The+Jerk+Hut%27s+small+selection+of+traditional+dishes+delivers+big+on+Jamaican+flavors.
Jackie+Mercandetti
The+Jerk+Hut%27s+small+selection+of+traditional+dishes+delivers+big+on+Jamaican+flavors.

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.

Crepe Bar

Tempe diners (and the rest of us) should thank their lucky stars that Jeff Kraus, the man behind ++Experience++ and the currently defunct Truckin' Good Food truck is putting his innovative spin on French cuisine in the form of crepes — those luscious thin pancakes with various toppings or fillings — at this strip-mall eatery on the northwest corner of Elliot and Rural roads. Done differently (and deliciously), Kraus' stellar sweet and savory crepe creations, made with locally and regionally sourced ingredients, are featured on a small, daily changing menu along with a few sides as well as coffee and tea selections. We especially like the artfully plated sweet crepe with vanilla custard, strawberries, and caramel; and the crepe version of the breakfast burrito packed with egg, bacon, queso, and a delectable avocado salsa. Getting our crepe on never tasted so good.

Praying Monk

We're not going to get into an ethics debate about foie gras, but we will say that we're happy that it's not banned in the Valley of the Sun. If the French duck liver treat couldn't make its way into our cactus-studded desert, then we wouldn't have culinary gems like the one found at Aaron May's newest Old Town Scottsdale eatery, The Praying Monk. On the appetizer side of the industrial chic spot's menu, you'll find a curious dish that incorporates peanut butter with its usual sidekick jelly and a new friend — foie gras. The trio comes in a small jar with toast points to be used for shoveling the concoction in your mouth. The flavor is like nothing you've ever tried before — and it's surely not for everyone — but whether you're into trying new things or a lover of fatty duck liver, this is a real treat.

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?

Lamb+chops+are+one+of+the+dishes+cooked+in+the+wood-fired+oven+at+Timo%2C+in+Sunnyslope.
Jamie+Peachey
Lamb+chops+are+one+of+the+dishes+cooked+in+the+wood-fired+oven+at+Timo%2C+in+Sunnyslope.

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.

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