New York Bagels 'N Bialys

Many a doubting East Coast transplant has been dragged to this cheery little Scottsdale eatery only to become a believer in its real-deal New York bagels. Since 1987 and with roots in its original locations in Chicago (Touhy Ave.) and New York (Jerome Ave.), the restaurant's family recipes have been the foundation to making bagels the old-fashioned way: boiling the dough before baking it, which means a thick, sturdy crust, a dense, doughy middle, and true bagel bliss. Enjoy the classic version — preferably toasted and with a schmear — or bite into flavors like Asiago, garlic, and jalapeño. And for those who want to chase their bagel down with a bit of booze, there's the restaurant's odd addition of a fully stocked bar. Who says bagels don't know how to party?

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Jamie+Peachey
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Baked fresh every morning in a wood-fired oven (the only means of cooking that this wine bar and restaurant of Italian-inspired fare in Sunnyslope employs), Timo's bread is golden and crusty and full of flavor. And it can be had in slices; torn from an evenly round and brown loaf and slathered with pesto or sweet apple butter; heartily crunched as foundations for bruschetta, flatbreads, and sandwiches; or used as warm, moist chunks for soaking juices from savored meals that ended too soon. Enjoy this centuries-old symbol of sanctity and nourishment on the flora-filled patio or inside, where the fiery flames from the oven add to the intimacy of a snug but stylish interior, but always with an accompanying glass of wine from a stellar collection.

Tarbell's
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Bread pudding has become a dessert staple on many of the menus around town — most likely because restaurants have a lot of leftover bread. Even with all the fancy-pants versions laced with marshmallow, bacon, and candied unicorn horns, we're still smitten with Tarbell's traditional take on the classic dessert. Tarbell's takes its house-baked bread and bakes it with a rich egg and cream mixture. Once the dessert is cooked to a soft custard, it's cut into generous slices and soaked in the restaurant's signature bourbon sauce. The sweet bread balances out the fragrant booze-filled sauce, making it a perfect specimen of exactly how bread pudding is suppose to be.

Love Cuisine

Ever had a Nigerian doughnut? Neither had we until we popped into this comfortable west-side restaurant of African eats headed up by Nigerian-born chef Esther Mbaikambey. Called pof-pofs, these fun-to-say fried treats are the size of baseballs with a lightly sweet taste like a dense doughnut hole. Made to order and using simple ingredients — flour, sugar, butter, and nutmeg — Mbaikambey deep fries them into sizeable, delicious dumplings of goodness. Seriously addictive, pof-pofs can be ordered as an appetizer or dessert. Or, as Mbaikambey suggests, taken home and drizzled with honey or chocolate syrup. 'Nuff said.

La Grande Orange Grocery
Courtesy of La Grande Orange

What's better than a giant chocolate chip cookie with a slightly under-cooked center and tons of big chocolate chips? That same cookie with salt crystals the size of small diamonds sprinkled on top. LGO's massive half-pound cookies are baked in-house using only the best ingredients. The fat cookies are best eaten with a friend or three or in small bites over the course of a week. It's tempting to eat the whole thing in one sitting because they are that good, but you must resist! Devouring the entire cookie will only lead to regret and a possible chocolate overdose. Plus, the cookie will stay good for almost a week in your pantry, so you're in no hurry to rush through the thing.

Kreative Kupcakes

What separates a good cupcake from a great cupcake? It's the actual cake. Anybody can make a good frosting, but it takes real skill to make a flavorful cake. Our taste buds have fallen head over heels in love with Kreative Kupcakes' tangy Blue Moon cupcakes. And, yes, that's Blue Moon, as in the beer. The perfectly moist cake practically explodes with hints of vanilla and orange flavors. The light citrus glaze that coats the top of the cake actually complements the cake instead of masking it like most of the other shops around town. The Blue Moon cupcake may not be as pretty as some of its rivals, but we couldn't care less. We see this tiny cake for what it has on the inside.

New York West Pastry & Bake Shop

It doesn't get more old school in Arizona than Sun City. Maybe that's why Hugh and Pat McGurgan, who owned a bakery in Chester, New York, for over 10 years, opened their shop on the border of Glendale and Sun City in 2000. Since then, folks from all over the state have made the journey to this family-owned tradition for an amazing assortment of pastries and baked goods, from just-made rolls and bread, including rye, Italian, French, and a heavenly pumpernickel, to cakes and pies, seasonal specialties, giant cream puffs, and piles of cookies. Must-tries like the lightly sweet handmade Danishes and the mighty Devil Dog cake — a two-layer chocolate cake with a cream filling and covered in chocolate ganache — make the trip that much sweeter.

Cool Gelato Italiano

We'll admit we didn't think much about the difference between ice cream and its Italian cousin, gelato. That is, until we tasted the gelato made by Alberto Della Casa and Letizia de Lucia. Trained abroad by Italy's champion gelato artisan, the husband and wife pair creates 20 flavors of gelato made fresh daily that perfectly exhibit gelato's intense flavor profile. Though you can't go wrong with usual flavors such as stracciatella and hazelnut crunch, we have to recommend more unique offerings like biscotto, Greek yogurt, and tiramisu. Cool Gelato may be a little ways off your well-traveled path, but it's more than worth the trip.

Pizzeria Bianco

It's almost a shame that people tend to get so stuffed on the crusty, homemade bread and handmade pastas at Italian Restaurant that they can't spare a bite or two for dessert. Because if they did, they might get to taste the work of Francesca Bianco, mother of pizza maven Chris and his baker brother Marco. Each week on Thursday, Mama Bianco comes into Italian Restaurant to bake, well, whatever dessert she feels like, from torta di carnarale to Arizona crème pie. She leaves her decadent desserts (like Tuscan lemon cream cake or biscotti di sposa) and their precious recipes for diners to enjoy. And even after the cakes and cookies have been devoured, you can admire Francesca's beautiful, hand-drawn recipes, which you'll find taped to the table at the front of the restaurant. Be sure to check the chalkboard at Pane Bianco for dessert, too — we hear they use Mama's recipes.

Churn
David B. Moore

Ice cream makes everything better and a trip to Churn makes the indulgence even sweeter. Inside, the shop oozes charm that will have your nose pressed up against the glass like a 5-year-old. Classic flavors like peanut butter and butter pecan deliver with decadent and creamy flavor, but it's Churn's unique, seasonal offerings that make us worry about our waistline. Really, though, what takes things over the top at Churn are the ice cream vessels. On top of the usual cups and bowls, Churn will build you an ice cream sandwich on homemade cookies or let you enjoy your scoops in a pretzel cone. Endless possibilities abound when you can pick both your cookie and ice cream varieties.

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