Best Thai Restaurant 2010 | Thai E-San | Food & Drink | Phoenix
First things first: How do they define their "Thai hot"? Here, at Thai E-San — which opened in CenPho earlier this year — even the medium is pretty tongue-searing. These folks mean business, from the taste of their curries. Sausage stuffed with ground pork and pork skin is an intriguing and uncommon dish, while the coconut soup takes a Thai restaurant standard and does it up right, with plenty of aromatic herbs. Masamun curry with roast duck, whole deep-fried bass with ginger, and spicy squid salad are a few more good picks among an exhaustive menu of stir-fries, noodles, curries, and fried rice dishes. And although barbecued Thai chicken may not sound very interesting, do try the house special marinated chicken, grilled to juicy perfection. You'll want to gnaw on the bones.
Why in the world did we ever think veganism was kind of gloomy? At Chakra 4, the healthful vegan menu is the most vibrant rainbow of food we've ever seen. Chopped salads with orange carrot, purple cabbage, green cilantro, yellow pepper, and ruby tomato, sandwiches stuffed with flavorful housemade hummus and an array of vegetables, and soups and stews brimming with colorful veggies and grains — it's uplifting just to look at it, let alone taste it. And the flavors are just as bright, so scrumptious that we usually stuff ourselves silly here. The fact that there's no meat or animal products in any of it only justifies our urge to shovel all this goodness down our gullet and then order some of those dark chocolate vegan bonbons in the display case. Naughty but nice.
More than 100 items, packed into a colorful menu supplemented with photos, facts, and descriptions, make choosing dishes a delightful challenge at this tasteful Southern Indian restaurant in Chandler. You won't miss meat one bit when faced with such an array of savory chaat snacks, naan and other breads, deep-fried chickpea patties, fragrantly spiced vegetable stews, and jaw-dropping dosai, crispy, paper-thin crepes with delicious fillings. Vegetarian cuisine doesn't get much heartier than this.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
Things took a strange turn this past year for Phoenix's most famous chef, Chris Bianco. Seemingly an eternal fixture at the wood-burning oven that's the centerpiece of his Heritage Square eatery — where locals line up along with pizza pilgrims from across the country — he had to stop making pizzas when his asthma worsened and his doctor told him that he couldn't be exposed to the wood smoke any longer. So nowadays, you'll see Bianco at the front of the house or, perhaps, at Bar Bianco next door, keeping an eye on things while his loyal staff continues to make pies exactly the way he taught them. The wait for a table is just as long as ever and, yes, the pizza's just as craveable.
Jackie Mercandetti
At most pizza joints, a slice usually adds up to a snack — we'll take two or three to make a meal. But Jimmy & Joe's lives up to its "serious slices" tagline with jaw-dropping pieces of New York-style pizza so big that each one is served on its own individual pan, with its own pizza cutter to boot. The crust is chewy and blistered around the edges, thin and crisp in the middle, and sturdy enough to deliver heaps of toppings straight from the plate to your mouth. Try the aptly named Carnivore (with salami, pepperoni, ham, sausage, and meatball), the spicy Buffalo Chicken, or, really, anything that's hot out of the oven.

Best Neighborhood Pizzeria, Central Phoenix


Jacob Tyler Dunn
Just outside the downtown orbit, Cibo is truly tucked into a residential neighborhood, bringing energy to a beautifully restored historic 1913 bungalow at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fillmore Street. Outside, the lush front yard is filled with umbrella tables and twinkling lights, while the interior is packed with cozy tables, cheerful artwork, and a fabulous bar area where it's fun to sip Chianti as you wait to nosh on chef Guido Saccone's wood-fired pizzas, lavish antipasto plates, and seductive crepes. Owners Tony and Karen Martingiglio and Michael Krassner are always on hand, too, making customers feel as welcome as family. Indeed, we do feel quite at home here.

Best Neighborhood Pizzeria, South Phoenix

Amano Bistro

The first time we found Amano Pizza Bistro, we had to do a double take. Is this really what we think it is — a bustling, hip hangout — located near nothing in particular on a quiet stretch of Baseline Road? It's strange, but whenever we walk inside this family-owned spot, we're pleased to see it so busy. Here, the aroma of hot, bubbling pizzas fills the air and gets our tummies rumbling before we even catch a glimpse of a pie headed our way. Which grabs us more — the lusty white pizza with garlic, olive oil, basil, Romano, and mozzarella, or the bold combination of Italian sausage, caramelized fennel, roasted red peppers, and Fontina? We'll never know, because we'll go for both and take home extra. Nobody at our house has ever complained about leftovers from here.
Lauren Cusimano
Yeah, yeah, Guy Fieri made his mark here (literally, with a stencil on the wall), but we didn't need the extroverted Food Network personality to tell us how good La Piazza is. The proof is simply in the pies, hand-tossed Neapolitan beauties that chef-owner Justin Piazza bakes in his roaring wood-fired oven. From the meat-laden Italian Stallion (covered in pepperoni, proscuitto, sausage, sopressata, San Marzano tomatoes, and housemade mozzarella) to the wonderfully garlicky Pizza Bianca, these hot, crisp creations are real crowd pleasers.

Best Neighborhood Pizzeria, Southeast Valley


Sara Dalton
After all these years — and a mini-empire of restaurants in the Valley — Nello's still satisfies us when we want to hang out and enjoy some great pizza with a gang of friends or family. We love how there's something for everyone at this cheerful, bustling spot. There's a choice of crust (pan-style and thin crust) in the build-your-own pizza, along with traditional pies heaped with homemade sausage or pepperoni; rustic, Mediterranean pizzas with an olive oil and butter base (including an amazing white pizza with pesto); vegetarian creations; specialty pies topped with chicken; and even crab pizzas. (The garlicky, buttery Popeye Pizza, with crab, spinach, and lemon slices, is an example of the creativity here.) If you can't find something to love out of so many options, you're just not into pizza, buddy.

Best Neighborhood Pizzeria, Scottsdale

Humble Pie

With pizza this good, they oughta be cocky. Humble Pie stays true to its name, though, quietly cranking out unique, mouthwatering pizzas for its loyal following. Basic creations such as the margherita and Sicilian sausage are as good as any you'll find, and creative pies topped with such combinations as shrimp with housemade mozzarella, lemon zest, fresh basil, herb oil, and chili flakes are the real reason we like to hang out here. Humble Pie satisfies a craving that most pizzerias just can't.

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