Modern Steak
Courtesy of Modern Steak
Steaks here are delicious, but there's more than meats, er, meets the eye at Modern Steak. We also adore the lovely, fresh salads, quirky eats like the foot-long Kobe beef hotdog, appealing seafood dishes such as miso-glazed Chilean sea bass with crispy oyster mushrooms, and desserts that aren't just an afterthought (a sampler of moist cupcakes, crowned with creamy frosting, is our favorite). What's more, the scene here is packed with tasty eye candy — just wading through the crowd to get to the bar makes for interesting people-watching, and the cleverly shaded patio makes dining right next to the Fashion Square parking lot seem genuinely desirable. Who'da thunk it?
Sick of typical dips? Scoop up something with a little snap from Sabeur Ruin, a.k.a. Dr. Hummus. A native of North Africa, Ruin regularly prescribes his chickpea concoctions as the cure-all for dull party fare. A secret family recipe handed down from his grandmother, the hummus comes in four flavors, including Original, Artichoke, Garlic, and as a nod to Ruin's adopted hometown of Phoenix, Spicy Jalapeño. Pair one of these with Dr. Hummus' homemade pita chips and you've got a healthful snack that is just what the doctor ordered.
Schreiners Fine Sausage
Kyle Lamb
Describe a flavor with adjectives like smoky, spicy, and multi-layered, and you might expect to be sampling a fine wine, not noshing on the culinary handiwork of the folks at Schreiner's Fine Sausages. After having purchased the business from its original owners, Gary Schiller has been handcrafting quality meat products for almost 30 years. His experience and love for the business is evident in the amazing flavors produced in the small smoke shop located behind the iconic red-and-white retail front. With more than 60 varieties to choose from, we feel confident that just one bite of a Schreiner's sausage will have you singing its praises.
Paldo Market
When it comes to food, simple is usually best. Why mess up something yummy with unnecessary complication? So when we're hungry for kimchee, we simply head for Paldo Market. Paldo has freshly made containers of the Korean staple ready to go in multiple varieties. If Napa cabbage is your favorite flavor, rest assured it's so delicious that the temptation to consume it all on the drive home may be too much to resist. We prefer the green onion version, stir-fried with a little bulgogi. Either way you're consuming a locally made version of a dish Health magazine declared one of the world's healthiest foods.
Royal Coffee Bar
We shouldn't be telling you about this. But on Friday mornings, Royal at the Market gives birth to the most decadent of breakfast treats. It's got chocolate. It's got bacon. It's available for only a few nanoseconds. We're talking about bacon brownies. If you're at the Royal at 8 a.m. (if you can't make it that early, you don't deserve the brownies), you'll smell them baking. Get in line and pray to God that there's no one ahead of you. The faithful will be rewarded with the most lusciously indulgent salty square of satisfaction known to man. Those who show up late will find that they're sold out. How long do you expect bacon brownies to last?
House of Tricks
Timur Guseynov
Chef Kelly Fletcher may not be the first to make a VLT, but he'd argue that his is absolutely the best. And we wouldn't disagree. He's no stranger to using controversial ingredients — not that he thinks veal should even be in that category. But he loves telling the story about the time he shot a segment with a local television station and was asked to make a few dishes. His last dish used foie gras. Within minutes of the segment airing, Fletcher says, the restaurant phone was ringing with threats and arguments. Good thing he loves it. When he gets pushback from an ingredient, it only fuels his desire to make more. Okay, back to the veal bacon: Fletcher brought in a veal breast (same cut as a pork belly) and kept turning it over, as it reminded him of the cut of pork he used for Tricks' bacon. "So I said, 'Fuck it, we're making veal bacon — no, we're making VLTs!'" says Fletcher. Topped with white truffle aioli, cherry tomatoes, and arugula, and hugged by a pâté à choux bun, Fletcher's VLTs aren't getting any threats from us.
Europa Pastry Cafe
There's plenty to love about this super-authentic bakery/cafe, which specializes in Polish and Eastern European delicacies, baked fresh every day and displayed in vintage-looking, glass-fronted cases. We're crazy about their fruit-filled doughnuts, the pierogi, and the hot, black, chicory-flavored coffee they serve here. We're nuts about the little grocery section stocked with non-perishables like we've only ever seen in little Polish villages. But the single item that keeps us coming back, time and again, is Europa's tasty, flaky prune Danish. Baked in-house every day, it's a sweet-glazed, tangy, prune-filled marvel that nearly floats from our plate into our now-happy mouth. Yum.
Jonathan Robins Bakery
Katie Walter
What's soft, inviting, and vaguely exotic? Get your head out of the gutter and into an oven. We're talking about bread — the most wonderful bread we've laid teeth on. Jonathan Robins' kalamata olive bread came into our life via the Tempe Farmers Market, the only place in town to purchase it. It's packed full of olives, making it so delicious that spreads, butters, and other toppings only distract from the deliciousness. One day we may try one of the bakery's other breads. One day.
Ranch House Grille
Jackie Mercandetti
When Glenda Looney, a cook for the original Ranch House Grille in Page, brought a recipe for homemade pork chili verde to the restaurant nine years ago, owners Phil and Maryjane Kline knew they had struck green gold — passing on the spicy sauce made with tender chunks of pork shoulder to son Leland when he opened the Phoenix location in 2007. Diners wanting a delicious dose can have it served atop a crispy chicken fried steak or classic huevos rancheros, waiting inside a fluffy omelet, singled out in a cup or bowl, or take-home ready in $8 pints and $15 quarts.
Exotic. Tough to find. Fun to say. What better way to turn salads, pasta, beans and rice, even ice cream, into far-out fare than with the addition of yulu seeds? From the bonete, a wild tree native to Mexico, yulus are tiny, crunchy, fiber-packed orbs with a taste that's similar to sunflower seeds. To find yulus, you'll need to chance upon Constantino Aranda, purveyor and master roaster of the sensational seeds, at the Downtown Phoenix Public Market, as well as the Ahwatukee and Mesa farmers markets. Once each year, Aranda crosses the Arizona-Mexico border to bring back yulus harvested by a local tribe, selling them by the bagful until they're gone.

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