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.

Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails

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.

Rula Bula

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.

Little Miss BBQ
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.

Chula Seafood
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.

Yasu Sushi Bistro

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.

Pokitrition
Jacob Tyler Dunn

In the not-too-distant past, there were no poke restaurants in metro Phoenix. Now, they're everywhere. And out of all the options, we prefer the minimalist interior, laid-back vibe, and local pedigree of Pokitrition in Chandler. Founded by ASU grads, Pokitrition offers the tradition poke options of rice or salad with seafood options like raw tuna, raw salmon, or cooked shrimp, dressed in a savory sauce and topped with items like cucumber, edamame, red cabbage, cilantro, masago, seaweed salad, crab salad and more. We like the freshness of the fish and the fact that most of the topping options are available with no upcharge. But Pokitrition really stands out for its Poke Wrap, also known as the Sushi Burrito. It's basically your standard poke rice bowl rolled up in wrap form, and it is the stuff that Instagram posts are made of.

Hiro Sushi
Jamie Peachey

Before sushi became something that you could pick up at your local Walmart, it was more often than not the special province of restaurants like Hiro Sushi in Scottsdale. This perennially popular mom-and-pop restaurant is lively and friendly, offering a first-rate sushi and sake bar with an expansive selection of fish and rolls. Thanks to the classic long-bar setup, you never have to feel awkward dining alone. Simply belly up to the bar and watch the chefs assemble all manner of nigiri, sashimi, and sushi rolls. It's more entertaining than bad karaoke. The sashimi dinner, featuring an array of sliced tuna and salmon, is a wonderful introduction to the pleasures of Hiro Sushi.

Tampopo Ramen

Whether you're a longtime ramen connoisseur or you were weaned on the cheap Styrofoam cup stuff, odds are good that you will find something to love about Tampopo Ramen. The strip mall restaurant in Tempe specializes in hakata-style ramen and tonkotsu — thin, straight noodles paired with an intensely flavored pork broth. The noodles are made fresh in-house, and the porky broth is deliciously apportioned with slices of pork and scallions, deepened with wood ear mushrooms, and bolstered with the requisite soft-boiled egg. It's a wonderful ramen bowl, and although it's the main reason to visit Tampopo, it's not the only reason: The restaurant also serves a great assortment of Japanese bar snacks.

Great Wall Cuisine

Great Wall Cuisine is located in an older, west-side strip mall, but don't let that keep you from stopping in for a pot of tea and dim sum. Inside the cavernous dining room, this classic restaurant welcomes large parties with tables equipped with lazy Susans, while scruffy booths accommodate smaller parties. Highlights include classics like siu mai, steamed pork and shrimp dumplings; braised chicken feet; and hard-to-find specialties like duck tongue, a texture-rich treat that is slightly chewy and fatty. Arrive early (around 10 a.m.) on the weekend if you want to avoid waiting for a table. As always, it pays to come with a bigger group, as you'll get to sample more dishes.

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