Best Avocado Toast 2017 | Berdena's | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Lauren Cusimano

If you think avocado toast has jumped the shark, order one at Berdena's and get back to us. This tiny boutique coffee shop in Old Town Scottsdale is simple and sweet, with an itty-bitty menu and seriously good espresso. And with their avocado toast, they prove that the best dishes are often the most humble ... made with pretentious ingredients, of course. Fresh avocado is mashed onto a thick cut of artisanal, whole-grain bread. Streams of lemon juice flow through each fork imprint. The kicker is the combination of red pepper flakes and chunks of good sea salt sprinkled on top, resulting in a delicious, highly Instagrammable piece of toast. Economists like to say that avocado toast — a trending menu item that usually runs $10 and up — is a perfect example of why millenials can't buy homes. We say keep paying rent and head to Berdena's — might as well enjoy that avo-smash life, brah.

There is a certain purist attitude prevalent among some grilled cheese aficionados; namely, that anything besides bread, cheese, and butter is disrespectful to the spirit of the sandwich. We say that if you stick it in a grilled cheese sandwich and it tastes good, that's good enough for us. Local mobile eatery The Gorilla Cheese Truck appeals to fans on both sides of the issue. Our favorite selection from the truck is the Hawaii 5.0, a decadent creation that takes a traditional grilled cheese and stuffs it with smoked pork, green chiles, grilled pineapple, bacon, tomato, bacon jam, and Sriracha aioli for an unforgettable mix of spicy, sweet, and savory flavors. But we also enjoy the Caprese sandwich, which comes with mozzarella, tomato, basil, and bacon jam, and yes, even the O.G., a purist's dream that blends colby jack, Muenster, and havarti on sourdough. Basically, give us melted cheese on toasted bread and we're there for it.

Lauren Cusimano

Time was, you had to manage to catch the Aioli Burger food truck around town if you wanted one of their award-winning hamburgers. Then, at the end of 2016, the good people of Phoenix caught a break when a brick-and-mortar location opened in north central Phoenix. Now, we always know where to find specialties like the Italiano Burger with its mozzarella, balsamic reduction, and crispy pancetta, or the Black & Blue, which comes with blue cheese, bacon, and caramelized onions. And the burgers aren't the only thing we crave on the menu; the warm pretzel bites and burrata caprese salad are two starters we never say no to. There's something for everyone at Aioli, from a falafel burger for the herbivores and to-die-for shakes and floats to an appealing kids' menu and even a snack for four-legged patrons.

DK Dogs

DK Dogs in Phoenix specializes in Euro-style hot dogs, with distinctly Danish roots. If you have not experienced the pleasures of a Danish dog, prepare yourself for the house dog, which features an all-beef frank squeezed into a gently toasted, hollowed-out baguette, garnished with a mustard-like secret sauce. Along with classic Danish street dogs, DK Dogs offers specialty dogs like The Nordic, a well-balanced dog topped with havarti cheese, red pickled cabbage, and a sprinkling of fried onions. For formidable appetites, there's The Pastrami Dog, a hot dog buried under a small mound of chopped pastrami and sauerkraut, and sluiced with Thousand Island dressing. The sheer novelty of the menu is enough to merit a visit to DK Dogs. But it's the unabashedly flavorful quality of these fully loaded dogs that make DK Dogs a winner in our books.

AZ Fry Guy started its life as a food truck, but now this family-run restaurant is a thriving outpost of Southern cooking, tucked into a strip mall just a stone's throw away from Interstate 10 in Avondale. Although the menu is replete with all manner of deep-fried Southern eats (including delicious fried seafood), the thing to order at least once are the fried chicken strips, which are beautifully seasoned and very finely breaded. The chicken is shatteringly crisp on the outside, with the succulence of the meat deliciously preserved on the inside. Get it with a side of the extra-cheesy macaroni and cheese for one of the most satisfying meals on the west side or anywhere.

In the beginning, there were plain old french fries. Then came curly fries, waffle fries, shoestring fries, sweet potato fries, zucchini fries, carrot fries ... we could go on and on. But if you're craving a new variation on an old theme, we recommend parking yourself at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar in downtown Phoenix's CityScape complex. The hotel's Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails serves corn grit fries, thick, delicately crispy sticks worth swooning over. Break one open, and you'll find creamy grits flecked with cheese and bacon. They're served with a dish of pomodoro sauce, and we love them all on their own as a small plate or appetizer or alongside one of Blue Hound's excellent burgers or sandwiches.

The Mill Avenue stalwart that is the Rúla Búla Irish Pub — located in the historic Andre Building toward the north end of the strip — offers a pretty impressive menu of classic Irish dishes and pub fare. But we're not here for that. The Beginnings portion of the lunch and dinner menu offers three kinds of wings: Buffalo wings, Guinness barbecue wings, and the Rúla Búla House Wings — a combination of the first two. We recommend the third option. Though plates are portioned for two to share as an appetizer, this would make a filling meal for one. The wings are served on oval-shaped plates and adorned with minced parsley — they are sizable and meaty, and the goopy, sweet, and spicy house sauce seems to have been generously slathered on each drum and wing. An order of wings comes with ranch dressing, healthy little stalks of celery, and an uplifting atmosphere inside the pub or out on the twinkle-lighted patio.

Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Little Miss BBQ is notorious for attracting long lines, especially on weekend mornings. But local barbecue aficionados don't bother to complain about the lines, because it's always worth the wait for Little Miss Barbecue's central Texas-style barbecue. The menu is short enough to memorize, a collection of gorgeously smoked pork ribs, turkey, sausage, and of course, brisket. The highlight of any barbecue lover's week is getting to the counter and picking out your cut of brisket. If you're extra-lucky, perhaps your dish will come with a side of gorgeous burnt ends. This is traditional slow and low barbecue, perfumed with Arizona oak and pecan, and still the best in town.

Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Chula Seafood is an all-in-one source for high-quality and sustainably caught seafood in the desert. The family-owned and -operated shop specializes in fresh seafood caught off the Pacific Coast, which is delivered straight to this small, friendly fish market and restaurant in Scottsdale. The selection varies, but you can usually count on restaurant-grade yellowfin tuna and swordfish, along with a revolving menu of other freshly caught seafood. The restaurant side of Chula Seafood features a comfy and casual nautical-themed dining room. The menu is modest in size, but the quality of the fish more than makes up for the selection. Come for dishes like ultra-fresh Hawaiian-style poke bowls, a pretty wonderful tuna confit sandwich, and house-smoked salmon. If you can't make it to San Diego Bay yourself, a visit to Chula Seafood is the next best thing.

A sushi restaurant isn't where we were expecting to find a Parmesan cream scallop so good it elicits moans of pleasure, but hey, love works in mysterious ways. Yasu isn't one of the better-known sushi joints in town, but it should be. From the freshness of the ingredients to the dimly lit, intimate setting and the welcoming service (sit at the bar, and chef/owner Yasu Hashino will probably be there to give you a smile and offer to answer questions about the menu), Yasu provides a consistently satisfying dining experience. And while we've had plenty of great dishes there, the Parmesan cream scallop, a perfectly cooked one-bite wonder smothered in a rich, cheesy, lightly browned sauce, is the thing we order again and again, and remember fondly until the next time we can belly up to the sushi bar.

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