Best Summer Dish 2012 | The Caribbean Salad at Pita Jungle | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Timur Guseynov

When it's 116 degrees out, we barely can muster up the strength to eat, let alone find the courage to venture out of our air-conditioned homes to find food. But one mention of Pita Jungle's Caribbean Salad and we're out the door in a heartbeat. This super-chill salad is made of big chunks of pineapple, watermelon, strawberries, bananas, grapes, and whatever else may be in season at that moment. The giant mix of fruit is tossed in a light and tangy strawberry vinaigrette and finished off with a generous dusting of shredded coconut. It's about the only thing we want to eat when the temperatures soar, and it's big enough to share, so we can bring a chatty friend and work our way out of our summertime funk.

Bob and Robin Trick opened their charming restaurant in 1987. The restored 1920s cottage that houses about a dozen tables is adorable, but the real draw to this Tempe oasis is the brick patio shaded by a thick canopy of mature trees and dotted with pots of overflowing ferns and flowers. If the outdoor dining area doesn't win your heart, executive chef Kelley Fletcher's signature dishes and the eatery's award-winning wine list will. Be sure to try the mussels on a cool fall night under the stars or stop by for a relaxing lunch with an unforgettable Asian barbecue pork tenderloin banh mi.

Normally, when we think "drive-thru," we're not thinking healthy, but D'Lish has fixed this by serving healthy sandwiches, salads, wraps, and soups out of their convenient drive-up window. Swing by and grab a speedy breakfast sandwich, one of their insanely popular morning buzz smoothies with peanut butter, chocolate and espresso, the sought-after turkey club with fresh avocado, or a tasty bowl of their homemade baja chicken soup. Be prepared for a little longer wait when ASU's in session — it's one of the few spots near campus with healthy eats.

Best Neighborhood Breakfast, Downtown Phoenix

Astor House

We love the Coronado District's Tuck Shop. And now, when it comes to tasty a.m. eats, we love its new sister restaurant and next-door neighbor, Astor House, just as much. The little counter-service eatery in a renovated home is just as laid-back and approachably cool as the Tuck, making it perfect for enjoying a tidy selection of sweet and savory breakfast offerings including Biscuits & Grillades (Southern beef gravy over two buttermilk biscuits), Red Flannel Hash (beet, potato, and root vegetables with egg), and Apple Boxty (grated apple and potato pancakes with a healthy dollop of mascarpone). Plus, there's fresh-squeezed OJ, coffee, café and chicory au lait, and Japanese cold-brewed coffee from a machine described as "the science project-looking thing." Oh, Astor, you're adorable.

Best Neighborhood Breakfast, Central Phoenix

Dick's Hideaway

Patricia Escarcega

Lucky for us, the fire that took down the original location of Richardson's in 2009 spared the kitchen, meaning its secluded spillover lounge, Dick's Hideaway, could keep on serving up its crazy-good New Mexican fare for breakfast. Breakfast is served every day from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and diners can grab one of the few available seats (and get familiar with their neighbors, fast) before selecting from platefuls of exceptional eats like pork chops braised in green chile with eggs, huevos rancheros, homemade green chile meatloaf, or one of several kinds of eggs Benedict (go with the stellar carne adovada version with jalapeño Hollandaise sauce). On the weekends, you'll find the same menu for brunch at the new Richardson's and adjacent Rokerij restaurants just up the street. Bonus.

Best Neighborhood Breakfast, North Phoenix

Perk Eatery

To Michigan transplant Pauline Martinez and husband Carmen, owners and chefs of Perk, the cheerful little eatery in a strip mall off Greenway Parkway, breakfast is serious business. Serving up a satisfying and stick-to-your ribs selection of hearty American breakfast favorites with a twist, the couple also offers daily specials that are just as tempting. Crowd favorites include homemade corned beef country style hash, the French and flavorful Fancy Pants Scramble, and crispy potato pancakes served up with applesauce, sour cream, or a little of both. But best of all are the light and delicately sweet pancakes with a whisper of vanilla. Not needing the slightest smattering of butter or maple syrup, we'll snuggle up with this stack of griddled goodness any morning.

Best Neighborhood Breakfast, South Phoenix

Morning Glory Cafe

It's a glorious morning every morning when your farm-fresh breakfast comes from Maya's Farm — which should be easy given that the farm sits right next to this pretty al fresco patio in the back of The Farm at South Mountain. It's not out of the way at all (just a few minutes from downtown Phoenix), and a.m. eaters can help themselves to a cup of self-serve coffee before digging into scrumptious homestyle eats such as stellar seasonal omelets, buttery French toast, locally made sausages, house-baked muffins and pastries, or rustic breakfast chili made with local beef and tepary beans. An abundance of flowers, lush lawns, and shade trees come part and parcel with the farm-to-table fare.

Best Neighborhood Breakfast, West Valley

Amuse Bouche

Courtesy of Amuse

It's Sunday. Wake up, gas up the jalopy, fire up the ol' GPS, and get yourself to this strip-mall, French-inspired bistro in Surprise for the one day of the week it serves breakfast. One of the best in the Valley (and not just the West Valley), there's nothing too fancy here, but everything is prepared perfectly. Eggs Benedict ($12) is just one of the home runs — thanks to the sublime Hollandaise sauce. Four kinds of crepes — including the delectable bacon and tomato and Jack cheese — are brimming with flavor, and eggs Florentine are colorful and fresh-tasting, thanks to wonderfully sautéed spinach. On the sweet side, the Belgian waffles are a sight to behold, served with fresh strawberries, bananas, vanilla whipped cream, and brown-sugar cinnamon syrup. Yowza. Just about everything is served with excellent country potatoes. And did we mention the housemade beignets? Yup, you're gonna wanna get a plate of those, too.

Best Neighborhood Breakfast, Southeast Valley

Liberty Market

Heather Hoch
Apricot Glazed Chicken from Liberty Market

Sure, restaurateur Joe Johnston's friendly and always-bustling counter-service restaurant in downtown Gilbert serves up exceptional platefuls of a.m. eats, like a three-egg Sicilian scramble with oven-roasted tomatoes and Italian sausage, decadent slices of griddled bread pudding with espresso syrup, and a unique bacon substitute of grilled, flattened meatballs. But it's his top-notch biscuits and gravy that we can't get enough of. Featuring buttery biscuits slathered in creamy gravy with pieces of Schreiner's country sausage, they just might be the best in town, especially when served up alongside a coffee creation from the restaurant's E-61 Bar, the sleek java counter named after its vintage '60s-era Faema espresso machine.

Courtesy of Essence Bakery

In a downtown jam-packed with beer, frozen yogurt, T-shirt shops, and places to get your nails done for $10, it's a relief to know a civilized breakfast awaits. Best known for her amazing French macaróns (and quickly gaining notoriety for her croissants) chef/owner Eugenia Theodosopoulos presides over a fabulous morning menu in a lovely, low-key setting. On a nice day, sit outside and pretend you're in a big city as cars whiz by the University Drive café. Order the organic granola or the brioche French toast. The French eggs are divine, and the Croque Madame (a twist on the classic with Gruyère cheese, tomato, and fried egg) is wonderful, too. The coffee is fresh and strong, and the bakery case is always stocked — so go ahead, grab a macarón to go.

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