Yasu Sushi Bistro

Casual but stylish, with sleek furnishings and moody lighting, Yasu Sushi Bistro reminds us of modern izakaya in Japan, where top-notch eats and premium sake are served with an extra helping of hipness. We love to snag a seat at the tiny sushi bar and let chef-owner Yasu Hashino guide us through plate after plate of delicacies, from plump, briny Kumamoto oysters to silky mackerel to rich, fatty toro. But beyond the stellar sushi and sashimi, the robatayaki offerings, grilled over aromatic binchotan oak charcoal, are just as craveworthy. Homemade chicken meatballs called tsukune and bacon-wrapped scallops are a couple of favorites; on days we feel like splurging, buttery wagyu beef is worth every expensive bite. There are plenty of sushi restaurants around town that get the job done when we're craving a quick fix, but none of them really satisfies our jones for an authentic Japanese dining experience like Yasu Sushi Bistro.

Pho Avina

Consider us impressed. For such a tiny restaurant, Pho Avina sure has managed to bulk up its menu with a wide variety of Vietnamese specialties. There are more than a hundred items in all, from simple classics like bun (rice vermicelli noodles) and piping hot pho (noodle soup with a characteristically fragrant broth and fresh herbs), to more elaborate combinations like com tam dac biet, with grilled chicken, pork, beef, and shrimp served with fresh and pickled vegetables on broken rice. There are several do-it-yourself dishes that you wrap in fresh lettuce or moist rice paper, along with quite a few vegetarian options, which you don't find at most Vietnamese restaurants. Dessert is noteworthy, too, with sweet treats like rice pudding, creamy Vietnamese flan custard, and coconut ice cream. Pretty presentations and generous portions are an added bonus, but better yet are the prices — and you don't have to be a student across the street at ASU West to appreciate them.

Cafe Lalibela
Timur Guseynov

Mom always got after us when we ditched the knife and fork to eat with our fingers, but we got our comeuppance when we discovered Ethiopian cuisine, traditionally scooped up by hand with moist, spongy bread called injera.

At Café Lalibela, the food's so tasty that we'd like to call it finger-lickin' good, but as it turns out, taking the expression literally is bad manners in Ethiopian culture. No worries, though — the sourdough flavor of injera is truly addicting, and we're happy to tear off big pieces of it to grab at yawaze yebeg tibs (spicy cubes of pan-fried lamb) and kye sega wat (tender beef simmered in spices). Café Lalibela's vegetarian specialties are amazing, too, from garlicky collard greens to flavorful lentils and peas. Turns out Mom was actually on to something when she made us eat our veggies.

Green New American Vegetarian
Courtesy of Green

Technically, Green serves vegan food — that is, it contains no milk, eggs, cheese, or any other animal product. That may sound intimidating, but trust us: It's the tastiest meatless cuisine in town. The beauty of this place is how even full-blown carnivores can appreciate it. While vegetarians get a bad rap for liking flavorless, healthful stuff, Green shows the naughty side of the veggie lifestyle with decadent treats like fried pita with spicy garlic poblano hummus, thyme fries with homemade vegan chili, and dairy-free Tsoynamis that give Dairy Queen Blizzards a run for their money. We also love Green's sauce-slathered po' boys and its famous spicy Buffalo wings, which have all the punch of real chicken hot wings — incredibly, they're made from mushroom stems. With dishes this craveable — along with a laid-back, café-style atmosphere and cheap prices — we find ourselves veggin' out quite a bit.

Fresh Mint
Jamie Peachey

It's no secret that Asian restaurants are a vegetarian's best friend. When in doubt, you can always go for a veggie stir-fry with rice, or anything with tofu. That's fine with us, but we always did find it kind of strange that so few Asian joints actually cater to the veggie crowd. At Fresh Mint, though, there's no meat on the menu, period, which means that vegetarians can have a field day at this bright, lime-green cafe. The list of appetizers includes several kinds of fresh rolls as well as exotic salads, including green papaya salad and lotus salad. Among the soups, there's a meat-free take on pho, a Vietnamese classic.

And entrees include noodle dishes, curries, various combinations of veggies and tofu, and some intriguing faux meat specialties, such as kung pao soy chicken, and caramelized soy fish in a clay pot. There aren't many fried things here, and that's fine with us, though you don't have to be a vegetarian to appreciate the healthful stuff.

Scott's Generations

If you think New York has a monopoly on good Jewish delis, then you clearly haven't been to Scott's Generations yet. This casual, family-run joint is just like the best neighborhood spots in the Big Apple, from the walls covered in framed family photos to the big comfy booths, where you can nosh on outstanding knishes, bagels and lox, huge omelets, and overstuffed sandwiches. The corned beef at Scott's is so tasty we're drooling at the thought of it, the cheesecake is killer, and the flavorful chicken noodle soup always gives us a second wind. And where else can you find a chocolate egg cream this awesome, at least outside of New York's five boroughs? If you're a fan of comfort food, don't be surprised if Scott's becomes your home away from home.

Andreoli Italian Grocer
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Consider our world rocked. All these years, we thought we knew what an Italian deli was, but it turns out we were eating tortellini salad and meatball subs in vain. What about a panino with homemade sausage, peppers, and onions or, perhaps, bresaola with arugula and shaved Parmesan? When Giovanni Scorzo opened Andreoli Italian Grocer last year, it was a culinary (and cultural) revelation. This modest eatery really delivers a taste of the Old Country — just listen to the conversations of your fellow customers, who are probably native Italians. They're here for fresh bread and pastries, salami, mozzarella, and tiramisu, all made in-house. They're also coming in droves for Scorzo's daily specials, like Tuscan-style steak or homemade pasta. It's no surprise this guy cooks up such lip-smacking dishes; he's the former chef-owner of award-winning Leccabaffi. Nowadays, he's happy to work behind the counter, butchering meats and waiting on customers himself. We bet he's rocked a lot of people's worlds at Andreoli.

Lo Lo's Chicken & Waffles

Whenever we need a little bit o' soul to put us right, we head straight to a little place called Lo-Lo's, where the star dish is (no surprise) the best fried chicken and waffles we've ever tasted. Owner Larry "Lo-Lo" White is the grandson of the legendary Mrs. White (of Mrs. White's Golden Rule Café), so he grew up eating the best soul food in Phoenix. Now, he's dishing it up himself. And let us tell you, it's so good you'll hate yourself if you don't show up with gluttonous motives. From catfish and chicken gizzards smothered with gravy to collard greens, cheese grits, and candy sweets, this is the kind of down-home cooking you'll want to keep eating well after you're full. Sure, we'll understand if you eventually say you don't have room for another bite — ever. Still, the Sunny Sand's red velvet cake is just as famous as the chicken and waffles, and definitely worth a try. It might be torture to stuff yourself so much, but c'mon — it hurts so good.

Stacy's Smoke Dem Bones Pit Stop
Sarah Whitmire

How nice to see a familiar face back on the local dining scene. Stacy Phipps, who owned the now-defunct Stacy's soul food restaurant on Jefferson, opened his new barbecue place earlier this year, and we were there just as soon as we could smell that mouthwatering almond and hickory smoke wafting from the meat smokers out back. The atmosphere is no-frills, but what the heck — it seems half the people in here are getting their goodies to go anyway. And once we finally get our feast in front of us, we're not paying attention to anything but the smoky pulled pork sandwich, the tender brisket, and the incredible beef ribs, which have a rich, caramelized taste that makes gnawing on the bone all the more pleasurable. As a bonus, there's plenty of soul food to go along with the meat, from savory greens to buttery candied yams. Wash it all down with a large cup of sweet tea, and see if you're not inspired to indulge in some sweet potato pie, too. Good barbecue will do that to you.

Baby Kay's Cajun Kitchen

Cajun restaurants are few and far between in these parts, but thankfully there's one place we can count on when we're ready to let the good times roll: Baby Kay's Cajun Kitchen. It's the kind of place you have to seek out, since it's planted in the middle of the Town & Country Shopping Center, but trust us — once you get a taste of the killer Cajun cooking at this friendly, laid-back joint, you'll put it on your mental map (and you'll probably kick yourself for not going there sooner). Bring a big appetite, and bring some friends while you're at it, because the food is luscious and the portions are downright huge. Start off with Louisiana crabcakes, shrimp remoulade, or maybe a cup of duck and andouille sausage gumbo, then try some red beans and rice, crawfish etouffée, or jambalaya. There are several kinds of po' boys, all served with homemade chips, and daily specials like beer-battered shrimp and Cajun fried chicken are worth a look, too. If it sounds like an over-the-top way to blow your diet, it sure is. Don't worry, though — you'll be in good company.

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