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.

Best Market We Wish Would Come to Our Neighborhood

La Grande Orange

La Grande Orange Grocery
Courtesy of La Grande Orange

There's not a thing we can say we really need La Grande Orange, yet there's a lot we want — a fine selection of wine, homemade English muffins, fresh salads, a coffee bar, cute gifts, baked goods. So we couldn't help but be jealous when we heard that our favorite gourmet grocery had opened another location — in Los Angeles. For years, we've whined at Craig and Kris DeMarco to open a La Grande Orange in another part of our town. Say, Tempe. No doing. Not so far, anyway. But we can't knock the DeMarcos' business model, which has seen a tiny grocery store plant the seeds for cool retail that has literally grown for blocks from its epicenter on the western edge of the Arcadia neighborhood. Can't blame us for wanting an LGO of our own.

Old Town Farmers' Market

In less than a year, the Old Town Farmers Market has emerged as a major player in the "eat local" scene. Where once you'd expect to find tourists, Western memorabilia, and the occasional wrought-iron howling coyote, you'll now find organic vegetables, local crafts, and ready-made noshes for home (assuming you don't devour them during the car ride, that is). It's hard to believe that a stone's throw from the Scottsdale bar scene you'll find crowds of people up at 8:30 on a Saturday morning, when "fashionably late" means missing out on chocolate cherry sourdough bread from The Phoenician, fresh hand-pulled mozzarella from Digestif, pulled-pork sandwiches from Rancho Pinot, or whatever indulgent dessert pastry chef Tracy Dempsey dreamt up this week.

During summer, the market moves underground, beneath the parking lot. It's a nice touch, really, because the heat can be a killer on things like Bob McClendon's legendary heirloom tomatoes or freshly picked greens from Maya's Farm. Find fresh olive oil, tamales, tortillas, and handcrafted soaps and lotions, too. And, of course, there will be music. At this hour, you can be sure it'll be live. We don't think DJs get up that early, even for fresh food and produce this good.

The ratatouille omelette at Vincent's Market Bistro.
Lauren Saria
The ratatouille omelette at Vincent's Market Bistro.

While some folks may be surprised that they have a choice of farmers markets in the Valley, we're sure no one is surprised that the best farmers market for the gourmet comes with a French accent. From October to May, this market, now in its 19th year, isn't your typical farmers market. Sure, you'll find swoon-worthy produce from Duncan Family Farms, but you'll also find a dizzying array of gourmet goodies to go. Vendors are on hand with mustards, olives, pastas, and spices ready to snatch up and take home. So are Vincent's award-winning creations like croissants, pastries, soups, and cheeses in his market bistro.

Don't feel like cooking? No problem. Freshly cooked-to-order wood-fired pizzas are cooked by the man himself, as are samples of his ratatouille, leek tart, and signature chocolate cake. It's a family affair, since the Guerithault boys are on hand to whip up crèpes and panini, too. We're in love with the roasted pork and whole chickens, served atop any number of side dishes, ready to be spirited away. If you're lucky enough to find a chair, make a friend at one of the shared tables that line the market and enjoy the ambiance. We're pretty sure it's the only farmers market in town that serves wine and mimosas with freshly squeezed orange juice. Ah, jolie; it's like Paris in spring.

Ahwatukee Farmers Market

Frankly, if you drag yourself out at the crack of 8 or 9 on a Sunday morning to scope out what's in season from local produce growers, you deserve all the snacks you can find. Ahwatukee Farmers Market is a low-key place where you'll find a little bit of everything you need, from rare veggies to fine art, and while you're finding, you can enjoy a multi-course meal that spans the world o' food, from carnival treats to über-local-handmade-organic stuff.

Start with bite-size samples from Raimondo's Italian Catering, The Tamale Store, or Dr. Hummus, and try locally roasted joe from Bean There Roast That. If you still have room, tuck in to filled crèpes and French pastries, fry bread — topped with just about anything — plus scones, more tamales, and Raimondo's overwhelming mini-cakes and macaroons, with an official large coffee. Then spring for some more of your faves to take home and warm up later, and Monday will start to look a little brighter.

Roadrunner Park Farmers Market

The Valley's many, many farmers markets employ a canny scheduling strategy to attract scarce growers and busy customers: They're not all held at the same day and time. Saturday mornings are particularly competitive, all the same, and the Paradise Valley area is blessed with a venerable institution that presents a plethora of produce from fertile fields scattered all around town.

Roadrunner Park Farmers Market is Phoenix's oldest (it celebrates 20 years in business this fall), and that's a good thing — it feels like a portable weekly neighborhood where everybody knows everybody. Under the park's tall pines, chugging Sonoran coffee and listening to live banjo music, you'll peep no fewer than eight hardworking farm stands — some expansive, some teensy, but all bringing a good variety of local, seasonal wares, including Hom's colorful Asian specialties, Pinnacle Gardens' pampered organics, and plump, spotless veg and eggs from Lewis' Hen House and Veggie Farm. One Windmill Farms, Big Happy Farms, and Crooked Sky Farms help round out the selection with everything from ancient indigenous bean species to famous Queen Creek peaches. Once you've chosen a favorite farm, find out about subscribing to their harvest as a CSA (community-supported agriculture) member.

Best Of Phoenix®

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