Heather Hoch
Apricot Glazed Chicken from Liberty Market
Those living near downtown Gilbert are lucky to have Liberty Market, one of the best breakfast spots in the Valley. Come to think of it, even residents outside Gilbert should make the trek for this caliber of good eats. They've got pancakes, scrambles, and all-American B-fasts aplenty, in addition to a fully stocked coffee bar. We recommend the grilled bread pudding, a decadent twist on boring old French toast, with a prosecco-spiked mimosa or a whiskey-laced Irish coffee. Also, make sure to try the grilled flattened meatballs, a breakfast addition that will make you forget all about bacon — at least for the day.
Courtesy of Essence Bakery
True story: A friend was in town from back east, staying at a Tempe hotel. Went to the front desk, asked for advice about where to grab breakfast. The clerk recommended a place we won't name here, but if you've lived in Tempe for more than five minutes, you are familiar with it — it's been around forever, a little grimy, attracts the natives like flies. An okay post-hangover standby, but not the place you'd send your fancy friend. As our friend tells it, he set off down University, in search of eggs. Luckily, he was headed west, and he's observant. "What's this cute-looking place?" he asked himself. "Maybe I'll stop in."Our friend was lucky, because that cute place was Essence — about as different from that other place as you can get. Essence is a real treat, and we're not just talking about the pastry case, though if you like, we could talk about the pastry case (namely, Essence's famous French macarons) all day. No, we're here to discuss breakfast. From the housemade granola to the hot breakfast cereal to the Quiche Lorraine, every dish is exquisite. Not so hungry? Grab one of Eugenia Theodosopolous' croissants, which are quickly giving the macarons a run for their money, reputation-wise. Really, you can't go wrong here, whatever you order. Just go.
Jamie Peachey
Hidden between SMoCA and a parking garage, the hungry breakfast masses find their way to this cheerful eatery for Orange Table's out-of-this world breakfast and killer sandwiches. Now under new ownership and new management, the service is finally just as good as the food! Known for outstanding green flannel hash, insanely good jalapeño pecan pancakes, and fancy breakfast cocktails that will cure that next-day headache in a heartbeat, this place is well worth a trip off the beaten path. And if for some reason you miss breakfast, the burgers and thick-cut BLT sandwiches will make you forget about that oh-so-most-important meal of the day.
Workday lunches can be a hassle. You've got a gaggle of colleagues all hot and bothered and hungry, with different food tastes and a unified desire to keep costs down. Where to go? If you're lucky enough to have made it to the end of the week, it's a no-brainer: Head to the Downtown Phoenix Market for Food Truck Friday. There, your co-workers can munch on a Short Leash Hot Dog or grilled cheese from Paradise Melts while you get adventurous with Hey Joe's Filipino cuisine — and you can all get crème brûlée (really!) for dessert, thanks to the kind folks at Torched Goodness. The list of options goes on — so now you know where you're having lunch next Friday, too. Now to figure out where to go Monday through Thursday . . .
Courtesy of Bistro 24
The Ritz-Carlton often requests the pleasure of our company at its afternoon tea, served in the Lobby Lounge from noon 'til 3 Wednesday through Saturday. And we're eager to oblige! For a meager $36 per person, a full-on, super-elegant English tea hosted by Tea Maitre d' Jeffrey Hattrick is ours. Three courses are served — finger sandwiches, fresh-baked scones, and French pastries — all prepared right at the Ritz and all designed to make one feel ever-so-British Royal. Exclusive tea blends, like White Peach and Provençal, are offered alongside soothing black and green standards like Afternoon Darjeeling, all perfect accompaniments for those tiny tea sandwiches of egg salad, smoked salmon tartare, and cucumber with chive cream cheese. A child's tea offers smaller portions at a lower price point, so bring the kids and get them acquainted with the delightful and rare treat of a real-life tea party.
Beaver Choice. The name may elicit a few giggles, but this fairly new funky Scandinavian eatery is a serious culinary adventure, with hearty ethnic dishes that, chances are, you've never heard of, let alone tasted. Owner and chef Hanna Gabrielsson, who came to the Valley by way of Ontario, by way of Sweden, by way of Poland, uses no more than five fresh ingredients in most dishes — and around three pounds of fresh dill each day — to create a menu of (mostly) Swedish fare, all made-to-order, featuring fish, chicken, hamburgers, and a category simply called "Meat." Dive in to scrumptious schnitzels with a creamy mushroom sauce, melt-in-your-mouth peirogies topped with bacon, traditional cabbage rolls, haddock fillets simmered in heavy cream, and laxpudding (featuring cured salmon, buttery and smooth, served atop a mixture of eggs and potatoes). More daring diners should opt for tins of baked delights such as Jansson's Temptation, made with sweet Swedish anchovies, potatoes and onions, and the exotic Flygande Jakob (Flying Jacob), a Swedish casserole of marinated chicken, bananas, peanuts, and a chili cream sauce with a flavor so surprisingly unique and enjoyable, you'll be glad you got to Beaver Choice before everyone else did.
Heather Hoch
John Sagasta gave new meaning to the term "kick it up a notch" when he ditched Conspire (the anarchist, vegan doughnut-shilling commune) down the street to open his own joint, Jobot. Jobot's nothing fancy, just a narrow coffee bar with a shaded, misted patio. But with peeling paint, concert fliers, a chalkboard menu, and the best crêpes and coffee in town, it's got all the elements necessary to satisfy even your friends who've upped and moved to Portland (but who somehow show up back in town all the time). Come by for a nutella/banana crêpe, or maybe chorizo (meat lovers are welcome here), or go whole hog and wait for Beats and Brunch, Jobot's Sunday brunch event soon to make a comeback (details on Jobot's website). And keep an eye out for Nachobot, the nacho bar Sagasta plans to open next door.
The next time you just feel the need to get out of the Valley, consider trekking up Scottsdale Road into the tiny burg of Carefree, a genteel, upscale outpost where, as they say, "cowboy meets caviar." This comfortable restaurant is all about Southwestern look and feel, with a spacious tree-lined patio as well as a covered porch with a fireplace in the corner, perfect for outdoor dining on a beautiful fall or spring evening. The impressive wine and beer list complements a menu heavy on sandwiches, burgers, salads, and a number of Southwestern dishes that, despite the aging population of this little town, don't skimp on flavor or spice. For starters, try the Desert Tears, four jalapeño peppers hollowed out and filled with either crab meat and cheese or chorizo. The dish's name is appropriate, as its heat had our eyes watering. The carnitas taco, topped with guacamole and salsa verde, surprised us with its bold taste and juicy pork. And the chilaquiles were honestly among the best we've tried in the Valley. So, the next time your out-of-town family members invade, and they want to go shopping for kokopellis, turquoise, and cowboy art, you could do worse than a trip up to pretty Carefree and a Southwestern meal at Carefree Station.

Best Place to Take Someone from Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Willy's

Smell something delicious amid the Beanie Babies and back issues of Time magazine?Chances are you've stumbled onto Pittsburgh Willy's, hidden home of gourmet hot dogs and Pittsburgh favorites, courtesy of Randy (a.k.a. "Willy") Walters. Located inside the Merchant Square Antique Mall in Chandler, Willy's occupies a small nook and sports an ordering counter, a few tables, and Steelers memorabilia covering every inch of available space. Gourmet hot dogs like the Wild Willy, an all-beef dog topped with butter-drenched ham and melted cheddar piled into a sesame seed bun, make up much of the menu, along with specialty sandwiches, signature "Willy Chili," and Steel City Sliders. Those in the know, including transplanted Pittsburghers, line up for Willy's homemade pierogis, cushioned orbs of dumplings stuffed smothered in butter and onion. They're a secret within a secret, and a delicious one at that.
A few bucks flipped on the table? Adding a percentage to the sales receipt? Borrr-ing. When it comes to creativity in the gratuity department, Kitchen 56, the new Arcadia restaurant serving up everyday American comfort food and a few Italian favorites, asks that tips come in the form of beers and a bell. Whether it's delicious pan borracho (drunk bread), a tasty salami and sopresatta sandwich, or a lip-smacking bowl of slow-roasted pork with pasta, if you like what you're eating (and there's a good chance you will) send the kitchen a six-pack of PBR for 10 bucks. When you do, a bell will ring, letting you know your gesture was appreciated and that, for all its casual class, Kitchen 56 hasn't lost its sense of humor.

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