Best Bakery 2017 | Ruze Cake House | Food & Drink | Phoenix

Everything about Ruze Cake House is beautiful: the decor, the baked goods, even the drinks are lovely and colorful and supremely Instagrammable. But the appeal of the Old Town Scottsdale bakery goes far beyond its aesthetics. The goods here are delicious and made with the utmost care; the selection is constantly changing but can include macarons, cookies, cupcakes, sweet and savory croissants, marshmallows, pies, sweet rolls, and more. We love the macarons for ourselves, and the Arizona- and cactus-shaped cookies that come in a variety of icing designs make excellent gifts. Also, Ruze still produces the elegant custom wedding cakes that gave the company their start. And these days, the beverage menu is developing its own dedicated fan base: The bakery sells Cartel coffee along with a number of signature beverages, including a hot-pink concoction called the Ruze, which is made from prickly-pear tea, prickly-pear syrup, milk, and tapioca pearls.

Housed in a small strip mall on North Scottsdale Road, this shop is easy to miss. Once inside, you'll find ramshackle shelves stuffed with Persian, Middle Eastern, and Indian ingredients, canned goods, dried beans, and sweets, in no discernable order. There's a small produce section and a dairy fridge filled with treats like Iranian clotted cream, feta cheeses, and doogh, a salty yogurt drink in both carbonated and flat versions. But the real reason to visit this shop is the stone-oven bakery tucked in the back, just behind the register. There, a team of bakers make thin, chewy, sesame-encrusted sangak bread; delicate rounds of lavash; and thick, pillowy ovals of barberi bread. Not all the breads are available every day, or even all day, but if you call ahead, you can walk out with a stack of flatbread still hot and steaming through its paper wrapping. It is the best Persian bread in the state, and maybe even the best flatbread, period. Pick it up along with a chunk of feta and some fresh herbs or clotted cream and honey.

Judy Nichols

Jewel's has long been a favorite for gluten-free fans in Phoenix, and they continue to be the best place around for fresh-baked loaves of flaxseed bread, burger buns, brownies, muffins, and all manner of typically "off-limits" carb-laden goodness. Even those who aren't gluten-free can appreciate the indulgent, super-moist salted-caramel brownies, cranberry scones, and chocolate-white chocolate chip cookies.

Here's what our vegan friends say about treats from Treehouse Bakery: "These are really good!" Here's what our non-vegan friends say about treats from Treehouse Bakery: "These are vegan? Wow, these are really good!" Any misconceptions you may be carrying about vegan desserts being less tasty than "regular" ones can now be left at the door. Step inside the cheerful pink-and-white storefront near Roosevelt Street and Grand Avenue, and you'll see a small but enticing selection of pastries, cookies, brownies, scones, and more. We love the light, moist lemon cupcakes, the rich brownies, and the flaky house-made toaster pastries. Treehouse also does birthday cakes, wedding cakes, and large orders of cupcakes in a variety of flavors, such as red velvet, apple pie, French toast, pistachio, and peanut butter. Some can even be made gluten-free. In short, Treehouse isn't just a great vegan bakery — it's a great bakery, full stop.

It's a good thing Sweeties wasn't around when we were kids, because this place would have blown our minds — not to mention our pocket money and our teeth. Think of a candy you love now, or loved in your youth. Go ahead. Now go to Sweeties and see if they carry it. They will. They totally will! They've got everything — this place is a superstore specializing only in candy. Every name brand (and some you didn't know existed), every variation of it (although we hope the strawberry nut-flavored M&Ms we saw recently were an aberration and not a real thing). Taffy in pretty much every imaginable flavor, color-coded candy. Candy shaped like rocks and LEGOs. You get the idea. What are you waiting for? Go load up a cart at Sweeties. Just don't forget to brush your teeth after your visit.

By now, you've either seen it in Valley restaurants or you're already a big fan of Homeboy's Hot Sauce. Jacob Cutino launched his local hot sauce line in spring 2015, and there are currently three flavors (not counting seasonal offerings). The first two sauces were the bright-red yet mild-in-flavor jalapeno, and the golden-yellow habanero. The new guy is the green-hued verde — an incognito way to crank up the heat on guacamole, or to dress a hot dog as a substitute relish. The sauces are gluten-free, vegan-friendly, and include no artificial preservatives. Find Homeboy's Hot Sauce at restaurants like Pig & Pickle, The Market by Jennifer's, and La Grande Orange, as well area markets like Uptown Farmers Market and Gilbert Farmers Market and on the YouTube sensation, Hot Ones.

Lauren Cusimano

We always had heard great things about SoSoBa from our neighbors to the north (that's Flagstaffians, not Canadians), so we were stoked when we found out we were getting our very own location of the self-described "unabashedly inauthentic" Asian food joint down on Roosevelt Row. As it turns out, SoSoBa may not be authentic, but it is delicious, and the dish we keep coming back for is the General Tso's Cauliflower, which features a large pile of the veggie flash-fried with General Tso sauce, fresh Thai chilies, peanuts, garlic chips, and scallions. The cauliflower is cooked to just the right consistency, and the tangy sweetness of the sauce is bold without being overpowering. The dish is located on the shared-plates section of the menu, but if you're anything like us, you'll want to get your own and scarf down the whole thing. And since SoSoBa is open until midnight Sunday through Wednesday and 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, almost any time is the right time to spend a while with the General.

Paleo, keto, Whole30 — there are a lot of diets out there these days that tell you not to eat bread. Well, you can pry our carbs from our cold, dead, gluten-loving hands. We love bread, and in metro Phoenix, we love it best from Jerusalem Bakery. Husband-and-wife team Lior and Lily Ben-Shushan never let us down when it comes to their rotating selection of bread creations, which includes several varieties of challah, sourdough rye, French toast cinnamon loaf, pita, and our personal favorite, a round Moroccan herb bread. The bakery's storefront has very limited hours, so if your mouth is watering just reading this, try to pick up a loaf (or two) at the weekly Phoenix Public Market.

A good bagel should be chewy but not squishy, dense enough to be substantial but not so firm that it's hard to eat. It's a fine line to walk, but the folks at The Nosh Café in Ahwatukee do the best job in town. The neighborhood joint switched over from bagels only to a full breakfast and lunch restaurant several years back, and we're very glad that the expanded menu hasn't diminished the quality of the bagels. There are more than a dozen varieties to choose from, including onion, garlic, salt, spinach Parmesan, cinnamon sugar, and our favorite, the "Works" (a.k.a. the everything bagel). A Works bagel with lox, cream cheese, tomato, red onion, and capers is about as perfect a breakfast as we can imagine, but there are plenty of other things to choose from on the menu, like breakfast burros, scrambles, and French toast. And for lunch, you've got your choice from a long list of salads and sandwiches. This place is very popular on weekends, so go early for the best bagel selection.

Let's be frank: You will probably want more than just one slice when you go to My Slice of the Pie Pizzeria, a quirky Arcadia pizza joint that marries New York pizza-making traditions with Southwest-inspired flavors. But if you're looking to whet your appetite with just a slice or two, the restaurant offers pizza by the slice daily. There are two very good options: a deliciously chewy, oversize New York-style slice, and a Southwestern slice featuring the restaurant's signature jalapeno-tomato cream. Both are excellent, and for a small upcharge, you can trick out your slice with extra toppings. While you're here, though, you may as well upgrade to a full pie — might we suggest the deliciously sweet-spicy Al Pastor pizza? Just when you thought pizza couldn't possibly get any better, My Slice of the Pie proves that the form still holds many possibilities.

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