Dominic Armato may be the kind of person who writes his personal blog's "about" page in the third person, but we can forgive him this minor atrocity because the rest of his blog is just that good. He checks all the boxes of a quality food blog: terrific photos, insightful commentary, and a nose for seeking out dishes and restaurants that might be off the radar for most. Though he posts only about once a month, the entries are uniformly meaty, extensive, and well researched. It's great credit to a food blog when reading it makes you feel famished.

Armato has been on the Phoenix food scene for almost three years, and in that time he's built quite a following. What's more, he's proved himself to be a speaker of the foodies, founding a forum called PHXfoodnerds and fostering an active community of fellow Phoenicians who are passionate about food and particularly dedicated to supporting worthy local businesses. In fact, he even gave a presentation on the topic at Ignite Phoenix's inaugural food event. He used his time to try to rally support for his "food army" which would sally forth to fight for good food in the most productive way possible: voting with their dollars at local businesses deserving of greater recognition.

Calling it "a Latin Pitchfork" (as some have done) doesn't really convey exactly what makes Club Fonograma, a Phoenix-based Ibero-American pop culture site, so special. Carlos Reyes, an occasional contributor to New Times' music section, mans a staff of volunteer bloggers and critics to shine on a light on the vibrant, pulsing sounds of Spanish-language pop, indie rock, and electro. Comparing the site to Pitchfork only works on superficial levels (it sure is pretty) — as Club Fonograma draws a thick black line connecting the sounds of Latin "nowness," like Juan Cireol, Arcangel, and Linda Miranda, with similarly fresh non-Latin acts (dubbed, lovingly, "outsiders" by the site) like Danny Brown, Azealia Banks, and M.I.A. With a crisp aesthetic and even crisper writing, Club Fonograma deserves more than a quick Pitchfork comparison.

We suppose it's not entirely fair to single out Pavle Milic — frontman at most every local foodie's favorite restaurant, FnB — for this award. But it is true that he's the one who asked the question. It was such a simple question. Or so it seemed. Then again, here at Best of Phoenix, we know better than anyone that there are no simple questions — or answers — when it comes to naming favorites.

Milic's status update: Mama just moved here from New York and is requesting shrimp fried rice for lunch, so who makes the best in town??

Let's just say that, as it turns out, Phoenix foodies take their fried rice very seriously. This topic got hotter than the June day Milic posted it. By the end of the debate, there were 92 comments on that status update, many restaurant suggestions, and several arguments — including over the finer points of New York fried rice versus Hong Kong fried rice versus Los Angeles fried rice versus San Francisco fried rice. (We're not kidding.)Even after Milic announced that he'd taken his mom to Jade Palace in Scottsdale (she liked it), the debate continued with several more dozen comments and a couple of figurative fist fights. In the end, chef Charleen Badman, who co-owns FnB with Milic, made her own phenomenal version of shrimp fried rice for a late-night supper at the restaurant — and finally shut everyone up.

Chompie's Deli Restaurant, Bagels, Bakery & Catering
Kyle Lamb

Even Wes Anderson couldn't make this stuff up. But if he made commercials, we'd like to think they would be exactly like Chompie's founders Lovey & Lou Borenstein's heartwarmingly odd videos. The four-part series features the charming pair in their '70s-era Phoenix home talking about how they have made their marriage work, their journey from New York to the Valley of the Sun, the lack of bagels here, and, of course, the story of Chompie's. From Lovey's stone-cold good looks to Lou's infectious laugh, the adorable videos gave us a whole new appreciation for the New York-style delicatessen, and they also made us really, really want a room full of wolves. And maybe an egg cream.

Oregano's
Courtesy of Oreganos

When the Old Town Scottsdale Oregano's bailed on its original home and moved into the long-abandoned building that once housed an extravagant bar called Sugar Daddy's, we were a little shocked. But not as shocked as we were when we opened the paper and saw the ad campaign for their new location — which just happened to be a stone's throw away from Scottsdale's infamous smut hut, Zorba's. The ad proclaimed exactly that — "It's just a short walk to Zorba's (now open at Scottsdale Road and Earll!)." Because who doesn't need a little lube or a steamy video after an adventurous meal at Oregano's?

We shouldn't have been surprised – this small pizza chain has cracked us up for years with clever word plays on billboards, like "Make the Forks Be with You," "Don't Pass This Joint" and "Pick Your Seat on Our Patio." From time to time, Oregano's offers a $50 gift card to a customer who comes up with a particularly good ad idea; hey, it's cheaper than hiring those Mad Men types. Check Oregano's website for details.

In F. Scott Fitzgerald's influential novel The Great Gatsby, the titular gentleman is a stylish bon vivant with a mysterious nature and penchant for partying. Sounds a lot like another Gatsby we happen to know, specifically this 42-year-old photographer and scenester who fittingly drew his nickname from the book's most infamous character. Case in point: Dapper is shy about revealing his real name or too many details about his enigmatic past. He's dropped hints about having been involved with the nightlife world but won't drop dime on the full details. But while we're unfamiliar with the cat's history, his particular tastes are well known. When he's out and about, Dapper is usually just that, preferring to adorn himself with hip or throwback apparel, ranging from classic Panama straw hats or Salvatore Ferragamo loafers to fly Ben Davis work shirts. He also tends toward stylish accessories, like or the dark green 1969 Cadillac Coupe de Ville he pilots around town. On various nights throughout the week, Dapper likely can be found quaffing cocktails with his glamorous gal P.K. Peck at any of a number of trendy gatherings, popular club events, or down-low dance events taking place after hours. Regardless of where you might see him, the affable and loquacious Dapper is always up for chatting about such topics as 1930s film or his taste for Lagavulin 16-year-old single malt scotch. You stay classy, Dapper.

Most of the Facebook pages devoted to the Phoenix arts scene are given over to promotions of upcoming events and a whole ton of inner-circle schmoozing. But the Phoenix Remodernists page is somehow different. Interesting discussion actually takes place here, among a varied crowd of artists, art fans, and collectors. Sure, there are the usual plugs for an exhibit or two, but there's also a lot of insight into what the art crowd is actually up to when it's not plowing through another First Friday. One can find more than just gossip and dissension among the daily posts on this page, a sort of clearinghouse and message board for creative types who want input on what they're working on and how they're feeling about it. Check them out.

Por Vida Gallery

The Phoenix arts district, often noted for its growing mural project, saw a fresh coat of paint on the corner of 16th Street and Windsor Avenue in late December. Painter El Mac came back to town to lend an anonymous portrait and his signature to the street's newest gallery, Por Vida.

The gallery's owners and curators include local artists Pablo Luna, Thomas "Breeze" Marcus, and Lalo Cota, all staple names in the art community who signed a one-year lease and wasted no time in getting the place ready to showcase their work and that of other artists in the neighborhood.So far, the three have curated monthly shows featuring work by Douglas Miles of Apache Skateboards, Luna, and Un3ek sy5tem, among other local artists. And what's in the name? Cota says it was a natural fit — art is what they all do for a living and will do for life.
Lisa Sette Gallery
Andrew Pielage

More than 25 years ago, Lisa Sette opened the doors of her contemporary art gallery in Scottsdale. She had just finished studying art history and photography at ASU and says she wanted to find a way to be surrounded by art while providing a space and service for artists to showcase their work. Today, she represents 36 artists from around the country, including Arizona-based Matthew Moore, Mayme Kratz, Julianne Swartz, Enrique Chagoya, Angela Ellsworth, James Turrell, Rachel Bess, and Anthony Velasquez. This group is Sette's passion and focus, and her serene, well-lit gallery provides a beautiful stage for each artist's work and for her loyal following and local community to come visit, incorporating and celebrating all that's best about an art gallery. No wonder she's survived for so long, while others have come and gone. Brava.

Heard Museum

Since it opened in 1929, the Heard Museum has been a wealth of Native American history, stories, and artwork that have shaped this city and community. Here, you can find century-old Katsina dolls and archives of traditional baskets, as well as small- and large-scale paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and clothing created by members of Native tribes throughout the country. If your taste is more contemporary, check out the museum's Berlin Gallery, where you can see (and purchase on the spot!) work by local and national artists who often stop in for lectures and meet-and-greets. This year, the museum's director packed her bags for New Mexico, leaving the future — and legacy — of the museum in the hands of its board, which is now in the middle of a search to find a leader who respects the museum's past while pushing the boundaries of Native art in contemporary culture. Sounds like a tall order to us; we hope it's filled wisely.

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