Thai Rama Restaurant

We were worried last year that Thai Rama would close permanently after a car crashed into its building. Thankfully, everyone was fine and our favorite Thai place was up and running. Once again, we could devour the classics it makes so well, including the comforting paht thai, the spicy satay appetizer, the sweet and savory khao paht saparod, or fried rice with pineapple, chicken, shrimp, and yellow curry. Of course, Thai Rama offers more exotic and traditional dishes for more adventurous diners. But if you happen to stop by during the summer, be sure to save room for the seasonal sticky rice with mango for dessert. It's so good, we're actually thankful for the summer.

Readers choice: Thai Basil

Hodori
Meagan Mastriani

This Mesa restaurant has been serving authentic Korean fare for years, and we're happy to say that in all that time, HoDoRi hasn't slipped. On any given night, you're likely to find dozens of diners in the restaurant tucking into oversize bowls brimming with rice and spicy meats or scooping up mouthfuls of soft tofu soup. The kimchi bokum bap (kimchi fried rice) is one of our favorite dishes, featuring rice, kimchi, beef, and an egg served in a massive hot stone bowl. And the haemul jungol, a Korean seafood stew, makes an adventurous meal. It's enjoyed family-style, gets cooked tableside, and comes chock-full of everything from squid and shrimp to crab and sea squirts.

Readers Choice: Takamatsu

New Hong Kong Restaurant
Lauren Saria

Chef Jian Yu came to the Valley from China's Guangdong province in 1997 and worked at several restaurants around town before taking over New Hong Kong Restaurant nearly a decade ago. Since then, he's built a loyal following of fans who know this place is a destination for well-executed Chinese fare. And don't be fooled by appearances; the restaurant's tired exterior and worn booths stand in stark contrast to the lively Chinese food you'll find inside. Yu's menu includes excellent versions of Cantonese dishes, with some of the best options being the clay pots, the chef's specialty. We love the clay pot with pork belly and rich taro root, while more adventurous diners might like to opt for the pork stomach clay pot, spiked with whole peppercorns. On the Americanized menu, you'll find all the typical dishes, but even the fried rice and twice pork are better than usual here.

Readers Choice: Jade Palace

Hana Japanese Eatery
Lauren Saria

If loving Hana Japanese Eatery is wrong, then we don't want to be right. This cozy family-owned and -operated restaurant offers excellent Japanese cuisine including sushi, noodle dishes, and traditional dinner entrées. You'll often find brother-and-sister sushi chefs Koji and Lori Hashimoto behind the restaurant's sushi bar plating photo-worthy dishes of fish. And out of the restaurant's kitchen, you'll witness a parade of cooked dishes including some of the city's best ramen; ika kara age (butter-marinated tempura battered squid), and habachi gyuniku and ebi, a surf-and-turf combo of grilled ribeye and shrimp. The pièce de résistance is the Hana Tomago, a contemporary Japanese creation that features a tempura-battered soft-boiled egg topped with a creamy, yogurt-based sauce; a mixture of mentaiko (marinated roe of cod), togarashi, garlic, and onion; and vinegar-pickled myoga.

Readers Choice: Hana Japanese Eastery

Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe
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

Flower Child
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

24 Carrots
24 Carrots

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

Picazzo's Healthy Italian Kitchen

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
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

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