Lon's at the Hermosa
Jackie Mercandetti

By the middle of the summer of 2012, we were choking on dust and dying of thirst. Suddenly, it occurred to us: If New Orleans can have the Hurricane, what's stopping Phoenix from creating her own cocktail homage to the haboob? And so we set forth on a bar-to-bar quest to find the bartender who could make our dream come true. It happened at Lon's, where Alexandria Bowler created a drink so unique — and so fitting — it deserves italics in its name. Bowler kindly provided us with her recipe for The Haboob. You're welcome.

• 2.5 ounces of High Spirits Gin• .75 ounces of cactus blossom syrup• 1 ounce of lemon juice• three dashes of mole bittersShake with orange flower water and chamomile dust. Enjoy.
Oaxaca Restaurant

Ah, the bowling alley snack bar — a place that’s never, ever as good as you want it to be. Especially at those corporate houses that dominate the kegling landscape. The pizza is always prefab junk, and the deep-fried goodies rarely are any better. That’s why this family-run eatery at Sunnyslope’s independently owned Let It Roll Bowl is a breath of fresh air. Reasonably priced standards such as tacos, burritos, and enchiladas are available, as are regional specialties like molotes (deep-fried fritters stuffed with potato and chorizo) and tlayuda (think: Mexican pizza). Menu entrees include black or (very good) red mole, stuffed chiles, gorditas, and green or red ribs. None of it costs more than $8 and all of it tastes pretty darn good. And if you feel your bowling experience simply isn’t complete without a pizza or hot dog, well, they’ve got that American stuff, too.

ShinBay
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Sure, chef Shinji Kurita's exquisite Japanese restaurant may have opened last June, but its discreet location, low-profile stance, and a nod as a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in the 2012 James Beard Awards makes it seem as recent as ever. Kurita's omakase, or chef's choice dinners, are nothing short of spectacular, elegant works of art, meticulously prepared, and made with fresh, seasonal delicacies. The offerings may include a luscious whole blue crab, delectable pieces of wagyu beef you grill yourself, or several small gems of seafood — like kumamoto oyster topped with sea urchin, seared scallops drizzled with truffle oil, and Santa Barbara prawn with dots of caviar. Kurita's sushi selection is especially impressive, with wild-caught fish hailing mostly from Japan and ranging from the most delicate flavor to the breathtakingly decadent bluefin otoro. The small yet sophisticated space, a tranquil setting of wood, stone, and classical music, along with exceptional service and an equally impressive list of sakes and Japanese craft beers (like the sweet-potato brew, Coedo Beniaka) add to the indulgence. It all makes ShinBay a restaurant that could hold its own in any major city, but one the Valley is lucky enough to call its own.

Phoenix, you blinded us with science.

From cutting-edge medical discoveries to edge-of-your-seat gaming inventions to gastronomic experiments that'll make your taste buds tremble, we've got chemistry, Phoenix. We've spent the last year in the laboratory putting this place under the microscope to reveal hundreds of specimens of the best culture, outdoor adventures, shopping, dining, and nightlife the city has to offer. And we're finally ready to publish our results. Nerd alert! Now presenting Scientific Phoenix.

To see video, photos, and illustrations of our science-themed Best of Phoenix awards, check out our interactive periodic table.

South Mountain Park and Preserve

Living in the city requires regular intervals of time away from the computer, the car, work and just about everything else. Our favorite place to let our worries fall away and get in touch with our inner center of peace, love, and all that wonderful hippie stuff is on the seemingly endless trails around South Mountain Park/Preserve.

South Mountain encompasses more than 16,000 acres and is the largest municipal park in the country, so it's easy to avoid the crowds of screaming kids, hipster hikers, and scenesters. There are 51 miles of trails around the mountain, which open at 5 a.m. and stay open until 11 p.m. On one Sunday each month the park has a "Silent Sunday" when motorized traffic is restricted. It's our favorite time to really get our zen on.
Press Coffee Roasters at Scottsdale Quarter

There are three factors that contribute to a good shot of espresso — beans, machine, and barista. If even one of the pieces of that trifecta is off, your shot of espresso can suffer. Luckily, the boys behind Scottsdale Quarter's Press Coffee Roasters have the process down. Created with their bold house-roasted Twitch Espresso Blend and pulled by their talented baristas off their top-of-the-line Synesso espresso machine, the end result is a perfectly balanced earthy shot of espresso with hints of sweet fruit, notes of chocolate, and a slightly smoky finish.A great way to start the day — or make sure it doesn't start too early.

We'll admit to being influenced by repeated viewings of Wes Anderson's The Fantastic Mr. Fox on Blu-Ray, but still, we swear we've seen the mythic "Tempe Fox" prancing around the Broadmor neighborhood. He's usually spotted just out of the corner of our eye, always leading to the distinct possibility that we're imagining him completely. But forget reason — of all Arizona's fabled creatures (chupacabra, hoof-man, the Bigfoot in the Apache/Sitgreaves Forest), the fox seems the friendliest (not to mention most plausible). His bushy tail catches the eye, but he's quickly gone before you can whip out your camera phone. It sounds crazy, but we've even heard of one intrepid photographer who snapped off a couple shots, only to have the mysterious fox not show up in the pictures at all. A spirit vision, perhaps? The best part of this "legend," of course, is that it's absolutely true. The old neighborhoods near the ASU Tempe campus really have become home in recent years to several foxes. Residents theorize that they feed on roof rats and hang out near the George Ditch off College Avenue and 14th Street. Tempe officials confirm they're there, and no one knows how it happened. We're glad to know the Tempe Fox is real. (And that we're not crazy!)

Cartel Coffee Lab

Great coffee starts with high-quality beans, and the folks at Cartel score only the best from Brazil for their impressive Black Market Espresso. The four-bean blend is sourced from a single high-elevation farm in the Sul de Mina region of Brazil, where it goes through its natural pulping process on-site before it is shipped off the farm. Cartel then roasts these beans to perfection, creating a bold-flavored coffee with citrus and chocolate notes and a dash of sweetness.

Fry Bread House
Jamie Peachey

Fry bread and finally. For those in the know about this tiny, bustling spot nearly tucked away on North Seventh Avenue near Indian School Road, this year's James Beard Foundation award was a long time coming. As one of five winners of its 2012 America's Classics award, which honors legendary family-owned restaurants across the country, the restaurant, which got its start in 1992 courtesy of Cecelia Miller of the Tohono O'odham Nation, serves up its specialty in golden pillowy goodness the size of a dinner plate. Topped with a variety of flavorful ingredients such as chorizo, chiles, and, in its dessert version, butter and chocolate, it's satisfying in nearly any variation. In fact, we'd say we couldn't agree with the award more — if our mouths weren't so full of fry bread.

Chino Bandido Takee-Outee
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

We're not sure exactly how the idea for fast Mexican/Chinese food came about ("Hey, you put your chimichanga in my sweet and sour sauce!") but we're glad it happened — and it's a Valley original. With two locations, you can indulge in a Chino Bandido fix whether you're in the East Valley or on the west side. Either way, you'd better not skip the jade chicken, a deep-fried, bright-red treat that feels like dessert for dinner. Pair it with carnitas or carne asada burros and jerk rice with pork. Just be sure to leave room for (we know this sounds odd, but bear with us) a fresh-baked Snickerdoodle cookie for dessert. Fusion at its finest.

Best Of Phoenix®