Best Noodles 2011 | Noodles Ranch | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Jackie Mercandetti
What Noodles Ranch lacks in the rustic, no-frills, cheap-as-dirt charm you'll find at some of the Valley's pho joints, it makes up for in bold flavors and a classy but casual setting befitting its South Scottsdale address. We crave the fragrant bowls of pho (we're partial to the pho ga va rau xanh, containing high-quality chicken chunks, broccoli, and baby bok choy), tastefully presented plates of bun (try the bun ba xao, with stir-fried beef, zesty lemongrass, and peanuts), or the Viet spin on that old standby pad Thai. Of course, the foundation for all these dishes (and the reason for this Best Of) is the stellar noodles, freshly made and cooked consistently well every time. Sure, the zingy spices and fresh meat and veggies might be the attention grabbers, but it's the soft and wide rice noodles, slurp-worthy vermicelli, and flavorful egg noodles that do the heavy lifting at Noodles Ranch. And for that, we must recognize their contributions to our happy dining.
Courtesy of La Grande Orange
There is just one restaurant's phone number stored in our smartphone, and it is that of Arcadia institution La Grande Orange. And there is just one reason that number is on speed-dial: LGO's chicken wings. Yeah, we really do love these things that much. If it's Sunday night, there's a good chance we're ordering two dozen wings (hey, they're awesome cold the next day, too) and a salad to take home and chow down in front of a baseball game or a disc from Netflix. If we're hosting a party, we're ordering seven or eight dozen (and that never seems to be enough, by the way; our guests scarf 'em down like there's no tomorrow). We're hard-pressed to think of a local joint whose wings are as big and meaty as LGO's, and we love that they're baked, not fried, and tossed in a peppery sauce that boasts tang and spice in equal measure. Okay, we know what you're thinking: We've totally over-hyped these babies — and we'll admit that they aren't cheap ($14 for a dozen) — but we stand by our proclamation that LGO's wings are the very best in Phoenix.
At Rock-N-Roll Fingers, there's only one thing you need to ask yourself: "Do I want the big box of chicken fingers or the small box of chicken fingers?" Because at Rock-N-Roll Fingers, they raise the kids' menu classic to new heights of deliciousness. The all-white chicken fingers are fresh, never frozen, breaded by hand and golden-fried to order. A big pile of waffle fries on the side, a slice of buttery Texas toast, and a couple of special sauces are the perfect accompaniments. If you're feeling brave, get your fingers buffalo-style and let them take a dip in Frank's Red Hot. With this much juicy fried chicken and all the classic rock tunes you can handle, lunch will never be the same.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
If ever there was a time for comfort food, this is the year, and when it comes to the simple satisfaction of consuming a hot plate of delicious Southern-fried chicken, Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe, the soul food eatery in downtown Phoenix, is the place to do it. Name your preference for dark or white meat, then wait for your plate of succulent fried fare to arrive — steaming, golden brown, and coated in a crispy, lightly seasoned batter. With a choice of two sides including red beans, mac and cheese, and cabbage, and a chunk of homemade corn bread, this plateful of pleasure is nothing short of feel-better goodness.
Jackie Mercandetti
Debate about Big Earl's all you want — but pork ribs are one thing this Scottsdale-ified faux smokehouse does right. Tender with a pleasant gnawability and great flavor, these racks of pretty pink pork are the first thing chef and owner James Porter should haul to safety if the joint ever catches fire. We recommend you order a rack to go with an extra piece of cornbread on the side. Whatever you do, don't add any extra sauce. Enjoy.
Sarah Whitmire
Stacy Phipps, owner and chef of Stacy's Smokehouse, makes some crowd-pleasing 'cue — no wonder he recently opened a second location in Scottsdale. What makes it so drool-worthy? In part, the signature sauce. Rich and sugary sweet, we like it slathered on ribs, beef brisket, and rib tips, the tender smoked meat flavor coming courtesy of almond and hickory woods. Good thing there's homemade cornbread for soppin' once you've crushed the 'cue. We'd better hope that Phipps has plans to bottle and sell his signature sauce in the near future so we can savor it anytime.
Matt's Big Breakfast
Okay, you're right: Guy Fieri did not go to Matt's Big Breakfast for a salad. But, hey, we know way more about this town than that bleached-blond douchebag, and we're here to tell you that the thing to get at Matt's (particularly if you're not a fan of breakfast-for-lunch or your doctor's cut you off from burgers cooked in butter) is the Cobb. This is the best Cobb salad we've ever had: Fresh romaine is tossed in a giant white bowl, then drowned in hunks of tomato, blue cheese, chicken, scrambled egg, and bacon (because, yes, Matt's bacon is so thick it slices into hunks) and tossed in your choice of dressing. We prefer the non-traditional balsamic, but go for ranch if you're feeling rich. If the Food Network ever does a show featuring just salads, we bet they'll be back at Matt's door.
Heather Hoch
Chris Bianco, owner of Pizzeria Bianco and Pane Bianco, has spent years putting good food on the table. Now, he's putting it in cans — big, honkin' yellow cans. The James Beard Award-winning chef has teamed up with California cannery expert Rob DiNapoli to create Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes. Organically grown, harvested, and hand-selected on a family farm in Yolo, California, the plum-shaped beauties are steam-peeled before being packed into their jumbo 102-ounce homes with organic basil and a touch of sea salt. Offload one from the artisanal product shelves at Pane Bianco and use it to make everything from marinara sauce to salsa, then display the empty container — its label, like its contents, is artistic goodness.
Debby Wolvos
Chef Charleen Badman is such a good girl when it comes to making us want to eat our vegetables. Last year, her leeks put Scottsdale on the culinary map and in the pages of Bon Appetit magazine. She has a way with spinach and, this spring, got an entire school to eat cauliflower. Over the past year, weve gobbled her fried green tomatoes, spicy broccoli, and her famed leeks, and her latest menu features dishes including corn, okra, and half of a grilled eggplant. We cant wait.
"You'd better eat your vegetables." How many times have you heard that in your life? Yeah, too many to count. We happen to love the green stuff, but we sure do know plenty of folks who aren't crazy about veggies. Of course, most of those people might change their minds after trying Tryst Cafe's beer-battered green beans. Even after a dip in the fryer, these babies (locally grown and organic, like most of Tryst's food) keep their snappy crispness and brilliant green color. The light beer batter is flavorful and crunchy and, most important, used sparingly enough that you see plenty of the bean and you don't feel weighted down with the grease-and-batter overload you get with so many deep-fried appetizers. The plate of beans comes with a quartet of dipping sauces, but you know what? You don't really need these accessories. In fact, the time it takes to choose a sauce and then dip your bean in it is time lost in the scramble to eat as many of these treats as possible before your friends beat you to it.

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