When H Mart, the popular Korean supermarket chain, opened its first Arizona location in Mesa this summer, we waited outside, in the sun, in a face mask, to get in. And it was worth it. H Mart blends contemporary grocery store aesthetics like dark wood and clever graphic signage with a dizzying array of Asian food products. However deeply you want to dive into Korean cuisine, you can do it at H Mart, whether with marinated galbi ready to cook up (delicious) or frozen durian (hard pass). The fish department is huge and packed with seafood both familiar and not-so-familiar, and there's a whole side of one aisle devoted to ramen. The store also carries a pretty decent selection of Western food items you'd find in any regular supermarket, so you can get your gojuchang and fresh udon noodles along with your Pop-Tarts and orange juice. The adjoining food hall boasts even more culinary delights to explore. It would take a very long time for anyone to discover everything H Mart has to offer, which is why we keep returning, again and again.

Cattle, one of Arizona's 5 Cs, is the star of this polished neighborhood meat shop — and not just because its grass-fed beef comes from some of our finest ranches. The array of cuts at Arcadia Meat Market is majestic: tomahawk ribeye, bavette, short ribs, tri-tip, tongue, heart, brisket, and so on. Nick Addante, owner and shop fixture, also sources Arizona chicken, regional pork, and grass-fed lamb. You can watch animals being broken down in the back room, where dry-aging cuts hang, building flavor almost like fine wine (but in far funkier directions). As a bonus, AMM stocks products by a slew of local food and beverage artisans. And they shuffled supplies in the early days of the pandemic to accommodate not only these producers, but customers struggling with grocery store shortages. Like any truly great butcher, this shop has proven to be a neighborhood cornerstone.

Zinburger

The ubiquitous hamburger can be found on menus all around the Valley, and at nearly every price point. Out of all these options, Zinburger is our first choice. We usually go with the titular burger: The Zinburger, a thick, juicy, perfectly cooked Angus beef patty topped with Manchego cheese, zinfandel-braised onions, lettuce, and mayo. But you can't go wrong with the El Diablo burger with jalapenos and pepper jack cheese, and if you want to get fancy, there's always the wagyu burger with cheese, mushrooms, and onions. Sides come a la carte, and you definitely should order the zucchini fries to accompany your entree (ask your server for a side of the truffle aioli to go with them). Still have room? Split the cookies and cream milkshake with your companion, capping off a truly excellent Phoenix dining experience.

Worth Takeaway
Jacob Tyler Dunn

In an increasingly buzzing downtown Mesa, new classic Worth Takeaway continues to bun sandwiches on a whole other level. The old favorites still impress, from a roast beef on focaccia to a shattering, crisp-yet-juicy chicken embellished with honey-sweet Sriracha. All touches are well considered. None feel needless. And the reason they click so well, other than putting sandwich ratios into perfect alignment, is that the produce comes from top local sources like Steadfast Farms and is treated with exceptional care. Weekly specials cover ample turf: a chicken cordon bleu sammy, a caprese with heirloom tomatoes and burrata, and even a Philly cheesesteak with house-made wiz.

Monroe's Hot Chicken
Chris Malloy

What would the fried chicken situation in Phoenix be without the White family? Matriarch Elizabeth White opened Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe back in 1964. Her grandson, Larry White, gave us the popular chain LoLo's Chicken and Waffles years ago, and just last year, he opened Phoenix's first hot chicken restaurant, Monroe's Hot Chicken downtown. (And if you don't feel like navigating the one-way streets of downtown Phoenix, hold tight: A Tempe location is scheduled to open in October. ) At Monroe's, juicy, succulent meat comes wrapped in a crispy breading, spiced to your liking. You choose the level of heat from none (Southern) to "call the fire department" (What the Cluck). Get it in a bucket with fries and pickles; in a triple-decker Belgian waffle sandwich with butter and syrup; or on a bed of greens so you can pretend you're eating healthy. We love Monroe's chicken best in a sandwich — served inside a pillowy brioche bun, every bite is a balance of texture and flavors. The crunch of the chicken plays off the softness of the brioche. The slaw and pickles add acidity, while the sauce and bread give a hint of sweet against the spice of the chicken. It's finger-lickin' good, but don't lick your fingers. It's not polite.

ATL Wings
Via: ATL Wings

Free idea: ATL Wings should offer a sampler platter so we don't have to pick which variety to order. It's too hard to choose every time we visit one of the Arizona chain's locations. Do we opt for a dry rub, like the rich garlic Parmesan? Or do we keep it saucy with the sweet heat of the honey habanero or the classic burn of the hot wings? (We stay away from the ultra-spicy Toxic wings, but maybe you're braver than we are.) Whichever flavor we're in the mood for, we know the wings will always be served fresh and crispy by the helpful staff. We particularly enjoy hitting up an ATL location on Tuesday or Wednesday, when wings are less than a buck each, allowing us to experience all the flavors we crave on the cheap.

Little Miss BBQ
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

We've argued for years that Phoenix is a first-rate barbecue town, and our conviction comes from solid spots like JL Smokehouse, newcomers like Eric's Family Barbecue, and especially the Arizona-famous Little Miss BBQ. Even "soul food scholar" Adrian Miller — a former lawyer and special assistant to President Clinton, a food historian, and a certified barbecue judge — has heard of Little Miss BBQ. So has everyone else in town. Little Miss is the kind of barbecue joint where you fold waiting in line into the allotted time and experience. (And while you wait, a piece of tape may get slapped over the very item you planned to order on the large, displayed menu; like we said, the place is popular.) The double location barbecue restaurant was started by a competitive barbecue team inspired by the meat joints of Texas Hill Country, all to the benefit of hungry Phoenicians. This fanaticism is mostly because of the fatty brisket, pulled pork, and like-butter beef ribs weekend specials. But sides hold their own here, too. In fact, any bite of the smoked turkey or housemade sausage should be followed with swallows of the jalapeno grits and creamy mac and cheese. And don't even get us started on the barbecue sauce. We're glad we can buy bottles to take with us so we can have a bit of Little Miss BBQ at home.

Eric's Family Barbecue
Chris Malloy

Barbecue in greater Phoenix? Widespread. Stellar brisket? A rare find. And especially rare in the west Valley, where Eric Tanori has been smoking top-notch brisket using nothing but mesquite wood, fire, a late papering, and a salt-and-pepper rub. His style emulates central Texas with a few nods to Mexico and the Southwest. Slabs of dark-barked, thickly carved brisket are his best meat. Plenty of others are strong, notably a flavorful turkey jolted at the 11th hour with butter au jus. Eric's low-key smokery is still growing (on deck at some point: house-shaped tortillas), but it's already a barbecue joint deepening and rounding out our greater scene.

Myke's Pizza
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Myke Olsen, now long settled into his brick-and-mortar spot within Cider Corps, is making the most inspired pizza in the Valley. Not only are all components thoughtfully pondered, they are executed with a flair that gives Olsen a style that bears his own signature. He uses lots of Gouda cheese and cooks a crust that carries the flavor and warmth of great bread. He can nail a classic sauce-only marinara, one of the true tests of any pizzaiolo. Toppings on specialty pizzas track the seasons: cherries, squash, peaches, and pistachios. Olsen is growing and innovating at a rate far beyond that of any other pizza artisan in the Valley, making him 2020's best.

Lamp churns out red and white artisan pies that are delicate yet able to be laden with top-notch ingredients.
Jackie Mercandetti
Lamp churns out red and white artisan pies that are delicate yet able to be laden with top-notch ingredients.

LAMP Pizzeria is serious about Neapolitan-style pizzas. The centerpiece of the dining space is a red brick oven, where owner Matt Pilato — who prepares his dough and cheese in-house — slides all his pies, cooking them at some optimal temperature that produces ideal levels of crunchiness once they are finally removed from the heat. LAMP offers 20 pizzas, and this is not the place to go with your tried-and-true order. Pick one of the pies that lists ingredients you've maybe never considered combining. A few of our favorites: The Scientist, which has three types of thinly sliced salami and juicy green olives; The Simple, a margherita pizza topped with arugula and Parmigiano-Reggiano; and The Kavorka, a pie with Sicilian sausage, wood-roasted red onions, and piquante peppers. Despite the experimentation in the kitchen, there's a comforting atmosphere at LAMP. When he's not distracted at the oven, Pilato roams around and chats with diners. Everybody needs a go-to pizza spot, and it's easy to see why so many people have chosen LAMP as theirs.

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