Best Cheese Shop 2022 | Mingle & Graze | Food & Drink | Phoenix

Peace. Love. Cheese. That's the motto on one of the T-shirts you can snag at Mingle & Graze, where another style features a four-letter F-word that isn't F-E-T-A. We like their spunk, and their unabashed devotion to all things cheese — and not just because they give us an excuse to use our fancy charcuterie boards. They do catering, carryout, and private events. But what we love most are the tastings and cooking workshops, because we want to truly understand and appreciate the finer qualities of cheese instead of merely stuffing our faces with it. The restaurant has plenty of options for your friends who might not revel in all things cheese, plus a kids' menu. Our favorite picks are the build-your-own boards that give you the chance to try a little of this and a little of that. Add in the eatery's charming decor and you have a one-of-a-kind culinary experience to share with locals and out-of-towners alike.

Jackie Mercandetti

Head into this unassuming dive bar to find the type of hamburgers that beefy dreams are made of. The original Cheese Wineburger features a thick beef patty with a splash of red wine topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, and your choice of cheese: American, Swiss, Cheddar, or pepperjack for a nice kick. They're handmade to order, served with french fries or onion rings, and sure to satisfy even the most serious carnivore. Try one of the specialty burgers if you're feeling saucy. The Buffalo Bleu Burger is spicy and topped with blue cheese, while the Rodeo Burger is topped with barbecue sauce, jalapeño, bacon, cheddar cheese, and onion rings. And if the burger somehow doesn't satiate your appetite, the wings at Harvey's are also delicious.

Heather Hoch

The name Bianco usually conjures up the image of a wood-fired pizza, and rightfully so — Chef Chris Bianco won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurateur this year for his eponymous pizzeria. But don't sleep on Bianco's lunch joint, Pane Bianco, which serves some of the best sandwiches in town. At the small, homey restaurant on Central Avenue, Bianco enlists the help of his brother Marco to create soft rounds of focaccia perfect for stuffing with top-notch ingredients. Options include chicken salad studded with green apple, or an upscale twist on a ham and cheese made with prosciutto and homemade mozzarella. Sit among artwork created by Bianco's father, sip on a glass of wine or a bottle of Coke, and enjoy good conversation over great sandwiches during a lunch that makes you slow down a little.

Something's happened to the hot dog in recent years. It's gone from a staple of Americana into the template for ongoing culinary experimentation — which may be a great metaphor for the U.S. in the 21st century. So, if we're going to make the hot dog an edible version of modern America, there's no better restaurant than Der Wurst Hot Dogs. Located inside of the delightfully divey Linger Longer Lounge, this eatery checks all the boxes for a true American dining experience. Over-the-top hot dogs? Sure, like a linguisa sausage with bacon, Doritos, and Sriracha mayo. What about slightly suggestive names? There's a dog called the French Tickler, and desserts are referred to as Happy Endings. Sure, those vaguely sexual gimmicks aren't new, but underneath the silly jokes are truly tasty dogs, made with a real culinary bent without all the resulting pompousness. That entire dynamic feels truly American — silly little gimmicks that never diminish from true quality and culinary creativity. If that's too heady for you, just order the Schnitzel Licker, drink a few cheap beers, and enjoy your evening.

Lauren Cusimano

The iconic Fry Bread House is a modest but mighty staple of the local dining scene. The unassuming location on Seventh Avenue has been proudly serving Native American food for 30 years and is backed by an all-Native staff. The founder, the late Cecelia Miller, hailed from the Tohono O'odham Nation and set out on a mission to create a public gathering place for Indigenous people to gather and eat home cooking. Bringing traditional recipes from Miller's tribe mixed with Southwest influences, the menu proudly touts sweet and savory frybread — hand-stretched pillowy pieces of puffy dough that are both crisp and airy at the same time. Go big or go home — order the Ultimate Fry Bread Taco with spicy red chile beef to taste the delicious mixture of fry bread, beef, refried beans, onions, sour cream, cheese, and lettuce. For dessert, you can't go wrong with sweet frybread slathered in chocolate and butter.

Thick or thin, long or short, crunchy, or squishy — we're equal-opportunity french fry aficionados. But some of the best restaurants in town definitely have a preference as to where they source their fries, and that's local potato purveyor Frites Street. The company began in 2015 as a food truck serving gourmet European-style pommes frites with a variety of dipping sauces, and eventually pivoted into providing product for restaurants. Today, you can find Frites Street fries at more than 101 restaurants around the country, including local gems like The Americano, Clever Koi, and Francine. Crinkle-cut, shoestring, or thick, Frites Street fries are perfectly crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. We still love any kind of fries, but Frites Street are our favorite.

There's a strip mall in Mesa where Southern Avenue meets Val Vista Drive. It's anchored by a Safeway, but in the corner, there's a bistro that has the best macaroni and cheese in town. At Tucked Away Craft Kitchen & Bar, the second concept from Sean Hayes and Jo Ann Franko, the owners of Tipsy Cactus Taproom, there's an elbow macaroni-shaped trophy above the bar, a testament to the award-winning dish created by Executive Chef Gabe Madrid. The cheese string follows you as you raise a forkful to your mouth. The heat from the green chile adds a little bit of welcome warmth. The cavatappi noodle is the perfect vehicle; its ridges hold the stickier, thicker cheese, while the inside of the noodle gives a home to the cream sauce. It's a secret combo of cheeses, cavatappi pasta, green chile, and witchcraft that simultaneously make it creamy, spicy, and stringy, an ideal mac and cheese experience worth seeking out in the east Valley.

We tend not to get too excited when an out-of-state restaurant announces it's coming to Phoenix. After all, we've got a vibrant dining scene here all on our own. But Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken, a Tennessee staple that arrived in Phoenix last year, is a welcome addition to the city. The chicken comes out of the kitchen piping hot and impossibly crispy and juicy — each crunchy bite is a delight. We like to pair it with Gus's baked beans or macaroni and cheese for a full meal. Gus's may be an import to the metro Phoenix restaurant landscape, but we're glad it's here to stay.

When you pull up to Long Wong's, you're immediately greeted by a zoo of life-sized vintage animals, from a cow to a dinosaur to a pink horse to a buffalo. "Do wings, not drugs!" says a little sign with a flamingo. Though there are many copycats claiming the "Long Wong's" name, the original Long Wong's resides on 28th Street and Thomas Road, and has been around for over 35 years. With the original owners hailing from Buffalo, New York, it's no wonder Long Wong's wings are the perfect amount of crispy and juicy. And saucy — the hot wings are doused in a tangy and spicy coating, while the garlic Parmesan wings have real garlic bits mixed into the white sauce. If you can't choose one flavor, order the Party Wing Bucket which comes with 72 bones and a choice of three flavors.

Jackie Mercandetti

If you really want to luxuriate and immerse yourself in Spanish culture and cuisine, you can't do much better than Tapas Papa Frita. Yeah, there's the Moorish architecture and the stage with the obligatory flamenco dancer. But you're here for the food. The chef has mastered cuisine from every region of Spain. The long list of tapas is dizzying, from traditional tortilla Espanola to snails in sherry. Hell, they even serve seven types of regional paella, not to mention amazing entrees, ranging from Castillan osso buco to Catalan rabbit. You cannot get a disappointing dish. The wine list is impressive. As wonderful as the food is, the service is even better. Many of the wait staff, as well as Chef Joseph Gutierrez, are Basque and they're all happy to spend time sharing stories and discussing the food at your table. It's the kind of place you go for special occasions, birthday banquets, or romantic anniversary dinners. And when you're done, you can take a stroll with your dining companion and snap a picturesque selfie on the canal that makes up the Scottsdale Waterfront.

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