Maui Dog
Crazy, island-style hot dogs and bratwurst served out of a funky surfer shack on Indian School Road have become our latest obsession. And although Maui Dog is just a humble little indie eatery, we wish we could find this on every street corner in town. What makes it so darn tasty? It's hard to explain how savory, juicy wieners go so well with garlicky, seasoned mayo, tropical fruit relish, passion fruit-flavored mustard, and other fresh toppings, but the idea just works. Just as good are the Maui Sliders (also adorned with intriguing toppings), the Maui Spam Slider (they'd have no island cred if they neglected the prized canned meat), and Hawaiian shaved ice in a rainbow of tropical fruit flavors. You can get in and out of Maui Dog in a flash, well fed, and with hardly a dent in your wallet. That's fast food we can embrace.
Caffe Boa on Mill
Lauren Saria
What's not to love about a chef with skills and a sense of humor? Payton Curry has become Caffe Boa's biggest asset, a guy with the courage to take a classic, all-American favorite — fried chicken — and make it better. That he did, all right, and he even dubbed it Payt-N-Bake Fried Chicken, just so nobody forgets who came up with such a succulent dish. He uses 10-day-cured, all-dark meat, free-range bird, and then uses a secret weapon for extra crispiness: duck fat. You heard it right. It takes a duck to bring the best out of chicken. Who knew?
Joe's Real BBQ
Courtesy of Joe's Real BBQ
It's not the primo location on Gilbert Road that keeps us coming back to Joe's Real BBQ. It's not the old-fashioned charm of this 1929 building, decorated with '40s-era Arizona ephemera, or even the dapper style of hat-loving founder Joe Johnston, who's become a local foodie icon. As much as we'd like to say there's something unfair about the appeal of this place, our love for Joe's all comes down to the scrumptious food — and, in particular, the impeccable pulled pork. Heady with the aroma of pecan smoke, and beyond tender from a low-and-slow cooking technique, this pulled pork was plucked straight out of our carnivorous dreams.
McReynolds Farms Inc.
Katie Walter
This little piggy went to market. This little piggy stayed at home. This little piggy went "wee, wee, wee" as he roasted on a spit. Pig roasts aren't just for luaus — we've spotted swine smoking on the grill at fancy hotel restaurants and catered holiday events. But the best place to score the whole hog year-round is McReynolds Farms. Topper and Barbara McReynolds started raising pigs for slaughter in 1984, eventually turning the business over to their son, Thomas. McReynolds Farms now offers DIY pig kits for the serious backyard BBQer and event catering that includes a cooked piggy and three sides. Catering will set you back a mere $12 a plate for a 75-person wedding. Roasting pigs start at $185 for a small 25-pounder and will feed about one person per pound; suckling pigs are slightly cheaper, but the meat won't stretch as far. If you're willing to throw Porky on the fire yourself and watch him burn, McReynolds will even rent you a fancy rotisserie and provide the BBQ sauce to top him off with. Soo-weet!
Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue
Jamie Peachey
It's been open barely a year, but Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue already has an excellent reputation among aficionados of smoked meat. Culinary Institute of America-trained chef Bryan Dooley left the swank Scottsdale restaurant he'd been working at to barbecue full time, and his training is evident across the just-a-tiny-bit-upscale-for-a-BBQ-joint menu. Witness the olive slaw and vegetarian-friendly pulled squash. Still, it's one of the Big Four traditional barbecue meats that'll draw us to Cave Creek time and time again. Simply put: The brisket is unmatched. And, yeah, we've had pretty much every smoked brisket the Valley has to offer — even that little joint your cousin from Alabama loves — and we're confident saying, unequivocally, that Bryan's is the best. The restaurant's Texas-style take on the meat is appreciated, considering all the joints you'll see chopping and saucing it up around here. The decadently smoky bark is a treat unto itself, but it's the way the brisket falls apart at the slightest brush of a fork that proves any doubters wrong.
Honey Bear's Bar-B-Q
We don't go to barbecue restaurants for sauce. Nope, it's the meat we want — juicy, smoky, tender meat. Still, if we were to select a local barbecue joint's sauce for bottling, we'd have no trouble picking. We're not exactly sure what the secret ingredient in Honey Bear's thin but sticky sauce might be, but whatever it is, it's mighty addicting. There's no flavor in town quite like it — sweet but tangy in that way so many foods are advertised and so few actually are. We hurriedly pump the stuff out of the condiment dispenser as fast as a kid trying to fix his bicycle tire to catch up to his friends, and we've been known to coat everything from corn to salad in it. Actually, it's sometimes tempting to try a few dabs on Honey Bear's famous peach cobbler, though we've thus far resisted.
Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe
Jacob Tyler Dunn
What's up with the quirky name of this restaurant? It's all about eating on your honor. You see, the folks at Mrs. White's aren't keeping tabs on your order, at least in the form of a check. Nor are they even handing you a menu when you sit down to eat. The list of scrumptious options is scribbled all over the walls — to-die-for fried catfish, greens, and grits among them. (You'll want to try it all once you get a taste of it.) Go ahead and splurge, but keep mental notes, because when you leave, you'll have to tell the cashier what you had. Sounds crazy, but this place has been successfully satisfying hungry souls for years.

Best Contemporary American Restaurant

Quiessence

Quiessence Restaurant
Jackie Mercandetti Photo
You never know what chef Greg LaPrad is going to cook up at Quiessence. This tiny, romantic spot — nestled in a surprisingly lush part of town, at the back of the Farm at South Mountain — is all about eating seasonally, with a menu that changes from day to day based on what local produce LaPrad has sourced. (The selection of housemade salumi, one of his signatures, varies as well but can always be found on the menu — and it's a must-try.) His sophisticated but unpretentious American cuisine has even caught the attention of the folks at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City, where LaPrad was recently invited to show the Big Apple why he's a big deal in Arizona. We're proud to say we've been fans from the get-go.
Marcellino Ristorante
Molly Smith
This past year has been a busy one for Sima and Marcellino Verzino. The dynamic husband-and-wife team left their longtime digs on Northern Avenue in Phoenix (a humble strip mall that made discovering Marcellino's incredible Italian cuisine all the more delightful) for a much swankier setting on Scottsdale's Stetson Drive, at SouthBridge. Finally, the atmosphere really matches the caliber of the food. Unlike some well-known chefs in the Valley, chef Marcellino is a fixture in his own kitchen, and it shows in jaw-dropping dishes like handmade squid ink pasta in a lightly spicy fresh tomato sauce, brimming with mussels, clams, and half a lobster. Sure, this place is one of the biggest splurges around, but well worth it.
Andreoli Italian Grocer
Jackie Mercandetti Photo
Part Italian deli and part casual Italian eatery, Andreoli Italian Grocer does double duty with panache. Owner Giovanni Scorzo has stocked the shelves and deli counter with plenty of tempting imported goods, but better yet, he's crafted an impressive selection of housemade breads, cheeses, salami, and sausage, so you know your panino is as fresh as can be. Memorable antipasti and salads such as fried potatoes and leeks, marinated grilled calamari, bresaola with shaved Parmesan and arugula, and creamy homemade mozzarella with tomato and basil are fun to nibble on any time of day (join the regular crowd of Italians in the lively dining room), while daily specials like vitello tonnato and handmade pastas are perfect for a casual but substantial dinner.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of