Best Soul Food Restaurant 2015 | Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Jacob Tyler Dunn

Since 1964, this downtown Phoenix restaurant has been serving such Southern and soul food classics as macaroni and cheese and collard greens, beloved fried chicken, and chicken-fried steak. The menu is written on the wall — as are many names and messages from customers over the years. The scrawled-on walls and simple décor give the place a certain old-school charm, one that pairs well with a smothered pork chop, plate of fried catfish, or piece of peach cobbler. Even today, owner Mrs. Elizabeth White makes the cobbler at the restaurant, so you'll want to grab a slice before the day's allowance is gone.

Readers choice: Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles

Lauren Saria

Sam Fox's Flower Child is a vegetarian's paradise. The majority of the restaurant's menu is vegetarian-friendly fare, and the restaurant itself, well, it makes you feel like a million bucks. Designed to look like a farmhouse — albeit a perfect farmhouse filled with beautiful people — Flower Child makes eating your veggies both easy and chic. You can get bowls of crisped kale paired with pink grapefruit and apple or plates of dressed-up vegetable and grains, a sort of build-your-own veggie sampler with options such as organic mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus, or a salad of heirloom tomatoes and cubes of watermelon. There's kombucha on tap, seasonal fresh lemonades, and even organic red or white wine and local beers. What more could a vegetarian want?

Readers choice: Pita Jungle

This place is a vegan's dream come true. Some of the handcrafted and locally sourced goodies in the case at 24 Carrots Natural Café and Urban Juicery are examples of raw food done right (not heated over 115 degrees), and others are gluten-free. The dining room has an array of old farm tables and charming mismatched chairs with a reading nook full of books and a bakery case filled with mouth-watering vegan goodies tempting your taste buds while you place your order at the counter. 24 Carrots creates flavorful fare and an expansive selection of juice and smoothie blends. Breakfast is served until 11 a.m. weekdays and 2 p.m. on weekends. Located in Tempe in the same plaza as Changing Hands Bookstore, the watermelon pizza — each slice drizzled with jalapeño nectar, toasted pistachios, basil, and a kiss of salt — is our favorite snack before browsing the books.

Readers Choice: Pita Jungle

Sometimes it can be hard to find upscale organic farm-to-table food that appeals to mixed company — and by mixed company, we mean the gluten-free and the rest of us. If you have ever had trouble finding a spot that caters to both your appetite and your allergen restrictions, this airy Tempe eatery's pizzas, pasta dishes, salads, desserts, and cocktails will appeal to everyone. With additional locations around the Valley and the state, Picazzo's makes gluten-free dining a breeze with comfort dishes such as lasagna Bolognese, chicken or eggplant Parmesan, and baked cannelloni. The signature ravioli and gnocchi choices include vegetarian or vegan alfredo, pork ragu, and a traditional carbonara. If pizza and Italian food doesn't suit you, try a fresh quinoa bowl, the Jammin' Jambalaya, or Asian fusion creations such as mu shu chicken or Thai-inspired curry. With an extensive menu, gluten-free beer choices and cocktail creations, there is something here to satisfy just about any dietary desire.

Readers Choice: Pita Jungle

Imagine eating a Twinkie, only one that tastes good and is gluten-free. That's the Winkie. And the Winkie, along with large cookies and moist cupcakes in a wide variety of flavors (from double chocolate to carrot) are just some of the sweets available at Gluten Free Creations. In addition to sweets and bread, the wizards in the kitchen have mastered fluffy biscuits served with gravy or by the bag, chewy Everything bagels, pancakes, and fresh doughnuts. Yes, we said fresh doughnuts. With retail bakery locations in North Phoenix and midtown, the South Scottsdale location includes a cafette that serves breakfast and lunch. Cases and freezers are stocked with everything you would hope to find in a bakery — dinner rolls, baguettes, hamburger and hot dog buns, scones, muffins (English or otherwise), loaves of bread, and pizza crust. And if that's not enough, you also can order a custom cake. There also is a variety of gluten-free baking mixes available. Whether you are gluten-free or gluten-friendly, Gluten Free Creations will not disappoint.

Readers Choice: Nami

Matt's Big Breakfast

When we're in the mood for a simple breakfast done exceptionally well, only one place will satisfy — and that's Matt's Big Breakfast. Along with griddle cakes and oatmeal on the menu, you can find the city's best waffle, perfectly cooked hash browns, and thick-cut peppered bacon that's simply unparalleled. The options are limited but all will satisfy, and for first-timers, we recommend the basic Hog and Chick. The meal includes two eggs (cooked your way, of course) and either thick-cut bacon or country sausage (pick the bacon), as well as toast and either hash browns or home fries (pick hash browns). Another favorite option is Matt's version of a breakfast sandwich. Called the Five Spot, it comes with two eggs, two slices of bacon, American cheese, and grilled onions.

Readers Choice: Matt's Big Breakfast

The Gladly

Chef Bernie Kantak's grits, served during brunch with a thick slice of buckboard bacon and a side of toast, are totally worth getting out of bed for on a Sunday morning. Gussied up with truffle oil and shaved Pecorino Romano, they're creamy and light. In fact, the Grits and Eggs is one of our favorite dishes on The Gladly's concise Sunday menu — though with options ranging from the restaurant's famous Chopped Salad to smoked chicken wings or chilaquiles, we'd like to think this is a menu with something for everyone. The Gladly's brunch cocktails also are worthwhile. You can have your mimosa upgraded to include a scoop of seasonally flavored sorbet, and the restaurant's Bloody Marys come spiked with locally made Homeboy's Hot Sauce.  

Readers Choice: Snooze

Downtown diners looking for an elegant lunch that won't break the bank need look no further than Nobuo at Teeter House. Located at Heritage Square in a converted historic bungalow, this restaurant is home to James Beard Award-winning chef Nobuo Fukuda, who crafts refined Japanese cuisine that's at once impressive and approachable. Dinner is worth every penny, but at lunch you'll be able to enjoy more budget-friendly dishes such as a $10 soft shell crab sandwich served on homemade focaccia or $14 warm duck salad with warm greens and yuzu vinaigrette. Between the lower price points and beautiful digs, Nobuo at Teeter House might just be the most underrated lunch spot in town.

Readers Choice: Mother Bunch Brewery

When the Phoenix Ritz-Carlton went kaput a few months ago, ladies all over town shed a delicate tear for the death of high tea, long celebrated with flair and a song by Jeffrey Hattrick, the hotel's tea sommelier. But we soldiered on knowing we'd found an even better tea just up the street at the Arizona Biltmore. True, there's no live music (not on the day we were there, anyway) but the service is impeccable, the china lovely, the tea selection varied. And, as at any proper tea, the lemon curd, clotted cream, and scones are divine. Pinkies up!

Fez has relocated, moving into the former Portland's space just off Central Avenue. Friendly, easy service (most of it from young, bearded guys), an open indoor dining room, and a hopping after-hours scene (check out the shifting bar specials) are all pluses. But lately, restaurants and diners are opening all over town with high-end tasting menus, crafted cocktails, and gimmickry based on locally grown everything. But few of them have such a nice wide patio for dining al fresco. Comfy, bright orange chairs and four-top tables surround the rounded façade of this swell building. Fez's outdoor dining patio fronts on First Avenue and offers views of an ever-better downtown, with the Westward Ho tower in the immediate distance, and just across from the public are of a big-city light rail stop. As those trains whiz past, you can't help but think two things: 1) What city am I in? and 2) I'll have another Manhattan!

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