Nandini Indian Cuisine
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Nandini is home to the same kind of Punjabi-inflected menu you'll find at most Indian restaurants around the Valley, where classics like tandoori chicken and chicken tikka are still the centerpiece of every menu. But at this Tempe outpost, the curries are thick and satisfying, the butter chicken melt-in-your-mouth, and the service friendly and fast. From street food appetizers called chaat to well-executed tandoori dishes and those wonderful curries, Nandini covers the basics — and even has an entire page of the menu devoted to different kids of naan bread. Come at lunch for an inexpensive buffet or relax over dinner. Don't skip the milky rice pudding for dessert.

The small Central America country of Belize has a culinary canon that reflects the influence of ancient, rustic Mayan foods, modern Mexican street fare, and trade-town-style Caribbean dishes tinged with Spanish and African touches. The staple dish of Belize, a hearty plate of coconut rice and beans served with a tangy, black pepper-heavy potato salad, fried sweet plantains, and rich, stewed chicken, is a good representation of the country's food culture. In Chandler, you can get your first taste of the real deal at Elvira's, which opened this year. Simple and homey, their star dish has nothing spicy or exotic about it. The rice and beans are topped with shredded coconut and laced with black pepper. The plantains prove to be a lovely, sweet counterpart to the subtle chicken, and the potato salad is perhaps the most flavorful element on the plate, with the potatoes and boiled egg dancing in a creamy, slightly sweet and tangy dressing along with chopped onions and small beans. Their stewed chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender, with a rich broth that begs to be poured over the rice along with a hearty dash of Marie Sharp's Habanero Pepper Sauce. On the weekends, the owners, Luis and Elvira, offer specials like Belize-style tamales and whole grilled fish, that are "pure Belizean." As the first restaurant of its kind in the Valley, it is a welcome addition.

There are an increasing number of gluten-free menus popping up at restaurants around town, but one of the only 100 percent gluten-free options in the Valley is Grabbagreen. Thankfully for GF diners, there are four branches across the city, and several more opening soon. The fast-casual shop doesn't bother subbing in gluten-free carbs; instead, they focus on offering clean, whole foods that are naturally gluten-free, with hearty grain bowls like the Patagonia, stuffed with black beans, cilantro, corn, quinoa, red onion, bell pepper, and steak, tossed in a garlicky chimichurri sauce. They also offer salads, soups, fresh juices, kale-leaf-wrapped breakfast burritos, and chia and coconut mango breakfast bowls. It's the kind of place where you can eat gluten-free without a second thought, special request, or apology, and that's pretty great.

Veggie Village
Veggie Village

Veggie Village is a pleasant north-central Phoenix restaurant that specializes in vegetarian cooking with a distinctly Chinese and southeast Asian bent. And it's uniformly wonderful. Appetizers like fried enoki mushrooms and vegetable-stuffed pot stickers are well-executed and flavorful, and there is a fine selection of hearty, beautifully seasoned soups. It's hard to miss the real stuff in faux meat-laden entrees like sweet and sour "chicken" and "mutton" curry. The dishes might not be made with real animal protein, but the use of vegetables and seasonings is so deft, you might not notice anything is missing.

Vegan House has been quietly feeding the downtown Phoenix crowd for about two years now. It took over a space on Adams Street notorious for turning over restaurants, but this unassuming vegan spot has defied the odds and become something of a mainstay. The secret to its success may very well be in its quirky and diverse menu. You'll find standard appetizers like lettuce wraps and fried tofu, but also unexpected highlights like a strong faux-seafood menu. Gems include the green curry seafood, featuring a delightfully silky curry studded with well-seasoned vegan "shrimp." Sandwiches, noodle bowls, and wraps round out the menu. The lunch menu, especially, offers both good flavors and great value, a virtuous combination that will hopefully keep Vegan House around for years to come.

Looking to take your grocery shopping to the next level? Look no further than the Uptown Farmers Market. Every week, more than 60 vendors set up shop in the North Phoenix Baptist Church parking lot selling everything from organic greens and grass-fed beef to artisan soaps and ceramics. The community pop-up also puts together live music, food trucks, and a fair amount of outdoor seating so stroller-pushing, dog-walking visitors can turn their shopping into an all-morning affair. The market is open year round on Saturday mornings and moves indoors during the summer months. It also holds morning hours on Wednesdays throughout the fall so reusable bag-toting shoppers can keep their fridges stocked throughout the week.

New Wave
Jacob Tyler Dunn

Country Velador (she's the pastry chef for Cowboy Ciao) and her super-sweet husband, Sergio, had already made a mark with Super Chunk, their adorable candy shop (featuring everything from meringues to caramels to caneles, all house-made) but now they've opened an adjacent market with house-made bagels and bread, sandwiches, salads, more baked goods, housewares, and party supplies. Pizza's coming soon. And so's a lot more. Stop by for a coffee drink and stay for any and all of the above. We can't wait to see what these two overachievers cook up next.

Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket

Upon approaching Lee Lee, you'd be forgiven the mistake of identifying it as a Chinese market. After all, they call themselves an "Oriental market," and just inside the door there is an entire section dedicated to Buddha statues and tables upon which to keep said statues. But a walk through the aisles reveals that it is so much more. Lee Lee circles the globe. There is an entire row dedicated to the shrimp pastes, lemon grasses, and pickled vegetables of Thailand. Middle Eastern ingredients strangely share an aisle with imports from the Netherlands; nevertheless, you'll find everything from zaatar to Persian sugar candy stuffed on the shelves. Walk down India's row and you'll taste the curry leaves and masala blends, whose fragrance cannot be contained by their flimsy plastic packaging. Continue to the back of the store to peruse a vast selection of Japanese beers and sake. And in the produce aisle, feast your eyes on Sri Lankan banana flowers, the infamous durian fruits, and Filipino plantains. This is an international market in the truest sense, with something for everyone.

Yasha From Russia

A visit to Yasha From Russia is an immersive experience, beginning with the oversize Russian nesting dolls that adorn the exterior of the building. Inside, there is a vast selection of Russian wines and beers, which are worth buying for the amazing bottles alone. There is a small section of picked, canned, jarred, and dry goods, a deli counter slinging the likes of head cheese, as well as prepared foods like a very decent borscht. They have a selection of caviar (of course), but the real highlight of the market might be the frozen section. Coolers throughout the shop hold bins and bins of homemade pelmeni dumplings stuffed with everything from mashed potatoes and onions to ground pork to sweet cheese. They are purchased by the pound and can be taken home and boiled. The staff will be happy to explain to you that when the dumpling floats, you still should leave it another few minutes in the boiling water before fishing them out and serving alongside sour cream. There is no place in Phoenix quite like this East European shop.

Asiana Market
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Asiana Market is in a class of its own. The sprawling grocery store is located in a Mesa strip mall, but once you pass through the doors, you will feel like you're in a supermarket in Seoul. From kalbi potato chips to fresh rice cakes for dubboki and specialty cuts of meat like cross-cut cow's foot, this market has every Korean staple imaginable. Shop for them to the sound of K-pop playing gently over the speakers. One of the best parts of the shop is the prepared-food counter. There, you can watch the army of Korean women frying, baking, and boiling dishes like glass noodles, mung bean pancakes, fish cakes, and Korean fried chicken. Their prepacked lunch boxes come stuffed with rice, meat, glass noodles, rice cakes, bibimbap, and a seaweed salad, and every takeaway order is given with a free bottle of water. There is nothing not to love.

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