The 2016 edition of New Times' Best of Phoenix is out now. Here's our list of the best restaurants, markets, and dishes in the Valley right now.
Best New Restaurant: Ocotillo
Located on the southeast corner of Third and Flower streets in central Phoenix, Ocotillo is much more than just a neighborhood eatery — though it certainly qualifies as that, too. With a full-service restaurant, coffee shop, and outdoor beer garden, this dining and drinking destination is a sort of catchall intended to meet all your needs. Chefs Walter Sterling and Sacha Levine offer up an ever-changing, vegetable-focused menu highlighted by wood-fired roasted chicken, handmade pastas, and local produce often treated with globally inspired preparations.
Best Chef: Chrysa Robertson
When it comes to badass women chefs in metro Phoenix, no one can hold a candle to Chrysa Robertson. For more than two decades, she's been serving simple, seasonal, Italian-influenced cuisine at her Rancho Pinot restaurant, now one of the Valley's longest-standing dining spots.
Best Place to Take a Foodie: Noble Eatery
Most people who love good food can appreciate the subtle details that make great sandwiches stand out from merely good ones. And that's why a true food lover will surely appreciate Jason Raducha's simple-yet-elegant Noble Eatery, where rustic house-made breads serve as the foundation for excellent sandwiches loaded with imported Italian meats and cheeses and local vegetables.
Best Place to Take a Scenester: Crepe Bar
The menu at Crepe Bar features sweet and savory crepes that show chef Jeff Kraus' knack for creating food that's as fun as it is delicious. Kraus also offers a new expanded selection of sides that includes dishes ranging from tiny salads of local tomatoes, purslane, and tahini, to house-made "Rolos" for dessert. And it's not just the food. Crepe Bar is also one of the Valley's top spots for inventive coffee drinks.
Best Place to Take an Out-of-Towner: Talavera
There's no better to place to impress your guests than at this fine-dining restaurant located at the Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North. The service is always excellent, and chef Mel Mecinas puts out a menu that blends classic steakhouse fare with Southwestern flavors. Catching a sunset on the restaurant's patio is easily one of the best ways to start an evening out on the town.
Best Culinary Adventure: Posh Improvisational Cuisine
At this improvisational restaurant, chefs create specialized menus based on diners' preferences — imagine a Choose Your Own Adventure book translated into a one-of-a-kind dining experience. Josh Hebert and his team are known for creating thoughtful, modern fare, including "cheesecake" topped with raw uni and veal sweetbreads served over carrot puree with zucchini. Not a picky diner? Opt for the Chef's Omakase, which means the kitchen team gets the freedom to throw down whatever their hearts desire.
Lots of chefs talk about farm-to-table dining, but few do it as well as chef Charleen Badman at Scottsdale's award-winning FnB restaurant. At the cozy Old Town eatery, Badman continually creates new menus of seasonal fare, showcasing locally grown produce while taking inspiration from an array of global cuisines.
The wine list also celebrates Arizona's terroir with dozens of locally made options by the bottle and a well-curated list of choices by the glass.
Best Soul Food Restaurant: Rhema Soul Cuisine
If you don't happen to live on the east side, a visit to Rhema Soul Cuisine in Queen Creek will no doubt represent something of a gastronomical field trip. But rest assured that the long drive will be worth it, because nobody is making soul food quite like the twisty, creative dishes you'll find at Rhema. House specialties include cheesy dishes like Symphony Fries, a delicious muddle of Parmesan and sweet potato fries glued together with four other cheeses and lavished with chopped barbecued pork.
Best French Restaurant: Zinc Bistro
From the pressed metal ceiling tiles to the white tablecloths, everything about Zinc harkens back to a cozy Parisian sidewalk cafe, except here you can dig into a plateau de fruits de mer with oysters, lobster, mussels, and more, followed by a cup of the Valley's best French onion soup. For the main entree, chef Matt Carter offers up short ribs so tender they collapse at the lightest touch of a fork and perfectly prepared steak served, of course, with a side of excellent frites.
Best Vietnamese Restaurant: Da Vang
There aren't many places where you can fill up on a hot meal for less than $7 these days, but at Da Vang in Phoenix, you'll find dozens of options priced well under $10. This no-frills Vietnamese restaurant isn't just a bargain, though, it's also one of the best places in town for real-deal Vietnamese cuisine — we're talking about everything from steaming bowls of pho to plates of springy vermicelli noodles topped with shredded pork, vegetables, crushed peanuts, and fermented fish sauce.
Best Thai Restaurant: Chon Thai Food
Chon Thai Food is an unassuming, family-owned Thai restaurant situated in a sleepy east-side strip mall, but don't be fooled by the somewhat drab exterior. Service is very friendly and attentive, and the food is ultra-fresh, lively, and consistently delicious. The sprawling menu offers all your favorite Thai dishes like pad Thai and pad see-ew, along with excellent harder-to-find regional dishes, including a fiery and rustic larb.
Best Korean Restaurant: Café Ga Hyang
Korean cooking is finally beginning to flourish in metro Phoenix, but if you're craving a first-rate bulgogi dinner, the place to go is still Café Ga Hyang. This small, quirky west-side restaurant makes very good bulgogi indeed, the thinly sliced beef marinated and grilled to a delicious garlicky crisp. The selection of banchan, the small dishes of kimichi, the marinated vegetables, and other delights that appear at the beginning of a Korean meal are excellent, and you probably shouldn't leave without trying the red-chili-laced chewy fish cakes and rice cake tubes.
Best Chinese Restaurant: House of Egg Roll
This unassuming East Valley spot is a true gem, specializing in northwestern Chinese fare, a hard-to-find regional cuisine known for blending spice and pungent vinegar to excellent effect. Specialties include hot and sour soup filled with hearty lamb dumplings, and biang biang noodles, a bowl full of gangly handmade noodles topped with bean sprouts, green beans, and succulent shredded pork.
Best Japanese Restaurant: Nobuo at Teeter House
In a world full of sushi restaurants and ramen shops, Nobuo at Teeter House offers a Japanese dining experience that stands out from the crowd. Nationally recognized chef Nobuo Fukuda takes diners' expectations of Japanese cuisine and turns them on their head with dishes like the Tako and Tomato, made with grilled octopus and house-made mozzarella on a slab of miso-marinated, pan-seared foie gras.
Best Indian Restaurant: Marigold Maison
Whether you're looking for a South Indian dosa or excellent chicken tandoori, Marigold Maison in north Phoenix makes a solid destination for Indian cuisine in a casual, chic setting. You can start your meal with any of a number of appetizers, ranging from the usual options like samosa and chicken pakoora to something a little harder to find, including chickpea ceviche and aloo tikki chaat, an Indian street food that combines lentil cakes with yogurt, tamarind, onion, and tomato.
Best Mediterranean Restaurant: Al-Hana
For a fast, affordable, and delicious lunch — and on top of that, an authentic Mediterranean one — there's really no better stop than Al-Hana restaurant inside Baiz Market Place. For under $10, you can get a plate of marinated chicken shawarma with rice, pickles, onions, and creamy garlic sauce or a large portion of tabbouleh that makes a perfect light lunch. The price point certainly can't be beat by anyone except Ronald McDonald or the Colonel — and we'd rather have some of city's best Mediterranean fare than fast food any day.
Best Italian Restaurant: Tratto
Chef Chris Bianco has been known as one of the best pizza chefs in the country for years, and at his newest restaurant, he proves he's got lots more than pizza up his sleeve. The highly anticipated Tratto restaurant opened its doors at Town & Country shopping center in central Phoenix this spring, serving a concise menu of excellent Italian fare including pasta, small plates of local vegetables, and more.
Best Italian Deli: Romanelli’s Deli
Romanelli's is a wonderful family-run Italian deli that has been funneling tasty imported Italian meats, cheeses, and chocolate-chip cannoli into the west side for decades. This is the place to go for the simple pleasures of an old-fashioned cheese and liverwurst sandwich, trays overflowing with homemade cheese ravioli, and deli sandwiches stuffed with your dream configuration of mortadella, salami, capicola, and other specialty cold cuts.
Best German Restaurant: Haus Murphy’s
Haus Murphy's has been a mainstay in downtown Glendale for nearly as long as the lifespan of the average millennial. The secret to the restaurant's longevity is pretty simple: good, hearty German fare served in a hospitable, group-friendly dining room. Come here for the sausage sampler, the juicy bratwursts served over the house-made sauerkraut, and a whole menu of excellent schnitzels.
Best Colombian Restaurant: La Tiendita Colombian Restaurant
Sure, La Tiendita Colombian Restaurant is a destination for excellent Colombian fare in metro Phoenix. But the Mesa restaurant is more than just a place to eat. It's a gathering place for the Valley's Colombian community, often hosting a packed house of jersey-clad fans for soccer — er, futbol — matches and other sporting events. So it makes sense, then, that this is where you'll find some of the most authentic Colombian food in town, including excellent arepas, empanadas, and desayunos, or breakfast platters featuring chorizo, eggs, and coffee, for under $10.
Best Steakhouse: J&G Steakhouse
Tucked away on the fifth floor of the resort, this sleek restaurant brings the talents of celebrity and Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten to the Valley, meaning you can expect modern takes on chophouse classics. You'll find the usual array of steak options — from a 12-ounce filet to a 24-ounce porterhouse — as well as options for the non-meat lovers, including Maine lobster and slow-cooked salmon.
Best Kosher Restaurant: LaBella Pizzeria & Restaurant
Stop by LaBella Pizzeria for lunch or dinner, and you're getting two things: a great Italian meal and the best kosher food in town. You may not care so much about the latter, but to the Orthodox Jews in the Valley, LaBella is one of only a handful of eateries where they can order a meal that abides by the set of religious dietary restrictions known as kashrut. For everyone else, LaBella is a casual neighborhood eatery where the absence of meat on the menu (there are plenty of fish dishes, though) doesn't at all detract from the quality of the food.
Best Jewish Deli: Goldman’s Deli
Comfort food comes in many forms, but when you're craving classic dishes of the Jewish variety, it's time to schlep over to Goldman's Deli. Inside the humble strip-mall location, you'll find all the greatest hits of Eastern European Jewish cuisine, and all of them done well. A steaming bowl of chicken soup comes with a matzah ball as big as your fist, and the potato knish, a savory treat wrapped in tender dough, is a carb-laden delight.
Best English Pub: George & Dragon Pub
Thanks to an appearance on Spike TV's Bar Rescue, central Phoenix's George & Dragon got a fancy new makeover this year. But the fresh coats of paint and shiny new tabletops haven't affected the attributes about this pub that we love most — namely, the affordable beers and ever-friendly crowds.
Best Irish Pub: Seamus McCaffrey’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
For a couple of decades and counting, Seamus McCaffrey's has helped anchor the downtown Phoenix nightlife scene as an unpretentious spot for friendly carousing and a late-night nightcap. It's also the best place to go in metro Phoenix to experience the virtues of the classic Irish pub. Come here for a cold Guinness, of course, but also a good whiskey flight — the pub has one of the biggest selections of Scotch and Irish whiskey in metro Phoenix — along with standard bar fare mixed with traditional Irish dishes.
Best Breakfast: Ollie Vaughn’s
This quaint, sun-soaked eatery located on McDowell Road just west of 16th Street offers a small but worthwhile lineup of breakfast options, all priced under $10. For a morning on the go, there's the breakfast sandwich, a fully customizable affair that can be served on your choice of a doughy house-made biscuit or a flaky, fresh croissant. For a heartier start, we love the pork chile verde, which, for just $9, includes a heaping portion of chile-kissed meat and a fried egg, all served over a buttermilk biscuit.
Best Sunday Brunch: Windsor
There's something for every kind of brunch-er on Saturday and Sunday mornings at Windsor. The chic neighborhood eatery offers hearty morning fare, including biscuits and gravy and eggs Benedict, as well as healthier options such as quinoa oatmeal and The Simple Life, which includes eggs, an English muffin, bacon, and fruit — all delicious. Our favorite indulgence, however, is the homemade doughnut holes — a baker's dozen of warm, cinnamon-coated orbs served with vanilla mascarpone and strawberry jam.
Best Downtown Lunch: The Clever Koi
The idea is simple: Sit down, grab a pencil, and start filling out your order on the forms provided. Bowls start at just $5 a piece, and diners have their choice of noodles — everything from udon and ramen to chilled green-tea soba, stir-fried chow mein, or rice. Then you pick a protein from elevated options including pork belly, succulent duck, tofu, or steak, and throw on any vegetables you'd like. Best of all are the final add-ins, which include a fried egg, house-made kimchi, and pickled ginger.
Best Patio Dining: Lon’s at The Hermosa Inn
You don't have to go far to escape the hustle and bustle of central Phoenix — in fact, you really don't need to look any farther than Lon's at The Hermosa Inn, an upscale resort in a particularly quiet patch of Paradise Valley. The restaurant's spacious patio offers cozy fireplaces, trees hung with glowing lanterns, and stunning views of Camelback Mountain, all of which makes a perfect backdrop for a leisurely meal of chef Jeremy Pacheco's Southwestern cuisine.
Best Place to Eat at the Bar: Hana Japanese Eatery
There's no bad seat in the house at Hana Japanese Eatery, but if you want to go big, then make sure to grab a seat at the restaurant's sushi bar. From there, you'll have a front row view of the action behind the counter — where brother-and-sister team Rick and Lori Hashimoto, along with their stepfather, Kazuto Kishino, can often be seen turning whole fish into pristine pieces of sushi.
Best Romantic Restaurant: Different Pointe of View
There's a good reason why Different Pointe of View has been the site of many memorable marriage proposals and wedding ceremonies: The views from the restaurant's patio lounge, especially at sunset, are absolutely stunning. This fine-dining restaurant, situated atop a scenic outlook on North Mountain at the Pointe Tapatio Cliff Hilton Resort, isn't simply a scenic lookout point, though. This is also a destination for anyone looking for a memorable meal.
Best Restaurant for Kids: St. Francis
Listen up, parents. St. Francis doesn't just have one kids' menu. No, Aaron Chamberlin's hip central Phoenix eatery has two: lunch and dinner and brunch. The offerings are smart — healthy (simple fruit salad) and a little naughty (iron skillet chocolate-chip pancake). Chicken breast, cheese pizza, a "big" hamburger with fries — it's hard to imagine that junior won't be pleased. And, get this: Kids 12 and under eat for free.
Best Chase Field Menu Item: Cheeseburger Dog
This American fare mashup consists of ground chargrilled hamburger patties mixed with dill pickles, green onion, chopped smoked bacon, and cheddar cheese, then shaped into a hot dog, breaded, and deep fried. The result is dressed with shredded lettuce, diced tomato, and more chopped smoked bacon, with a drizzling of secret sauce.
Best Hot Dog: Bacus Bros. Hot Dogs & Beer
The specialty dogs on the menu here may have silly names, but the kitchen doesn't mess around when it comes to pulling together tasty and surprising flavor combos that really work. The Foghorn Leghorn, featuring a plump chicken sausage topped with coleslaw, tomatoes, and horseradish mustard, is like a Southern picnic in a bun, and it's hard not to love the Ich Liebe Dich brat, a classic grilled brat paired with sauerkraut, grilled onions, and peppers.
Best Grilled Cheese: Angels Trumpet Ale House
Angels Trumpet Ale House may be better known as a hip downtown beer garden, but the kitchen is no slouch when it comes to making a killer grilled cheese sandwich. The barbecue brisket grilled cheese is layered with root-beer-braised brisket, pickled onions, and thinly sliced tomato, then capped off with smoked mozzarella and fontina. The thick-cut sourdough is nicely griddled on the flattop and served with an equally delicious heap of golden-brown fries.
Best Hamburger: The Stand Burgers & Tacos
Sometimes simpler is better, and if you're looking for proof, look no further than The Standard at The Stand Burger & Tacos in central Phoenix. This small restaurant keeps things about as simple as they can be with patties made from beef that's ground in-house, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and Stand sauce.
Best Nontraditional Burger: Dragon Dumpling Burger at Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour
Fans of Asian food have likely heard of sheng jian bao, the oversized Shanghainese dumplings that come stuffed with seasoned pork and wrapped in a thick, doughy casing. These hard-to-find treats have been on trend with Asian food aficionados for at least the last year, so chef Bob Tam, known for serving fun contemporary takes on Asian classics, has merged the dumpling with a good, old-fashioned cheeseburger.
Best Sandwich: The Doughboy
These days, there are sub shops that specialize in just about everything. Well, that's all fine, but if you ask us, none can beat Cheese 'n Stuff, where for more than 60 years metro Phoenix diners have been able to find top-quality sandwiches made with the best ingredients. Our go-to order is the Doughboy, a straightforward combo of turkey, bacon, Swiss cheese, and avocado. Served on mayo-slathered pieces of sourdough bread, this toasted sandwich is the kind of meal that's good for any and all occasions.
Best Wings: New Hong Kong Restaurant
Beyond its worn vintage exterior, this Chinese restaurant offers some of the Valley's best Cantonese food, specifically dishes of the deep-fried variety. The restaurant's salt-and-pepper chicken wings are particularly memorable. Each wing features moist chicken meat encased in a shell of crispy golden batter, which alone would be delicious, but with the addition of diced garlic, onions, and Thai chili peppers become wings worthy of great praise.
Best Fried Chicken: Welcome Chicken + Donuts
Sure, there are only three different types of fried chicken served at Welcome Chicken + Donuts in central Phoenix. But when all three are so different and so good, it's always a struggle to pick just one. Each piece comes coated in a golden, crispy batter before being hand tossed in one of the restaurant's Asian-inspired sauces. The Vietnamese Herb combines garlic, fish sauce, and cilantro for a pungent flavor that's hard to forget, while the sweet and spicy Korean Chili makes a less aggressive meal.
:Grand Avenue Pizza Company
Metro Phoenix has no shortage of great pizza, but it can still be hard to find a spot where you can grab a single slice to go — especially late at night. Thank goodness for Grand Avenue Pizza Company, where the creative, gourmet pies are forever baking into the wee hours of the morn. Four types of slices are regularly available for a quick infusion of carbs and cheese — the options include cheese, pepperoni, vegetarian, and a revolving daily special — and they are all reliably delicious.
Best Gourmet Pizza: Base Pizzeria
Nestled up against the Phoenix mountains, Base Pizzeria is a neighborhood pizza spot that's well worth a drive from anywhere in the Valley. This place's pies are seriously good, and feature quality toppings like organic crushed tomatoes, fior de latte cheese, and caramelized organic onions. Our favorites include the basic Base, topped with crushed tomatoes, basil, and cheese, or the Prawn, a spicy little number featuring shrimp, red onion, and organic chile.
Best Barbecue: Little Miss BBQ
Located in a largely industrial area south of the airport, Little Miss BBQ manages to be a charming barbecue destination in metro Phoenix, thanks in large part to the ever-friendly service and excellent smoked meat. You'll almost always find a line of customers queued up outside the small building, waiting to come face to face with glistening, pepper-crusted brisket that's sliced right before your eyes and heaped onto a plate with sides such as jalapeno cheddar grits and coleslaw.
Best Dim Sum: Mekong Palace Restaurant
There are plenty of reasons to check out Mekong Plaza, the giant Asian supermarket and food court in Mesa where you can find everything from top-notch Vietnamese cuisine to boba tea and some of the best Taiwanese food in town. But don't let the absurd number of dining options cause you to overlook the Mekong Palace Restaurant, a large sit-down eatery located within the food court that also offers some the Valley's best dim sum seven days a week.
Best Seafood: Angry Crab Shack
Angry Crab serves fresh Cajun-style seafood, including crawfish, shrimp, mussels, and several types of crab. The go-to order has to be king crab covered in the restaurant's Trifecta sauce, a blend of Cajun spices, lemon pepper, and garlic that's addictingly good and packs just enough heat when ordered with medium spice. You can always throw in some corn and potatoes to balance out the meal, but no matter what you do, don't forget a side of "bread for soppin'."
Best Sushi: Shimogamo
We love this Chandler sushi restaurant, where you can always count on finding a solid selection of fresh sushi and sashimi created by the restaurant's talented chefs and served with a smile. If you're craving low-price rolls full of imitation crab and spicy mayo, move along. But for real-deal sushi, including hard-to-find selections such as sea urchin and tuna belly, Shimo's the spot.
Best Ramen: Tampopo Ramen
Tampopo specializes in Hakata-style ramen, known for its signature tonkotsu-style broth and thin, straight noodles. The restaurant makes its noodles in-house (you can see the machine used to form the long strands of dough in the front of the dining room) and serves a top-notch pork broth that's neither too oily or too fatty. Then again, if you're a fan of a more intensely flavored tonkotsu, just ask to "add rich soup," a $1 upgrade that's well worth the splurge.
Best Vegetables: The Larder + The Delta
If you're still stuck in the mindset that vegetables are the foul-tasting greens of your youth, then you need to get yourself to The Larder + The Delta, chef Stephen Jones' Southern-inspired food stall at the DeSoto Central Market. At this matchbox-size eatery, Jones makes vegetables fun, transforming everything from peas to beets into flavorful creations with a Southern lean.
Best Vegetarian Restaurant: Fresh Mint
Fresh Mint owner and head chef Mai Ly has a way with herbs. It only takes a sip or two of her spicy lemongrass soup to understand that vegetarian cooking can be as fragrant and lively as anything coming off a barbecue grill. Everything is made to order at Fresh Mint, but it's worth the wait for the restaurant's pan-Asian dishes, which are often brimming with the flavors of bright sesame ginger sauce and fragrant coconut curries.
Best Vegan Restaurant: Loving Hut
Meat lovers may scoff at vegan cooking, but that's only because they haven't eaten at Loving Hut. The restaurant offers a sprawling menu of freshly prepared yet highly craveable vegan eats, including delicious, shatteringly crispy spring rolls stuffed with potato, onion, and minced veggies, served with hot mustard and sweet and sour sauce on the side. Burgers, featuring juicy garden patties, are as satisfying as anything you'll find sliding across a drive-thru window.
Best Juice Bar: Juice Core
This tiny juice shop offers everything from hardcore, no-fruit, all-green juice cleanses to super hydrating smoothies and even some simple food options. Best of all, the shop's staff are usually happy to help you decide on a product, asking what you're looking to achieve through the powers of organic, cold-pressed juice.
Best Gluten-Free Restaurant: True Food Kitchen
The menu at this trendy, health-focused eatery offers plenty of options for gluten-free meals, including an inside-out quinoa burger that's popular with some of pickiest diners we know and a spaghetti squash casserole that's so rich and creamy, you won't be missing anything on the flavor front.
Best Gluten-Free Bakery: Jewel’s Bakery and Cafe
For Jewel's Bakery owner Julie Moreno, going gluten-free isn't just a business, it's personal. Moreno first got into baking gluten-free treats when her young daughter developed an allergy to the protein, so you can bet her recipes have all been kid-tested and, yes, adult-approved. We love this cafe's moist peanut butter cookies and rich rocky road brownies, and we don't care whether they're gluten-free or gluten-full. All we know is they're delicious by any standard.
Best Bakery: Jerusalem Bakery AZ
One of the Valley's most unique bread houses is north Scottsdale's Jerusalem Bakery, the passion project of husband-and-wife team Lior and Lily Ben-Shushan. Using traditional baking techniques they learned in Israel and perfected while living and working in San Francisco, the couple offers freshly baked pita bread, rye bread, sourdough, and more.
Best Bagel: Odelay Bagel Co.
Most people won't get up at 4 a.m. for anything, but Odelay Bagel Co. owner Ryan Probst isn't most people. He's so dedicated to the pursuit of the perfect bagel that he's up every day before the sun to hand-make scores of bagels in more than a dozen varieties. We're partial to classic flavors like the shop's Everything bagel, which gets coated completely on both the top and bottom, but you can also find some more unique options, including black pepper Parmesan.
Best Doughnut: Okra Cookhouse & Cocktails
If you think something has to be artisanal, handmade, or just really expensive to be great, then you obviously haven't tried the canned biscuit doughnut at Okra Cookhouse & Cocktails in central Phoenix. After your meal of excellent Southern fare like Tennessee hot fried chicken or a smoked ham hock with black-eyed peas and greens, it may be hard to find room for dessert, but do it. You'll be rewarded with a fluffy, deep-fried doughnut with a thin, crisp exterior that's coated in salty-sweet caramel that sticks to your fingers, lips, and just about anything else it touches.
Best Desserts: Tracy Dempsey Originals
Not only has Tracy Dempsey been one of the Valley's top pastry chefs for more than two decades, but she also continues to create fun, creative dessert menus for some of the city's top restaurants. Ever wrapped up a meal at Citizen Public House or Crudo with a delectable dessert? Thank Dempsey, whose specialties include playful mashups like s'mores bread pudding or an elevated brownie sundae made with strawberry ice cream, fleur de sel caramel, and banana-peanut caramel corn.
Best Ice Cream: Sweet Republic
We don't need goggles and a lab coat to enjoy our ice cream. You can have all that silly novelty science experiment business. We'll take our ice cream handcrafted and rich, built from local ingredients like peaches or rhubarb, and even the occasional baked good from Welcome Chicken + Donuts across town. Helen Yung and Jan Wichayanuparp take ice cream seriously, and it shows.
Best Gelato: Doc’s Artisan Ice Creams
Discriminating gelato lovers know where to find the best, creamiest stuff in town: Doc's Artisan, where the Italian-style ice cream is made in small batches using quality ingredients, many of which are locally sourced. The flavor selections are regularly updated at this friendly ice cream shop, but it's pretty easy to find at least one flavor to fall in love with on any given visit.
Best Candy Shop: Super Chunk Sweets & Treats
Country and Sergio Velador are the sweetest couple we know, so it only makes sense that the two run a candy shop that would make Willy Wonka jealous. There's definitely a scientific method to their madness, which includes odd but delicious gummies and other candies; the best sweet/salty popcorn combos we've ever sampled; ice creams and ices; and sprinkle-covered cakes.
Best Market: AZ International Marketplace
This gargantuan market is a sort of international Wal-Mart, with everything from dozens of varieties of soy sauce to binders, backpacks, and dog toys on its shelves. The selection of international foods is the biggest draw, with shelves stocked with everything you could need to whip up a recipe from any corner of the globe. You want it? They got it. And if they don't, just ask. The staff is always willing to help hunt down items you can't find.
Best Farmers Market: Gilbert Farmers Market
With nearly 100 vendors during the fall and winter seasons, it's not hard to understand why the Gilbert Farmers Market is one of the best places to get your shopping done on a Saturday morning. But the appeal goes beyond the numbers. Gilbert Farmers Market is also a year-round operation, meaning you can count on being able to find local produce and Arizona-made products any week of the year — and that's in addition to food trucks, games, and family-friendly entertainment.
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Best Food Truck: The Maine Lobster Lady
Every fall, owner Diana Santospago loads up her blue and green food truck to hit the metro Phoenix streets, serving freshly trapped Maine lobster in a variety of preparations. There's a classic Maine lobster roll, of course, loaded with hunks of sweet lobster meat and served on a buttered grilled roll, but also lobster bisque, lobster mac 'n' cheese, lobster salad, and even not-lobster dishes including clam rolls and fried fish. Just make sure you catch Santospago before she packs up and heads back east for the summer.