Yasu Sushi Bistro

Yasu Sushi Bistro may look like a humble neighborhood spot, but fans come from across the Valley for a taste of authentic Japanese cuisine. Exquisite ingredients are chef Yasu Hashino's forte, from pristine seafood to buttery wagyu beef. As the restaurant name suggests, sushi is a big deal at this bistro, and if you snag a seat at the counter, you can't go wrong in Hashino's hands. Cold, briny Kumamoto oysters, silky kampachi, and beautiful ama-ebi (fried heads and all) are just a few of the treats we've sampled here. Beyond the raw fish, though, this place specializes in succulent sumibiyaki grilled dishes, including the best tsukune (chicken meatballs) we've had in the States. And don't miss the list of daily specials, particularly the melt-in-your mouth braised Kurobuta pork belly kakuni. Yep, this hip, laid-back izakaya is truly a delectable little taste of Japan — and to think, it's just a stone's throw from Paradise Valley Mall.

Restaurant Takamatsu
Evie Carpenter

The Korean formula for a good time suits us perfectly: a group of friends gathered around a tabletop grill, heaping plates of marinated meat to sizzle up as you like it, and plenty of ice-cold beer to go with it. That's living! And that's why we're crazy about Takamatsu, where Korean barbecue is the house specialty. Splurge on intensely flavorful bulgogi (thinly sliced beef), succulent kalbi (beef short ribs), scallops, spicy pork, or rib eye. There's also excellent dol sot bi bim bap (beef, veggies and rice crackling in a hot stone pot), stir-fried kimchee with pork, sushi, and several kinds of hearty Korean stews. And don't worry if the whole cook-it-yourself shtick seems intimidating — the helpful waitstaff definitely won't let you go hungry.

Da Vang
Jacob Tyler Dunn

The menu at Da Vang, our favorite low-key hole in the wall for a cheap, filling meal, is so sprawling that it means only one thing to us: indecision. Should we slurp up a big, steaming bowl of the fabulous pho Da Vang, with thinly sliced beef, brisket, tripe, tendon, onions, and chewy rice noodles in heady beef broth? We crave that pretty often. But then again, there are those excellent stir-fry dishes, like the egg noodles with tofu, as well as summery bun, with barbecued meat or shrimp laid on a cool bed of rice noodles, sprouts, lettuce, and mint. And when we're hungry for a sandwich, the banh mi can't be beat. Think smoky barbecued pork tucked into a crusty baguette with cool, crisp cucumber, cilantro, onion, and carrot. Yep, there are too many tempting dishes at Da Vang — and drooling over our options is half the fun of dining here.

The Breadfruit

The Valley is a really good place to reinvent yourself, and we know plenty of people here who've found success in a whole new field — especially in the restaurant industry. Take entrepreneur Dwayne Allen, for instance. Last year, the Jamaican native and longtime Phoenix resident decided to shelve his career in IT and open The Breadfruit on a sleepy corner just beyond the center of downtown. Not only did the cheerful eatery brighten the neighborhood, it brought the welcome addition of Jamaican cuisine to the area. And now, it's one of our favorite places for a casual bite with friends. It's simple, unpretentious food, made all the better by great ingredients, like mountains of locally grown veggies in various vegan appetizers, or natural, cage-free chicken that's marinated and rubbed in tongue-searing spices for the grilled jerk chicken. Spicy escovitch fish, served with a sweet, hot-out-of-the-oven "festival" (bread stick), is another favorite. And after filling up on the savory stuff, we usually give in to a slice of ginger sweet potato "pudd'n" or the strangely delicious Grape-Nuts, ice cream, and Jell-O sundae. Give it a try, mon.

Green New American Vegetarian
Courtesy of Green

We always feel sorry for our vegetarian friends when the only things they can order off the menu are skimpy salads, side dishes, or the ubiquitous veggie burger. It's a shame more places don't cater to them. And it's far worse for a vegan. Thankfully, there's Green, where nothing on the menu bears a trace of animal products. And lest you think that equals bland health food, what Green does best happens to be total comfort food — flatbread pizza slathered in vegan barbecue sauce and vegan cheese, internationally inspired rice and pasta bowls topped with tofu and veggies, and a chicken Parmesan sandwich made with mock meat and vegan cheese, to name a few. Irresistible spicy buffalo wings are another highlight. If there's any place that can satisfy even meat eaters with tasty vegan cooking, it's Green.

Sage Kitchen

We knew we were in for something good the first time we stopped by Chakra 4 Herb & Tea House and smelled the wonderful aroma of dried herbs and freshly chopped vegetables that hit us on our way in the door. Part herb shop and part cafe, this cheerful, tucked-away spot serves scrumptious, organic vegetarian food that always gives us the energy boost we need. Savory homemade soups, wraps, and sandwiches bursting with ingredients, and colorful salads heaped so high that we can eat until we're stuffed and still not finish — it all goes well with special "health-promoting" teas that ease whatever ails us, from cold symptoms to jittery nerves. We also swoon at the thought of Chakra's exotic, locally made chocolate truffles. After all, who says vegetarians can't be a little naughty?

Mosaic Restaurant

We've covered the waterfront in the Phoenix fine-dining scene, and not once have we spotted a menu with the kinds of creative vegetarian dishes that Mosaic chef-owner Deborah Knight creates. To start, try the luscious 12-mushroom risotto, scented with garlic, or the remarkably flavorful broiled tofu with cured black olive tapenade and savory hijiki seaweed. And along with meat-centric entrees like rack of lamb and beef tenderloin, there's five-spice grilled seitan with honshimeji mushrooms, chestnut-laced rice, and drunken cherry coulis. Mosaic even features a six-course vegetarian tasting menu, something that made us do a double take. Consider us impressed.

Spices Mediterranean Kitchen

We've been huge fans of falafel since way back in our student days, when the neighborhood falafel joint kept us well fed on a budget. What's not to love about a hot, crispy, fried chickpea ball? Our first taste of the fantastic falafel at Spices, though, took the obsession to a whole new level. Here, the falafel is formed into small patties and perfectly cooked so that the inside stays still moist and flavorful and the outside is light and crisp. (Too many restaurants serve a hard, crunchy version that takes a lot of tahini to soften it.) Whether tucked into a fresh pita or served as an entrée with salad, hummus, tahini, and pickles, it's something we find ourselves craving all the time. We're sure that our younger selves would be envious.

FEZ

We won't lie — we're huge fans of the half-pound Angus burgers at Fez. They routinely satisfy our carnivorous urges. But sometimes a veggie burger is just what we crave and, sadly, even some of the best burger joints in town can't deliver a truly delicious, meatless patty. At most places, veggie burgers are a lame token dish. What makes Fez's veggie burger so special happens to be the same thing that makes all of the food here so craveable: It's distinctive. This vegetarian-friendly burger is a homemade black bean patty scented with garlic and cumin, grilled until it's gently crispy on the edges. Topped with goat cheese and tomato spread and tangy red onion slaw, it's tucked into fresh, soft ciabatta that beats an ordinary bun any day. Clearly, the kitchen puts as much care into making a delicious veggie burger as it does into making juicy beef burgers, and for that reason, we're impressed.

Metro Brasserie

It was l'amour at first bite. Leave it to a French restaurant to figure out that the best way to seduce our palates is simply to feed us a really delicious, unforgettable hamburger. The signature Brasserie Burger at Metro Brasserie has just the right balance of comfort and novelty, a thick, perfectly cooked beef patty inside a fragrant, deep golden brioche bun, topped with creamy sauce gribiche, sweet smoked Vidalia onions, tangy cured tomato, and Bibb lettuce. The entire thing oozes decadent sauce and juices when you bite into it, so if you can manage to eat it without licking your fingers, consider yourself a true burger-eatin' pro. And be sure to order it up with a side of crispy frites so you have something to clean your plate with. (Yeah, it'd be easier to just lick the platter, but you know how those French are about manners.) Bon appétit!

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