FnB Restaurant
Debby Wolvos

They don't call her "the veggie whisperer" for nothing. Chef Charleen Badman really does have the magic touch. In fact, we once took a tomato-hating friend to her restaurant, FnB, and watched in awe as our dining companion devoured a whole roasted beef steak. "I've decided, if Charleen cooks it, I'll eat anything," she declared. And we agree. From tender eggplant and foraged mushrooms to her famous braised leeks, we have faith that Badman can turn even the most hated of vegetables into something remarkable. This year, we discovered that her vegetable thumb doesn't just work in the kitchen. At her home garden, the chef coaxes a stunning array of vegetables and spices out of the ground. We promise, you've never seen such a lush planter box in your life.

Bragg's Factory Diner
Heather Hoch

For some of us, life is all about the pursuit of three things: innovative vegetarian food, quirky yet cozy design, and well-crafted puns. Fortunately, all of these things can be found at Bragg's Factory Diner. Bragg's is pure Arizona goodness, from the vintage maps, knickknacks, and state postcards that adorn the walls to the subtle Southwestern influence on the food. The diner features unpretentious (but delicious) food that even the carnivores in your crowd will adore. The service is every bit as sunny as the space, and the cafe truly has something for everyone. Gluten-free? Vegan? Not a problem. Our favorite dish is the perfectly punny Nopales Like Home (jackfruit marinated in barbacoa sauce and topped with smoky grilled cactus on a freshly toasted bun) and the Beet on the Brat burger (a creative, beet-based spin on the ever-ambiguous veggie burger). Don't forget dessert — Bragg's vegan pies are made fresh in-house daily.

Green New American Vegetarian
Courtesy of Green

Damon Brasch is a genius, and if you don't believe us, consider the Taco Bell bean burrito. Both Brasch and the Taco Bell people had the same idea a long time ago: vegan comfort food. For years, Brasch has been frying tofu and potatoes and blending soy "ice cream" and candy into treats that may not make you skinny but do satisfy the requirements of a vegan diet. Yes, yes, you can also get a salad at Green, but why would you when samosas, curry, and a barbecue bacon burger beckon?

Grabbagreen
Lauren Saria

If "fast casual" and "gluten-free" are the culinary buzzwords of 2014, then Grabbagreen is the perfect love child of this year's biggest trends. The restaurant offers a menu of all-natural and gluten-free eats in a bright, clean, fast-casual setting. Diners can choose from a menu of juices, salads, smoothies, and grain-based bowls, all of which feature consciously sourced ingredients — think free-range chicken raised without antibiotics and hormones, organic tofu, and locally sourced produce wherever possible. On top of all the good-for-you goodness, the restaurant offers online ordering and makes nutritional information available on the website. See? Eating well doesn't have to be hard.

Jewel's Bakery & Cafe
Judy Nichols

Even people who aren't concerned about whether their cupcakes contain wheat flour are flocking to this bakery, because Jewel's baked goods are so good. Not over-sugared, like so many dessert items tend to be, Jewel's gluten-free, sugar-free, corn-free, dairy-free, soy-free, vegan, and organic treats are magic on a plate.

Check out Mom Moreno's candied bacon cinnamon roll, a combination of sweet syrup and salty bacon that tastes surprisingly like the real thing. Jewel's scones offer a rare mix of dense cakiness and flaky softness, without being dry or crumbly. And pastry chef Julie Moreno's sticky buns don't taste anything-free: moist, sticky-sweet, dripped with tart icing, they're better than most made with wheat flour. We're not thinking about gluten when we eat Moreno's cheesecake, rich with toasted coconut, mini chocolate chips, and a moist, dark chocolate crust, slathered in a caramel glaze that doesn't obscure a smooth and slightly tart tower of sweet, cheesy filling. Don't leave without a carrot cake cupcake, moist and carroty and smeared with cream cheese frosting.

Barb's Bakery
Diana Martinez

Normally, we reserve eating cake for special occasions. But the chocolate cake at Barb's Bakery is so good that we regularly bust out a whole one for events as mundane as Sunday night dinner. And that's not the only irresistible sweet we love from Barb's. The case is always full of the bakery's award-winning decorated iced sugar cookies and cupcakes in a diverse array of flavors including carrot, orange, and classic chocolate. Oh, and did we mention that Barb's carries bread made from local micro-bakery Noble Bread? Sure, the Central Phoenix bakery isn't the fanciest of digs, but that's only because they let the top-quality baked goods speak for themselves.

La Grande Orange Grocery
Courtesy of La Grande Orange

We've said it before and we'll say it again: There is no better English muffin this side of Great Britain — dense and sour, yet still somehow light. La Grande Orange knows how to make the baked good that's become one of its signature staples. Trends come and go (you can now get kombucha on tap or cold brew to go with your buttered bread), but we hope LGO's English muffin never goes out of style.

Baking good bread isn't the kind of thing that can be rushed, and that's something Jason Raducha and Claudio Urciuoli understand. The duo is responsible for Noble Bread, a small-scale bakery that brings Old World techniques to diners. Last year, Urciuoli left his executive chef post at Noca to join forces with Raducha, who had launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 for a wood-fired mobile bread oven.

Now, they use the oven to make hundreds of loaves a week, none of which are touched by modern machines. The pair goes the extra mile to source heritage and alternative grains from a traditional hydroelectric-powered miller in Northern California. It's not the easiest route, and the process takes three days from start to finish, but for this duo, it's the only way worth baking.

Merci French Cafe and Pastisserie
Heather Hoch

When Duc and Noelle Liao's Scratch French Café closed, our hearts sank like a poorly made soufflé. Luckily, word of Merci followed shortly after. While the décor may have changed, the location and, more importantly, Liao's pastries remained the same.

With all the finesse you'd expect from legit French pastry, the Liaos create whimsical flavor combinations that blend bitter and sweet, aromatic and floral, and bright and dark elements to keep you guessing. Have a croque madame, escargot, or stuffed crepes to start, but make sure you finish your meal by perusing the pastry case, where you'll find raspberry rose parfait, lemon meringue tartes, three-chocolate mousse, baba rhum, and more. The presentation itself is a pleasure, but the decadent yet delicate execution will leave you feeling like French royalty. Bon appetit!

Urban Cookies and Bakeshop
Judy Nichols

In the world of baked goods, one thing is certain: Not all cupcakes are created equal. From fancy chains to casual supermarkets, it seems everyone's offering cupcakes. And often you take a bite at your own risk. Not so at Urban Cookies, where award-winning baker Brady Breese offers an eclectic, creative assortment of cupcakes with one thing in common: They are all delicious. Whether you go for classic chocolate topped with a dark ganache or the out-of-the-box Arnold Palmer (lemon cake with tea-infused icing), you can't go wrong. Waffles and doughnuts may be the new flavors on the block, but we hope Urban Cookies never stops making cupcakes.

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