O.H.S.O. Eatery & NanoBrewery
Heather Hoch

Arcadia's number-one neighborhood spot for craft beer drinking also serves up a damn good grilled cheese. No, there aren't massive amounts of exotic cheeses or 10 slices of artisan bread imported from France, and it doesn't have any sort of specialty mustard from a cave in Germany — but it does have two perfectly grilled slices of fresh Italian bread, two types of melty cheese, applewood smoked bacon, and two thick slices of juicy tomatoes. Order it with a side of rich tomato basil soup and a refreshing pint of one of the eatery's 36 craft beers on tap.

Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles
Timur Guseynov

The secret to amazing fried chicken is big, juicy, meaty chicken pieces, a coating that fries up nice and crispy, a secret recipe from your grandmother who's been making awesome fried chicken for more than half a century, and a whole lot of soul. It doesn't hurt to pair your chicken with a couple crazy-good waffles either. Larry "Lo-Lo" White (grandson of Mrs. White, whose own restaurant gets this year's nod for soul food) has been getting this combination right for the last decade with his addictively good "Southern-style" fried chicken and cinnamon-spiced waffles. Each plate of chicken is cooked to order and always comes out golden brown and crispy, and the waffles are the perfect vehicle for moving the sweet maple syrup into your mouth between crunchy chicken bites. It's about as perfect as fried chicken can get. Plus, Lo-Lo's serves Kool-aid — the essential beverage for your chicken and waffle experience.

New York Flavor

How does one pick the best hamburger? With so many good ones in the Valley, it's like choosing a favorite child. But once in a while, a dark horse enters the race and pleasantly jolts you as you consider the possibilities of the Scottsdale/Central Phoenix/Tempe axis. This year, the honor takes us alllll the way up to Surprise (yes, Surprise), where we fell in love with New York Flavor's basil mascarpone burger. With its nicely seasoned and well-prepared handmade beef patty between a grilled soft bun from Tempe's Jonathan Robins Bakery topped with luscious mascarpone, caramelized onions, moist strips of grilled portobello mushrooms, and long, vibrantly flavored ribbons of basil, we were satisfyingly stunned. Sure, there are a lot of other good items on the restaurant's menu, but it's the burger we're thinking about on the long drive home.

Pittsburgh Willy's

For a taste of Pittsburgh by way of the Merchant Square Antique Mall in Chandler, we present the Wild Willy, a glorious gut-buster of a dog courtesy of ex-Pittsburgher Randy Walters. Starting with a quarter-pound, all-beef dog from Nathan's tucked into a sesame bun, chipped ham (a Steel City staple) sautéed in butter is piled on next, with mounds of fresh-grated cheddar cheese to follow for a marvelous mess of deliciousness you'll need a fork to eat.

Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue
Jamie Peachey

Smoked over pecan wood, Chef Bryan Dooley's first-rate barbecue definitely is worth the drive from just about any locale in the Valley. You can't go wrong with any of the meats on the menu, which doesn't waste time on burgers and other non-essentials — it's all about the 'cue at this small and friendly, counter-service eatery dressed up like an Old West-themed outpost. There's the moist, delicious pulled pork sandwich, topped with Dooley's unique olive-based cole slaw; a smoky brisket with a perfect bark and tender center; slabs of mouthwatering pork ribs; and if you're really hungry, a creation called the Big Pig. Starting with the clang-a-lang of the cashier's cowboy triangle to let everyone in the joint know the beast has been summoned, it features a heaping basket of golden French fries topped with that amazing pulled pork, baked beans, scallions, house-brined jalapeño slices, and sour cream. Forget the fork, this place is finger-lickin' fabulous.

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Jackie+Mercandetti
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Owned by three natives of Jamaica, this tiny but tasty Caribbean eatery knows its jerk. With perfectly prepared and tender chicken, there's a kick from the Scotch bonnet pepper element to be sure, but this jerk's true genius is in its notes of thyme, cinnamon, cloves, and several other flavorful ingredients. The restaurant's tiny menu is all good eatin', but no matter what we try, the jerk chicken is a delicious must-have.

Texas BBQ House

They say there isn't a Texan in the barbecue business who's gotten pork ribs right — not so at this South Phoenix hole-in-the-wall. Here, Texas expats Mike Pitt and Doug Dieckmann have brought some of their home state's flair for barbecue to everyone from casual diners to 'cue connoisseurs to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Smoked over oak with family-recipe dry rub, the pork ribs are two-handed, thick strips of tenderness eaten like the meat version of corn on the cob. And like any Texas barbecue joint worth its smoked slabs of meat, this one comes complete with goods sold by the half-pound, gleaming white butcher paper used as plates, and old Pepsi crates used as trays. And sauce? Let's just say it's an accessory, not an essential, to some of the best barbecue in the Valley.

Teakwoods Tavern & Grill

Longtime Phoenicians know that the very best place for wings back in the day was Long Wong's on Mill — but Long Wong's has been a parking lot for more than seven years, so it's time to get over it and move on. Ever since our favorite spot was turned into a giant waste of space, we've been seeking wing solace in the low-lit rooms of Chandler's Teakwoods. Big, juicy wings are golden-fried and tossed in variety of sauces from your traditional hot to more unique flavors like Thai Cina, Mandarin Orange, and our favorite, the El Heffe, with a touch of cilantro, garlic, and suicide sauce. Wash 'em down with a cold beer, and if you're really hungry, try the beer-battered onion rings.

Zaidi's Grill

Name a Phoenician's favorite snack, and a fritter found across South Asia probably doesn't make the list. That is, until you've had the pakora from this family-owned Indo-Pak restaurant in Scottsdale. Worthy of a menu spot at any sports bar, this creation features spinach and jalapeños dipped in batter and deep-fried until they're ready to be served up as a tangled, fried mass of tasty with a capital T. And if the crunchy, spicy flavor isn't enough, the pakora is served up with a mint-heavy and zesty dippin' sauce to elevate the overall flavor. Sorry, onion rings, you've been replaced.

Cheuvront Wine & Cheese Cafe

Cheuvront may be known for its impressive wine selection and epic cheese boards, but back in the kitchen, executive chef Ryan Rivera and team are whipping up savory bowls of al dente noodles coated in tangy cheese sauce. The dish comes in five flavors — traditional, blue cheese, pesto and spinach, chorizo and peppers, and our very favorite, bacon and caramelized onions. The tender noodles are draped in rich cheese and tossed with savory caramelized red onions and crispy pancetta bacon. All five varieties are great, but this combo is the best.

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