George & Dragon Pub

Phoenix's favorite English pub, George and Dragon, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, and though 1995 might have been the height of the Britpop craze, George and Dragon has maintained its appeal for two whole decades. Modeled after classic British pubs, the walls are decked with Union Jacks, and the George offers generous pours of ale, occasional live rock 'n' roll, and authentic-tasting fare like shepherd's pie, bangers and mash, and, of course, fish and chips. The G&D also hosts poker nights on Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. And make sure to check out the Sunday night special, when the kitchen cranks out delicious roasts, including roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, New Zealand lamb, and roasted chicken.

Rula Bula

Located in the former saddle shop of Tempe pioneer R.G. Andre, Rúla Búla's name might translate from Gaelic to "uproar and commotion," but to us, it's always seemed more like an oasis from the sorority and frat-driven din of Mill Avenue in general, a homey respite where it's possible to swill your Guinness and dig into some corned beef and cabbage in relative peace. Which isn't to say that the Búla can't get rowdy during a spirited pub quiz or during a set by Keltic Cowboys (sample song title: "Kiss My Irish Ass"), but we've always enjoyed it most on a lazy afternoon, surrounded by traditional Irish brickwork and accompanied by a nip of Jameson.

Christopher's Restaurant and Crush Lounge
Lauren Saria

Every year, the number of white-tablecloth, fine-dining restaurants in town dwindles as more casual New American restaurants spring up. But that only makes Christopher's Restaurant and Crush Lounge all the more precious. Located at Biltmore Fashion Park, this sleek French eatery continues to offer upscale fare including foie gras, veal sweetbreads, and pied de cochon in a setting that's anything but stuffy. You'll still find Valley legend and James Beard Award-winning chef Christopher Gross in the kitchen, putting out pristine plates and photo-worthy desserts such as Chocolate Mousse Towers and Gateau Marjolaine. The restaurant even makes fresh bread in-house in a wood-fired oven, and boasts an excellent wine selection curated by sommelier Paola Embry. C'est magnifique.

At Brat Has, beer may be king, but there are enough good dishes here to keep the taps in good company.
Jackie Mercandetti
At Brat Has, beer may be king, but there are enough good dishes here to keep the taps in good company.

With a spacious outdoor beer garden and 28 beers on tap, Brat Haus in Scottsdale makes every day seem like Oktoberfest. All you have to do to join in is fill a pint, a stein, or a giant glass boot with the beer of your choice and head outside for a game of giant Jenga, bags, or darts. Eventually, of course, you're bound to get hungry, and the restaurant serves a sizable menu of European-style fare. The housemade pretzels are a go-to snack and come with your choice of several housemade mustards. There's also the dangerously addicting Belgian-style fries (get them with the truffle aioli), grilled housemade sausages (try the spicy brat to punch things up), and classic German dishes, including a nice rendition of pork schnitzel.

Marcellino Ristorante
Molly Smith

This year, Marcellino Ristorante celebrated five years at its Old Town Scottsdale location, but chef Marcellino Verzino has been in the business for much longer than that. Before moving his restaurant to Scottsdale, he and his wife, Sima, had a successful run in North Phoenix, and even before that, he owned and operated restaurants in Rome, Calabria, Abruzzo, and New York. The chef takes all that experience — and what he learned growing up in Italy — and uses it to produce authentic Italian cuisine and some of the city's best fresh pasta. He hand-makes pounds of noodles daily and complements the doughy creations with high-quality ingredients including veal, imported mussels, proscuitto, and truffle oil. Choose from entrées including scaloppine al Gorgonzola, or sautéed veal in a creamy Gorgonzola sauce; gamberi affogati, featuring shrimp in a garlic and white wine sauce; or paccatelli al ragu di salsiccia, fresh pasta dressed in a hearty ragu.

Niccoli's Italian Grocery-Deli

Where to go in the Valley for the most Italian cheeses and cured meats, the best holiday candies and cookies, the paisano-perfect canned tomatoes, vegetables, olive oils, and pastas? Niccoli's has it all. You'll feel as though you've maybe stumbled into old Roma instead of having just walked in off of 16th Street. Once you've stocked up on provolone balls and mustacciuoli, grab one of the prepared sandwiches or cannoli that are among Niccoli's other delicious specialties. Linger, if you can, and chat up the molto italiano owners, Joe and Peppy Niccoli, who've been running Italian delis and catering lasagna-and-eggplant extravaganzas for 35 years. Bello cibo!

La Tiendita Cafe
Lauren Saria

"Lo mejor de Colombia en Arizona" is La Tiendita Cafe's slogan, and it's true. This Mesa restaurant and market brings traditional fare from the South American country to the Valley — everything from Colombian-style arepas and empanadas to Colombian coffee and other hard-to-find grocery products. If it's your first time exploring Colombian cuisine, start with the bandeja paisa. This giant platter of food can fill one starving diner or two light eaters and comes with chicharrón, ground beef, and chorizo sausage, as well as rice, beans, avocado, plantain, a mini-arepa, and a fried egg. It's a standard dish of Colombian cuisine and a great way to get your feet wet. Be sure to take some of arepas to go; they come filled with meat or cheese or even butter and salt.

Princess Market & Deli
Evie Carpenter

This family-owned and -operated market and restaurant has been chugging away in Mesa for more than a decade. It's a good thing, too, because without Princess Market's hummus, we might have a serious meltdown. Sold on-site at the restaurant, in tubs at the market, and at a few farmers markets, Princess Market's fresh, light-as-air hummus is easily our favorite in town. We're also fans of the Princess Market breakfast menu, which offers an affordable selection of Middle Eastern morning dishes, including a pita-wrapped egg sandwich and buttery puck cheese served with honey and pita bread. For lunch, you'll want one of the Princess Market platters, which come piled high with tender beef kebabs or flavorful kofta.

Readers choice: Pita Jungle

FrinGo's Kitchen
Lauren Saria

We fell in love with this family-owned and -operated restaurant almost at first bite. The Chandler eatery serves homestyle Puerto Rican food in a simple, counter-service setting. Start with an order of the restaurant's tostones (slices of fried plantain), which can and should be dipped in mojo de ajo (oil with sweet roasted garlic). For entrées, there are several excellent options, including the pollo guisado, a stew of slow-roasted chicken that's braised in spices with cubes of potato, and the chicharrón, a plate of fried pork cracklings that's impossible not to like. Every entrée comes with sides of beans and rice that's flavored with pigeon peas and ham. There are even Puerto Rican sodas to pair with the food; try the Cola Champagne, a sort of cream soda that's also lightly orange flavored.

Woodlands Vegetarian South Indian Kitchen
Heather Hoch

You won't find any meat on the menu at Woodlands — but we promise you won't miss it when you get a taste of the restaurant's bold curries and fresh chutneys. If you're confused about what to order, just ask for a few suggestions, or go for one of the signature dosas. These paper-thin crepes made of rice and lentil batter are a staple in South India and come stuffed with everything from potatoes and onions to cheese at this Chandler restaurant. We love the spicy Chettinad dosai, which features onion, cauliflower, tomato, and chettinadu spice, as well as the paneer butter masala, a smooth curry studded with cubes of cheese. The restaurant also offers a complimentary chutney bar, where you'll find pickled veggies, tamarind chutney, yogurt sauce, mint chutney, and coconut chutney to punch up or cool down each dish as you see fit.

Readers choice: Jewel of the Crown

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