Best Veggie-Friendly Fine Dining 2009 | Mosaic Restaurant | Food & Drink | Phoenix

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.

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.

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.

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!

Timur Guseynov

Award-winning chef Kevin Binkley has built his reputation on cutting-edge cuisine at his Carefree fine-dining spot, Binkley's, but for most of us, the place is a special-occasion splurge. Thankfully, though, he's also branched out into affordable, accessible eats at nearby Café Bink. From French onion soup to flat iron steak, Binkley does comfort food with as much finesse as his high-concept stuff. No matter what you order here, be sure to get it with a side of fries. Honestly, we could make a meal out of these gorgeous golden pommes, which are lightly crispy yet fluffy on the inside — and so scrumptious that we have no willpower to stop eating them. Café Bink makes these fries they way they do in Belgium, first blanching them, and then twice-frying them. They're served up in a cute paper cone, with three delicious dipping sauces. Which one is best, the creamy aioli, the heady truffle ketchup, or the herb-kissed sauce verte? You may never come to a conclusion, and you may never want to.

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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.

Shelby Moore

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.)

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