Best BBQ 2016 | Little Miss BBQ | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Jackie Mercandetti

Scott and Bekke Holmes may have gotten into barbecue recreationally, but with one bite of the brisket at the couple's restaurant, Little Miss BBQ, it's clear they've made the leap from amateur to pro. Located in a largely industrial area south of the airport, Little Miss BBQ manages to be a charming barbecue destination in metro Phoenix, thanks in large part to the ever-friendly service and excellent smoked meat. You'll almost always find a line of customers queued up outside the small building, waiting to come face to face with glistening, pepper-crusted brisket that's sliced right before your eyes and heaped onto a plate with sides such as jalapeno cheddar grits and coleslaw. But brisket isn't the only option. There's also snappy house-made sausages, ribs, pulled pork, and smoked turkey from which to choose. Avoid some of the struggle of selecting just one with a two-meat plate that includes two sides.

There are plenty of reasons to check out Mekong Plaza, the giant Asian supermarket and food court in Mesa where you can find everything from top-notch Vietnamese cuisine to boba tea and some of the best Taiwanese food in town. But don't let the absurd number of dining options cause you to overlook the Mekong Palace Restaurant, a large sit-down eatery located within the food court that also offers some the Valley's best dim sum seven days a week. The best selection of plates, however, will be found on the weekends, during which time you can count on seeing everything from translucent, shrimp-filled pouches to braised greens and golden-yellow egg tarts with perfect, flaky crusts. In both quality and quantity of options, Mekong delivers, and the price point makes this a favorite place for trying a little of everything.

Jackie Mercandetti

Thanks to a slew of new locations that popped up all over the Valley last year, you can get your Angry Crab Shack fix at six eateries around metro Phoenix these days. But the truth is, we're still partial to the original location, where longstanding customers have scrawled all over the walls in Sharpie and you can count on finding a crowd of diners waiting to nab a seat just outside the door. Why the wait? Because Angry Crab serves fresh Cajun-style seafood, including crawfish, shrimp, mussels, and several types of crab. The go-to order has to be king crab covered in the restaurant's Trifecta sauce, a blend of Cajun spices, lemon pepper, and garlic that's addictingly good and packs just enough heat when ordered with medium spice. You can always throw in some corn and potatoes to balance out the meal, but no matter what you do, don't forget a side of "bread for soppin'."

Tirion Boan

We love this Chandler sushi restaurant, where you can always count on finding a solid selection of fresh sushi and sashimi created by the restaurant's talented chefs and served with a smile. If you're craving low-price rolls full of imitation crab and spicy mayo, move along. But for real-deal sushi, including hard-to-find selections such as sea urchin and tuna belly, Shimo's the spot. The chefs will create special, artful plates of fish and colorful chirashi bowls for diners with high-class tastes, and there are some less traditional rolls on the menu if you're looking for something a little more fun. We like the Big 'n' Spicy roll, a mix of spicy salmon topped with seared escolar and salmon, jalapeño, Sriracha, and onion ponzu.

There are just about as many types of ramen out there as there are restaurants that serve the dish, but when we're on the hunt for a great bowl of broth and noodles in the Valley, we head to Tempe's Tampopo Ramen for our fix. The restaurant specializes in Hakata-style ramen, known for its signature tonkotsu-style broth and thin, straight noodles. Tampopo makes its noodles in-house (you can see the machine used to form the long strands of dough in the front of the dining room) and serves a top-notch pork broth that's neither too oily or too fatty. Then again, if you're a fan of a more intensely flavored tonkotsu, just ask to "add rich soup," a $1 upgrade that's well worth the splurge. With thick slices of roasted pork, garlic oil, bean sprouts, and a soft boiled egg, this ramen delivers comfort in a bowl.

Lauren Saria

If you're still stuck in the mindset that vegetables are the foul-tasting greens of your youth, then you need to get yourself to The Larder + The Delta, chef Stephen Jones' Southern-inspired food stall at the DeSoto Central Market. At this matchbox-size eatery, Jones makes vegetables fun, transforming everything from peas to beets into flavorful creations with a Southern lean. First, order the cauliflower, which combines the mild, nutty vegetable with pickled celery, bleu cheese, and locally made Homeboy's Hot Sauce to make a pretty-much healthy take on the classic chicken wing. Jones and his team also dish up spring bean chow chow with corn, soybeans, and apple cider vinegar; an excellent heirloom tomato salad with peppered corn bread and cured strawberries; and wild green garlic and ramp "beignets" dressed in green goddess froth.

Jamie Peachey

Fresh Mint owner and head chef Mai Ly has a way with herbs. It only takes a sip or two of her spicy lemongrass soup to understand that vegetarian cooking can be as fragrant and lively as anything coming off a barbecue grill. Everything is made to order at Fresh Mint, but it's worth the wait for the restaurant's pan-Asian dishes, which are often brimming with the flavors of bright sesame ginger sauce and fragrant coconut curries. Fried rolls stuffed with taro root, shiitake mushrooms, tofu, and herbs are wonderful, and the veggie kabobs with nicely seasoned hunks of eggplant, tofu, peppers, and mushroom, served with peanut sauce, are a revelation. Even your most ardent carnivore companions will enjoy the Kung Pao chicken dish, which uses a soy meat replacement in place of chicken, and comes loaded with chopped veggies and herbs deliciously dressed in a garlic sauce. Desserts, which include a wonderfully dense carrot cake, are pretty great, too.

Meat lovers may scoff at vegan cooking, but that's only because they haven't eaten at Loving Hut. The restaurant offers a sprawling menu of freshly prepared yet highly craveable vegan eats, including delicious, shatteringly crispy spring rolls stuffed with potato, onion and minced veggies, served with hot mustard and sweet and sour sauce on the side. Burgers, featuring juicy garden patties, are as satisfying as anything you'll find sliding across a drive-thru window. But the real culinary magic is in the entrees menu, where Asian-inspired dishes shine. The Vietnamese-inspired barbecue noodle bowl is a small feast of rice noodles piled with finely shredded veggies, pickled daikon, heaps of fresh herbs, and crunchy slices of the crispy veggie rolls, the whole bowl sluiced with a lovely sweet and sour vinaigrette. The restaurant also offers an impressive menu of fresh fruit and herb drinks, which are reason enough to stop by the Loving Hut.

We know True Food Kitchen isn't a gluten-free restaurant exclusively. But it is a restaurant that's specifically designed to be accommodating to those with dietary restrictions, which, of course, includes our gluten-free friends. The menu at this trendy, health-focused eatery offers plenty of options for gluten-free meals, including an inside-out quinoa burger that's popular with some of pickiest diners we know and a spaghetti squash casserole that's so rich and creamy, you won't be missing anything on the flavor front.

Judy Nichols

For Jewel's Bakery owner Julie Moreno, going gluten-free isn't just a business, it's personal. Moreno first got into baking gluten-free treats when her young daughter developed an allergy to the protein, so you can bet her recipes have all been kid-tested and, yes, adult-approved. We love this cafe's moist peanut butter cookies and rich rocky road brownies, and we don't care whether they're gluten-free or gluten-full. All we know is they're delicious by any standard.

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