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MARCH 4, 2021

Much has changed since March 2020, when Phoenix New Times published its inaugural list of the Top 100 Restaurants in Phoenix. Nearly all the restaurants on the list — James Beard Award winners, strip-mall taquerias, white-tablecloth classics — have struggled simply to stay open amid a pandemic that ripped through the hospitality industry like a hurricane. Dining out has become an entirely different type of activity. In some ways, going to a restaurant may never be the same again.

Our 2021 list of the Top 100 Restaurants in Phoenix reflects this new era of dining. It includes pandemic-related safety policies regarding things like social distancing, carryout and curbside, expanded outdoor seating, and more. It swaps out dearly departed gems for innovative up-and-comers. But mostly it continues to celebrate the culinary multitudes this city contains. The world has changed, but the reasons we go out to eat — to celebrate, to commune, to be excited by some strange new combination of flavors — have not.

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Andreoli Italian Grocer

Andreoli Italian Grocer
Jackie Mercandetti Photo
At his shop-meets-restaurant in north Scottsdale, Giovanni Scorzo has assembled a wide-ranging selection of Italian food, including groceries, pastries and sweets, and sit-down-style dishes. Though not cheap, Italian flours, olive oils, canned vegetables, and other larder gems beckon from their shelves as you wait in line. Under the glass case up front, you'll find sweets like chocolate-shaped tools, cannoli, and more regional Italian favorites like sfogliatelle and torrone, both strong versions and about as good as you can eat in metro Phoenix. Most people come to Andreoli, though, to eat on-site. The dining room that spills away from the ordering counter is casual but retains a formality (and an element of timelessness) you'd experience at meals in Scorzo's native country. Though he hails from Calabria, Scorzo's cooking often reaches from far southern Italy into the north: risotto with seafood, giant slabs of bistecca Fiorentina, the rare Tuscan steak. Salads like Caprese, sandwiches like porchetta, and a fleet of pastas anchor a menu that prizes tradition over change. A white board revealing rotating specials tends to delve deep into the annals of Italian gastronomy. As with any Italian restaurant that looks back in time, the kitchen is at its best with regional specialties and plates closest to the earth or sea, like the simple grilled squid with parsley and lemon. Seating is limited inside, but Andreoli Italian Grocer offers takeout and delivery. ($$)
8880 E. Via Linda, Scottsdale, 85258

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Authentic EthioAfrican

Authentic EthioAfrican
Chris Malloy
During the pandemic, most restaurants switched from full service to takeout. At Authentic EthioAfrican on McDowell Road, the team did just the opposite. During the downtime, the restaurant transformed from a takeout-only spot into a sit-down destination complete with wooden furniture and decor brought directly from Ethiopia, a new cocktail list, and a traditional coffee service. Individual meals are offered, but we recommend bringing some friends as sharing is the way to go. Combinations are served with an array of colorful dollops on a massive round plate and include meat and vegetarian options with tangy, rich stews. Try the spicy chicken doro wot, aromatic collard green gomen, or garlic-laden lentil meser wot. A salty and creamy homemade cheese adds a cool bite to the hot entrees, and everything is served with fluffy, slightly sour, bubbly injera, a flatbread that is at the center of Ethiopian cuisine. ($$)
1740 E. McDowell Rd., Phoenix, 85006

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Bacanora

Bacanora
One man. One grill. One of our most fun places to eat, period. Bacanora has fast become one of Phoenix’s signature Mexican restaurants thanks to the skills, friendliness, and humility of Rene Andrade, the man behind the grill. Andrade has cooked in well-regarded fine dining restaurants throughout the Valley, and Bacanora is his sizzling, mesquite-touched, chiltepin-dusted return to the food of his home region: Sonora, Mexico. On any given night (or Sunday brunch morning), the menu offers just a handful of items, many rotating. One night there might be grilled octopus. Another, a version of the shrimp aguachiles Andrade sold in his youth. Beef is a Bacanora cornerstone, whether brick-thick steaks crusted on the grill or shards of carne asada — among the best in our carne-asada-crazed town. Masterfully, seemingly effortlessly, Andrade adds the touches of an accomplished chef with diverse experience to Sonoran food, slightly elevating dishes yet somehow keeping them as humble as those of trucks and family-run taquerias. His radish-and-cucumber salad is clean and light, lifted by olive oil and queso fresco. His beans are plump, stewy, and make you marvel at how much flavor beans can contain. His caramelo is phenomenal. Built on a crisp, fragrant flour tortilla, slicked with melted cheese, heaped with shreds of wildly rich grilled beef, it’s the kind of plate that might haunt your hungry daydreams forever. ($$)
1301 NW Grand Ave., #1, Phoenix, 85007

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Barrio Cafe

Barrio Cafe
Knockoffs and ripoffs are an unavoidable hazard of the restaurant industry, but if there's a silver lining to this phenomenon, it's that all the impostors only make it easier to spot a true original. Barrio Café — established in 2002 by Wendy Gruber and Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza and located along the Calle 16 restaurant and bar row cutting through central Phoenix — is an unmistakable O.G. gem. The live music and local artwork provide a delightful atmosphere, but the food is what seals the deal. Menu standouts include cochinita pibil, chiles en nogada, churro rellenos, and the well-known chef's tableside guacamole — famously bejeweled with pomegranate seeds. Diners will also find Mexican beers, Micheladas, and too many amazing margaritas to list here (OK, just one: the Lowrider). Barrio Café has never taken reservations. The dining room is open with limited seating, but takeout is always available. ($$$)
2814 N. 16th St., Phoenix, 85006

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Beckett's Table

Beckett's Table
Jackie Mercandetti Photo
This Arcadia eatery just passed its 12th year of operation, a feat accomplished thanks to the efforts of double husband-and-wife team owners — sommeliers Katie and Scott Stephens and Justin and Michelle Beckett. Justin Beckett is the executive chef and co-owner of Beckett's Table and its sister restaurant Southern Rail, but there's something about Beckett's Table that raises the profile of the dining scene along Indian School Road in this specific part of Phoenix. Maybe it's the actual community table, which can't be missed upon entering the restaurant. The multiseat high-top is best enjoyed during social hour, when a number of Beckett's signature dishes are on special — like the deviled egg of the day. Many menu items demonstrate the fact that Justin Beckett has been in the kitchen since he was 9 or 10. Favorites include the signature fork-tender short ribs, and the city-famous fig and pecan pie. A weekly menu for curbside pickup is available at the Beckett's Table website. ($$$)
3717 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 85018

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Binkley's Restaurant

Binkley's Restaurant
Debby Wolvos
If you'd like to put on a helmet and launch yourself to the outer possibilities of eating in Phoenix, book a reservation at Binkley's. Entering Binkley's is like entering Rivendell. Your meal unfolds in a house on Osborn Road, the 20-plus courses and river of beer, wine, and sake steadily flowing into the night, mimicking the rhythm of a dinner party. From the first bite, all your personal troubles (and those of the wider world) begin to feel remote. Everything stills, and you're in the gentle palm of a master: Kevin Binkley, who's handily one of the very best chefs in Phoenix. The playfulness, technique, seasonality, ingenuity, and ultimately the flavor of his food says this loudly and clearly to all those who take a seat on the patio, nibbling those first bits of Hokkaido scallop cooked for 38 seconds, those fermented cucumbers with polenta chips. After the first five or so courses, diners move to the house's pub room for riffs on bar food: wagyu roast beef slider, kabob with octopus and lamb loin. Tunes flow. Drinks bubble, fizz, and — thanks to the skill of Amy Binkley — entwine harmonically with the food. Next, the meal moves into the dining room for a long, rich, mesmerizing finish. At that point, if you want, you can wander into the kitchen and watch Kevin Binkley cook and create, a maestro of meals that feel as brilliant and considered as a sculpture or painting. Reservations are required and can be made via the Binkley's website. ($$$$)
2320 E. Osborn Rd., Phoenix, 85016

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Cafe Lalibela

Cafe Lalibela
Timur Guseynov
No one lives in Tempe for long without hearing, "You've got to try Cafe Lalibela." The husband-and-wife-run Ethiopian restaurant has occupied a strip mall suite for decades, and given that its foods are starting to appear as local items in area grocery stores, it's only getting easier to sample the offerings of Cafe Lalibela's menu. Serving some of the best African food in all of metropolitan Phoenix, the eatery specializes in vegetarian dishes (though several meat items are on the menu) and is known for teaching many an Arizona State University student about the importance of injera and wat. Injera, or a crepe-like sourdough bread made with teff, is served with most orders. And wait till you try this wat. The Ethiopian stew comes spicy or not, meatless or not, but we recommend the key sega wat (spicy beef stew). Do not fear, possibly unadventurous eaters: The menu comes with a glossary. The cozy, carpeted dining room welcomes customers, and Cafe Lalibela also offers curbside pickup. ($$)
849 W. University Dr., Tempe, 85281

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Cala

Cala
Allison Young
This signature restaurant nestled in the Hilton’s Senna House in Old Town is helmed by celebrity chef and Sanctuary alum Beau MacMillan. While he willingly handed over executive chef duties to Peter McQuaid, who followed MacMillan from Sanctuary, MacMillan’s stamp is all over the Mediterranean-inspired menu that flaunts farm-fresh cuisine with coastal panache. Items such as the Cala Burger, white bean hummus, and pizza lineup check a lot of hotel restaurant boxes. However, several flash out-of-the-box flair. The blistered shishito peppers are served with fried Spanish chorizo slices and smoky peanut-based salsa macha. The Cala Bolognese made with the classic combo of pork, beef, and veal is hearty and elegant; it can be made vegan with red lentils as the base, if you wish. The patio is packed on the weekends, but the bar at the center of the restaurant offers a great spot for people watching away from the crowd. ($$$)
7501 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale, 85251

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Caldwell County BBQ

Caldwell County BBQ
Caldwell County BBQ
Located in Gilbert, just to the northeast of Mesa Gateway Airport, Caldwell County BBQ offers some of the best barbecue in the Valley. Look for a red weathervane declaring “BBQ,” and you’ll be in for a treat. Park out back, and you’ll walk past giant smokers puffing out mouthwatering aromas as you make your way inside. There, you’ll find a cozy modern-yet-country-style space with wooden picnic tables and tin trays. Slide up to the counter and ask what’s available, as popular items sell out quick. Mesquite-smoked prime brisket, complete with a large-grain peppercorn crust, is a must as is the juicy turkey breast marinated in apple juice and butter. Meats are served by the pound; in sandwiches such as the monster El General Patton that includes brisket, pulled pork, and sausage all on one roll; and on sampler platters that allow customers to try a little of everything. ($$)
18324 E Nunneley Rd., Gilbert, 85296

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Call Her Martina

Call Her Martina
Tirion Morris
From the outside, Call Her Martina looks like any other business in the fancy Scottsdale Waterfront strip mall. But inside, customers embark on an experience. Take a seat at a table in the modern black-and-white-themed dining room, snag a space at the bar, or hang out with friends at a large group high-top underneath glowing neon signs. Start with a couple of cocktails. The well-balanced creations are as beautiful as they are delicious, with garnishes of real flower petals and charred cinnamon sticks. Then dig into the meal. The stand-out guac comes complete with bright bursts of pomegranate seeds, cold creamy avocado, and the kicker — warm, salty, über-satisfying cubes of steak. Entrees range from extravagant charred octopus to simple birria tacos, but make sure to leave room for dessert. The flan, topped with shards of caramel and fresh mint leaves, is both classic and fresh — and an exceptional end to a meal at this swanky Scottsdale spot. ($$$)
7135 E. Camelback Rd, #165, Scottsdale, 85251

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Carolina's Mexican Food

Carolina's Mexican Food
Sarah Whitmire
This south Phoenix staple is a true come-as-you-are restaurant. It is almost shockingly bare-bones. There's no decor on the paint-chipped walls, no music. The stark white building's entrance leads straight to the ordering counter just above a scuffed wall. But those shoe-marked baseboards speak to the many overeager diners running up to place their order. That's because the food here — catalogued on the wall above the register — is exceptional. It's nothing a Mexican food fan hasn't seen before — burros, tacos, enchiladas, tostadas — but all those specimens are basically perfect. Need proof? The parking lot is usually full, and the booths of the cafeteria-style dining area are almost always occupied. More proof? Order the red chile burro, the super-soft beef wrapped with precision in a handmade flour tortilla. Get a tamale, even if it isn't Christmas. Go for the machaca enchilada. Arrive on Saturday for the menudo. And order a bag of tortilla chips just to try the famous, bright-red hot sauce. Carolina's has been around since 1968, when it was opened by Carolina Valenzuela, and it has held on at this location since 1986. There are several Carolina's locations around the Valley, but the Mohave Street spot will always be a Phoenix favorite. The O.G. Carolina's is open for dine-in and takeout. The Avondale location offers an online order form. ($)
1202 E. Mohave St., Phoenix, 85034

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Chula Seafood

Chula Seafood
Jackie Mercandetti Photo
Established in San Diego in 2009, this family-owned operation started selling never-frozen fish by the pound six years later in south Scottsdale (a second location opened in Uptown Plaza in 2019, then a third in north Scottsdale in 2022). Sustainability is a big thing at Chula. The owners have a 68-foot Hoquiam harpoon fishing boat (aptly named Chula) on which they travel the Pacific waters seeking deep-sea buoy swordfish and other California coast species. But the flavors are why you come to Chula Seafood: the poke bowls, the confit tuna sandwich, the swordfish tacos, and weekend treats like the lobster BLT. Or the grilled oysters, the Mexican wild shrimp, the Thai peanut noodle bowl — we could go on. Both dining rooms are open with limited seating; both have a few seats outside as well. ($$)
8015 E. Roosevelt St., Scottsdale, 85257

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Cibo Pizzeria

Cibo Pizzeria
Jacob Tyler Dunn
For a desert town, Phoenix has a surprisingly large number of Italian restaurants. Cibo Pizzeria (it's pronounced CHEE-boh) is one of the best. The downtown restaurant serves fare like signature wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, salads, saltimbocca bread, and fresh limoncello made from a family recipe by Chef Guido Saccone. But aside from the house-made pasta, killer burrata, and wine list, Cibo also boasts some next-level atmosphere. The lush garden patio is one of the finest in Phoenix — between the lights and the gentle chatter, it literally twinkles — and the 1913 bungalow, with its exposed brick, creaky hardwood floors, and soft glow from the windows, doesn't hurt the vibe, either. Reservations highly recommended. Would-be weekend walk-ins take note: It's usually all booked up. ($$$)
603 N. Fifth Ave., Phoenix, 85003

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Citizen Public House

Citizen Public House
Don't let the name and the address fool you. Citizen Public House, founded by former Cowboy Ciao culinary master chef Bernie Kantak, may sound pretentious, but its stylish yet relaxed atmosphere and offerings of classic American fare with a delicious kick are nothing short of modest classiness. From picture-perfect scallops and standout starters like the luscious pork belly pastrami to the Original Chopped Salad (so popular it has its own Facebook page) and dreamy desserts, at Citizen Public House, deliciousness is in every detail. Whether it's an evening out, a pairing dinner, happy hour fun, or late-night noshing — all with the added enjoyment of a team that's as comfortable to be around as your dining companions — Citizen Public House deserves to be in heavy rotation on your restaurant playlist, particularly if you find yourself in Scottsdale. ($$$)
7111 E. 5th Ave. Ste. E., Scottsdale, 85251

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Cocina 10

Cocina 10
Charles Barth
You may not know this downtown restaurant by name, but if you're into music, you've likely eaten here. Cocina 10 is the kitchen at Crescent Ballroom, which brings in a power-lunch and music-fan crowd expecting something a notch or two above bar food. Owner Charlie Levy is also behind Valley Bar and The Van Buren, but he says of anything he's ever done, he's most proud of the food at Crescent. The menu was crafted by Pizzeria Bianco's Chris Bianco, as well as Doug Robson of Otro Café and Gallo Blanco. The concept was meant to appeal, in part, to bands rolling in off Interstate 10. Maybe they're performing at the Crescent, or maybe they're just stopping in for a bite before getting back on the road to L.A. or Tucson. Either way, the kitchen has options like Sonoran dogs, tacos, nachos, and burritos wrapped in foil and marked with their own special stickers bearing images like Mr. Bean and Morrissey. Hopefully, there's a show that night on the Crescent main stage, but even if not, the lounge, patio, and balcony are always open, free, and serving food till midnight. ($$)
308 N. Second Ave., Phoenix, 85003

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Cornish Pasty Co.

Cornish Pasty Co.
Shelby Moore
This small chain of English-focused, somewhat-metal-themed restaurants is either referred to as Cornish or Pasty, depending on which circles you travel in, but never just Cornish Pasty. (We're in the Cornish camp.) Around since 2005, Cornish is known for its ... pasties — savory ingredients entombed in a flaky, baked shell with a crimped edging. Popular pasties include lamb and mint, pesto chicken, the Pilgrim, and the Cubano. Pro tip: Select a pasty, but have a backup, too. Some are so popular the kitchen runs out. Vegan and vegetarian options are available, as well as an entire B-side of the menu offering fresh salads, tandoori wings, house-made bread and butter, oven chips, Scotch eggs, and English desserts. Equal to Cornish's impressive menu is the vibe‚ especially at the original Tempe location. Always expect alternative music, a lively patio, and a short wait at the bar. Cornish Pasty Co. has multiple locations around the Valley and statewide. ($$)
960 W. University Dr., #103, Tempe, 85281

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

The Coronado PHX

The Coronado PHX
Jacob Tyler Dunn
For inventive vegan food set against a backdrop of pink floral wallpaper and black upholstered booths, look no further than The Coronado at 12th and Oak streets. Sit on the patio to witness hipsters walk and bike through the charming Coronado Historic District while you nosh on fried potato tacos with purple cabbage and vegan crema. Stop in for pastries, lunch, brunch, or happy hour — the dishes are delicious at any time of day. The “buttermilk” short stack is served daily until it sells out, and the chimichanga with house-made chorizo and red potatoes served over refried black beans is a favorite that will sate even the hungriest souls. Dark Hall Coffee is right next door, so saunter over for a latte or cold brew to complement your vegan meal. ($$)
2245 N. 12th St., Phoenix, 85006

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Curry Corner

Curry Corner
Jackie Mercandetti
Curry Corner is a longtime favorite in the heart of Sun Devil country. This blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Pakistani eatery on the light rail line near downtown Tempe is known and beloved for serving hearty plates in an approachable no-frills space on a college-friendly budget. Sure, there are the expected samosas, pakora, and hummus. But what keeps regulars flocking here are the six varieties of biryani served with lamb, goat, or seafood. The melt-in-your-mouth naan is a perennial crowd-pleaser. The plain or garlic naan serves as the ideal accompaniment to any dish, while the stuffed curry potato version is a hearty snack all on its own. Slow-cooked goat with lentils or beef shank that’s leisurely stewed overnight are homeland comfort food favorites. For a contemporary twist, start with a plate of crispy fries bathed in a spicy tikka masala sauce and finished with ranch dressing and cheese. ($$)
1212 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe, 85281

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Da Vang

Da Vang
Jacob Tyler Dunn
The moment you're seated and handed the cracked-laminated menu at Da Vang, relief follows. Good, aromatic, hearty Vietnamese food is on the way. Most dishes are under $10 and usually require a to-go container or an afternoon nap — or better yet, an order of café sua nong (hot coffee with sweetened condensed milk). The pho choices are versatile, about a dozen varieties in all, but the pho tai nam may be your best bet. If you really want to go nuts, the com tam dac biet is — get ready — broken steamed rice with barbecue pork, shrimp, a fried shrimp cake, a barbecue pork meatball, a crab-egg cake, shredded pork, and a fried egg. Da Vang, in its multi-roomed strip-mall setting south of Christown Spectrum shopping center, also offers banh mi (sandwiches), lau (hot pot), and bun (vermicelli) in a beyond-comfortable setting. Delivery is available through DoorDash. ($)
4538 N. 19th Ave., Phoenix, 85015

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Dick's Hideaway

Dick's Hideaway
Patricia Escarcega
The family of New Mexico-leaning eateries and watering holes along 16th Street is a treasured standby of the Phoenix dining scene. But within the Richardson's Restaurants family — which also includes Richardson's itself and The Rokerij — the inconspicuous Dick's Hideaway is a cut above. It's the type of place where you'll need divine intervention to find seats for a party of five or above on a Friday night, but the crowd is due to the excellent menu and bar program. Dinner options include the Taos Tenderloin, the New Mexican platter, and a green chile burger, while the bar cranks out pristine Bloody Marys and margaritas, and wine options known citywide. But the best thing about Dick's Hideaway is its size — it is small. (Seated at the bar, you can almost feel the heat from the nearby open-flame grill.) And keep your maps app fired up till you know you're in the right place; there is no sign. Seating is limited inside this petite eatery, but curbside is also available. ($$$)
6008 N. 16th St., Phoenix, 85016