Bertha's Cafe

In a sea of trendy cupcake shops, Bertha's Café rises modestly to the top. This casual and unassuming spot serves breakfast, lunch, and a variety of pastries, but the true-blue reason to go to Bertha's is to sample the adorable mini red velvet cupcakes. At 75 cents apiece, they're highly addictive; they're moist, with white frosting and red sprinkles — they're so cute you could pop. Beyond red velvet, other flavors include chocolate, carrot cake, and pumpkin, in the fall. You'll be back every season, regardless of what's in style.

Tammie Coe Cakes

We'll forgive you if you didn't know MJ Bread exists. It's like a cute toy hidden inside a cereal box, but in this case, the cereal box is Tammie Coe Cakes. You may walk into Tammie Coe's looking for a swirly cake, but you're just as likely to walk out with a crunchy baguette, some ciabatta bread, or a warm olive loaf. MJ Bread also sells to-go servings of garlic bread, as well as crispy baguettes, garlic herb focaccia, and blueberry banana bread. The pretzels are particularly yummy. They have a small menu with a few sandwiches, to boot. Try the tuna slider on a delicious roll that perfects the ideal bread-to-tuna-salad ratio. Anyway, as we were saying, you'd be forgiven for not having known about MJ, but now that you are in the know, you're on your own. No more clemency.

The Phoenician, Scottsdale

Master baker Ben Hershberger has created a monster. His chocolate cherry sourdough bread is a one-pound marvel that has a cult following. Found at The Phoenician and the Scottsdale Farmers Market, it's worth getting up early just to guarantee you'll be able to grab some. Did we mention getting up early? This sweet treat sells out every week faster than your 401(k) tumbles. And for good reason — the little loaves are loaded with three different kinds of chocolate, which is more than you'll find in most cakes in this town. Finally, a sweet treat that's as good as it is good for you. At least, that's how we justified scarfing a whole loaf in one sitting. Those cherries must count for a daily serving of fruit, right? It's the perfect excuse to knock back a slice or three after dinner as the perfect capper for any meal. Or lunch. Heck, even breakfast. Some people call it toast; we call it heaven.

Back East Bagel Co

We've gotta tell you, we've endured sub-par bagels all over the world, including our own East Coast. So the name alone wasn't enough to sell us on this place. But as soon as we bit into Back East's "everything" bagel — toasted, with tomato slices and cream cheese (the way God intended a bagel to be eaten — what's with this blueberry horse crap?) we knew we'd come home. So often these days, a deli or bakery (or, horrors, a chain bagel store) will try to sell you a puffy piece of bread masquerading as a bagel. But Back East knows the outside must be shiny-crisp, the inside not too puffy. These bagels are so good that we'll admit it — we can't resist even their blueberry.

Scott's Generations

Scott's Generations is a New York deli that keeps the classics coming, from bagels and lox to chopped liver. Scott's knishes are the size of softballs, and the corned beef hash is tender and, best of all, only delicately salted. They also serve fantastically juicy and lean beef brisket. The "James Cagney" sandwich is a favorite, served with crunchy, sweet coleslaw, pickle spears, and crinkle-cut fries the size of Duplo Legos. Scott's Generations is a "kosher-style" deli, but not strictly adherent, so if you're hankering for a Monte Cristo with imported ham and Swiss, served with powdered sugar and strawberry jam, you're in business. The deli opens at 6 a.m., seven mornings a week.

Defalco's Italian Deli and Grocery
Meagan Simmons

We grew up going to Italian-American delis with our Sicilian grandmother, so we recognize an authentic place like DeFalco's when we see it. The deli counter serves up delicious sausage sandwiches with heaps of pepper and onions. They also offer meatball subs and combo sandwiches stuffed with mortadella, salami, pepperoni, and provolone. Cold side dishes like marinated artichokes and penne salad round out the menu. But a good sandwich and pasta selection is only half of what makes an Italian deli stand out; the grocery side is vital, and that's where DeFalco's kicks it up a notch. They sell John's brand ravioli and tortellini, packages of biscotti and anisette toast, and, best of all, cans of San Marzano tomatoes, which are perfect for your homemade sauces.

Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket

We just can't sing Lee Lee's praises highly enough. It's not simply the best Asian market in the Valley; it's one of the Phoenix area's best grocery stores — bar none. The produce department is bountiful, with towering stacks of jackfruit, Korean daikon, bitter melon, lemongrass, and six different kinds of choy. The bakery offers puffy pineapple cream buns and coconut tarts, while whole roasted ducks hang in a glass case in the back. The store's aisles are each devoted to imports from a different part of the world: there's a Korean aisle, a Japanese aisle, and even subsets of aisles for non-Asian foods from the Caribbean, Africa, Colombia — it's the Putumayo of grocery stores. Don't forget to stroll through the frozen section in the far end where they sell dozens of kinds of steam buns, gyoza, and samosas. And just in case you're hankering for food from the good ol' U.S. of A., you can still find American staples like Froot Loops and Trix.

Baiz Market

Need to stock up on charcoal squares and apple-flavored tobacco for your hookah? Head to Baiz Market, on 20th Street in Phoenix. The mid-size grocer is your connection for all things Middle Eastern and then some. They sell rose water, fig jam, and halawa. There's a halal meat counter that meets Islamic dietary standards, and a sweets display showing off rows of gooey baklava and pistachio burma pastries. The small aisles are overflowing in a rainbow of lentils, pita bread, and jars of olives. And, like any true Middle Eastern market, Baiz also sells framed verses from the Koran, styled in wonderful Arabic calligraphy.

India Plaza
Kyle Lamb

It's hard not to love India Plaza. Its charming façade is built to resemble the kind of old-fashioned storefront you might find at a railroad station. These days, it's even a bit authentic, since the light rail stops right in front.

India Plaza stocks all the goods you'll need for a great east Indian meal. From candy-coated fennel seeds to mustard oil, all the trappings are here. If you don't know your ground coriander from your turmeric, never fear. The helpful staff can suggest a trick or two, and if you're truly in a pinch, no one will be the wiser if you pass off pre-made samosas as your own. For you globetrotting types, there's more than enough help in whipping up an Indian feast with tandoori mixes, boxed golbis, and butter chicken simmer sauces. From tongue-tingling vindaloos to a cooling, sweet chutney, you'll be dishing up the deliciousness faster than you can say Monsoon Wedding.

Freshly baked rugalah
Heather Hoch
Freshly baked rugalah

We're in love with Yasha from Russia and his lovely wife, Tanya. Who wouldn't be? These charming hosts have stocked their store with wares to satisfy a growing — and hungry — community of Eastern European transplants for several years now. In the process, they've made believers, and fans, of just about every visitor.

Like caviar? We do, too. With an impressive collection that's wallet-friendly as well as wide, it's not difficult to savor the flavor. If you think Russian cuisine is all borscht and pickles, you'd be wrong. Not that there's anything wrong with that, since we love the spicy snap of Yasha's dill pickles (which by the way, pair nicely with salami). With more than 30 kinds of salami and cured meats, there's enough selection to keep you guessing for weeks to come. Blinis, bagels, and bread are here, too, as are a dizzying array of teas, in pretty boxes emblazoned with images of Czar Nicholas. Snap up some luscious caramels, and a tea set, and you're ready for a proper Russian tea.

We'd come back just for a hug from Yasha or Tanya — and their cheese, crackers, wine selection, and a CD or two from what appears to be a Russian Idol recording artist. It's all from Yasha and Tanya, with love.

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