls, and a pint of Kirin beer or a bottle of hot sake, but there's plenty of eye candy to gaze upon while you consume mass quantities. The waitresses are booful (and yes, that spelling's… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO OVER-ORDER

    Seoul Jung Restaurant

    Seoul Jung Restaurant is not only one of the best Korean barbecue houses in the Valley, it also boasts one of the bigger Korean menus in town, with everything from kimchee pancakes and yook hwe (Korean steak tartare) to broiled mackerel and abalone porridge. In addition, it's got an impressive list of authentic Korean barbecue dishes, which includes the standard… More >>
  • BEST HANGOVER BREAKFAST

    Harlow"s Cafe

    When you step out of the blinding morning (or early afternoon) sunlight into the dimmed breakfast oasis that is Harlow's, you'll be greeted with a glass of ice water almost before your butt's hit the comfortable leather booth. Then, depending on the delicate nature of your stomach, you can go simple or all out. If you're looking for absorbency… More >>
  • BEST VIEW

    Acacia at the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North

    You can't help but feel a tinge of Arizona pride when you watch the sun setting behind Pinnacle Peak from the patio at Acacia, with deep shades of rose and violet reflecting off the bubbles in your champagne glass. Or maybe that's just the champagne talking. Either way, this stunning spot equals pure romance (even if it's just a love… More >>
  • BEST DOWNTOWN LUNCH

    Calabria Italian Grocery and Deli

    It's always a treat for us to do lunch at Calabria Italian Grocery and Deli. There are larger, busier places to go for lunch in downtown, but then that's the point of visiting Calabria, which only has a couple of tables, and mostly deals in takeout orders. Our favorite thing to do is take a late lunch and hide at… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO HIDE AT LUNCH

    McCormick & Schmick"s - CLOSED

    Most people like to hide after dark, but if you've never tried hiding at lunch, you really should. We recommend McCormick & Schmick's. Along with regular tables and booths, the seafood restaurant has half a dozen "snugs," described as "private dining booths with luxurious velvet drapes for the ultimate in dining privacy." Now, we wouldn't recommend that you get too… More >>
  • BEST HIGH TEA

    The Phoenician

    As the proverbial Ugly American, we had no clue as to what constitutes a proper high tea experience. So we found ourselves some English ladies (well, one actually only went to school in England, and the other, frankly, is no lady) and headed to the Phoenician on a late summer afternoon. We were surprised to hear that reservations are required… More >>
  • BEST PLACE FOR A CURRY AND A QUICKIE

    Downtown Curry and Grill/Best Western Hotel

    Catherine Deneuve once said that "Sex in hotels keeps love alive," and who are we to disagree with a French film diva? Now, we may not be in Paris, but there are still plenty of places in town where you can schedule an amorous assignation with that hot and bothered hometown honey of yours. However, if we're doing the picking,… More >>
  • BEST HAPPY HOUR

    Eddie Matney"s

    There are a lot of great happy hour specials in town, like the free popcorn at the Cork and Snort, or the two-for-one Manischewitz Mondays at Morrie's Hooch-House in Tempe. But we have to admit, Eddie Matney's takes the concept to a whole different level, which may be why it's so difficult to squeeze into the bar/lounge area of the… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO EAT AT THE BAR

    Superstition Saloon

    If you've got spurs that jingle-jangle-jingle, or just a tape of Tex Ritter singing the same, then at some point you should give yourself a treat and ride that horseless carriage of yours up to Tortilla Flat, way up in the Superstition Mountains, where the Superstition Saloon serves Bullrider Burgers, Killer Chili and bread bowls filled with beans, cheese and… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO DINE SOLO

    Tarbell"s

    Dining at a restaurant table by yourself is a foolish exercise; eating at the bar is cool, and nowhere is it cooler than at Tarbell's. With a long, graceful curve, the bar is staffed by a friendly crew that appear to have no life of their own. The same folks are always on hand offering seemingly effortless service. The menu… More >>

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