The Maine Lobster Lady
Melissa Fossum

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Well, we're very fond of The Maine Lobster Lady, a seasonal food truck that graces the Valley with its presence November through May. In those other months, when proprietor Diana Santospago is at her home in, well, Maine, all we can do is remember fondly the times when we've been greeted warmly at the cheerful blue truck and think about all the dishes we can't wait to revisit upon her return — the fat lobster rolls (served chilled with lemon mayo or warm with drizzled butter), the rich lobster bisque, the juicy fried seafood rolls (your choice of scallops or whole belly clam), the Maine whoopie pies, and much more. Is it November yet?

With Devour's move to the 140 acres of Phoenix's Desert Botanical Garden, the best food festival in the Valley has gotten even better. To whirl through Devour (if you're lucky enough to get tickets) is to experience Arizona's food scene in ideal miniature, in a blur of local wines, fancy tacos, and deer sausages cooked on Santa Maria-style grills. The crowds descend. You have to get in early. And if you can circumvent or tolerate the hordes, you will be in for a day of eating like no other: cinnamon and strawberry horchata, chile colorado, porous Ethiopian injera and berbere-powered stew, ixguá corn cakes, and rivers of the best Arizona wine and beer.

Welcome Diner
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Welcome Diner is dead; long live Welcome Diner. In May, after more than a decade at 10th and Roosevelt streets, the original location of Welcome Diner closed and a brand-spanking-new location opened just a few blocks south. We're not gonna lie: We will miss the cozy, lo-fi, backyard aesthetic exemplified by the tiny midcentury diner and its outdoor area populated with string lights, wooden tables, and lawn chairs. But we love the slick retro vibe of the new Welcome Diner, and we're psyched that it's now open every day of the week (and until 2 a.m., no less) for riffs on Southern classics like pulled pork and grits, cornbread panzanella, and the famous Big Jim fried chicken biscuit sandwich.

Super Chunk Sweets and Treats
Natalie Miranda

Super Chunk in Old Town Scottsdale was always a place we loved to stop at for goodies and gifts of various types. Then, last year, owners Sergio and Country Velador expanded into the space next door to create New Wave Market. Now, the combined concepts are a place we're content to linger. As we wait for our breakfast (maybe a ghee-fried egg on a house-made sea-salt bagel) or lunch (the schmaltz chicken salad sandwich is a standout), we take a look around at the items available for purchase, from local foodstuffs like Cutino hot sauce and Zak's Chocolate to home goods like mugs and cactus-print pillows. There's no need to rush through your meal at New Wave; the vibe is relaxed and cheerful, the perfect place to stay awhile with a book or a friend, and if you delay your departure long enough, you may find you have room for something from the Super Chunk side: a rich canele, perhaps, or one of the famous mesquite chocolate chip cookies.

The vastness of metro Phoenix means that there are restaurant gems to be discovered all over the Valley. But you can save yourself some gas and hit up three hot new eateries with one stop to the northeast corner of Rural and Warner roads in Tempe. Aaron Chamberlin's Tempe Public Market Café, a casual all-day spot, was the first to open, in January. July brought us Cotton & Copper, an Arizona-centric eatery created by Sean Traynor and helmed by chef Tamara Stanger. Finally, Ghost Ranch, another Chamberlin eatery (this one serving "modern Southwestern" fare), debuted in August. All of a sudden, one unassuming corner is a must-visit dining destination, and we're glad to see the denizens of south Tempe get some high-profile restaurant choices.

Best News We've Heard All Year

It was a quiet Monday morning, right up until the news that broke the internet: White Castle is coming to Scottsdale. The venerable slider joint announced on August 24 that the first Arizona location, and only the third west of the Rockies, would go in at Via de Ventura and the 101 Pima Freeway in late 2019. It seemed like everyone had an opinion, and reactions seemed to be split into three camps: unbridled joy bordering on hysteria, personal anecdotes about that one time someone got a stomachache from eating there, and "In-N-Out is better." But despite the naysayers, we're psyched that we no longer have to go to Las Vegas (or God forbid, New Jersey) to experience those perfectly square burgers with the tiny grilled onions.


Best Restroom

With its old-fashioned pay phone, rose-covered wallpaper, and basket full of peppermints, the women's restroom at Durant's is a hyper-feminine antidote to the rest of the steakhouse's 1950s mob-boss vibe. But the best part of the restroom, besides its vintage charm, is the millennial-pink vinyl couch. When you've had enough of men for the night, or you just want to gossip in private, grab your martini and settle in. The only downside? Durant's predates the age of catering to digital influencers, and the restroom's tight corners and strange lighting mean that we've never been able to get the perfect Instagram.

The Breadfruit

Come for the Jamaican fare and the enormous menu of creative rum drinks; stay for the cozy enclosed outdoor lounge where you can eavesdrop on the cigar-smoking crowd. At this downtown restaurant, you can leave responsibilities behind and pretend you're on a tropical island vacation. As the name suggests, The Breadfruit & Rum Bar has a huge number of rums on offer. The kitchen also serves up sustainably sourced seafood, earning the restaurant a Smart Catch label from the James Beard Foundation. Drinking your way through the dozens of rums, cocktails, and flights on the menu could take a year, so let the staff recommend a drink and a cigar to pair with it. Or just pick a random rum beverage that looks appealing, let the worries of the day fade away, and imagine you're somewhere far from a landlocked desert state.

Best Western Dining Inside the City Limits

T-Bone Steak House

T-Bone Steak House
Timur Guseynov

Ever get a hankerin' to saddle up and ride off into the sunset to hunt for a hunk of red meat? You still can — and you don't have to leave the Phoenix city limits. The T-Bone Steak House has been serving Western grub and spectacular views of the sunset for more than 40 years. And it's only about seven miles from downtown, located among the saguaro cactuses in the foothills of South Mountain, a mile and a half south of Baseline Road. The rustic restaurant, built with adobe and river rock, was once a private residence. It was turned into a restaurant for ranchers and cowhands in the 1940s, then became the T-Bone in 1973. Locals still tie up their horses on a hitching post out back, but if you're a tinhorn, you can sign up for an evening trail ride. Huge mesquite-grilled steaks with a side of cowboy beans are the main feature, of course, at the T-Bone. When we ordered a porterhouse during a recent visit, the waitress asked, "Do you want the small one or the big one, honey?" We went small, a mere 24 ounces. The big one is 40. We will warn you, though, that the accompanying salad bar is a mite skimpy. Then again, after you've chowed down on a couple of pounds of beef and a bowl of baked beans, who has room for salad? Maybe it's for the horses.

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.

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