MacAlpine's Soda Fountain and Espresso Bar

MacAlpine's is an iconic spot on the boundary of downtown Phoenix that seems never to have aged in 60 years. There are red booths, jukeboxes, and an antique store (you can buy saddle shoes!) attached to the restaurant, along with endless syrup options and ice cream sodas available to order with fun names referencing pop culture. The staff wear those pink dresses you won't see anywhere else; essentially, this dessert haven is like living in the moment when Tobey Maguire arrives in Pleasantville, except it's not black-and-white — it's full color, but just as beautiful a thing. So pop a quarter in the jukebox, order soda and a pie, chat up the friendly staff, and forget what year it is. The '50s are just around the corner.

Cartwright's Modern Cuisine

Ever had an au jus made with preserved ocotillo flowers? How about White Sonora wheat pasta tossed in miso, made from Gambel oak acorns foraged from the forest near Payson? Scallops and fermented blueberry paste? No? How about pickled palo verde sprouts with a tang to sub for capers? When you order correctly at Cartwright's in Cave Creek (hint: tasting menu), you eat in a radical, galvanizing sphere apart from what we expect from our dining scene, but one vital to eating in our state in 2019. Whether it's ga'ivsa and Navajo steamed corn mingled under line-caught fish, or an artful composition squiggling through a smear of saguaro jam, Chef Brett Vibber's creations wheel you through the groves, washes, and pine forests far beyond town. He leads his kitchen crew out into the backcountry to forage for ingredients like sumac and wild grapes. Many are pickled, jammed, dried, or otherwise preserved for select use well beyond their seasons. In recent years, Vibber has grown and fine-tuned his foraging program, which is exciting for this pioneer of New Arizonan cuisine. Eating at Cartwright's is eating Arizona.

Chris Malloy

Is there anything better than knocking off work early to get cheap drinks and eats? (Answer: no.) Lovecraft in north central Phoenix is our favorite place to observe happy hour, which runs from 3 to 6 p.m. every day. The "ale house, bottle shop, and smoke kitchen" does a progressive happy hour; the closer to 3 you get there, the cheaper things are. We like the broken chip queso dip and the smoked jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped with bacon, and it's always fun to pick out a can of beer from the fridge (there's a great selection). Of course, we like to visit Lovecraft any time the doors are open for the green chile pork burrito, the beers on tap, the cool decor, and the friendly atmosphere.

Harlow's Cafe
Patricia Escarcega

Harlow's Café sates every morning mealtime craving imaginable: the early-bird cup of joe, the quick and healthy, the greasy and hearty — and the chorizo and eggs may be the best hangover cure in the state. Oh, and if a hair of the dog is your thing, find solace in the fact that Harlow's recently added booze to the menu. This experience is everything you could want from a classic local diner that has been open for business for over 40 years. Everything is made from the greasy pits of Arizona love, from the Pancho platter (pancakes, eggs, and bacon or sausage) to the Percy omelet (onion, garlic, bell pepper, tomato, sausage, and cheese).

The ride was supposed to be a preconditioning workout to get us primed for a planned 40-mile ride around South Mountain. We got an early start with our riding partner, who would lead the morning's trek. But after only about seven or eight miles of pedaling through local neighborhoods and canal paths on a perfect early-spring morning, we landed at O.H.S.O. for its "beer brunch." From there, any thought of improving our fitness level was pure fantasy. O.H.S.O., which has four Valley locations, touts its Arcadia pub as bike- and dog-friendly, with a patio facing the nearby well-used Arizona Canal trail that, at that point, is just north of Indian School Road. We ordered avocado toast, which with the beer was $13. The price was good enough to justify a second beer. Yes, the bike ride home seemed very long indeed. We've been back to O.H.S.O. on two wheels a couple of times since then, but planned it better — this is best done after, not during, the ride.


Bringing up the Phoenix neighborhood staple Windsor as a brunch option after a lengthy night fueled by laughs and libations is the most assured way to win the debate with your friends about where to nurse your party wounds and reminisce about the night before. Let's face it: Brunch is mainly about quelling the hangover that screams for your immediate attention from the howling, depths of your core. In such a frail condition, you want to know that you're going somewhere that is devoid of judgmental eyes and also unwavering when it comes to the quality of grub, booze, and atmosphere. We get it. Your demonic hangover demands a shady patio, a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar, endless coffee, biscuits and gravy, french fries, and — oh, dear God — a bacon cheeseburger? Okay, this might be more serious than we thought. Get to Windsor's brunch, stat.

Monroe's Hot Chicken
Chris Malloy

Pickles. Chicken. Heat. That's what's for lunch at Monroe's, founded by Larry White, the man behind Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles. Modeled after the Nashville-style hot chicken meals that have become a trend from coast to coast, this chicken packs the kind of intensity you want when skipping the bagged lunch al desko. Chicken gets a heavy breading. You could probably design maps of each piece's varied landscapes. All that furrowed, contorted, brown-fried casing doesn't have the shatter you would expect — but there, rising hard and fast, comes the heat. The secret is to dig in before the pepper sauce that makes the chicken molten sogs the exterior. Milkshakes frost over the heat some. If you get a chicken sandwich, the slaw will control the fire and lend a nice snap. However you do Monroe's, you're in for a downtown lunch with the personality to make your day better.

Diana Martinez

If you have never descended the dark stairwell into The Rokerij, the cellar bar at Richardson's, put this unique Phoenix experience at the top of your list. Sitting at "the wood" is serious business, and when you belly up to the bar in this beautiful underground restaurant, you immediately know that you're in for something special. In this intimate, cabin-like setting, the bar is the focal point, stretching magnificently through the middle of the place. The shelves on the back wall are filled with an impressive lineup of spirits, and the happy hour (not to mention reverse happy hour) doesn't skimp on the wine list. Experienced bartenders, dim lighting, classic rock coming through the speakers, and a beautiful copper bar top are all reasons to get to The Rokerij early, pull up a stool, and stay late.

Bao Chow
Patricia Escarcega

Bar food is easy to over-enjoy, because you're most likely drinking while you're enjoying it. But occasionally, bar food is a tier above some microwaved pizza and wings (not that those aren't good). Enter Bao Chow, specializing in handheld Taiwanese ... tacos, let's say. It's found in the Whiskey Lounge at the famous Yucca Tap Room music venue in Tempe. A pillowy, mildly sweet, steamed bun is wrapped around bulgogi, fried chicken, or tofu. The fried chicken is heaven-sent and deserves its own sentence, which is this one. Other Bao Chow menu items include tacos, build-your-own burgers, breakfast stuff, wings, and maybe the best basket of piping-hot tots you can imagine. Bao Chow is open to people of all ages daily until 7 p.m., and then you must be over 21 to be at the Yucca. The kitchen's open from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily.

Cafe Monarch
Cafe Monarch

Imagine not flying to France, but still dining European villa-style with a customized menu and privacy. There is a reason why Café Monarch was voted the second-most romantic restaurant in the country by TripAdvisor. Couples will receive special attention from the staff, and if it seems you're treated like family, it may be because the restaurant is family-owned and -operated. Gustavo Lewkowicz is the chef. His wife, Sofia, is in charge of the decor, and their sons Christian and Phillip run the place. The restaurant's farm-to-table ingredients ensure the highest quality in cuisine. In fact, the Traveler's Choice Awards named it the third-best restaurant in the United States for fine dining. Only two New York City restaurants finished higher. This true gem is a place to linger with your love and let the romance take center stage.

Best Of Phoenix®

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