Giving Tree Cafe
Giving Tree Cafe

"Delicious AF" is how Giving Tree Café describes its banana bread with macadamia butter, but that moniker could be applied to lots of things on its all-vegan menu. The fare includes an all-day breakfast menu (the spinach-packed vegan quiche is especially good), spicy-leaning starters like blistered shishito peppers and turmeric cauliflower, soups, pizzas, and sandwiches. (There's a juice bar, too.) We're partial to the "Main Events" entrees — savory, inventive dishes like mole tacos made with lion's mane mushrooms and vegan seafood gumbo studded with okra and jackfruit.

Jewel's Bakery & Cafe
Judy Nichols

Gluten-sensitive and food allergy sufferers will find much to love at Jewel's, but so will regular consumers of gluten — a true test of how tasty a gluten-free restaurant is. When we dine here, we don't miss the gluten in the famous chicken and waffles, or the hot chicken sandwich, or the green chile pork grilled cheese sandwich. Definitely not at the bakery counter with brownies, muffins, cakes, cookies, and more — all of which are made sans gluten. The homey neighborhood feel, friendly staff, and bright, airy dining room add to the good vibes. Go for breakfast or lunch and order freely; you won't be disappointed.

Many local farmers' markets have similar amenities and vendors, but what sets apart the Uptown Farmers' Market from other such gathering spots is vital in these socially distant times: space. There's ample parking at its home at North Phoenix Baptist Church, so you don't have to walk for blocks carrying your farm-fresh haul to your car. (And during summers when the pandemic isn't keeping us separated from one another, it's nice to grab a savory breakfast burrito in the air-conditioned comfort of the church's Family Life Center.) The vendors can spread out nicely, so we're able to socially distance while we buy gorgeous loaves from Proof Bread, award-winning tamales from The Tamale Store, sweet treats from The Bakery PHX, and organic produce from local favorite McClendon's Select. There are plenty of sanitation stations around the premises to keep those hands clean, too. Uptown Farmers' Market allows us to shop beloved metro Phoenix businesses and still feel safe in these times.

Tempe Farmers Market stands proudly across the street from a brand-new Whole Foods and just down aways from a brand-new Trader Joe's. Proud because it's jam packed with made-in-Arizona products. Marked by its bright red T for the town it serves, this small grocer has been open since 2009 in downtown Tempe. On its shelves, you'll find local produce, cheeses, meats, and liquids from creamer to beer. The locally owned market is also something of a bodega, with a vegan deli known for its excellent vegetarian and/or gluten-free wraps, as well as colorful, organic smoothies (we recommend the Desert Palm). Another perk of the Tempe Farmers Market? The east end is where you'll find cocktails and live music at The Dark Side bar.

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.

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