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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The food-from-the-fryer desire is very real. Sometimes you need something hot, starchy, and high in sodium. But instead of sliding behind the wheel and sitting in the sad, emissions-pooping drive-thru at some nearby fast-food joint, roll up to The Hudson Eatery & Bar in central Tempe. This newer neighborhood spot serves quality comfort food and bourbon, but the fries are a major bright spot. They're not too thin, but not a steak fry — these are slender, lengthy boys encased in a nicely crunchy shell. Every piping-hot fry's surface is heavily textured and simply seasoned with just the right amount of salt and pepper (or so it's seemed when we've had them). These are very good fries — like two full rungs above fast food.

We're personally of the opinion that there should be far more outposts of Valley Wings around the metro, but until that happens, we'll gladly make the trip to either the west Phoenix or south Scottsdale locations. How else are we going to enjoy these hot, crispy, perfectly done wings? Each drum or flat is nice and meaty, and the sauces are phenomenal. We're partial to the tangy Valley Sauce, the more-hot-than-honey Honey Hot, the rich Garlic Parmesan, and the thick Sweet Teriyaki. Order some wings to go, and you'll get home to find your food perfectly packaged — no accidental mixing of sauces here. Valley Wings also sells chicken tenders and a few varieties of loaded fries, but if you walk out the door with no wings, you're doing yourself a disservice.

Little Miss BBQ
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Surprised? Year after year, Scott and Bekke Holmes produce barbecue so good that second best is but a distant speck in their rearview mirror, if visible at all. At the original location, a humble lot not far from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, smokers puff deep into the night, lines form in the morning, and sliced brisket lands on the first blessed tray just after 11 a.m. Barbecue is done in the Central Texas style, meaning beef-centric with a minimal rub and mild smoke to let the greatness of the meat shine. Brisket, pastrami, and beef rib are all outstanding. Even the smoked turkey is uncommonly juicy, a solid 10/10.

Finding burnt ends — the uneven, barky ends lopped off a brisket — on local barbecue menus isn't easy. But Michael Sloan's Phat Turtle BBQ does Kansas City-style barbecue; burnt ends are a must. Phat Turtle's have a heavy smoke and the long, unholy dissolve of wildly fatty slow-cooked meat. You can order them on a plate or platter, caramelized with barbecue sauce for a sweet starter, or chunky and spilling from the bun of a happily sloppy sandwich. Burnt ends are by far Phat Turtle's best meat, a jiggling cornerstone for this barbecue joint that claims to smoke low and slow in "Kansas City, Arizona."

We asked a big question in early 2021: Will the next generation of Phoenix pizza be mobile? Thanks to certain juggernauts being knocked out or limited by COVID, that may be the case. Cue Quadro Pizza. Though owner Harry Canelos would bake just 50 pizzas, two nights a week, out of a mobile trailer, his were some of the most memorable in our pizza-crazed desert town. Pies are square, heavy, and sliced into quadrants. Fermentation, up to four days' worth, is used to develop a crunchy yet soft, airy, and delicious crust. Ingredients include Italian tomatoes underneath Grana Padano cheese — grated on at two separate points in the process. Overall, Quadro is a must-order for local pizza lovers. To grab one of Quadro's few dozen weekly pies, check in on Canelos after he posts his weekly menu to Instagram [email protected]

Pizzería Virtu
Chris Malloy

For the better part of a decade now, Gio Osso has plated some of the Valley's most progressive Italian food. Now, he also blazes our very best Neapolitan pizza. Osso hews close to the ageless traditions of Naples, birthplace of pizza, including the signature puffy crust, micro-thin center, San Marzano tomatoes, and cooking each pie at volcanic heat. Technically, the pizza is almost without error. Toppings, though, are where Osso truly separates from the pack. He isn't afraid to do taleggio, truffle, trumpet mushrooms, and arugula. Or stracchino cheese with smoked pancetta, caramelized onion, and chestnut honey. These are heady, old-school ingredients arranged in thoughtful ways — resulting in truly excellent pizza.

Andreoli Italian Grocer
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

The owner of Andreoli, Giovanni Scorzo, grew up in Italy's far south. The dry goods, pastries, meats and cheeses, and prepared foods he offers all reflect his link to Italy, which hits you with the smell of fresh-baked bread upon entering. Scorzo crafts all kinds of ingredients from scratch, including cured meats, cheese like mozzarella and burrata, and intricate pastries like sfogliatelle. Plated dishes include an all-star lineup of stalwarts from up and down Italy, including handmade ravioli. Slippery, the thin outer noodle soft, the fragrant fillings even softer, Scorzo's mushroom, veal, squash, and other ravioli channel the Old World. They conjure the humble home kitchens where dough crimps and flour clouds catch the light — the true spirit of pasta.

The Sicilian Butcher
The Maggiore Group

Lately, charcuterie boards have risen to the level of art: Cheeses, meats, jams, and crackers get displayed so gorgeously that you stop to take a photo before digging in. The Sicilian Butcher definitely understands how a charcuterie board has a chance to make a memorable impression. There's not one, but four different choices for boards, everything from the Polenta board with meatballs, cheese, and toast points; the Cured Meat and Cheese board, which is accompanied by pickled vegetables and jams; and the over-the-top Sicilian in Strada, which delivers panelli fritters, potato croquette, craft meatballs with polenta, artisanal meats and cheeses, as well as jams. Served on a 5-foot-long board, it can easily feed a family or a group of friends. And while you're feasting, don't forget that happy hour is all day, every day; you likely won't regret pairing your charcuterie with a $6 glass of wine or $5 beer.

ShinBay
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

A $185 seat at Shinji Kurita's omakase temple gives you more than a meal. It's a ticket to a culinary event, a spectacle. Kurita sharpens his knife on the whetstone, whirls chopsticks and pinches food with surgical precision, hand-sculpts blocks of sushi rice with the whole-body movements of a ballerina, and gently brushes immaculate fish with soy-sake reduction and places it before you. Kohada nigiri drips a few dark drops onto its plate before vanishing into your mouth. The fish is incredibly fresh. Even the rice seems to burst with perfect fragrance. The shad is excellent. The eel, too. The eggplant with bonito shavings rocks. Shit, you'll actually even see fresh wasabi root. Kurita is our undisputed sushi king.

Kaizen PHX
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Housed in a wing of the Galvanize co-working space downtown, Kaizen doesn't look like a sushi restaurant. And yet, it's handily the best sushi restaurant to have plugged in its rice cooker since the pandemic began. Chef Gustavo Munoz prepares traditional Japanese sushi (maki, sashimi, etc.) but also raw-fish dishes that straddle Japan and the Americas. They're as brilliant as they are unlikely. Highlights include a scallop number, pearly coins of bivalve bathed in an electric dark green yuzu-and-serrano-charged aguachile, and a Peruvian-Japanese tiradito with similar brightness but much more creamy oomph. Critically, eel, snapper, and other simple nigiri taste clean and fresh. This is your new spot for sushi downtown.

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