Best Place to Take a Foodie 2022 | Pa'La | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Dominic Armato

Walk into either location of Pa'La, and you're likely to run into a chef. Yes, Claudio Urciuoli, the chef who owns the eateries, but also other chefs from restaurants around the Valley. People who really appreciate every element of food eat here. At the 24th Street bungalow, the menu is filled with tapas, little plates that let individual ingredients shine and provide small but intense bursts of flavor. Try one of Pa'La's signature grain bowls topped with fresh seafood, or lunch on a gourmet sandwich. They are served on Italian schiacciata bread, made fresh in the restaurant's wood-fired oven and stuffed with fillings based on what's fresh and in season. At the newer downtown location, you can get a rotating selection of wood-fired pizzas and inventive dishes, heavy on the seafood, inspired by Japanese and Italian cuisine.

Benjamin Leatherman

ComicX is a feast for the taste buds and the eyes — if your eyes enjoy superheroes, comic books, cartoons, and all things nerdy. A chain with more than 30 locations in Mexico, ComicX's only U.S. location is right here at north Phoenix's Desert Ridge Marketplace. If you can tear yourself away from the eatery's endless homages to pop culture, you'll find a menu full of well-done restaurant standards, many of which have clever names. Try the Hen Solo (a hot chicken sandwich), Wade's Chimichanga (a reference to Deadpool, of course), or the Captain 'Merica, a cocktail crafted from Crown Royal, Luxardo Marachino, squeezed lemon, and green chartreuse. When your eyes and stomach are full, you can empty your wallet by purchasing some of the pop culture items available in the gift shop.

Looking for a brunch backdrop that'll make all eyes envious of your Instagram? The Canal Club at The Scott provides a 1930s Havana-inspired ambiance that gives all the vibes. Known for its photogenic spots and Cuban cuisine, try pulling a seat at the bar and shooting underneath the Canal Club sign while drinking a Sin & Santeria, or snagging the corner booth for the green, jungle wallpaper while you check out IG Stories. Don your favorite flowy dress, floppy hat, and raffia heels for photos, and don't forget your best accessories — food and drink, of course. Go classic with a Cubano sandwich or go sweet with churro doughnut holes. Pair with a Cocojito cocktail and your best brunch babes for photo and video content.

When waiting in line for a show at The Van Buren in downtown Phoenix, the obvious pizza choice is the one connected to the music venue. But just a few steps away, Via Della serves slices that are a cut above. This little brick building beckons to concertgoers waiting in line, as it glows with neon and warm light from a fiery pizza oven churning out fresh pies. The menu offers riffs on classic pizza flavors, with slices topped with vodka sauce, prosciutto, fresh basil, and crumbled pistachios. A few slices and a bottle of beer picked from the pizza shop's fridge are sure to leave you ready to dance the night away, and even if you're not going to a show, these slices sing.

Natasha Yee

Valentine, the all-day eatery inside Modern Manor in the Melrose District, has made quite a splash in the Phoenix dining scene since it opened last year. Part of the reason why has been the way Chef Donald Hawk incorporates Arizona ingredients into menu items that both honor and elevate the traditional foods of the region. A piñon croissant is baked with White Sonoran wheat and piñon frangipane. The elote pasta, a customer favorite, includes house-made tagliarini, Hassayampa asiago cheese, crispy corn, and chile de arbol. Even the squash latte, crafted with espresso, O'odham squash, mesquite, and milk, is an expression of the culinary riches Arizona has to offer.

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.

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