Delux Grill + Sushi
Lauren Cusimano
Gourmet burgers abound in the PHX, and we've done our best Wimpy impersonation gobbling through them all. But the one we always come back to, the one we start to crave after a couple of weeks away, is the Delux burger, namesake of this stylish, L.A.-like eatery, where they offer 40 international brew-ha-has on tap and a limited menu right up until the 2 a.m. closing. You read that right, nighthawks, 2 a.m. So there really is somewhere to nosh something decent after 10 p.m. in this fair city. We like pretty much everything on Delux's menu, including the sweet-potato fries, and even the fish sammy when we're feeling like lighter fare while quaffing our Stella Artois. But the Delux burger is our all-time fave: freshly ground Harris Ranch beef, served medium-rare, and topped with a mix of Gruyère and Maytag Blue cheeses, as well as a combo of caramelized onions and applewood smoked bacon. Pure atavistic delight.
They're twice-fried 'til golden, delicately salted, and still light and fluffy on the inside, but don't call these bad boys French fries. At the fashionable Trente-Cinq 35, they're known as frites, and they're eaten with creamy mayo instead of ketchup, along with a big, steaming bowl of moules (mussels) simmered in a broth of white wine and tender leeks. This simple, satisfying combo is at the heart of Trente-Cinq 35's Belgian comfort food menu, which includes crisp, creamy-centered shrimp crevettes, fall-apart-tender lamb shank la marocaine, and bouche a la reine, a flaky puff pastry filled with mushrooms and roasted chicken. And needless to say, it all tastes even better with a cold glass (or two) of Belgian beer, like a full-bodied Stella Artois or a citrusy, summery Hoegaarden. This place takes brewski and fries to a whole new level.
Corbin's Bar & Grill
Fans of this stylish Sunnyslope bar/grill rave about its new-and-improved ceiling, which has done wonders for reducing the place's once-raucous noise level. But perhaps even better news is what hasn't changed at Corbin's the grilled cheese sandwich is still the best thing on sliced bread. Made with Cheddar, Swiss and quesa fresca, this sandwich is always perfectly toasted on the outside and creamy on the inside, with fat slices of tomato and crisp bacon for that extra oomph. The vegetarian version, with asparagus and red bell peppers standing in for the bacon, is pretty good, too!
We'll always associate Camus chef Cullen Campbell with Krispy Kreme doughnuts. That's because the first time we experienced his sometimes quirky cuisine was at a one-off event in Tempe where he made bread pudding out of two or three boxes of plain, glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts. That eve was also memorable for truffled collard greens, and various other goodies that endeared our bellies to the self-taught, Tennessee-born taste titan. Leave it to Campbell, then, to try to build a better mousetrap with his pistachio PB&J, save that here all of the basic elements are made in-house: pistachio butter with hazelnut oil, instead of peanut butter; toasted slices of house-baked brioche; and vanilla-strawberry jam. Served in quarters with a little glass of milk, this scrumptious sammy overtakes the original, turning the most pedestrian of noshes into gourmet eatin'. Hats off to you, Cullen. Now if you'd only put that Krispy Kreme bread pudding on the menu, we'd buy an RV and take up residence in the Clarendon parking lot for good.
Cibo Urban Pizzeria
Jacob Tyler Dunn
For our money and, more important, our time waiting for a table the best gourmet pizza in this burg is put out by Cibo, whose owners Karen and Tony Martingilio were wise enough to have imported young pizza maestro Guido Saccone from the town of Caserta, near the birthplace of pizza in Naples. Saccone used to make hundreds of pies a day in his brother's pizzeria back home, and his knowledge and expertise produce a superior pie here, with a light, thin crust that's never salty, and always refreshing, whether it's topped by mozzarella and spicy Italian salami as in the Diavolo; prosciutto cotto, mushrooms, artichokes and black olives, as in the Capricossa; or any of the other options. For lunch, you can't go wrong with one of Saccone's oven-fired saltimbocca sammies, and on the dessert tip, the sweet, warm crepes are magnfico. No lie: Saccone's pies will make you sigh, with a minimum wait, F.Y.I.
Gus's New York Pizza Inc
Meagan Simmons
Considering the mind-boggling assortment of exotic toppings out there, you could, in theory, eat pizza every day of the week. But even mediocre pizza can pass for something decent when it's heaped with sausage or pepperoni or some other overpowering taste. The true test of good pizza is embodied in the humble, unadorned slice, a beguiling blend of crust, sauce and cheese. (Seems simple, but looks can be deceiving, as many unfortunate eaters have discovered.) Meanwhile, the plain slice at Gus's is deliciously addictive a thin, chewy crust with a touch of crispness on the bottom, covered in a light layer of almost-sweet tomato sauce and a blanket of melted mozzarella. It's as good as what you'd get in the Big Apple, and it's love at first bite.
Redendo's Pizzeria
Sure, there are plenty of places to get a plate of pasta in town, but few can reproduce that old-timey, Brooklyn-style pizzeria feel and flavor, which is why Redendo's remains our preferred corner Italian joint in the Valley. Chef Anthony Redendo is a Culinary Institute of America grad who hails from back East, so he knows his garlic knots, meatballs, calzones, eggplant parmigiana, chocolate chip cannoli, and all that other glorious goombah grub, the kinda stuff Tony Soprano gobbles on a regular basis. Moreover, thanks to satellite radio, you'll be listening to Italian crooners like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Tony Bennett on the box. The place is full of WWII and '40s memorabilia, repros of beer ads and World Series posters from that time, photos of WWII fighter planes, pics of Frankie, and stills from Hogan's Heroes. What a freakin' cool place! Even the restrooms are made to look like "latrines." Folks in Fountain Hills are a lucky bunch, indeed.
Marcellino Ristorante
Molly Smith
How good are the handmade pastas at Marcellino's? So good we'd eat 'em off the men's room floor of a Chevron station, capisce? Marcellino Verzino is the real deal, a true Italian, who's owned and operated award-winning restaurants in both Rome and NYC. It's in Rome that he met his beautiful, vivacious partner-for-life, Sima, who runs the front of the house, while Marcellino busies himself with his artistry in the kitchen. Sure, if the guy wanted to, he might be able to get away with using a superlative pre-made pasta, but where's the joy in that for an old farm boy who still enjoys making things from scratch? So there's saffron linguini, porcini-infused fettuccine, potato gnocchi, fettuccine that's black from squid ink, and so on. There's more to the menu than pasta, like the calves' liver flambed with cognac, and scaloppine in a Gorgonzola sauce. But they don't call Marcellino the prince of pasta for nothing, bucko, so pasta is what we want from this Roman emperor of edibles.
When we first stepped foot through the glamorous doors of Drinkwater's City Hall, we knew we'd entered a sensual realm. This swanky steak house oozes sexy luxury, from softly illuminated glass panels and black leather seating to live music and dim, red-tinted lighting. There's a lengthy list of wines to perk up your taste buds, and lots of appetizers to get you in the mood for sizzling hot meat stellar chop salad, savory French onion soup, delicate sauted sea scallops, and that ultimate aphrodisiac, oysters on the half shell. You could be naughty and order the jumbo lobster tail or pork chop, but why not give in to the pleasures of red meat? After all, it's the main item of worship here. Entrees like the NY Strip and the bone-in filet (Drinkwater's specialty) are served juicy and slicked with butter, still sizzling on plates heated to 400 degrees. Even before your first bite, the incredibly rich smell will go straight to the pleasure center in your brain. Yep, you'll be completely seduced and we bet you'll be back for more.
We go to Katz's Deli not just because it's the best deli in town, but because it serves the most amazingly tasty, most authentic matzo brei we've ever shoveled into our piehole. The balance of matzo to egg is perfect, and the serving is large enough that we can eat the first half with salt (kosher, of course) and the rest with syrup, just like we like it. If we're there past breakfast, we always order the chopped liver, because we've learned the hard way that Katz's is the closest to New York-style chopped liver smooth and slightly peppery that we're going to find out west. The corned beef is also right on the money, and we order potato knishes to go because they're always the freshest in town. All these East Coast delicacies are served to us at a pleather tuck-and-roll booth in a room that hasn't been updated in decades not since someone put up all that wood paneling and those framed photos of local celebs chowing down. Even without the seal of approval provided by a photo of Wallace and Ladmo eating latkes, we'd make Katz's our first stop for deli food every time.

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