BEST CAJUN RESTAURANT 2007 | Baby Kay's Cajun Kitchen | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Who cares if Mardi Gras is months away? As long as we can get a mighty fine taste of Louisiana, we're always ready to let the good times roll — and Baby Kay's is the place to bring the party. Tucked into the Town & Country Shopping Center, this Big Easy-going eatery is the perfect place to share good conversation and a few drinks with friends who appreciate the finer things in life — like seafood gumbo, fried catfish, hush puppies and crab cakes. The jambalaya, studded with chunks of chicken and andouille sausage, is one of our favorite dishes here. But sometimes, we stop by just for an oyster po' boy with remoulade. And daily specials are worth planning ahead for, especially the Wednesday-night crawfish boils, when the critters are in season. Every time we eat here, we can't help thinking, "Baby, you're the greatest."
Jacob Tyler Dunn
When you're looking for a little Southern comfort, Mrs. White's Golden Rule Café will definitely do the trick. This modest downtown eatery, where the menu's written on the walls and customers use the honor system to pay the cashier, has been keeping locals fat and happy for 40-odd years, thanks to delicious fried catfish, golden hunks of fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, and thick, juicy pork chops. Swab up that luscious gravy with a crumbly piece of cornbread, and don't forget to load up on satisfying side dishes, from mouth-watering candied yams to black-eyed peas and perfect greens. You might do a double-take at the generous portions here, but you also may surprise yourself at the end of the meal, when you're slurping down the last of your lemonade, wondering how you packed it all away. Well, believe it. These eats are just what your soul food-lovin' soul is seeking.
Courtesy of Joe's Real BBQ
You never know when a good idea may strike. For Joe Johnston, inspiration struck on his frequent business trips to Texas, where he sampled the goods at every barbecue joint he stumbled upon. By the time he found the perfect spot to open a barbecue restaurant in his hometown — a 1929 brick building in downtown Gilbert — he'd already perfected his business plan. And now Joe's Real BBQ stands as a testament to all the good grub he had in the Lone Star State, hawking the best barbecue in the Valley. From smoky, slow-cooked brisket, served sliced or chopped, to chicken, hot links, and ham, the menu of pecan-smoked meats is a carnivore's dream.

Pulled pork is served relatively unadorned, a heap of moist, savory shreds that you can dress up with Joe's original recipe barbecue sauce, or the tangy, hot habanero version. And the pork ribs are as mouthwatering as candy — tender inside, with a thick, brown crust coated in sweet, sticky sauce. BBQ pit beans, old-fashioned cole slaw, and gooey mac 'n' cheese topped with buttery baked crumbs are just a few of the fabulous side dishes, and homemade root beer is a tasty way to wash it all down. When you make your way through Joe's cafeteria-style line, be sure to grab a few toothpicks and wet naps. Trust us, you'll put 'em to good use.

There's plenty of 'cue in the PHX, but only one place serves up anything close to the vinegary pulled-pork ambrosia known as North Carolina-style BBQ. Actually, NC BBQ is divided into opposing camps, a sweet tomatoey version, and a tangy vinegary recipe that's the most beloved amongst Tar Heels. Thing is, not many folks outside of Carolina appreciate the vinegar-drenched variety, so if you head into Glendale's Restaurant 28 and don't know to ask for the vinegar-based "Eastern North Carolina" 'cue, you might receive the tomato-based "Western North Carolina" style stuff. And though that's tasty, any true son of the Old North State will tell you it's not the crme de la porker. So request the real deal when you stop by, and don't forget to enjoy it with all the fixins: collard greens, golden brown hush puppies, fried okra, red beans and rice, yams, fried chicken gizzards, chitterlings (pig intestines) if you're very brave, and for dessert, peach cobbler, nutty buddy pie, or sweet potato pie. Then be prepared to waddle back to your car, whistlin' N.C.'s James Taylor all the way.
Unlike many restaurants, where breakfast offerings are off-limits by 10:30 or 11 a.m., Butterfield's starts dishing it up at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. and doesn't stop until midafternoon. That's a good thing. It doesn't matter if it's a plateful of scrambled eggs with prosciutto, a fluffy stack of buttermilk pancakes, or a spinach crepe slathered in creamy Hollandaise sauce, hearty breakfast food always tastes good to us.

We even like to just sit and read Butterfield's lengthy menu, which has too many waffles and skillets and frittatas to count — at least until we get a few cups of strong Boyd's coffee in us. The OJ is great here, too, served fresh-outta-the-orange. (If you're not seated in plain view of the restaurant's industrial-strength juicer, that sweet, fruity smell may still waft over to your table.) On days when we're too spent to wake up before noon, and only a good omelet will do, you know where to find us.

Patricia Escarcega
There's nothing like breakfast at a great greasy spoon to kick-start our day after a long, booze-soaked night of partying at Casey Moore's. Tucked into a humble freestanding building on a rare stretch of University that hasn't been razed for high-rise condos, Harlow's Café seems as if it sprouted up for the very purpose of soothing our aching heads and growling bellies. Hair of the dog isn't an option here, but strong coffee and friendly, good-looking waitstaff definitely help us with a speedy recovery. As for the stick-to-your-ribs menu, it's straightforward and classic, with everything from fluffy pancakes and hefty homemade biscuits with gravy to hearty omelets and huevos rancheros. The portions are jaw-dropping, to boot. Witness the glorious Eggs Maximillian, a house specialty with heaps of hash browns, addictingly good chorizo, green chiles, eggs, salsa, and sour cream, all piled on top of a tortilla as big as the plate it's served on. It's easy to forget about our hangover when we're distracted by food this tasty.
When we can't stand the thought of Denny's, and only a classy brunch will do, El Chorro Lodge is our choice for a leisurely Sunday-morning feast. The menu has an old-school vibe — chipped beef, anyone? — not for any intentionally retro-chic reason, but because El Chorro's a Valley institution (just look around at the properly dressed clientele, which looks as if it's been coming here for decades). Eggs Benedict is the house specialty, from traditional and vegetarian versions to the delectable salmon lox Benedict and mouthwatering filet mignon Benedict. There are also expertly cooked omelets, some of the best French toast around (made with homemade cinnamon bread and golden raisins), and a selection of brunch-worthy sandwiches and salads. Superb coffee and fresh-squeezed juice are a couple more pluses. Truth be told, we could easily fill up on El Chorro's legendary sticky buns (complimentary with every meal), but if we saw somebody eating a plate of El Chorro's fine corned beef hash, we'd probably be insanely jealous.
Every so often, we like to wave our little pinkies high and take in afternoon tea at one of the posh spots in the Valley. This year's fave? The venerable Arizona Biltmore — as much for its history as for its heavenly finger fare. (Well, the salmon mousse with mascarpone cheese on a mini fish bouchee did put it over the top.)

The Biltmore opened in 1929. That's modern history to the Brits, given that the custom of afternoon tea dates to the 19th century, but for us, anything before 1950 is downright ancient; in fact, the Biltmore claims to be the state's first resort. We love any reason to skulk into the lobby and hang among the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired architecture, taking in the tasteful décor (not to mention the hotel guests they're great for people-watching) but we'd clocked so much time at the lobby bar we figured it was high time to get some tea.

We were glad we did. So that you don't interrupt that lobby bar buzz, may we suggest the Biltmore Royal Tea, which includes tea sandwiches, scones, French pastries and a Kir Royal alongside your tea. We sampled the Bombay Chai, while our companion (a real Brit herself) insisted, as always, on the Original English Breakfast. "Breakfast" was served with the aforementioned salmon sandwich, as well as an assortment including beef tenderloin, ham and watercress, and cambolza cheese with wild berry compote in a coupelle tart. (Try saying that three times fast, after a Kir Royal!)

The sandwiches were followed by spiced currant and apricot scones, as well as banana bread. And then, dessert, which included pistachio truffles, bittersweet chocolate dipped strawberries and (our favorite) a pot of gold peppermint mousse.

After our afternoon tea, we were ready for an afternoon nap, but alas, we had to head back to the office. We did so feeling much more civilized, thank you very much.

Whether you're 6 or 60, young lady, there's nothing better than a tea party. And that's why we are so in love with the English Rose. Their "Nursery Tea" is just right for our little one — complete with a three-tiered tray, bearing beautiful PB&J and cheese sandwiches, fresh fruit, and cookies. Even lemonade in the china teapot, if that's what precious prefers. The regular tea fit us perfectly, too, including chicken and walnut salad and cucumber sandwiches, with petit fours for dessert, if you still have room. Best of all, although this little English outpost in the desert is tiny, and positively packed with breakable trinkets, the staff will welcome your whirling dervish with open arms and a big box of dress-up clothes. Let us correct our previous statement: There's nothing better than a tea party when you're wearing a bright orange flower-trimmed straw hat, wrapped in a hot pink boa.
We practically floated out of the Mandala Tearoom, and it wasn't just because we were so buoyant, after sampling the black pomegranate iced and hot orange detox tea. The bare-bones, relaxed vibe of this self-described "urban tearoom" seeped into our karma, making us feel like we'd just been in tree pose for a week. We do have to admit that we opened the menu warily, expecting a list of nuts and seeds. And while Mandala does offer a list of raw foods (we're sure they're quite tasty, although we weren't brave enough to sample them) we stuck with the organic, cooked stuff. (Still all vegetarian, much of it vegan.) We loved the Mandala Macro Platter, a complete meal with adzuki beans, brown rice, and sautéed veggies. And the sauce on the curry vermicelli rice noodle bowl was downright decadent.

Maybe it was because we'd cleared our head and our palate, but we've got to tell you, this is the best tea we've ever tasted. Full-bodied, but not too strong, we drank cup after cup and wondered how this place gets by with just one loo.

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