Persian restaurants usually tend to be over-the-top affairs featuring white linen tablecloths, baroque furniture, and dangling chandeliers — or else they're barebones kabob counters. Saffron JAK finally offers something in between the two — a casual spot for a sit-down lunch or reasonably priced dinner, featuring freshly baked sagnak flatbread. The menu includes lamb and chicken kebabs, of course, but also less-traditional fare such as sagnak pizzas topped with feta, and "Persian tacos" stuffed with grilled meat and basmati rice and topped with yogurt sauce. Whatever you order, make sure to grab a loaf of bread to take home. And if you can't make it to the brick-and-mortar location, follow @saffronjak on Instagram to keep tabs on the restaurant's food truck, which offers a limited menu at a number of places around town, or find its booth at Phoenix Public Market.

Goldman's Deli

Healthy eating is all the rage these days. But sometimes, we just want some blueberry blintzes. Or a big, carb-laden bagel piled high with cream cheese and lox. Goldman's Deli, a Chicago-style deli, specializes in classic Jewish fare like the aforementioned bagels, tall brisket sandwiches, warm bowls of matzo ball soup with chicken, noodles, and veggies; and potato latkes dotted with applesauce or sour cream. Everything is done just how we remember our bubbe making it, which is to say rich, delicious, and comforting. But if you want to nosh on something that's more New World than old country, Goldman's has lots of other choices, including breakfast fare like omelets, and lunch and dinner fare like barbecue chicken, and yes, even salads.

The Coronado
Jacob Tyler Dunn

These days, it's not unusual for restaurants to offer options for vegan diners. But many of them miss the mark, relying too heavily on artificial substitutes for meat and cheese, or only offering up bland vegetable platters. Most could stand to learn a few tricks from The Coronado, a vegan and vegetarian restaurant in the heart of central Phoenix that excels at creating plant-based comfort food. From deep-fried cauliflower tacos to tepary bean burgers to savory breakfast burritos, everything on the menu is made up of ingredients that you can recognize. Even more important, it tastes fantastic.

Pomegranate Cafe
Katie Johnson

"Eat your vegetables." We lost track of how many times we heard it growing up. Now, we're adults, and no one has to make us, because we actually love veggies, and Pomegranate Cafe in Ahwatukee is one of the best spots in town to healthfully indulge. Truth be told, Pomegranate is almost vegan; there are just a few dishes that aren't. But in any case, we love to take ourselves over to Pomegranate for meat-free options like the spaghetti squash with mushroom walnut "meatballs," the poblano wild mushroom street tacos, and the buffalo cauliflower. And if you're just looking for something light or sweet, the restaurant also produces a fantastic selection of baked goods, all of which are vegan, and some of which are gluten-free. The menu has helpful icons to identify gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and nut-free dishes, so diners with a variety of allergies can come to Pomegranate for a safe and delicious meal.

Jewel's Bakery & Cafe
Judy Nichols

Finding a place to eat with our gluten-averse friends used to be a challenge. We want a great meal, but we also want our friends to have just as many menu options as we do. Enter Jewel's Bakery & Cafe. The story goes that owner Julie Moreno began her foray into the world of GF cooking when her daughter was diagnosed with a gluten allergy. What resulted is a bright, cheerful cafe serving breakfast, lunch, and most importantly, no food containing gluten. And at Jewel's, we don't even miss it. Breakfast dishes like lemon raspberry pancakes and lunch options like a Nashville-style hot chicken sandwich are just a few of the reasons we come back to Jewel's again and again.

Old Town Farmers' Market

This Saturday farmers market — which bustles at Brown Avenue and First Street, walkable from the nearby brunch nexus — offers some of everything. In the tight arrangement of stands, you will find a slew of prepared-food vendors peddling food from salsa to barbecue brisket to Syrian desserts. The Valley's very best farms, like Blue Sky Organic Farms and McClendon Select, take up ample real estate here. More interesting still may be a few of the smaller stands, like Brother Nature Farms, where you can find rare heirloom tomatoes, wonky herbs, and specialty lettuces. And Chmachyakyakya, the stand of Mark Lewis, a man of mystery who makes tea from ocotillo flowers, and lunch from other foraged desert life.

Asiana Market
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

The newest location of this Korean supermarket is a foodie paradise. Located in the Dobson Plaza in Mesa, the newly expanded Asiana Market boasts an extensive selection of Korean prepared foods (including grab-and-go bulgogi lunch boxes, kimchi, and all manner of packaged banchan), a large seafood department, and a food court that's a worthy destination all on its own. The market is easy to navigate, thanks to wide, well-organized aisles stocked with specialty food items from across Asia. Come hungry: The food court is home to a location of Paik's Noodles, a popular Chinese-Korean chain noodle shop, along with metro Phoenix's first location of Tous Les Jours, a popular French-Asian bakery cafe chain.

Craving zolobia bamie, date-shaped fritters that collapse with a syrupy rush? How about rose water and saffron ice cream that will assail your brain with creamy refreshment and a world of floral flavors? Or maybe you're hankering for baba ghanoush tufted with yogurt and mint, or Bulgarian feta, or flatbread peeled out of a domed oven and into your bag, ready to be dipped into deeply creamy hummus? Caspian Food Market in north Scottsdale specializes in Persian food and generalizes in the foods of the Middle East and slightly beyond. Prepared foods here are great. So are groceries: Egyptian fava beans, Cypriot labneh, spices, teas, goat meat, yogurt soda ... we could go on and on.

There are a number of butcher shops in town that offer custom cuts from animals raised with care. At The Meat Market in Carefree, you can score rarities like lamb neck and oyster steak. The butchers at this 827-square-foot shop slice everything by hand. Though the whole-animal butchery and many cuts of meat impress, prepared foods are what give The Meat Market its edge. The Meat Market just released charcuterie, an ambitious program that includes hot Calabrese salami and guanciale (pork cheek). But nothing beats this rising spot's chicken liver mousse, powered with three kinds of booze and topped with liquid chicken fat, melting like ice cream, easily among the most decadent bites of food in town.

The fish case at Nelson's is one of the true marvels of the metro Phoenix food scene. Sometimes, the marine creatures inside are so rare and fresh they look lifted from science fiction. Big-lipped golden tilefish. Purple-veined Spanish mackerel roe. Chain-mailed sardines from Greece, dead eyes looking alive. Chris Nelson only flies in fish overnight. He has impeccable sources that hook him up with products that are mesmerizing. This is where to go when you want to cook seafood for someone you love, or to taste for yourself the glories of a scallop that was resting on a Massachusetts seabed yesterday.

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