The Rose & Crown Pub

Back in jolly old England, it's not uncommon to find pubs that are hundreds of years old. We don't have that kind of architectural history here in Phoenix, but we do what we can. The Rose & Crown has only been around for about 10 years, but it resides in what qualifies in these parts as a very old building: the Silva House, built in 1900 and now one of the historic homes turned businesses in downtown's Heritage Square. The antique atmosphere gives The Rose & Crown an Old World vibe that we enjoy. What we also enjoy are the selection of more than 50 domestic and imported beers; a menu that includes standard American fare plus British classics like Scotch egg, fish and chips, and shepherd's pie; weekly events like trivia night; and the proximity to downtown Phoenix venues like Chase Field and Talking Stick Resort Arena, which makes Rose & Crown one of our favorite spots for a pint after a night out.

The Kettle Black Kitchen & Pub
Lily Altavena

If you're looking for leprechauns, you came to the wrong place: The Kettle Black is Irish without being in-your-face about it. After all, the most authentically Irish pub will always be the one with good music, good conversation, and a good pint (not necessarily in that order), not the one with the most shamrocks on the walls. And if you can add a good fish and chips or a bowl of steamed mussels to that list, well, more power to you. Owner Tom Montgomery knew that when he started the popular Tim Finnegan's out near Metrocenter years ago, and has elevated both the menu and the setting with the opening of Kettle Black early last year. Fact-checkers would do well to notice the Gaelic on the hallway chalkboard (though, pound to a penny, they won't be able to translate it), or the green, white, and gold that adorn Biggie's portrait in the dining room. Everyone else will probably just enjoy their pint (Guinness or otherwise) in the cheery atmosphere, pleasantly surprised to discover that this downtown Phoenix gem just so happens to be an emerald.

Zur Kate
Timur Guseynov

Zur Kate (it means "to the old smokehouse") is the kind of restaurant you don't see very often these days. The Bavarian-style decor (complete with antlers, hanging plants, and German-themed wall hangings) probably hasn't changed much since the restaurant opened in 1983, and we can't recall any other local restaurant that regularly hosts accordion players. But this all makes for the perfect backdrop to Zur Kate's comprehensive menu of authentic German fare. Meals start out with a basket of rye bread, then it's time to pick an entrée. We're partial to the jager schnitzel, a piece of breaded pork loin topped with a brown mushroom gravy with onions and spices. Another good choice is the very tender and tangy sauerbraten, a beef roast marinated in vinegar. The Hausmacher bratwurst, Zur Kate's boldly flavored signature sausage, can be ordered on its own as a meal or added to your entrée for a small extra cost. There are also plenty of German beers, wines, and liqueurs to choose from. If you go, however, note that Zur Kate gets very busy on the weekends, and reservations are not accepted.

Marcellino Ristorante
Molly Smith

When we want some of the best Italian food we've had this side of the pond, we make a visit to Marcellino Ristorante in Old Town Scottsdale. Ditto when we're looking for impeccable service, or an ideal spot for a romantic or celebratory atmosphere. Really, we'll find any excuse to eat there. Chef Marcellino Verzino never fails to us impress us with his food and his attention to his guests; we see him greeting diners nearly every time we visit. And we can't get enough of the food, whether it's an appetizer like the grilled jumbo shrimp on a feta cheese croquette; entrees such as gnocchi in a creamy gorgonzola sauce, chicken breast layered with prosciutto and fontina; or classic Italian desserts like panna cotta and tiramisu.

Niccoli's Italian Grocery-Deli

We look for three things in an Italian deli: a good selection of groceries, friendly service, and of course, delicious prepared food. Niccoli's has all three in a small strip-mall storefront in uptown Phoenix. The narrow aisles of the grocery section are packed with everything you need to play Marcella Hazan at home, including all shapes and sizes of dried pasta, canned tomatoes, olive oil, jars of giardiniera, and more, and the deli cases have plenty of meats and cheeses to choose from. Niccoli's serves Italian entrees, pizza, salads, and sandwiches in its small dining room, or you can order them to go. They also do catering, in case you need enough lasagna, chicken Parm, or cold cuts to feed a crowd. Our favorite menu item is the excellent Italian sub, a hearty sandwich that comes with Genoa salami, capicolla, mortadella, ham, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pepperoncini, and dressing on a fresh-baked roll.

Vincent on Camelback

Vincent on Camelback has been around long enough to qualify as a local institution (the restaurant recently celebrated its 30th anniversary), but its light-handed fusion of French culinary tradition and Southwestern flavors often still feels revelatory. Wild boar loin, intensified with habanero sauce, is both intriguing and delicious. A roasted rack of lamb, jazzed up with a spicy pepper jelly, is almost ludicrously rich in flavor. Duck confit, an old standard that's buoyed with citrus sauce, is terrific. Plus, Vincent delivers all the virtues that you want from a classic French bistro: white tablecloth ambiance, attentive service, a bread basket filled with homemade mini croissants, and a winning wine list that goes on for days.

Metro Phoenix doesn't suffer from a lack of great Vietnamese restaurants, but Song Lynn stands out as an exceptional destination for Vietnamese cooking. The menu is extensive, offering staples like gorgeously fresh spring rolls (Song Lynn offers three versions), pork-laden banh mi sandwiches, and a terrific house pho special that involves slivers of flank steak, meatballs, and brisket. There is also a full vegetarian menu, and the photo-rich menu, fully annotated and labeled, makes this is a great spot for those new to Vietnamese cooking. Service is very friendly, and the comfortable, modern dining room only adds to the pleasure of eating at this west-side gem.

Smile Lao Thai
Jacob Tyler Dunn

Smile Lao Thai, located in a Tempe strip mall, delivers a varied and delightful menu of Thai and Lao specialties. Come here for the deftly made curries, including a wonderfully creamy and mint-colored avocado curry, and a very fragrant pumpkin curry infused with sweet basil. You'll also find excellent renditions of mainstream Thai staples like pad si ew, Thai fried rice, and tom yum soup, plus harder-to-find dishes like larb, a minced chicken salad perfumed effusively with mint and lemongrass. The casual yet refined ambiance at Smile Lao Thai makes it suitable for a quick lunch, but also smart enough for a nice dinner.

Sizzle Korean BBQ
Tim Chow

Far north Phoenix's swanky outdoor mall, Desert Ridge, seems like an unlikely setting for a high-end Korean barbecue restaurant. It takes guts to pull off that kind of endeavor, but chef Hyunwoo Lee proves he's up to the challenge with Sizzle, a slick restaurant with a menu designed to appeal to both newbies and longtime Korean barbecue aficionados. Unlike traditional Korean barbecue joints, the restaurant has dedicated chefs to man the tableside grills. No matter who's cooking, though, the results are generally delightful. A big part of Sizzle's success rests on use of high-quality ingredients, which include prime beef and heritage pork, coupled with skillful execution. The results are beautifully seared cuts of rib eye, skirt steak, tongue, and brisket, tender and awash in flavor. Just try to resist the house bulgogi, infused with a garlicky marinade and then beautifully charred over the fire before your eyes.

Nobuo at Teeter House
Jacob Tyler Dunn

Unfortunately, it's easy enough to let Nobuo at Teeter House slip off your culinary radar. The restaurant has been quietly operating out of a historic bungalow in Heritage Square for almost a decade. It's become such a fixture of downtown dining that it's relatively easy to take for granted what it meant for downtown Phoenix to finally land its very own highly refined yet unassuming izakaya. Rather than let that happen, though, it's worth shelling out some bucks for a delicious refresher on the virtues of Nobuo. Chef Fukuda's tasting menu is always a treat; it has been known to include highlights like Miyazaki wagyu beef, exquisitely braised to reveal every layer of flavor. Another major highlight of dining at Nobuo is the chef's famous sashimi spoons, bite-sized servings of raw fish artfully arranged on white ceramic spoons, which often feature unconventional ingredients like nuts, olive oil, and even cheese. Regardless of what's on the menu during your visit, it will very likely taste divine.

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