Best Authentic Arizona Restaurant 2017 | Kai | Food & Drink | Phoenix

Best Authentic Arizona Restaurant


Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Kai, the marquee restaurant at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass Resort, is one of the most highly decorated restaurants in Arizona. It's currently the only AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star restaurant in the state, accolades it's earned for consistently high levels of service. But what really makes Kai an Arizona original is its menu, which weaves elements of Pima and Maricopa culture and tradition into an uncommon offering of Native American-influenced fare. Heirloom Arizona ingredients, game, and vegetables, sourced locally from the Gila River Indian Community, frequently make an appearance on the plate. The best overview is achieved through one of the restaurant's tasting menus, which feature dishes like mesquite-charred hahl soup, served with buffalo brisket cooked for 32 hours, and then wrapped in the softly spicy richness of I'itoi onions.

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High-end resort cooking is not often as clever or locally inspired as Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen, the restaurant at the recently debuted Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa. Local flavors and ingredients accent many of the menu's fine dining staples, often to delightful effect. Simple but refined small-plate offerings include Arizona-grown Medjool dates, sliced and served with fresh cream and pistachio crumbles. Crow's Dairy goat cheese dumplings are rolled in dark onion ash and served on a rich, buttery tangle of spaghetti squash. And a Sonoran "risotto," made with local wheat berries, wild rice, and quinoa, is richly textured and surprisingly indulgent. Desserts take a local turn as well, including a dense chocolate mesquite tar, and a springy, moist olive oil cake featuring — what else? — locally sourced olive oil.

Jackie Mercandetti Photo

"Farm-to-table," like "organic" and "artisanal," is a food world buzz term that's been rendered almost meaningless by virtue of being overused. But farm-to-table is more than just a marketing cliché at Quiessence, the fine dining restaurant located at the end of a bucolic lane at The Farm at South Mountain in Phoenix. The menu incorporates ingredients plucked from around the neighborhood — it just so happens that the neighborhood in question encompasses a 10-acre working farm. The restaurant's tasting menu is the best way to sample what's in season at The Farm. Dishes feature cut herbs, edible flowers, and produce grown on-site or sourced from local purveyors. Arizona-raised beef frequently makes an appearance on the menu. If you take pleasure in local ingredients, especially those rooted in the earth mere hours before landing on your plate, Quiessence will provide.

We don't know if breakfast is actually the most important meal of the day, but if you eat it at Butterfield's it'll certainly be the most delicious. The longtime Scottsdale favorite is packed every Saturday and Sunday with hungry diners, so be prepared for a wait, but trust us, it's worth it. When you sit down, you'll get to choose from an extensive menu, including pancakes (try the Oreo Cookie S'mores Cake if you don't mind the sugar rush), scramblers (we like the Popeye Scramble, which comes loaded with bacon, onion, baby spinach, and jack cheese), omelets, French toast, skillets, and Benedicts. We also save room for the ultra-fresh-squeezed orange juice. There's lots to choose from on the lunch menu as well, but we tend to stick to the options on the a.m. side. It's the best reason we can think of to rise and shine.

Duza's Kitchen is the kind of quiet neighborhood cafe whose reputation is built mostly by word of mouth. Tucked into the historic Coronado neighborhood, the breakfast-and lunch-only restaurant offers a refined, globally inspired menu that seems to offer something for everyone. The brunch menu, designed by chef-owner Mensur Duzic, runs the gamut from apple-spiced hot cereal to French crepes to Mexican breakfast tortas. With a dining room replete with local art and tables dressed in fresh flowers, and a spacious outdoor patio with tables tucked into the shade of mature cottonwoods, the setting is ideal for a cozy weekend brunch.

Jackie Mercandetti

Phoenix Public Market Cafe has become an essential downtown lunch spot, and it's not hard to see why. The location, just outside the fray of the business district, where parking is plentiful, is ideal. The menu is diverse enough to accommodate everyone from your vegan roommate to your pork belly-loving co-workers. True, the dining room can get pretty loud at the height of the lunch rush, and there always seems to be at least one Macbook-wielding hipster taking up an entire table. But the counter-service setup is efficient, and the well-designed menu offers light offerings (salads and rice bowls) and heartier fare (sandwiches, burgers, and rotisserie chicken). Whether your downtown Phoenix lunch means a solo salad on the go, a business meeting over burgers, or a coffee and pastry date, Phoenix Public Market Cafe is the place.


Dear cocktail lovers: You've heard it before and you'll hear it again — Crudo, the modern Italian eatery in the heart of Arcadia, has one of the best happy hours around. A list of classics rings in 14 deep, from the Bee's Knees to the Negroni, the margarita to the Sazerac. You can even swing by with friends who prefer wine (nine options, from Loire Valley bubbly to Chilean syrah) or beer (a double barrel ale from Firestone Walker, in Paso Robles, for $3? Yeah, your friends are gonna dig this place). Introduce them to timeless bar snacks like the Fresno chile vinaigrette-drenched crispy pig ears, or the salty truffled bacon popcorn, which feeds the appetite and drives thirst. Believe us that damage can be done in two hours. And we always come back for more.

If you mashed up your favorite neighborhood bar with your favorite food truck, the results might look something like The Bar and Neatly's. The Bar is a laid-back neighborhood spot where Motown music plays on full blast, and a portrait of The Dude (that would be Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski from The Big Lebowski) hangs behind the bar. Neatly's, which is operated by the same folks behind The Stand in Arcadia, is tucked in the rear of the room, adjacent to the bar. The food stall's menu plays on the theme of an old-school laundromat; many of the menu items are "pressed" and "folded." Highlights include the Ironing Board Sliders, three excellent sliders served on buttery, crispy sourdough bread. Pressed sandwiches like the Italiano, served with an apricot mostarda on the side, are indulgent and well-executed. Best of all, the food is designed to be enjoyed from the comfort of your bar stool.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

Cibo has all the hallmarks of a romantic restaurant and then some. It's situated inside a historic downtown bungalow with a lovely outdoor patio, where shade trees and flowering plants set the scene for romance. The restaurant's menu is populated by delicious, shareable dishes, including antipasti and wood-fired pizza. The wine list is carefully curated to be deep but not overwhelming. Service is uniformly cheerful yet not too intrusive. If there is one word that summarizes the Cibo experience, though, it's "intimate." Whether you're seated indoors or on the shady patio (which is lit up by twinkly lights in the evening), the intimacy of the restaurant is conducive to every kind of romantic gesture, whether that means "accidentally" brushing up against your date's arm, or ordering a Nutella-stuffed crepe dessert that begs to be shared. It's not an accident that Cibo has been the site of more than one marriage proposal, and no doubt its romantic legacy will continue to build with time.

In a city where patio dining is as ubiquitous as desert sunshine, Ocotillo in central Phoenix manages to take the concept of eating and drinking in the great outdoors to an impressive new level. The restaurant and bar, situated on a sprawling compound, was clearly designed with outdoor dining in mind. The well-manicured courtyard is nicely landscaped with desert flora and seems to offer comfortable patio seating in every direction. The restaurant's main covered patio is equipped with its own standalone bar, resulting in a space that can easily turn into a cheery beer garden. There is also more intimate seating overlooking a fire pit, and a standalone coffee bar with bike parking. There is lots of room to drink, eat, and stretch out at Ocotillo, where the generous patio space is particularly kind to groups and bigger parties.

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