Skipping town? You're not alone. Arizona State University's graduation takes place this week -- and once summer hits in earnest, it won't just be the mortar-boarded crowd escaping this Easy Bake. Here's Chow Bella's Bucket List for food and drink in the Valley. Have a favorite we've missed? (Because we could have gone on and on.) Leave it in the comments.
Green Chili Burro at Rito's
Hidden (seriously, there isn't even a sign) near 12th Street and Roosevelt in the ramshackle Garfield Historic neighborhood sits Phoenix's go-to spot for fresh tortillas filled with spicy green chili with melt-in-your-mouth tender pork and creamy beans. Rito's is only open for lunch and chances are there will be a line of folks dressed in business attire out the door and around the building but trust us, it's one hundred percent worth the wait -- even in triple digit weather.
A Swedish feast at Beaver Choice
Beaver what now? Suffice it to say, there's little chance you'll find a restaurant with the same name outside of Arizona, but that's not the main reason to pop into to this quirky and affordable little eatery in Tempe. The food -- a little Polish, a little Canadian, and a whole lot Swedish -- gets seriously delicious in a hurry. And when chef Hanna Gabrielsson or one of her family serves up portion-heavy plates of buttery haddock fillets, golden schnitzels, and chunky Swedish meatballs, try to muster up the good sense to ask for a Beaver Ball before you roll yourself out of the restaurant - and Arizona.
Sonoran-style Dog at Nogales Hot Dog
Sure, you've eaten hot dogs for most of your natural life, but there's something about crushing two or three of them, Sonoran-style, at one in the morning and in the parking lot home of the Nogales Hot Dogs stand in CenPho, that makes the experience oh-so Arizona special. Mesquite-smoked and bacon-wrapped, tucked into a fresh bun, and smothered in beans, mayonnaise, and chopped tomatoes, load 'em up with additional toppings like guacamole, salsa, and cheese. Between bites, chat it up with owner Pablo Perez, who's been in the Sonoran dog game for over ten years, or take a few last, longful looks at the star-speckled Arizona sky.
Leeks at FnB
We have yet to have a bad dish from this Scottsdale culinary wonderland but Chef Charleen Badman's twist on the onion-esque leek is by far our favorite. (And Bon Apetit's, too.) Brasied and then topped with hand-pulled mozzarella, tangy mustard breadcrumbs and a perfectly fried egg, this is a food experience you must try -- even if you don't call yourself a foodie.
Bruschetta at Postino Wine Cafe
Who knew that something as simple as bread topped with meat and cheese (and a few other items) would become a staple in our weekly food rotation. We don't know what we'd do if we couldn't relax with a nice glass of wine and a couple slabs of crusty bread with a shmear of light sheep's milk cheese and addictive tomato jam or creamy brie with crisp apples and sweet figs -- no wait, we do -- we would probably cry. If you still haven't made it out to one of Postino's three beautifully hip wine cafes for a $12 board of bruschetta, you need to do so immediately. Even if you aren't a "wine cafe" kinda person, you'll appreciate the simple elegance.
Bean and Cheese Burrito (served Enchilada Style) at Casa Reynoso
Globe, Arizona-style Mexican food can't be beat and it can't be found anywhere else in the country. We dare you to try and find a bean and cheese burrito this good in Nebraska, Portland, or even California. The Reynoso family has been cooking up pots of some of Tempe's best beans, simmering batches of their amazing enchilada, and hand making tortillas at their home on Mill & Southern since 1984. The combination of all three creates a must try burrito experience. It's simple but it's one of our favorites -- and you'll find some pretty delicious salsa to top off.
Chinese/Mexican Fusion "Cuisine" at Chino Bandido Takee Outee
We're pretty sure there is nowhere else in the world where you can get a plate of sweet & spicy Jade Red Chicken with re-fried beans and jerk fried rice. Nowhere. Chino Bandito owners Frank and Eve Collins have combined savory Asian style eats with spicy tastes of the Southwest and a dash of Caribbean flavors for a mix of food that is out-of-this-world. Slow cooked pork carnitas with a side of egg foo young? Done. Spicy jerk chicken with a side of pork fried rice? No problem. Chile Relleno with Chinese BBQ pork? You get the picture, now try it out.
The Aiko Short Leash Dog at Short Leash Dogs
Short Leash Dogs should be Phoenix's ambassador to the world because they are on the forefront of hot dog making progress, as well as a favorite local food truck. Sure they have exotics toppings, a lively menu and fantastic service but what's really important is that they've eradicated the weakest link the the entire hot dog experience: the bun. Discarding the bun in favor of naan has liberated the hot dog eating experience. It's made it possible for Short Leash to experiment with a broader range of toppings because they actually have a "bun" that can stand up to getting a little wet or carrying a tower of toppings. You might not miss Phoenix but you're certainly going to miss an Aiko Short Leash dog, piled high with mango chutney, jalapenos, red onions, cilantro and mayo.
Torta del Ray (and an Aqua Fresca) at Los Reyes de la Torta
As seen on Man vs Food, the Torta del Ray is stacked high with savory pork, beans, grilled hot dog, flavorful beef, ham, fresh veggies, and even a fried egg. It weighs in at just over two pounds and it's a sight to behold. But it's not just a hyped-up giant monster sandwich -- this sucker tastes pretty freakin' good. Los Reyes combines the best flavors from Mexico City with high quality ingredients and excellent customer service, which is why they are the best torta makers in the state. Even if you can't handle the giant Torta del Ray, we strongly encourage you to try one of the smaller, more manageable torta creations. They are every bit as good as the del Ray but they won't put you in a two day food coma.
Four Peaks Brewing Company's Kilt Lifter
Kilt Lifter isn't the best beer in Arizona. It's not the most hoppy, the darkest, the sweetest or the most alcoholic. In fact, there's nothing really "Arizona" about this Scottish-style ale at all. But that hasn't kept it from reigning for years as the most popular beer in the state. The people here are so enamored with it that Four Peaks brewery is planning to open a second production facility for making Kilt Lifter -- and nothing else -- just to keep up with demand. Maybe it's the beer's smooth caramel sweetness and touches of smoke. Maybe it's how nothing pairs better with a Bleu Light Special Burger. Whatever it is, this is the beer that made Four Peaks famous, and there's a reason for that.
A Last Supper at Kai
Many restaurants can boast star and diamond ratings, but only one in Arizona has five of each. This fact, in addition to its unique Native American cuisine, makes Kai, located in the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa on the Gila River Indian Reservation near Chandler, a must-visit before exiting the state. From its beautiful interior and outdoor patio overlooking a dreamy, desert landscape, to exceptional service, to executive chef Michael O'Dowd's stunning fare mixing indigenous ingredients like heirloom squash, saguaro seeds, and nopalitos with gourmet components such as chanterelles, truffles, and foie gras, Kai is an indulgence worth the price of saying goodbye.
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All our favorites lists also are available on our Best Of app -- see it in action here. And check out our other lists:
Top Ten Spots for Mac 'n' Cheese in the Valley Three Favorite Espresso Shots in Metro Phoenix Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Farmers' Markets Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Eleven Favorite Favorite Places for Sushi in the Valley Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Cupcakes Eleven Favorite Barbecue Joints in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Wine Bars Ten Favorite Phoenix Irish Restaurant & Pubs Six Favorite Specialty Cocktails in Phoenix Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Craft Beer Bars Ten Favorite Gourmet Pizza Shops in the Valley Five Favorite Japanese Restaurants in Phoenix Ten Favorite Margaritas in Metro Phoenix Ten Favorite Coffee Shops in Phoenix Five Favorite Thai Restaurants in Metro Phoenix Eleven Favorite Ice Cream Shops in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Phoenix Happy Hours Five Favorite Sonoran Dogs in the Valley Ten Favorite Hot Dogs in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Desserts in Phoenix Ten Favorite First Date Restaurants Ten Favorite Burgers in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Downtown Phoenix Restaurants for Late Night Dining Ten Favorite Vegetarian Entrees in Metro Phoenix Ten Favorite Chinese Restaurants in Greater Phoenix