15 Metro Phoenix Restaurants to Visit During Spring Training 2013

Barrio Cafe
Barrio Cafe
Diana Martinez

Spring Training is almost upon us, which means winter is officially over and it's time to break out the shorts. This right here is the weather we Phoenicians live for, the reason we endure five hellish months of summer and severe cases of cabin fever . . . just for the few all-too-brief months of balmy, orange blossom-perfumed weather perfection we're now approaching.

See also: - 7 Favorite Romantic Restaurants in Greater Phoenix: Cozy Home Edition - 15 Phoenix Restaurants for Spring Training 2013

But you can't play golf and watch baseball every minute, can you? Well, can you? I mean, you have to stop and eat some time. But eating can be a pleasant form of recreation too. With food-as-fun in mind, we offer 15 great metro Phoenix that prove we're more than golf and baseball and hiking and other PE-related stuff, 15 restaurants that put us on the culinary map. Dig in.

Barrio Café

Decorated with Mexican kitsch and the edgy work of local artists, this regional Mexican restaurant in the heart of the barrio doesn't serve complimentary chips and salsa because that's not how meals begin in Mexico. It's a Mexican-American custom chef-owner Silvana Salcido Esparza can't relate to and refuses to offer, but never mind. Just order her legendary guacamole, prepared tableside with cranberries or pomegranate seeds (depending on the season), and you'll be over it in seconds. Then move on to signature specialties such as slow-roasted cochinita pibil, chiles en nogada and mole enchiladas, augmented by an impressive list of Mexican wines and 250 tequilas. Teetotalers make do nicely with bottled Mexican Coke and some of the city's best house-made horchata. Meanwhile, cajeta churros (Mexican fritters filled with goat's milk caramel) make a rich, sweet finish. $-$$$

Binkley's Restaurant

Cowboy-centric Cave Creek seems an unlikely location for Binkley's: Kevin and Amy Binkley's intimate boite drawing fanatical food-lovers far and wide. But there it sits, a classically-driven but wonderfully eclectic New American beloved for its impeccable service, broad and deep wine list, inventive cocktails and mind-bending amuse bouche, a series of clever, complimentary bites that very nearly fill you up before dinner has even started. The seasonally focused menu, built upon superb ingredients (locally sourced whenever they represent the very best) changes frequently, so the best way to get a taste of what Binkley and his super-talented chef de cuisine Brandon Gauthier can do is to order a four-, five- or six-course tasting menu, giving you smaller selections and more variety. When you're dithering among chilled seared foie gras, pig trotters, skate, lobster, elk and partridge, it's the only way to go. Yes, dinner will be expensive, but think of the bragging rights when you get home! $$$-$$$$

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