Best Neighborhood Pizza, Southeast Valley

Big Boy's Pizza

Big Boy's giant pizza
Hanefeld
Big Boy's giant pizza

Husband-and-wife team Dennis and Vickie Heath like their pizzas big. How big? Along with the standard 14-, 16-, and 18-inch pies, this friendly Mesa joint features a 28-inch monster nearly the size of a kiddy pool. Then there are the three-buck slices, which are more like pizzas shaped like a slice and served with their own pizza cutter. Sure, it ain't the gourmet stuff; but with a crispy, not too chewy, and nicely seasoned homemade crust, signature sauce, and fresh toppings, we're not complaining — we're goin' supersize.

Zinc Bistro
David Holden

We're hard-pressed to find much we don't like about Zinc Bistro, the French cafe in Kierland Commons, but the piece de resistance is most definitely the house French fries. This summer, we sent an intern into the field in search of hamburgers, and naturally he wound up with several sides of fries. About Zinc's, he wrote: "The house fries, deep-fried to a light golden-brown, were tossed in marjoram and seasoned with smoked paprika for a little kick. And on the side of the mountainous serving came a creamy smoked paprika aioli, which is absolutely heavenly on a fry." Normally we try to refrain from using the word "heavenly" to describe food, but in this case we must agree.

J.T.'s Bar & Grill

Like nearly every food-slinging tavern in town, J.T.'s makes the obligatory wings. But this tiny bar on the western edge of Arcadia nails the three key aspects of them — meat, sauce, and preparation — like no one else in the Valley. They are big enough so that they don't easily overcook. The sauces are comfortably salty, not too sweet, and nowhere near goopy. And they are lightly deep-fried, tossed in one of three sauces, and then placed on a grill to get a nice char. Someday, we may get around to ordering just a dozen of them — but not today.

Petite Maison

Canadian cookbook author Cynthia Wine once described poutine as "an amazing concoction of French fries, cheese, and gravy." No one may understand that sentiment more than chef James Porter, who's given the popular street food of Montreal a delicious gourmet twist at his cozy French bistro in Scottsdale. Featuring golden pommes frites sprinkled with truffled cheese curds and lightly topped with veal gravy, it's a crispy, squeaky, and pretty much hopelessly addictive (and even elegant) way to enjoy one of Canada's most delicious imports since Ryan Gosling.

Desert at Lux
Dominique Chatterjee
Desert at Lux

Most menu items at this Central Phoenix coffee shop are short-lived — Lux's chefs like to keep you on your toes — but we've never stopped by for lunch and not found mac 'n' cheese on the menu. This version is basic — a cheesy carb overload (in a good way) with the option of thick-cut bacon and jalapeños. It's rich and satisfying and can be paired with coffee, tea (we recommend the iced hibiscus), or a cocktail from the bar. If you're really throwing calorie caution to the wind, grab a pastry, too. Just be careful not to drip cheese on your laptop keyboard. The clerks at the Mac store hate that.

Zulu Caffe

If the idea of the best mac 'n' cheese in the Valley coming out of the Scottsdale Airport seems a bit of a stretch, consider its source: chef Brian Ford, who made his name working at the highly respected Quiessence in South Phoenix for 10 years before calling this unassuming cafe home. Turning the oftentimes heavy cholesterol load into a surprisingly light gourmet meal, Ford's mac 'n' cheese creations are sometimes made with a trio of fontina, aged cheddar, and Parmesan, sometimes kicked up with roasted poblano peppers, and almost always topped with local ham or bacon and buttered bread crumbs. And because the cafe sits in view of the airport's runways, you can enjoy your mac 'n' cheese with a side of aero-entertainment.

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.

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