With its high alcohol content and low cost, a 40-ouncer of malt liquor is simply the cheapest way to get tanked. So it's no surprise that this bitter, golden blend is readily available in areas where most pants pockets jingle with welfare coins, minimum-wage earnings and the grimy coin of hard-earned handouts.

Near downtown Phoenix, the malt shop of choice is Roland's, a Van Buren market that offers a staggering array of decisions for those with few choices to make. Behind the cold glass, the 40s stand at attention like diabolical soldiers, their manly brand names stenciled across specious, stark labels: St. Ides and St. Ides Ice, King Cobra, Old English 800, Colt .45, Schlitz Malt Liquor and on and on.

No brand costs more than $2, and Roland's even tosses in a paper bag "coaster" for free.

Readers' Choice for Best Beer Selection: Timber Wolf Pub

Best Home-Delivered Certified Organic Produce

Boxed Greens

Remember when deliverymen brought glass bottles of milk and fresh loaves of bread right to your doorstep? Neither can we.

But even if you aren't old enough to conjure up those comforting memories, you can indulge your nostalgia for the Good Old Days you never knew existed by calling Boxed Greens. They'll put you on their home delivery route for fresh, in-season, certified organic produce, most of which is grown right here in Arizona. The pesticide-free produce and herbs you'll receive are straight-from-the-earth, including exotic items you'll rarely see in the local supermarket produce section.

Deliveries are scheduled on a weekly or biweekly basis -- a Seasonal Box of preselected veggies runs from $30 to $65, depending on the size of your family. To tailor your order to more specific greens, choose your non-poison from the Boxed Greens Web site (www.boxedgreens.com) that's updated daily.

Hiro Sushi
Jamie Peachey
Yearning Japanese?

Then head east to Hiro Sushi, home of the Valley's most inscrutable eats. Fourteen lunch combinations present a dizzying array of teriyaki, tempura, gyoza, katsu, sushi and sashimi. Dinner combos, meanwhile, are a veritable feast of build-your-owns, conveniently priced per how many items you order. Your customized meals are prettily laid out in red lacquer trays and decorated with rice, miso and salad.

Specialties include salmon teriyaki, sanma (pike), saba shioyaki (mackerel), fried oyster and ginger pork. Sushi gets creative, too: Arizona roll (asparagus, scallop, avocado, cucumber); crazy roll (spicy tuna, avocado, smelt roe, fried shrimp, wrapped in pink soybean paper); and ribbon roll (spicy tuna, salmon and avocado).

Hiro's selections are beautifully fresh -- just ask the man himself. He'll happily bring out an entire fish for you to inspect, proudly claiming, "We just got this in today."

For topflight Japanese food, it's our Hiro.

Readers' Choice: Ra Sushi Bar Restaurant

Mary Coyle Ol' Fashion Ice Cream Parlor
Everyone's heard of the proverbial "golden oldie." And if you've lived in the Valley any length of time, you're already well aware of our own "colden oldie."

That would be Mary Coyle Ice Cream parlor, the local ice cream standard by which all others are judged. For 50 years, Coyle's take on everyone's "I scream, you scream" frigid dessert has ruled the Valley's roost, whether served up in cones, sundaes, sodas or the you-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it "The Mountain," a seven-pound Himalaya of various flavors, sauces, nuts and toppings that sell for $49. All flavors are made on the premises and most have an artery-clogging 19 percent butterfat content.

Freeze!

Readers' Choice for Best Ice Cream/Yogurt Shop: Cold Stone Creamery

Readers' Choice for Best Smoothie/Juice Shop: Jamba Juice

What's a nice grill like you doing in a place like this?

At Arisoo, the grill is installed in a table, cooking up some sensational meats over gas flames. Treats like gal bi (short ribs marinated in soy), bul gogi (thinly sliced marinated beef tenderloin), dak bul gogi (chicken) and deaji bul gogi (pork).

Guests spread lettuce leaves with bean paste, rice, and their choice of pickled condiments like cabbage, radish, broccoli, bean sprouts, soy potatoes, cucumber, zucchini, garlic, kimchee and jalapeo pepper. The huge assortment of veggies is spicy hot, just the way these diners like them. Diners add the done-to-a-turn meat, wrap up the lettuce like a burrito, and munch happily away.

Good grill.

Chompie's Deli Restaurant, Bagels, Bakery & Catering
Man does not live by bread alone. He needs a good bagel, too.

For more than two decades now, Chompie's has been surpassing our bagel expectations with always -- always -- the best bagels we've ever found in this town.

Chompie's was king of the bagels before the doughy works of art were cool (remember the bagel explosion in the '80s?). While many of the wanna-be bagel bakers in the Valley have gone extinct, Chompie's is still going strong.

Why? It's got 35 varieties of New York-style bagels, in our favorite flavors like salt, poppy, sesame and sourdough. But it's also got designer choices, like zucchini, Cheddar, banana nut, jalapeo and chocolate chip bagels. Most important, all bagels are handmade, baked fresh and smothered on both sides with their toppings.

You can't build a better bagel than that.

The shrimp here are served in a molcajete, a large bowl carved out of lava rock and sent to the table bubbling hot and furious.

The dish is called Camarón Azteca, and the volcanic container keeps the fresh-from-the-oven meal wickedly warm. It's a good thing, too, because it takes us a long time to work our way through the Vesuvius-size mound of Guaymas shrimp; in any other dish, the shrimp would get cold.

Much of the magic in the bowl comes from its voluptuous sauce, essentially chunky, chile-rich salsa blended with Mexican white cheese. We're told there's no butter involved, but it sure tastes of it -- a reaction of the milky cheese melted at such high temperature, we suppose.

Duck and Decanter
Lauren Cusimano
Tired of cheese choices at your local grocery store being limited to Cheez Whiz, Velveeta and boursin-in-a-box? Cheeselike food substances are conspicuously absent at Duck & Decanter, whose long list of not-for-the-lactose-intolerant dairy specialties would turn the head of even a hardened Wisconsin Cheesehead.

This place is the only one we've found around town that seems to always stock manchego and mahon, two nutty, semi-hard Spanish cheeses craved by hard-core cheesephiles. They've also laid in a good store of Old Brugge, chevegne and Père Joseph, all made by Belgian Trappist monks -- and don't pass up the double-crème Brie layered with pesto and toasted pine nuts. Duck & Decanter's helpful cheese-department head, Christopher LaFollette, is known to pass out samples, so there's no question as to what you're buying. The only thing Duck & Decanter doesn't stock is Metamucil, which you will certainly need if you shop here on a regular basis.

K-Rico Cafe & Bakery is tiny, but those with a nose for things sweet should keep sniffing 'til they find this tropically appointed strip-mall storefront. Owner Elsie Lara, a native of Puerto Rico, packs a lot of fabulous Caribbean-style pastries into her shop. It's worth a cross-town trek to bite into one of K-Rico's flaky quesitos, made of buttery puff pastry and stuffed with sweetened cream cheese; or a tembleque, a cinnamony Puerto Rican coconut pudding that's a Caribbean classic.

Restaurant Oceana prides itself on serving just-caught seafood on a daily changing menu. For us, this means sparkling ahi, Maine day boat scallops, Atlantic salmon, Hog Island oysters, Dungeness crab, Alaskan halibut and more. And though such seafood is available at many other places around town, Oceana gets highest marks not only for its unparalleled freshness, but also for creative preparation.

Billed as American cuisine with Asian and French overtones, the menu boasts dynamite dishes like miso-marinated Chilean sea bass with bok choy, shiitake, and jasmine rice, plus our absolute favorite: mustard crusted trout with leek whipped potatoes, snap peas and grilled red onion pan sauce.

We're especially hooked on Oceana's tasting menus, bringing us four-, five- or six-course feasts, paired with wines if we like. The experience makes relaxing in this elegant place easy, lounging under portraits painted by such greats as local artist Frank Ybarra, fiddling with the colorful fish figurines decorating our table, and watching what's up in the exposed kitchen.

There's always another fish in the sea, so the saying goes. We're happy enough with what we've found at Oceana.

Readers' Choice: Red Lobster

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