The cooler months have settled in, meaning it's high comfort food season. Pizza, fried chicken, smoked meats, and all kinds of warm, soft, crackly, or otherwise decadent eats are medicine for the soul any time of year, this time especially. Our Best of Phoenix 2017 compilation includes 19 comfort foods. We're lucky to have so many utterly delicious choices. Here are the 19 best.
Best Fried Chicken: AZ Fry Guy
AZ Fry Guy started its life as a food truck, but now this family-run restaurant is a thriving outpost of Southern cooking, tucked into a strip mall just a stone's throw away from Interstate 10 in Avondale. Although the menu is replete with all manner of deep-fried Southern eats (including delicious fried seafood), the thing to order at least once are the fried chicken strips, which are beautifully seasoned and very finely breaded.
Best Pizza Slice: My Slice of the Pie Pizzeria
Let's be frank: You will probably want more than just one slice when you go to My Slice of the Pie Pizzeria, a quirky Arcadia pizza joint that marries New York pizza-making traditions with Southwest-inspired flavors. But if you're looking to whet your appetite with just a slice or two, the restaurant offers pizza by the slice daily. There are two very good options: a deliciously chewy, oversize New York-style slice, and a Southwestern slice featuring the restaurant's signature jalapeno-tomato cream. Both are excellent.
Best Breakfast: Butterfield's Pancake House and Restaurant
We don't know if breakfast is actually the most important meal of the day, but if you eat it at Butterfield's it'll certainly be the most delicious. The longtime Scottsdale favorite is packed every Saturday and Sunday with hungry diners, so be prepared for a wait, but trust us, it's worth it. When you sit down, you'll get to choose from an extensive menu, including pancakes (try the Oreo Cookie S'mores Cake if you don't mind the sugar rush), scramblers, omelets, French toast, skillets, and Benedicts.
Best Sunday Brunch: Duza's Kitchen
Duza's Kitchen is the kind of quiet neighborhood cafe whose reputation is built mostly by word of mouth. Tucked into the historic Coronado neighborhood, the breakfast-and lunch-only restaurant offers a refined, globally inspired menu that seems to offer something for everyone. The brunch menu, designed by chef-owner Mensur Duzic, runs the gamut from apple-spiced hot cereal to French crepes to Mexican breakfast tortas.
Best Soul Food: Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe
Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe is not merely the oldest soul food restaurant in town, it happens to be the most satisfying. The longtime Jefferson Street staple is a touchstone of Southern cooking and hospitality, delivering favorites like piping hot, extra-juicy fried chicken; smothered pork chops; fried catfish; and a smothered chicken-fried steak that will make you ditch whatever diet you're on in a hurry.
Best Road-Trip Meal: Coppa Café
Two hours might seem like a long way to drive for breakfast, but we'd travel for days to get to Coppa Café. This sweet café on Flagstaff's main drag (not Route 66 — the other main drag — the useful one with the Target) is mismatched in all the right ways with vintage tables and chairs, flowers on the table, and if you're lucky, a guy in the corner playing classical guitar. Match that with amazing food — we tried the prosciutto and egg tarte flambé, a.k.a. breakfast pizza. We'll be back.
Best Diner: Diner 50
Diner 50 is a funky breakfast and lunch spot situated amid the drab, sun-bleached junkyards and industrial work yards of 19th Avenue and Buckeye Road. You'll find all the breakfast classics here, from thick, fluffy, Frisbee-size buttermilk pancakes soaked in butter and maple syrup to a hearty rib-eye steak platter, which comes with a well-cooked steak, a couple of eggs, and your choice of home fries or hash browns.
Best Late-Night Dining: Grand Avenue Pizza Company
There are new spots in Phoenix that keep turning out the grub until 1 or 2 a.m., but for the real late-nighters, the show-closers, the after-party drinkers, there is only one place in town that can offer the comfort and grease we all inevitably crave after closing time. Grand Avenue Pizza Company slings large, classic New York-sized slices that come with just the right amount of grease and just the right amount of crispness to fill your stomach and put you to sleep when it's finally time to call it a night, or in this case, a morning.
Best Ballpark Fare: Chipotle Chorizo Dog
You can take us out to the ballgame, but you better buy us something tastier than peanuts and Cracker Jack. Fortunately, the fine folks at Chase Field come up with new and interesting menu items at the start of each new Diamondbacks season. This year, we're loving the unabashedly indulgent Chipotle Chorizo Dog, a wonder of a meal that starts with a footlong hot dog and piles on jack cheese sauce, chorizo, pico de gallo, and a chipotle aioli. It's enough for one very hungry person or two who just want to try it.
Best Bread: Jerusalem Bakery AZ
We love bread, and in metro Phoenix, we love it best from Jerusalem Bakery. Husband-and-wife team Lior and Lily Ben-Shushan never let us down when it comes to their rotating selection of bread creations, which includes several varieties of challah, sourdough rye, French toast cinnamon loaf, pita, and our personal favorite, a round Moroccan herb bread.
Best Bagel: The Nosh Café
A good bagel should be chewy but not squishy, dense enough to be substantial but not so firm that it's hard to eat. It's a fine line to walk, but the folks at The Nosh Café in Ahwatukee do the best job in town. There are more than a dozen varieties to choose from, including onion, garlic, salt, spinach Parmesan, cinnamon sugar, and our favorite, the "Works" (a.k.a. the everything bagel). A Works bagel with lox, cream cheese, tomato, red onion, and capers is about as perfect a breakfast as we can imagine.
Best Gourmet Pizza: Forno 301
Forno 301 is a destination for seriously great pizza. On most nights, you'll spot Italian-born pizzaiolo and owner Luca Gagliano working the wood-fired oven, where slabs of gorgeous dough swell over the crackling heat. There are about a dozen Neapolitan-style pizzas on the menu, including the brilliantly composed Testosterone, a "ballsy" pizza that features puddles of soft mozzarella, a lovely tomato sauce, prosciutto — and a couple of eggs.
Best Grilled Cheese: The Gorilla Cheese Truck
Our favorite selection from local mobile eatery The Gorilla Cheese Truck is the Hawaii 5.0, a decadent creation that takes a traditional grilled cheese and stuffs it with smoked pork, green chiles, grilled pineapple, bacon, tomato, bacon jam, and Sriracha aioli for an unforgettable mix of spicy, sweet, and savory flavors. But we also enjoy the Caprese sandwich, which comes with mozzarella, tomato, basil, and bacon jam. Basically, give us melted cheese on toasted bread and we're there for it.
Best Hot Dog: DK Dogs
DK Dogs in Phoenix specializes in Euro-style hot dogs, with distinctly Danish roots. If you have not experienced the pleasures of a Danish dog, prepare yourself for the house dog, which features an all-beef frank squeezed into a gently toasted, hollowed-out baguette, garnished with a mustard-like secret sauce. Along with classic Danish street dogs, DK Dogs offers specialty dogs like The Nordic and The Pastrami Dog. The sheer novelty of the menu is enough to merit a visit.
Best Burger: Aioli Gourmet Burgers
Time was, you had to manage to catch the Aioli Burger food truck around town if you wanted one of their award-winning hamburgers. Then, at the end of 2016, the good people of Phoenix caught a break when a brick-and-mortar location opened in north central Phoenix. Now, we always know where to find specialties like the Italiano Burger with its mozzarella, balsamic reduction, and crispy pancetta, or the Black & Blue, which comes with blue cheese, bacon, and caramelized onions.
Best Fries: Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails
In the beginning, there were plain old french fries. Then came curly fries, waffle fries, shoestring fries, sweet potato fries, zucchini fries, carrot fries ... we could go on and on. But if you're craving a new variation on an old theme, we recommend parking yourself at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar in downtown Phoenix's CityScape complex. The hotel's Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails serves corn grit fries, thick, delicately crispy sticks worth swooning over.
Best Wings: Rúla Búla Irish Pub
The Beginnings portion of the lunch and dinner menu at Rúla Búla Irish Pub offers three kinds of wings: Buffalo wings, Guinness barbecue wings, and the Rúla Búla House Wings — a combination of the first two. We recommend the third option. The wings are served on oval-shaped plates and adorned with minced parsley — they are sizable and meaty, and the goopy, sweet, and spicy house sauce seems to have been generously slathered on each drum and wing.
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Best Barbeque: Little Miss BBQ
Little Miss BBQ is notorious for attracting long lines, especially on weekend mornings. But local barbecue aficionados don't bother to complain about the lines, because it's always worth the wait for Little Miss Barbecue's central Texas-style barbecue. The menu is short enough to memorize, a collection of gorgeously smoked pork ribs, turkey, sausage, and of course, brisket.
Best Sandwich: Crispy Chicken at Worth Takeaway
If there's ever a sandwich you'll need to walk off, it's the generously proportioned Crispy Chicken at Worth Takeaway. The craft sandwich consists of crispy chicken breast that is only soft or soggy in the best way where the Sriracha-honey spread and mayonnaise has been slathered on thick. You'll also find Bibb lettuce and sweet and spicy pickles made in house between those slices of Proof ciabatta bread. If you dare eat the whole thing, we suggest strolling through charming downtown Mesa instead of taking a much-needed nap.