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.

Texas BBQ House

Since they opened their modest little 'cue joint in South Phoenix in 2011, Texas expats Mike Pitt and Doug Dieckmann of Texas BBQ House have been serving their smoked meats on large rectangles of butcher paper while politely encouraging customers to eat them sans sauce, plates — and even forks. There are the stellar standards: luscious brisket, jalapeño sausage, and rosemary-rubbed turkey that tastes like Thanksgiving. But most recently there are beef ribs, hulky and meaty pieces of smoky and peppery steer perfect enough to channel your inner cowboy — or Neanderthal (perhaps a little of each).

Milagro Grill
Milargo Grill

The humble peanut butter and jelly sandwich gets a twist of Mexican-American fusion at this Arcadia restaurant owned by the grandkids of Macayo's founders Grandpa Woody Johnson and wife Victoria. Called the PB & J de Puerco, this hefty hoagie features thick, downy bread layered with slices of delectable pork belly, tomato jam, peanuts, arugula, and chiltepin peppers. Sure, the classic flavors of salty and sweet are there, but the de Puerco adds spicy and smoky notes as well, making this take on PB & J anything but ordinary.

Udder Delights
Jackie Mercandetti

Ignore (for now) the wild ice cream flavors like red hot banana, vanilla birthday cake, and, yes, potato chip at this farm-owned micro-creamery and flavor lab in Gilbert. Today, what you've come here for is Udder Delights' amazing chocolate milkshake. Rich, lusciously creamy, and with a heady chocolate taste you will be powerless to resist, it's nothing short of cold, sweet perfection — one that you will have difficulty sucking down politely with the aid of a giant straw.

Cowboy Ciao Wine Bar & Grill
Heather Hoch

Chef Country Velador's (Super Chunk Sweets & Treats) sweetly inspired creations at Old Town Scottsdale's Cowboy Ciao are a kind of revolving gourmet dessert tray. Her menu changes regularly, tempting us to choose, perhaps, from treats like luscious Angel Food "Bread" Pudding with a vanilla bean custard sauce, warm apple cobbler kissed with brown sugar and topped with a melting scoop of rich and buttery duck fat ice cream, or a decadent peanut butter bar tricked out with mascarpone, coconut ganache, and a graham cracker crust with toasted coconut and peanuts. Dessert first? At Cowboy Ciao, it's to be expected.

Treehouse Bakery

Pineapple upside-down cake, churro cupcakes, cheesecake? And it's all vegan, you say? The Sizemore sisters must be magicians — filling a bakery with delicious treats made of organic and natural ingredients, free of egg, dairy, and (of course) meat products. No bacon treats here, and that's fine with us — we're sick of that trend. We much prefer eating healthy, as long as our sweet tooth stays satisfied. Eat your butter-clogged hearts out, Keebler elves. We're heading for a different treehouse.

Jewel's Bakery & Cafe
Judy Nichols

Once, we made the mistake of biting into a gluten-free cookie that we swear was made of cardboard and maybe a little chocolate. So we know that sweet treats without gluten can be bad. Like, really bad. But that's why we were shocked to learn that the cupcakes made by Julie Moreno of Jewel's cupcakes are gluten-free. The sheer number of flavors — including options like caramel macchiato, apple pie, red velvet, and salted caramel — will make anyone used to strict dining restrictions smile. And when it comes to flavor, texture, taste, and look, these little treats totally deliver. In fact, the only thing they seem to be missing is gluten. Since 2011, Moreno has been making and selling her cupcakes, brownies, and pies through her online store, but this fall, she will move the operation to a brick-and-mortar storefront. Moreno says she tests all her creations on her husband, who can consume gluten, so at least we're not the only ones she's got fooled.

There are two top contenders for bean-to-bar chocolate producers based in Arizona: Stone Grindz, a Scottsdale maker that offers unique flavors like Moroccan Mint and Cashew, and Nutwhats, whose signature confections are clusters of sticky, crunchy goodness in flavors like jalapeño beer brittle, cinna walnut oat, and bacon pecan scribble. But as of late 2012, Nutwhats' most impressive offering is the 92 percent Cacao Bar. Yes, 92 percent — and it's meant to be savored all on its own, not sweetened by being baked into a cake. The beans used to make this incredible bar are sourced from Ocumare, Venezuela, and they lend a subtle note of ripe plums to the über-bold dark chocolate. Given the high cacao content, the bar's not as smooth or fast-melting as most chocolate, yet it's not chalky. The biggest and best surprise of all is the lack of bitterness. The 92 percent is still for serious chocoholics only, but Nutwhats also makes six 75 percent chocolate bars, each featuring the distinctive flavor profile of a different locale's cacao beans. You can find chocolate bars including Peru (banana-cherry tasting notes), the Dominican Republic (coffee with soft raspberry), and Bali (berry and papaya) at Dos Cabezas WineWorks, Smeeks, Downtown Phoenix Public Market, and Bodega Market at FnB.

Tracy Dempsey Originals
Jim Louvau

Dipped in chocolate, rolled in sprinkles, or just plain, the best marshmallows in town are getting bagged up by longtime Valley pastry chef Tracy Dempsey. The handmade marshmallow is a labor of love, and lucky for us, the dry Phoenix climate is just right for preparing these sweet treats, which we like to stick in hot chocolate or eat straight from the bag. S'mores, anyone?

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