Best Dining Hub 2022 | Pemberton PHX | Food & Drink | Phoenix

The decline of shopping malls means that there are fewer places around town where we've got plenty of dining options in one compressed space. Fortunately, Pemberton PHX off of Second Street between Moreland and Portland streets in downtown Phoenix has an ever-changing variety of dining options. Current tenants include the fun, casual, Baja Tacos & More; an adorable charcuterie and wine food truck called Moiselle, and Viejito Hibachi, a Japanese food truck with rice and noodle dishes accompanied by steak, shrimp, or lobster. Melt serves small-batch ice cream flavors like maple bacon and Viet coffee out of Chinese takeout boxes. The Pemberton is a great place to try some different options all at once: a pizza from here and some tacos from there. And when you get thirsty, Baby Boy is a fun blue-lit bar that serves Tajín-rimmed margaritas and the like.

Jackie Mercandetti Photo

There's nothing quite like Kai. The signature restaurant of the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, Kai serves elegant, inventive cuisine informed by the food traditions of Indigenous tribes native to the area. The restaurant doesn't publish a menu on the website because Chef Ryan Swanson likes to change menus progressively through the seasons. But past triumphs have included grilled buffalo tenderloin with smoked corn puree, cholla buds, chorizo and scarlet runner bean chile, and saguaro blossom syrup; and an Arizona melon soup with grilled deep-sea langoustine, local goat's milk, mulato chile, cucumber, and pepicha. Our advice is to show up ready for a culinary adventure, order the tasting menu, and get ready to experience something special.

Tia Carmen

Food rarely renders us speechless, but the wagyu tomahawk steak crusted with bone marrow butter and served with tepary bean mole negro we had at Tía Carmen did just that. The new restaurant at the JW Marriot Desert Ridge Resort & Spa is named after Chef Angelo Sosa's aunt, and the cuisine reflects the lessons she taught him about the value of food and family. The steak blew up our taste buds with umami and the richness of the mole. The tomato salad with corn puree, burnt corn, basil, pickled onions, and serrano chiles was simple, fresh, and dazzling. And Tía Carmen doesn't just rely on the quality of the food to satisfy customers — the presentation is also top-notch. Don't forget to check out Tía Carmen's drink menu, but take it from us: The well-crafted cocktails are deceptively strong.

Lauren Saria

The best happy hours blend two important factors: quality food and drink, and good deals. Mill Avenue mainstay Caffe Boa gives us both in spades. All wines that are normally $12 per glass or less are half-price during happy hour, which runs 4 to 7 p.m. daily in the bar. (There are also discounts on beer and cocktails.) And the food options are nothing short of impressive. The Italian-leaning options include calamari with garlic and extra-virgin olive oil, and hearty arancini, fried rice balls with mozzarella. But the standout on the happy hour menu is the seared skirt steak, which comes sliced with an arugula salad, feta garlic dressing, gremolata, and Calabrian chili. It's a delicious and filling meal for a medium-hungry person, yet the price tag is a mere $12. It's just one reason we post up at Caffe Boa so often when the workday is done.

Jackie Mercandetti

On a weekend morning, the line starts forming at Fàme early. By brunch time, it winds around the building at the little shopping center on Central Avenue. But customers don't mind the wait, because the breakfast is that good. Once it's finally your turn, slide up to the counter and order through a large window that gives a peek into the trendy seating area inside. We recommend starting with a Caramelito, made with caramel, cinnamon, espresso, and almond milk, or the equally delicious Muddy Waters, a coffee and matcha tea mashup. Next, it's onto the food. If you're looking to indulge, you can't go wrong with the decadent Monte Cristo. Thick slices of country bread are filled with a fried egg, nutty Gruyere cheese, and ham before the whole thing is showered with powdered sugar. This is a knife-and-fork type of sandwich, and we recommend spreading a little of the berry jam on each bite. Southwest-inspired dishes make for a slightly lighter meal, including the trio of breakfast tacos, the chilaquiles, or the huevos rancheros. Place your order, secure a table number, and head inside. There, you'll sit in an airy restaurant with an open kitchen, and a modern-meets-farmhouse vibe, the perfect way to start your day.

If you're brunching in metro Phoenix, you might as well brunch in paradise. A visit to Rita's Cantina & Bar on the premises of the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa can feel like a staycation in and of itself. Sea salt and caramel pancakes followed by a sea salt scrub at the spa? There are worse ways to cure a hangover. Brunch at Rita's entails endless Mexican- and American-inspired breakfast and lunch creations; an all-you-can-eat option that features made-to-order omelets, French toast, and plenty more; plus a full bar. Try the brunchery's signature cocktails, the Camelback Sunrise and Rita's Margarita with espolon blanco, triple sec, agave, and lime.

It's a truth universally acknowledged that late-night dining options are few and far between in metro Phoenix. Most of the options are diners and drive-thrus, which will do in a pinch, but rarely satisfy. Enter Society by EVO, which opened this year and serves fantastic food until 1:30 a.m. Like the original EVO restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale, Society by EVO is heavy on the pasta options: Think bucatini with bolognese sauce, or the Margarita Pasta with tequila crema, pepperjack cheese, red pepper, onion, green pepper, linguini, and jalapeño. But there's plenty else to explore on the menu, including bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese, scallops with risotto, and much more. The dates are a favorite, as is the whipped feta dip with a spicy honey drizzle. Whether you take it to go or eat it in Society by EVO's stylish dining room space filled with mood lighting and hanging vines, it's your best bet for late-night eats.

Isabella's Kitchen

When you walk into Isabella's Kitchen, your eyes will immediately gravitate toward the patio. It's the best place to enjoy bruschetta and a glass of wine — there are plenty of people to watch, and if that isn't your thing, you can gaze at the McDowell Mountains. You've also got a front seat for the Talon Golf Course, and you'll have a chance to have a resort-style happy hour or lunch without the fuss of a hotel day fee. The patio dining experience is perfect for a couple on a romantic date, girls' night, or a family-friendly gathering for lunch on a Sunday. The "Screw It" menu is offered on the weekdays from 3 to 5:30 p.m. when diiscounted margaritas, glasses of wine, and well drinks are for the taking, as well as Isabella's charcuterie board and hand-stretched, made-to-order pizza.

Best Place for a Little Bit of Everything

WTF Express

Typically, you'd expect to go to one restaurant for Middle Eastern food, but another for cheesesteaks. And another for poke. And another for salads. Not so at WTF Express in south Phoenix, a bizarre and delicious amalgamation of food genres. The restaurant, which is popular with the lunch crowd, serves everything from falafel sandwiches to shrimp po'boys to chicken wings to loaded fries to ... well, you get the idea. Everything on the menu is serviceable, if not a guaranteed home run, but the Middle Eastern dishes really shine. We love WTF Express's poke bar, where we can build our own bowl with generous helpings of fish. At lunchtime, when we don't know what we want to eat, we stop by WTF Express. Whatever we decide on, they'll have it.

When it comes to eating out, we love fine cuisine, global fare, inventive menus — all of it. But we also appreciate a good onion ring. A warm pretzel dipped in cheese. Bar food may not get a ton of respect, but it's a staple of menus around metro Phoenix. And local chain Zipps Sports Grill does it incredibly well. That pretzel we mentioned? Zipps serves little pretzel bites served with a house-made beer cheese. The mozzarella sticks are wrapped in a light, crispy spring roll for extra crunch. The golden wings are just the right blend of tangy, sweet, and spicy. Paired with a cold drink and maybe some football on one of Zipps' many big-screen TVs, the bar fare here hits the sweet spot between comfort food and great flavor.

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