Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles
Heather Hoch

Few ingredient pairings have reached the dynamic duo-ness that is chicken and waffles. But then Larry "Lo-Lo" White, the grandson of Mrs. White of the legendary Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe, has known that all along. Pairing his grandmother's one-of-a-kind crispy and tender Southern-style fried chicken with cinnamon-dusted waffles (and plenty of syrup), White's toothsome twosome is so popular he opened a second location in Scottsdale, moved into bigger digs next door to his original home in South Phoenix, and inspired one Phoenician to submit chicken and waffles as a flavor combination for a new Lay's potato chip. Now that's soul food status worth sticking a fork into.

Little Cleo's Seafood Legend
Fox Restaurant Concepts

The best thing about Sam Fox's new seafood restaurant is that it doesn't act like a Sam Fox restaurant. Tucked inside The Yard, the restaurateur's mammoth dining and hangout space in north Central Phoenix, the little room of shiny white tiles, marble-topped tables, and swingin' tunes serves up an eclectic array of stellar seafood dishes more inventive than anything you might find at Fox's more mainstream haunts in the Valley. There are crispy Thai-style frog legs, meaty Cajun shrimp, and house-smoked sturgeon with crème fraiche and a fried egg atop toasted ciabatta — Little Cleo's version of bacon and eggs. Sidle up to the oyster bar for the day's offering of bivalves and thank your lucky Nemo you're not at Fox's trendy Culinary Dropout next door.

Hana Japanese Eatery
Lauren Saria

On the subject of practicing what you preach, "beautiful simplicity" is the philosophy of brother-sister team Lori and "Chef Koji" Hashimoto, who employ it regularly when it comes to the sushi at their neighborhood restaurant in Phoenix. Here, you'll find thick pieces of mackerel, red snapper, and yellowtail elegantly draped over rice as well as stellar signature rolls like the Hana. An artful creation of shrimp, crab, and pickled root with tempura flakes, its subtle flavors seem to come in waves, giving you pause to enjoy them as you would a walk on the beach or a good read.

Flo's Asian Kitchen

If you're a veg-head who loves curries but hates picking chicken or beef out of your jalfrezi or making do with some vegetarian restaurant's bland imitation of the real deal, make a beeline to either of the Scottsdale eateries owned and operated by Florence "Flo" Chan. Flo's expert chef can turn any of the dishes on the menu into a non-flesh-eater's dream, but our favorites, as you might have guessed, are the curries, like the red or yellow curries or the Indian vindaloo. Washed back with a frosty mug of Tsing Tao, the sensation is one of guilt-free satisfaction. All at a very reasonable price, we might add, for dining out in Scottsdale.

Hillstone
Jackie Mercandetti

Given the number of times we've lifted the bun from our veggie burger only to find a dry, beige hockey puck underneath, it's no wonder we've come to expect them to be less flavorful than their carnivorous counterparts. But they can be just as robust and savory — as demonstrated by the Biltmore area's Hillstone restaurant. No faux-meat here; this patty is thick, moist, a little sweet, and packed with a slew of finely chopped veggies for color, texture, and taste. Add to that perfect pairings of a sweet soy glaze, melted Jack cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles layered between a soft bun and you've got more gastronomic delight than many a meat-minded creation. Delicious.

The Ivan Burger at The Attic
Laura Hahnefeld
The Ivan Burger at The Attic

The first thing anyone will tell you about The Attic, the casual second-story restaurant in Arcadia, is that you should get the burger — and you should. As long on good looks as it is on taste, it is outstanding. The thoughtful, well-crafted stack stars a house-ground and well-seasoned half-pound patty, a fresh, locally made pretzel bun, and first-class toppings of tomato, onion, spring mix, a smear of spicy chipotle mayo, and your choice of melted cheese. You can add bacon, sautéed mushrooms, or an egg if you like, but no matter how you have it, it's pretty much perfect.

Short Leash Sit...Stay
Jackie Mercandetti

In July, hot dog heaven came to the Valley and stayed put when Short Leash Hot Dogs, Brad and Kat Moore's venerable food truck — featuring gourmet hot dogs wrapped in a warm naan "bun" — found a permanent doghouse on Roosevelt Row. Now, along with signature dogs topped with ingredients like roasted green chiles, mango chutney, and Cracker Jack, frank fans can order up premium creations stuffed with jalapeño and cheddar, slow-cooked in beer, and topped with creamy mac and cheese. There's also craft beer and wine to wash 'em down with. Everyone's a wiener.

Bootleggers

Like so many restaurants these days, Bootleggers serves pork belly. But given the cache of stellar, slow-cooked offerings at this barbecue pit gone the way of a gastropub in northeast Phoenix, it feels less like a novelty act and more a part of the program. Case in point: the PBLT. Smoked for 10 hours, the deliciously fatty meat, lit up with spicy aioli, beefsteak tomato, and onions between toasty pieces of sourdough, bulks out what is not only the best sandwich on the menu, but one of the most memorable in the Valley.

Wedge & Bottle features a rotating selection of top-notch meats and cheese on plates, in sandwiches, or to go.
Jackie Mercandetti
Wedge & Bottle features a rotating selection of top-notch meats and cheese on plates, in sandwiches, or to go.

Packed with gourmet cheeses, meats, and condiments on toasted bread, the melted cheese sandwiches at this top-notch wine and cheese shop in Ahwatukee sport the same satisfying crunch and gooey perfection we enjoyed as kids. Choose from a satisfying French-Italian sandwich with nutty raclette cheese and mortadella ham; a Barber's Cheddar inspiration layered with turkey; or customize a cheesy creation of your own. Each option comes with a choice of chips or salad, but we like paying a little extra for a cup of soup perfectly sized for sandwich dunking.

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Jackie+Mercandetti
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Something of a Jamaican shoreline snack shack minus the sandy beaches and sea air, this solid little spot of Caribbean eats, owned by three natives of Jamaica, serves up some killer jerk. Using a family recipe rub of lime, garlic, salt, Scotch bonnet peppers, and other spices, chicken and fish — and sometimes even chicken wings — get marinated and cooked up for tasty bites with a vivid, even heat kissed with citrus. Enjoy with an ice-cold ginger beer and some reggae beats and you're in jerk nirvana.

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