Forno 301
Lauren Saria

Forno 301 is a destination for seriously great pizza. On most nights, you'll spot Italian-born pizzaiolo and owner Luca Gagliano working the wood-fired oven, where slabs of gorgeous dough swell over the crackling heat. There are about a dozen Neapolitan-style pizzas on the menu, including the brilliantly composed Testosterone, a "ballsy" pizza that features puddles of soft mozzarella, a lovely tomato sauce, prosciutto — and a couple of eggs. The best part is using your pizza crust to sop up the runny molten yolk that drips onto your pizza pan. If egg on your pizza sounds like too much, try the Forno rendition of the classic 4 Stagioni ("four seasons") pizza, which is one of the best in town.

Worth Takeaway
Jacob Tyler Dunn

If there's ever a sandwich you'll need to walk off, it's the generously proportioned Crispy Chicken at Worth Takeaway. The craft sandwich consists of crispy chicken breast that is only soft or soggy in the best way where the Sriracha-honey spread and mayonnaise has been slathered on thick. You'll also find Bibb lettuce and sweet and spicy pickles made in house between those slices of Proof ciabatta bread. If you're cutting carbs, the Crispy Chicken can be served without bread at all, or on a bed of Steadfast Farm greens. When dining in, you'll be surrounded by sleek, clean, modern desert decor, and will hear the slight hum of a fridge packed with cold 12-ounce sodas and a selection of Danzeisen Dairy milk flavors. But back to the sandwich, which comes wrapped and in halves, so you can easily bring the rest home with you. If you dare eat the whole thing, or pair it with some house-made sea salt potato chips, we suggest strolling through charming downtown Mesa instead of taking a much-needed nap.

Berdena's
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.

Aioli Gourmet Burgers
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

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.

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.

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