Best Brunch 2020 | Prep & Pastry | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Prep & Pastry

A stone's throw from the canal in downtown Scottsdale, this Tucson import has been drawing the hungry morning hordes since its first days. It's easy to see why. When you open the front door to the cavernous dining room and look left, your eyes land on a pastry bar. This isn't your 200-year-old Parisian emporium of long bread and pain au chocolate. Rather, at this counter you can score gigantic cinnamon rolls, croissant doughnuts, and brioche stuffed with "Mexican hot chocolate." The pastry case's whimsy also runs through the sit-down menu, replete with a PB&J French toast on Japanese milk bread and a duck confit hash with cherries. Also nicely weird: a deep morning cocktail selection.

Heather Hoch

Lunch is for sandwiches, and it is our belief that the quality of a sandwich is ultimately determined by the quality of its bread. Ergo, ipso facto, by the transitive property, etc.: The best lunch spot in Phoenix is Pane Bianco, because that's where the best sandwich bread is served. Specifically, these are sandwiches served between round cuts of wood-fired focaccia that resemble a half-roasted marshmallow, or the surface of the moon. Between these doughy masterpieces are simple combinations of ingredients that pack explosive flavor. Mozzarella, basil, tomato. Provolone, sopressata, relish. And if, by some bizarre circumstance, sandwiches aren't your thing, Pane Bianco has you covered: The house-made mozzarella salad is just as juicy and fragrant as the sandwich version; the albacore tuna salad is filling without being heavy; and the pizzettes are like the younger cousin of Bianco's famous pies. Most things you eat that deliver this much joy tend to weigh you down, either with guilt or whichever combination of chemicals that causes food comas. Not so with the food at Pane Bianco. We've yet to detect any slumping in our work productivity after devouring them. And we would know: The Van Buren location, which will close soon to make way for the new location of Bianco's other restaurant Tratto, is just a few blocks away from the New Times office, and we're in there constantly.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

You walk onto the patio through a wrought-iron door. The greenery, the string lights, and a cozy smattering of tables grab your attention. Red oilcloths with blue floral patterns cover the tables. The trees have colorful sashes tied around their trunks reminiscent of prayer flags. The intimate, beautiful patio at Glai Baan is just the first wonderful part of your experience at the popular eatery that specializes in Thai street food. We go back again and again for well-executed dishes like the juicy kanon jeeb (pork dumplings) and the fragrant, comforting panang curry. We don't overlook the drinks menu, a hidden jewel of the local cocktail scene; choices like the spiked Nham King Hot Tea stand on their own merits, but pair well with the food. And of course, we always ask for patio seating.

This two-story former event venue in downtown Mesa is now 12 West Brewing Co.'s second location, which, unlike the first spot, offers cocktails and full meals in addition to craft beer. If a few beers make you exceptionally hungry, or if you're looking to get dinner before a show at Mesa Arts Center, the menu at 12 West exceeds the usual bar food expectations. Food options start with shareables like smoked mac and cheese, Southwest avocado hummus, the Blap! Blap! Fries, and the Bretzel. That last one is a hefty-ass Bavarian pretzel paired with a generous portion of Belgian wheat beer cheese. There are flatbreads like ricotta-mushroom, bacon jam and fig, and caprese. And salads range from power greens to a poke bowl. But the best thing on the menu will be whatever sandwich you order. Maybe the katsu chicken sandwich — a spiced, extra-crispy fried chicken thigh topped with Thai chili aioli on a warm bun. Our pick is definitely the steak sandwich — grilled flank steak with beefsteak tomato, baby arugula, chimichurri, and pickled red onions, all piled on grilled flatbread. The smell alone should be a Yankee Candle.

Jackie Mercandetti Photo

The food's great, but the hang may be even better at Welcome Diner — and the later, the better. With its eclectic tables and chairs, Welcome's front patio is perfect for kicking back with friends and a beverage in hand, and there's quite a selection of comforting late-night eats on the menu for soaking up a night of drinking and debauchery. The jackfruit po'boy is a showstopper, as are the peanut butter bacon burger, fried chicken biscuit sandwiches, and mac and cheese topped with torched breadcrumbs. Or keep the party going and order an Old Fashioned or Welcome's own French Lady at the retro-diner counter. The fun times here don't have to stop until 2 a.m.

Cafe Monarch

Quaint and intimate, Café Monarch is the perfect setting for flirting, romance, and the intimate exchange of inside jokes between lovebirds. (Others have noticed: TripAdvisor voted Café Monarch the second-most romantic restaurant in the entire country.) The charming courtyard, modeled after a European landscape, has fountains and whimsy, and the staff pays close attention to the details. Gluten, vegetarian, and vegan requests are warmly accommodated here, and if it's your birthday, anniversary, or some other special occasion, your dessert will likely arrive with a sparkler stuck in it. The four-course menu highlights farm-to-table ingredients and includes some sumptuous entrees, including Chilean sea bass, New Zealand lamb rack, and duck breast. With everything so well taken care of for you, it's easy to sit back, relax, and focus on your darling companion.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

There are plenty of brunch spots around the Valley where you can take your youngsters, but how many of them have a splash pad? Luci's at The Orchard can make that boast. Here, you can grab a protein-packed power bowl or catch up with friends over mimosas without worrying about where to stick your kids. If you want to lean into family time, swing by the gourmet market, pick up a book from the Little Free Library, or grab some tasty gelato over at Splurge, the restaurant's in-house sweet shop. By then, though, your kiddos might be tuckered out from all the outdoor water play (you're welcome). 

What makes a steakhouse? One, good steak. Old Town Scottsdale's Maple & Ash has just that. You can polish off an affordable steak frites at the opulent bar, or steadily demolish an exorbitantly priced dry-aged tomahawk ribeye, which meets your teeth as a near-cloud of funk and umami. Two, the sides. Here, they are thoughtful, from silky egg agnolotti in decadent truffle butter sauce to a coal-oven crisped octopus. Three, drinks. You get a complimentary tipple when you sit down here. Cocktails are thoughtful for a steakhouse, and Japanese whisky bottles flash hiragana from behind the bar. Finally, the vibe. The juju here is all swank and chandeliers and high ceilings and mirrors. Having satisfied all the criteria, we declare Maple & Ash a complete, notable addition to our steakhouse scene.

Greasy spoon. Hash joint. Whatever you want to call it, Roosevelt Diner in the Garfield District is a gem. This petite eatery has gone by several names over the years, starting with the Hi-Way Diner, which is what it was called back in 1982, when a man named Robert Young had the building moved from Winslow and plopped onto a corner lot in Phoenix. (It's been under new management since earlier this year.) On the menu are the usual diner items — hot coffee, breakfast dishes — but also eight styles of gourmet hot dogs. Arturo's wasn't built for pandemic times — it's a nine-seater inside, and quarters are close — but there's an airy, lawn-like patio out front with picnic tables where you can spread out a bit and enjoy this tiny slice of Arizona history.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

It's almost like time doesn't exist outside Mrs. White's Golden Rule Café, which has changed very little since Elizabeth White opened the place in 1964. Over the last half-century, this family-owned eatery has served Southern comfort and soul food to notable people like the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Phoenix Suns legend Charles Barkley, former heavyweight boxer Earnie Shavers, and the Godfather of Soul himself, the late James Brown. Substantial portions of meals like meatloaf, pork chops, and fried chicken with steaming sides of collard greens, buttery corn on the cob, and rich mac and cheese are filling crowd-pleasers, and the cornbread is so deliciously sticky and studded with whole kernels of sweet corn that the cafe sometimes runs out. Desserts like peach cobbler, sweet potato pies, and banana pudding can push people over the gastric edge — but are well worth feeling stuffed.

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