Best Authentic Arizona Restaurant 2018 | Kai Restaurant | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

As a AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star restaurant, Kai at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass Resort is one of the most highly praised restaurants in Arizona. What really makes Kai uniquely Arizonan, though, is its singular menu of Native American-influenced fare. Chef de cuisine Ryan Swanson's menu weaves elements of Pima and Maricopa culture and tradition into an uncommon menu that you won't find anywhere else in the country. Many of the dishes feature heirloom Arizona ingredients, game, and vegetables that have been sourced locally from the Gila River Indian Community. The menu changes seasonally, but don't miss staples like the grilled tenderloin of buffalo, a gorgeously cooked, lean steak paired with a saguaro blossom syrup.

Debby Wolvos

If you get up early and hit a farmers market, you just might see Charleen Badman, chef at Old Town Scottsdale's FnB, eyeing Sphinx dates or Romanesco cauliflower and considering how she can elevate that night's dishes. Badman is uncannily attuned to what is happening on the Valley's farms, dairies, and ranches. She understands and harnesses the delicate spirit of each local ingredient she uses, plating dishes that exceed their parts and delight with rigorous composition, intellectual charm, and inspiring flavors. Cauliflower with labneh. Hen eggs and chanterelles. Smoked trout and melons. You never quite know what's going to be on FnB's menu, but you always know you'll never go wrong.

PNPK in north Scottsdale is a relative newcomer to the metro Phoenix food scene, but we're already taken with its happy hour for several reasons. First, the food: PNPK has a wide range of specials at fantastic prices; the bruschetta (we love the smoked salmon with goat cheese, red onion, and capers), deviled eggs, signature craft sliders (try the Crispy Hot Fried Chicken), and other shareables are discounted. Second, the drinks — think super-affordable wine, sparkling wine, and craft beer flights in addition to other specials. Third, PNPK's definition of "happy hour" starts when the place opens and runs until 6:30 p.m. every day, meaning that almost any time is a good time to head up there.

Constance Mariena

Don't be put off by the wait that you'll inevitably find at Butters Pancakes & Cafe on a weekend morning. Think of it as more time to study the comprehensive menu. You could go for the restaurant's namesake: soft, fluffy pancakes in that come in varieties like Wildberry Bliss, Oreo cookie s'mores, cinnamon roll, and banana cream. Or if you're feeling more savory than sweet, there are plenty of omelets and scramblers along with specialties like the Eggs Verde, which features two eggs on a corn tortilla with black beans, cheese, and green New Mexico chile sauce. Waffles, Benedicts, French toast — almost everything you can think of for breakfast is on the menu, and we haven't found a bad choice yet.

Jackie Mercandetti

Ah, brunch — the most important meal of the weekend. When we're in the mood for not-quite-breakfast, not-quite-lunch, we stop by Fàme Caffe in central Phoenix. It's usually busy, but the line to order moves quickly, so don't delay in choosing what to eat. We love the veggie scramble — eggs, goat cheese, mushrooms, cauliflower, and broccoli — with house potatoes, or if we're more in the mood for something sweet, the French toast crafted from sturdy country bread is also a wise choice. The lunch menu has plenty of delights as well, from the avocado grilled cheese to the garden kale salad. Also, Fàme has a standout selection of that most important brunch component: cocktails. There are plenty of a.m. favorites to choose from, including carajillos, greyhounds, palomas, and our favorite, the raspberry peach Bellini.

Lauren Cusimano

You won't find run-of-the-mill sandwiches or lackluster salads at this Roosevelt Row micro-restaurant, which specializes in playful, globally inspired street food with a gourmet twist. On the menu, you'll see everything from Korean-inspired yakitori, salads, burgers, and tacos. Skipped breakfast? Try the kitchen's All Day Burrito, which bulges with cheesy scrambled eggs, pico de gallo, bacon, hash browns, and avocado. Another highlight is the light and refreshing cold soba salad featuring glassy noodles buried under a colorful mosaic of dried seaweed and diced veggies. Service is quick and friendly, and there's a daily happy hour that runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. — the perfect excuse to indulge in a lunch hour cocktail.

Lauren Cusimano

Duck roasted high over a wood fire. Pickled cabbage flecked with chile. Pork ribs in black bean sauce. Pan-fried cheese. These are some of the small plates at Bri, the new Seventh Street restaurant captained by chef Vince Mellody (once an executive chef at Otro Café). At Bri, Mellody cooks whatever he wants, looping together flavors from Europe, Asia, and beyond. Duck legs are rich and mineral. An absolute stunner is the lychee "scallop." A pale coin of white-fleshed fruit rests on a cool, spicy carrot curry. The bite is unexpected and thrilling, turbocharged with clean flavors. At this spot, even the tiny radishes with house-made butter seem to have way more flavor than they should. 

Jacob Tyler Dunn

Chris Bianco's Italian-Arizonan trattoria evolves with the Sonoran micro-seasons. Roasted eggplant with olive oil might be in one day, out the next. How do you know what's best to order? You sit at the bar and catch the ear of Blaise Faber, one of the Valley's most congenial and skilled bartenders, as he froths egg whites and measures house-made apricot liqueur. The bar at Tratto is an escape. You feel almost like you're sitting in a formal restaurant in Florence. From your perch with primo bartender access, you can dissolve into the hum of the simple but stellar eatery, and watch the roasted chicken and Bluebeard durum tagliatelle go by.

Romantic meals have something in common with real estate: It's all about location, location, location. That's why we keep coming back to House of Tricks, which is situated in a 1920s cottage just off Mill Avenue. It's an oasis of charm and refinement amid the hustle and bustle of Arizona State University's Tempe campus, an intimate space whether you're nestled in the dining room or eating on the tree-canopied patio. And, oh yeah, the food is outstanding. The seasonal menus are filled with well-executed classics like a spiced duck breast with orange gastrique and crispy fingerling potatoes, and a beef tenderloin with roasted shallot-rosemary sauce and mashed potatoes. It's the perfect place to enjoy a good meal with your special someone.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

We love kids, but they're not always the easiest dining companions. When eating with little ones, the choice of restaurant is crucial, which is why we love Luci's. Part of the Orchard complex in north central Phoenix, Luci's has a simple but tasty kids' menu of perennial favorites — including chicken strips, a cheeseburger, Funky Monkey French toast, and a cheese crisp. There are plenty of good choices for the adults as well; breakfast is served all day, and options like a veggie-packed frittata or a sweet fig and tuna salad wrap are both healthy and delicious. But as good as the food is, it's what comes after that makes this the ideal spot for families. The Orchard is home to a splash pad and a shaded lawn surrounded by chairs, as well as Splurge Ice Cream & Candy Shop, a dessert spot that will delight kids of all ages. As you relax with a waffle cone and watch the kids play on the grass, you'll wonder why you don't take them out to eat more often.

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