New Orleans Sno Ball
Evie Carpenter

The snow cone is perfect in its simplicity — ice, bathed in a sweet, flavored syrup. No finer snow cone is found in our hot metropolis than New Orleans Sno Ball. This isn't your ballpark or state fair snow cone, no sirree. Instead of rock-hard chunks of ice, the Sno Ball shaves ice into soft flakes, piled into a cup, that melt on your tongue. Owner Abron Morgan hand-blends more than 50 sophisticated flavors, like real almond, apricot, real vanilla, and margarita, and then layers them so that the sweet flavor is evenly dispersed. As any snow cone aficionado will tell you, evenly dispersed flavor is critical to the cone's being good to the last drop. Of course, if your inner child reigns supreme in the flavor department, he's got classics like Tutti-Frutti and Blue Eagle (bubblegum). If your inner child is concerned about calories, don't fret, because you'd have to eat a lot of Sno Ball before you hit the 100-calorie mark. Soft, shaved ice, loaded with flavor, and lo-cal? We're on our way.

The Gelato Maker

Gelato Maker owner Yaron Cohen dispenses samples of gelato like a benevolent judge dispenses justice. He stands behind the counter, confidently presiding over the rainbow of flavors, and sizes up his customers' tastes. Ask to try the coconut gelato and he'll also suggest you taste his favorite, mojito. Interested in Nutella? You should also sample the hazelnut gelato, called nocilla. "The secret is the fresh ingredients," Cohen says, as he brags about $300 shipments of pistachios from Sicily. The Gelato Maker opened in April and we're not telling how many times we've been since.

Scratch Pastries
Courtesy of Scratch

Scratch is a bright and airy French cafe — in a strip mall. We promise you'll forget your proximity to Subway as soon as you're in the door. The menu is populated with croque madames and savory crèpes oozing Comte, goat, and Brie cheeses. But the pièce de resistance (sorry, we did mention it's a French cafe, right?) is the glass pastry counter filled with raspberry and lemon tartes, French meringues, and gorgeous pyramids and domes made of chocolate. Even if you're not a freak for sweets, the pastries are masterpieces, each a little work of art.

District American Kitchen and Wine Bar

Because District is situated inside the new downtown Sheraton, it's expected that hotel guests would eat here. But interestingly enough, the restaurant seems to be going after locals, too, with a comfort-food menu that name-drops plenty of local purveyors and gives creative twists to American standards. One such classic is something we just don't see on restaurant menus in the Southwest but wouldn't mind if we did: whoopie pies. These traditional Amish treats, with cream sandwiched between two moist round cakes, get a tasty update at District. They're pumpkin instead of the typical chocolate cake, teamed with a frothy bourbon malt milkshake that's as yummy as it sounds. Earlier this year, the New York Times published a story about how whoopie pies are suddenly in vogue. We knew it already.

Amarone Ristorante Italiano

It takes true discipline to behave ourselves at Amarone Ristorante Italiano, a north Scottsdale eatery where everything from the grilled calamari to the homemade gnocchi in vodka sauce is clean-your-plate good. Needless to say, we usually indulge ourselves here. Charming owner Maurizio Benforte (who also runs Pizza A Metro, in Phoenix) has a way of putting us in a festive mood, and before we know it, we're ordering tiramisu when we thought we'd already filled our bellies to capacity. But as with any amazing dessert, there's always room for Amarone's tiramisu — light, creamy mascarpone layered with booze-soaked ladyfingers, with a dusting of cocoa. It's la dolce vita in every bite.

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.

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