Best Chocolate 2021 | Zak's Chocolate | Food & Drink | Phoenix

Looking for Food on Seventh Street

It’s Wednesday, and you don’t feel like cooking; you’re hungry, but don’t know what you want to eat. It’s too bad you don’t live in a city where you can drive up and down a single street that’s chockablock with dining choices, considering your options before tucking in for a really swell repast.

Oh, wait. You live in Phoenix, home to North Seventh Street, which several savvy developers converted a few years ago from another blah thoroughfare into a culinary stronghold. Now then. Where’d you put your car keys?

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Chris Malloy

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.

Inside a room that feels like being enclosed in a box of glossy computer paper, Jorge Ignacio Torres oversees the most vibrant coffee program in Phoenix. Futuro exists inside Palabra, the multipurpose downtown space that also houses the eatery Pasado, a hair salon, and rotating displays of up-to-the-minute avant-garde art. The coffee, much of it single-origin, pushes new limits creatively, making you reconsider what coffee can be. Innovative blends like a double espresso with milk and marzipan candy, or cold brew with nectarine, honeysuckle, and cream often come in stemless wine glasses when iced, hand-thrown ceramics when hot. Torres' beans and whimsical-yet-rigorous flavor weavings have deep roots in Mexico. Classics like cafe de olla and cajeta latte feel brand new.

With two decades of roasting experience and some of the most sought-after roasting machinery in the world in his shop, Kansas transplant Dave Anderson and his Cave Creek crew roll out the red carpet for coffee beans, bringing them to their full pre-brew flavor. He started canning his nitro cold brew a few years ago. It has a deeply frothy head that could give Guinness a run for its money and such an astonishing array of lightly nutty, malty, fragrant flavors that it almost seems like you aren't drinking coffee — until its buzz zaps you like a thunderbolt. Wake up with one of these, and a big day is pretty much guaranteed.

Pulling up to this sky-blue, cloud-white, wood-paneled coffee trailer with a psychedelic saguaro painted on its door feels like a block party. Whether they're parked in their customary lot in downtown Tolleson or elsewhere, Raul Chavez and Brittany Martinez-Chavez sling their fun latte riffs to big crowds. They use Quetzal Co-Op coffee and mix espresso-based drinks like a Mexican hot chocolate mocha and a churro latte. Drinks are sweet and iced and giant, the best ones a touch or more crazy. The two also brew mean teas, some from Native Seeds/SEARCH, like prickly pear and desert mint. But the coffees deserve their star turn. They're just so unique: Mexican in spirit with Akimel O'odham influences and plenty of whimsy.

The intersection of 16th Street and Highland Avenue is a chaotic one, packed with impatient motorists making their way to or from the State Highway 51 ramp a few blocks away. As of this year, though, you can escape to chill vibes inside Moxie Coffee Co., which opened up shop in May inside one of the ground-level retail spaces beneath a luxury apartment complex called The Art on Highland. The coffee shop, owned by Matt Heltzel, is airy, white, and clean, with high ceilings and lots of natural light. It's also large enough that we've never struggled to find a table to work, despite it always being fairly busy there. There are several long tables for collaborative work/study sessions, square two-seaters, a row of high chairs overlooking 16th Street, and some patio seating out front. Plus, the tables are spread out nicely, meaning you won't be distracted by the next table's conversation (and you'll be less likely to get COVID from them). Order a nitro or a New Orleans-style iced coffee (cold brew with chicory and house-made vanilla, topped with cream), arrange your stuff on the table, and breathe in the freshly roasted tranquility. Time to get to work.

Lauren Cusimano

Little Wren has grown up. Once a small, charming, upstart brewery operating out of a cramped bungalow, Wren House has multiplied its production capacity with an off-site facility and has opened a biergarten in Prescott called The Prairie Patio. Even with all this, Wren House hasn't taken even a half-step back in quality or lost a drop of charm. The IPAs leveled up a few years ago. More classic styles like pilsner (Valley Beer) remain first-rate, and Wren still makes what might be the state's best stout in Jomax. So many classic styles are well executed. So many newcomers are still inspired. Cheers to Wren taking flight.

We're going to shoot straight with you here: Tombstone Brewing Company isn't a new Arizona brewery. But it's new to Phoenix. In October 2020, respected head brewer Weedy Weidenthal took over the fermentation tanks at the old Helio Basin Brewing, expanding the production and style capacity of Tombstone and giving this top-tier Arizona brewery a northern outpost. Tombstone is known largely for its dank, juicy, giant IPAs, doubles and triples with pleasant hoppy nuances despite their power. Tombstone's range is total. From trendy pastry sours to old-school barley wines and English bitters, the brew crew cranks out reliably delicious beers. In the case of strong IPAs and special releases, they're often spectacular.

Lauren Cusimano

True statement: Everyone goes to Wilderness. The Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.'s second location, the downtown Phoenix beer garden, turned out to be more successful than its first (which is saying something). Upon opening in spring 2019, it became instantly Phoenix-famous thanks to its biggest draw — the patio. This outdoor beer garden is massive, covered with a thick sunshade, and bird-friendly. (During the pandemic, the team installed native plants to attract native birds and bugs, embracing the brewery's name.) Inside, you'll find cold pints of Refuge, the "flagship IPA incepted in our founder's garage," the DON'T F#%K IT UP Blonde Ale, the water-conserving, Belgian-style witbier Sonora White, and many more signature brews (as well as cocktails and above-average bar food, heavy on Arizona ingredients).

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