Best Shake 2009 | Four Peaks Brewery | Food & Drink | Phoenix
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Was it serendipity or just an act of pure, calculated genius? We have no idea who invented the beer shake or how they came up with such a cleverly yummy concoction, but we'd sure love to give them a high five. Four Peaks Brewery serves the perfect dessert for beer lovers like us: the Oatmeal Stout Shake. It's pretty much exactly what you'd imagine — ice-cold Oatmeal Stout (a dark beer that's rich and creamy enough on its own) swirled into a frothy treat with vanilla ice cream. Even when we're ready to close out our bar tab, somehow we can always justify one more round when it's in the form of this sweet, slurpable dessert.

Kyle Lamb

Without a doubt, Two Hippies' namesake mushroom burgers are delicious. But they're not the only reason to stop by this kitschy, '60s-themed eatery, where blacklight posters, vintage toys, and lunchboxes serve as psychedelic décor. Owners Andy and Jan Goldstein have also come up with a really great hot dog, a huge, hand-packed beauty that's all beef. Charbroiled until it's bursting with meaty juices, this is one satisfying nosh. Eat it plain, or get it loaded with chili or cheese and bacon. Either way, you'll be hooked on the Two Hippies magic.

The folks at Half Moon are pretty cheeky — just get a look at all the plumber's cracks pictured on the restaurant's Web site. We love that. But there's one thing that Half Moon definitely takes seriously: wings. Nope, they don't joke around with these juicy little snacks, because they know how desperately we crave 'em. Plump and crispy, these wings are the ultimate guilty pleasure, fried until golden and served with a choice of seven different yummy sauces, from tongue-searing sambal to luscious Thai peanut. Naturally, they come with the traditional side of carrots, celery, and ranch dip, too. We could snack on this stuff all night long, so it's a good thing the game's always on TV here.

It's not just luck of the Irish — it takes skills to make fish and chips this good. So despite all the other tempting things on the menu at Rúla Búla, from shepherd's pie to hot corned beef on rye, we can never seem to pass up this mighty fine version of a classic. Ultra-fresh fish and a light, crispy coating set it apart from the competition. Imagine a thick slab of juicy cod, dunked in beer batter and fried until golden, with cool, dill-flecked tartar sauce on the side. To go along with it, there's homemade cabbage slaw and a pile of round, skin-on chips that are fluffy and potato-y inside. And for the appetizer, side dish, and dessert, nothing tastes better with these fish and chips than a cold, frothy Guinness.

Mike Madriaga

There's probably some stripper-friendly boutique in town that's worthy of a Best Of for its sequined nipple covers, but we're actually talking about "pass-tees," the centuries-old snack created for tin miners in Cornwall, England. They're a full meat-and-potatoes meal baked inside a hot, flaky pastry, and at Cornish Pasty Co., they come in dozens of variations, from traditional (stuffed with steak, potato, onion, and rutabaga, or perhaps bangers and mash) to contemporary (how about lamb vindaloo or one of 11 vegetarian combos?). We love to sink our teeth into one of these stick-to-your-ribs treats, which go perfectly with a frosty beer — and happily, they have a killer selection of brews, mostly imports. You guessed it, we're in love with this place, and with the second location that opened in Mesa earlier this year, there's even more to love. (The well-curated punk rock soundtrack is a bonus.)

The atmosphere inside Lola Tapas is so effortlessly urban that after a few glasses of wine, you might momentarily forget you're in the desert and think you're in a bustling boite on some Barcelona back street. It's dark, cozy, and convivial, with communal seating that fills up fast, gracious servers who keep the sangria flowing (bring it on!), and a menu full of scrumptious Spanish tapas lovingly prepared by chef-owner Felicia Ruiz, who's always at the stove in the small open kitchen. Her daily specials are worth checking out, but there are plenty of old standbys on the menu that we find ourselves craving — lip-smacking tortilla de patatas (a savory potato torte), gambas al pil pil (garlicky sautéed shrimp with chili flakes, cumin, and sherry), and garbanzos con espinacas a la Andaluza (spicy chickpeas with spinach), to name a few. Desserts change frequently, but if you see flan de coco on the chalkboard, don't resist. At Lola Tapas, you'll be living the sweet life.

Seems there are plenty of restaurants where you can sit down and leisurely have a pizza all to yourself, but where to go when you need a pizza fix now? When all you really want are a couple of killer slices to fuel you through your day, without any fuss? At times like those, we head straight to Mamma Mia, a friendly, no-frills joint just like you'd find back east (no surprise, the owners are from New Jersey), with a huge brick oven right behind the counter. This place serves one heck of a satisfying slice, with a distinctively crisp, thin, New York-style crust, zingy tomato sauce, and a blanket of melted mozzarella. Variations like the meat-laden supreme or the garlicky white pizza are great, but we'll never get tired of the basic cheese pizza here. It's a thing of beauty.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

The legend continues. Just when we thought that Chris Bianco's pizza-guru aura couldn't shine any more brightly, along comes Martha Stewart and Gourmet and Food + Wine to shed a little more light on Phoenix's celebrated pizzaiolo. This past spring, Bianco got props from all three, starting with a six-page spread in Martha's mag. The whole media blitz only reinforced Pizzeria Bianco's status as a pilgrimage-worthy destination for foodies across the country. As if the wait to get in wasn't long enough, right? Well, we'll just have to deal with it. Because we're truly addicted to Bianco's perfect pies, where the chewy crust is blistered just so, and the combinations of toppings — like the Wiseguy, with fennel sausage, smoked mozzarella, and roasted onions, or the sassy Sonny Boy, topped with marinara, mozzarella, salami and olives — are out of this world. Just what you'd expect from a superstar.

Catch Larry "Lo-Lo" White at a rare moment when his restaurant isn't packed and maybe he'll regale you with stories of all the sports stars who insist on a detour to Lo-Lo's when they're in town for a game. Or just look at all the framed, autographed photos on the walls to get an idea of who's been here — Muhammad Ali, Charles Barkley, Amar'e Stoudemire, and many more. But, hey, we don't need any celebrity endorsements to get us through the door. The promise of sinking our teeth into Lo-Lo's amazing fried chicken is all it takes. It's always juicy and fried to crispy perfection, served with a hot stack of fresh-off-the-griddle waffles. We're also huge fans of the fried catfish, chicken gizzards smothered in gravy, lip-smacking collard greens, cheese grits, and the best red velvet cake we've ever had (if you're too stuffed, get a slice to go and thank us later). If you're looking for soul-satisfying food that lives up to its reputation, Lo-Lo's is the place to go.

Sarah Whitmire

Even before we lay our eyes on a plateful of Stacy's badass barbecue, we know just what we're in for. We can smell it as soon as we pull into the parking lot — that mouthwatering aroma of sizzling meat and savory almond and hickory wood fueling the outdoor smoker. It's a smell that haunts us in our dreams and lures us back to this humble eatery time and time again. Whether we're in the mood to gnaw on tender, caramelized beef ribs, sink our teeth into a tender pulled-pork sandwich, or gobble up some good brisket, we never leave disappointed. With a side of cornbread and a big cup of sweet tea, barbecue at Stacy's is one of our flat-out favorite meals in Phoenix.

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