It's not unusual for a bakery to make an excellent kalamata olive loaf, which Arizona Bread Company certainly does, all chewy and stuffed with olives and sprinkled with cheeses. And there are several local bakeries that offer a really good round raisin challah, too (though none half so dense and tasty as Arizona Bread's). But can someone please help us find a tastier, more perfect loaf of Italian rosemary bread than the one baked at this longtime Valley favorite? No, never mind. You can't do it; we've tried and failed to find one we like more. Don't take our word for it — try this aromatic, crusty loaf yourself. And while you're there, don't miss an opportunity to take home a hunk of Arizona Bread's dark honey wheat bread, or to try their Paris-perfect baguette, with its hard, crisp outside and chewy, soft inside.
Step aside, Bonne Maman. Cotton Country Jams is in the house. Amanda Hawkins' grandmother started this business in 2000; at the time, the only product was wild Maine blueberry jam. Hawkins took over in 2008, and today, she offers jams, jellies, pickled products, and syrups, using mostly local ingredients and Grandma's recipes. We keep our kitchen stocked with the prickly pear jelly and the bread-and-butter pickles by snapping them up when we spy them at local farmers' markets. But the crown jewel of the lineup is the fig jam. Made with figs, lemons juice, sugar, citric acid, and pectin, it's got just the right texture (not too thick, not too thin), flow, and sweetness. You can also find Cotton Country Jam products locally at Woods & Whites, Sphinx Date Co., Noble Eatery, and Pane Bianco.
There is a tragic dearth of good bagels in Phoenix. Luckily, we've got Bagelfelds, whose bagels, which are marketed as Brooklyn-style bagels, are phenomenal. Biting into one of these fresh, chewy everything bagels smothered in a garlic pepper smear is a borderline New York experience; it's even better when you know you have more bagels in your paper bag since you splurged on a dozen. The menu includes flavors like fennel seed and golden raisin, and sea salt, and you've also got cream cheese options like lemon herb and honey brown butter. They don't have a formal storefront, but you can get your Bagelfelds fix at stands at Uptown Farmers' Market, Downtown Phoenix Public Market, Stoop Kid at The Churchill, and Nelson's Meat + Fish.
It's true that acai bowls can be similar, with basic ingredients that are hard to get wrong. They can also be masterpieces of acai goodness topped with the freshest fruit and granola, like those you'll find at Berry Divine Acai Bowls. A small Arizona chain started by Sedona resident Todd Shreve, Berry Divine has five locations, including our favorite on 16th Street near Barrio Café. Our obsession began on a long, late work night when a colleague introduced us to the idea of an acai bowl for dinner. Berry Divine does the classic bowl that we like just right: photogenic strawberry slices, blueberries, and bananas topped with granola and honey, a dash of protein powder, and drips of honey. They've got a full menu of fancier bowls and will customize them however you want. The 16th Street location is more urban-style, with limited seating inside and an outdoor patio adjacent to a tiny parking lot. Whenever we eat here, we have the same thought: Health food shouldn't be this tasty. At Berry Divine, though, it somehow is.
We admit it: Mary Coyle isn't the only place in town we eat ice cream. But that's only because we keep trying to find an ice cream we like better. And we keep failing. It might be that no one else in town has mastered maple walnut, or that no other confectioner has even bothered to attempt salted caramel cashew (a life-changing ice cream flavor in case you're looking for a new you). Or maybe it's just that the late Mrs. Coyle's ice cream recipes are the very best (exactly how much butterfat is in this stuff, anyway?). Every spoonful of Mary Coyle is made in-house, and made as if butter pecan, pistachio, rocky road, and mint chocolate chip are the only things that really matter in life. Which, at least at Mary Coyle's place, they kind of are.
Since spots like Portland, Oregon's iconic Voodoo Doughnuts opened in 2003, the game has changed for the oft-one-holed pastry; a slew of spots around the globe have gotten super-creative with their interpretations. That's all well and good, but sometimes a simple fried dough offering satisfies the doughnut craving like no other. Rainbow Donuts isn't trying to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. This old-school joint is just concerned with dropping delectable pastries on the daily. Glazed, raised, filled, plain, and sprinkled are mostly what you'll find in their lengthy glass case. The buttermilk bars are exceptional, too, but if you arrive at Rainbow too far past sunrise, they will have long been sold out. Delicately dense and subtly sweet with a tinge of nutmeg, these hearty bars are enough of a reason to put this shop on your route.
Ice pops in a plastic tube, known as bolis in Mexico, reach a local height with Breezy Pop, available at farmers' markets in Gilbert and uptown Phoenix. A Breezy Pop is a stout, round ice column that, squeezed solid and freezing onto your tongue, explodes with flavor. Brandon Ornelas and fellow family members use their abuela's recipe to create Latin American-inspired bolis that go beyond the usual suspects and include passionfruit, soursop, and a creamy horchata. Each is made with fresh juice extracted from actual fruit. At $20 for 10, Breezy Pop is reason enough to lug a cooler or insulated shopping bag to the market.
This small-batch craft chocolate shop, owned by the husband-and-wife team Jim and Maureen Elitzak, started as one of Maureen's hobbies but now creates award-winning bars and bonbons from ethically sourced cacao beans. Check out the brownie flights for sure, but our fave is the award-winning white chocolate bar. Made from only three ingredients (organic cane sugar, cocoa butter, and whole milk powder), it tastes better than any white chocolate you've ever had. The secret? They don't filter out the solids in the cocoa butter. The result? A luscious, caramelly flavor that'll have you hiding this bar away from your family members.
The best lemons-into-lemonade story we've heard in a while belongs to Michael Minnis, who opened a business in the same Mesa strip mall where he was once ordered by the state to submit urine tests for a drug arrest. "I had to piss at the TASC [Treatment Assessment Screening Center] office next door," Minnis says, "and I saw this building for rent." His store, originally called the Soda Pop Stop, has evolved from a utilitarian storefront that peddled soda, bottled water, and snacks to the TASC's pee-in-a-cup crowd to a Valley destination for rare and hard-to-find sodas and snacks. Pop's Exotics, as it's now known, services a growing subculture that will pay a premium for white peach Sunkist from China, honey chili Doritos from South Korea, squid-flavored Lays from Thailand, and ketchup-flavored Cheetos from Canada. It's also a go-to for what Minnis calls "nostalgics" and what some of us refer to as granny-candy: Clark Bars, Chick-o-Sticks, Sixlets. Minnis has also distinguished himself as a savvy internet marketer. He had a few posts blow up earlier this year on TikTok, where he has 125,000 followers and counting.
The lines are always long at Share Tea. Don't worry, though: the orders are taken quickly, and within a few minutes, your whole crew will be slurping that sweet boba. A bestseller is the Pearl Black Milk Tea, with boba that's soft and not too chewy and a sweetness level custom-made to match your preferences. We also recommend the Happy Family, which boasts five toppings — red bean, nata de coco, normal pearls, mini pearls, and pudding — in one boba drink. If the mood is for something not-so-milky, an alternate option is mango or peach mojito. You'll find yourself wanting to come back for more boba, and good news: Repeat customers are rewarded with a stamp card where you get one on the house after buying 10 drinks.