Best Rising-Star Pizza-Maker 2018 | Myke Olsen | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Not long ago, Myke Olsen worked as an accountant. Today, he bakes pizza on the sidewalk of Main Street in Mesa three nights a week, somehow managing to keep his long-fermented dough at the right temperature even in the arid heat. Olsen uses a pair of portable gas-fired grills that range from 700 to 800 degrees. His Thursday, Friday, and Saturday pop-ups sell a mere 20 to 60 pizzas a night. Crust puffs to airy edges on the rim, brown, black, and cratered. His crust has nuance and swagger, the complexity of great bread. Don't miss Olsen's marinara pie, or his potato pie with bacon and garlic cream.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

Sandwiches seem like a simple food: bread and fillings, right? But sandwiches are layered, intricately structured pieces of edible architecture, and one wrong part can sink the whole show. Worth gets as close as anyone to perfecting the sandwich. Ingredients come from local farms and hit a blazing fast gear: Steadfast Farm greens, local heirloom cauliflower in giardiniera. Staples, like an otherworldly crispy chicken and a roast beef that will make you reconsider what a roast beef sandwich is, are reliably ethereal. But keep an eye on the rotating specials, where, with creations like chile tuna melts and Little Miss BBQ brisket with habanero-peach marmalade on a potato bun, the evolving talents of this shop are on full display.

Lauren Saria

A while back, an Australian millionaire famously declared that if millennials don't stop spending so much money on avocado toast, they'll never be able to afford to buy houses. To which we say: We think the enormous student loan crisis is probably a bigger stumbling block to home ownership, and more important, avocado toast is delicious and we're never giving it up, down payment be damned. Noble Eatery, a casual lunchtime spot in midtown Phoenix, is where we like to go to fritter away our financial futures.There are no bells and whistles on the avocado toast here, just rich, chunky avocado with tomatoes and chimayo chile powder piled high on thick slabs of hearty, chewy Noble Bread. It's filling without being heavy, which is also how you can describe the rest of the menu; it includes salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and other things on toast, all of it utterly satisfying. Who needs home equity, anyway?

Lauren Cusimano

A burger is an easy thing to find in metro Phoenix, but a great burger? That's a little harder. Aioli Gourmet Burgers, which has both a food truck and a brick-and-mortar location in north Phoenix, is our pick when we've got a burger craving. Aioli's offerings start with a Kobe beef patty, and it just gets better from there. Our favorite is the California burger, which tops the meat with avocado, pickled red onions, pepper jack cheese, an over-medium egg, and chipotle aioli. But we've also had great luck ordering the special burgers that are only available for a limited time; past creations include a French onion burger with caramelized onions and Swiss cheese, and a Dad Burger with Sriracha honey peanut butter and apricot preserves. If, for some crazy reason, beef isn't your thing, fear not: You can sub in a chicken breast or a vegan patty. Fresh salads, crave-worthy sides, and a selection of malts and shakes round out a menu that has something for everyone.

Jackie Mercandetti

In the beginning, the best grilled cheese sandwich in town was an off-menu item at tiny neighborhood eatery Ingo's Tasty Food, available only to in-the-know regulars who were clued in to ask for it. Then, for a while, this sister restaurant of La Grande Orange made the sandwich a permanent part of the menu. Now, it's back to being a secret, but it's definitely worth asking for. Why should you get a Grown-Up's Secret Grilled Cheese instead of one of Ingo's award-winning burgers? Between two toasted slices of Noble bread are melted cheddar, gourmet For Epi cheese, and sweet Mad River Farm jam. It's a unique combination that will make your next trek to this Arcadia restaurant sweet and savory.

Located just steps away from the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, Simon's is the rare hot-dog shop that manages to please everyone — herbivores included. Everything on the menu can be made vegetarian or vegan, from the classic Sonoran Dog to the seaweed-topped Tokyo Dog. The restaurant's owners hail from Colombia, and the true standout on the menu is the salty-sweet Colombian Dog, featuring mozzarella cheese, crushed potato chips, and diced pineapple. Not a fan of hot dogs? Try the fried plantains or the salcipapas, french fries topped with sliced sausage and Simon's special sauce.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

A lot of promising soul-food restaurants have opened in recent memory. A lot of Southern-style chefs are sizzling impressive takes on everybody's favorite battered bird to come out of Dixie. A lot of professional cooks are gussying up the tried-and-true basics of fried chicken: frying only strips of dark meat, serving chicken drowned in honey. A lot of chefs who channel the magic of poultry, buttermilk, and spitting oil are making fried chicken's trendy cousin out of Nashville: hot chicken. And none are as good as Mrs. White's shatter-jacketed, juicy classic, the best fried chicken in town.

Evie Carpenter

What's so special about the french fries at The Stand? They're hand-cut, for one, which means they taste like honest-to-goodness potatoes. Then there's the matter of their texture and seasoning: The fries are sliced into thin, skinny strips that are fried to a light golden crisp, and zapped with a delightfully salty and pungent spice blend. They're served with the restaurant's signature Stand sauce, which gives them just the right spicy kick. Wash it all down with one of The Stand's banana shakes for a quintessentially Phoenix fast-food meal that's worth every single calorie.

Via: ATL Wings

One of the most frustrating things in the entire world is getting a bad order of traditional, or bone-in, wings. Sometimes they're too small, leaving you feeling hungry and ripped off. Sometimes they're too large and fleshy, making you feel like salmonella poisoning is inevitable. However, if you find a place that consistently produces order after solid order, that's when you generate a category of your budget called simply "wings." Such a place is ATL Wings. Each piece, drum or wing, is hefty and evenly coated. You hardly get the gross runt wings, or the dry pieces that the sauce somehow missed. And the flavor options are plentiful, categorized by dry rub, barbecue, and red hot. The recommended dry rub is ATL Style — a heavy and oily blend of herbs and spices that is just this side of addictive. Other unique flavors include the Extreme Honey Habanero, Lucky's Sweet Red, and Chef's Special. The best part is that the barbecue and red hot sauces may be taken to go.

Jackie Mercandetti

The restaurant that launched 1,000 effusive Yelp reviews, the jalapeño grits that turn seasoned diners into smiling kids, and the brisket that cradles your soul and makes everything right in our broken universe can all be found at Phoenix's holiest barbecue restaurant. Little Miss may be opening a second location, and who knows what will happen from there. But we'll always have the first location's rich burnt ends that melt in your mouth like orange sherbet. We'll always have that chewy, sticky, faintly smoky pecan pie. And hell yes, we'll always have mammoth beef short ribs on Fridays and Saturdays: the best bite of 'cue in town.

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