Best Poke 2022 | Pokitrition | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Jacob Tyler Dunn

Recently, we were trying to explain poke to someone unfamiliar with the concept: "It's like deconstructed sushi — kind of. You get to pick your base and your fish and your toppings, and it's really filling and really good." What we lack in powers of description we make up for in appreciation for poke and the people who make it, especially local chain Pokitrition. Sustainable fish such as both marinated and plain ahi tuna, salmon, and shrimp, is flown in daily from Hawaii. In addition to their customizable poke bowls, the four Pokitrition locations also make sushi burritos, hefty cylinders of fresh fish wrapped in rice and seaweed. You can even get your sushi burrito coated with Hot Cheetos dust, if that kind of heat appeals to you.

Origami Ramen Bar

From humble digs in the middle of a strip mall, Origami Ramen Bar serves, hands down, the best ramen in the Valley. Owner and Chef Yusuke Kuroda grew up in Osaka, Japan, and learned to cook with his grandmother. After moving to the U.S. and working on the East Coast, he later headed west to cook at Nobu in Beverly Hills. Lucky for us, he moved to Phoenix and opened Origami in 2020. The menu includes Japanese curry plates and rice bowls, but don't miss the ramen. Rich shoyu broth lets the ingredients sing, miso broth is creamy but not salty, and the black soy ramen blends chicken and pork broth with curly noodles and black garlic oil for an immensely savory bite.

Great Wall

Shrimp dumplings, baked coconut buns, crispy roast duck, and fried taro turnovers come to your table via carts and you select the small plates you wish to devour. This isn't heaven — it's dim sum, a Cantonese tradition with many options and flavors to choose from. Great Wall offers dim sum on weekdays and weekends, though the latter tend to be busy, especially around noon. Grab a group and arrive by at least 11 a.m. to snag a good table; otherwise, the wait may range from 20 to 40 minutes. Steamed barbecue pork buns, which also come baked, are a must, both savory and sweet with tender dough that pulls apart easily. Ask for a menu to order larger items to share, including Hong Kong-style noodles, crispy and salty topped with your choice of meat, but go with the Chinese broccoli and beef for a sure winner.

Happy Baos

Located inside the Mekong Plaza shopping center, Happy Baos offers dine-in service and takeout in a small, bright restaurant between the food court and the supermarket. Large posters line the walls with explanations of some of the dishes and dumplings found on the menu. The restaurant serves recipes from Northern China and specializes in handmade bao and dumplings. Lamb and squash steamed dumplings have a chewy shell and fragrant filling, xiao long bao provide the essential mouthful of steaming hot soup, and fluffy steamed custard bao carry the theme through to dessert. Sampler plates help first-time customers find their favorites, but nothing is a miss on this menu.

Kabob Grill N Go

When arriving at Kabob Grill N' Go, a tiny takeout joint next to a Middle Eastern market and a pawn shop, a thick cloud of smoke lets you know you're in the right place. Inside, a deli counter displays medieval-looking skewers of marinated chicken, spiced beef, and plump tomatoes awaiting their fate. The skewers are grilled to order and served over aromatic rice in portions large enough for multiple days of leftovers. Our favorite is the koobideh plate, the long cylinders of spiced meat accompanied by pleasantly charred tomatoes and peppers. The flavors get in your head. This little kabob shop is obsession-worthy.

Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Buck & Rider has fresh seafood flown in daily from around the world, with oysters from both the East and West coasts. Pull up to the seafood counter in Arcadia (and soon, north Scottsdale and Gilbert's Agritopia) to watch skilled hands work. Shucked oysters large and small are served with fixings including the standard cocktail sauce and horseradish, plus Thai dipping sauce, mustard, and a refreshing mignonette made with minced shallots in vinegar. The selection changes daily, but sweet and mild Kusshis from British Columbia are on it from time to time. Deep-cupped Blish Point oysters from Massachusetts also come and go, with their creamy consistency and briny flavor. Grab a dozen or splurge on a seafood platter with other goodies like king crab and tuna tartare. Happy hour offers a discount on oysters: weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m. and Sundays from open to 7 p.m. in select parts of the restaurant.

Bahar Anooshahr

At both locations of the celebrated JL Patisserie, the options are overwhelming in the best way. A small pastry case displays delicate desserts, macarons, eclairs, and cake slices. Next, a large counter is covered with breads and pastries, mostly everything made with flaky, crunchy, butter-filled croissant dough. The pain au raisin is a favorite, a big swirl of flaky dough, crunchy on the outside and soft within, brightened with bursts of flavor from juicy raisins. The ham and cheese croissants blur the line between breakfast and lunch, and the cream-stuffed cruffins make a decadent dessert. We like to keep up with what the bakery is doing on their TikTok account, which is full of light-hearted videos that never fail to make us hungry.

Proof has been a staple at nearly every farmers' market in the Valley for a reason, and it's not only because they operated out of a converted garage until last year. Jon Przybyl and Amanda Abou-Eid create their pastries and decadent breads from a single sourdough starter named Harriet that they've perfected since her start in 2010. Using a sourdough base for all their breads and pastries has additional health benefits (because of fermentation) and adds an extra dimension to the flavor. In addition, Harriet balances sweet pastry fillings in a way that a grocery store bakery could never. Przybyl and Abou-Eid also make a point to use seasonal ingredients when available. The bakers constantly rotate pastry fillings, such as a cinnamon pear danish in the spring or lemon curd filling a few weeks ago. Other must-tries at Proof, which you can find at farmers' markets in Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Gilbert, include the pain au chocolat, morning buns, and the classic country sourdough.

Bagelfeld's has officially put Phoenix on the bagel map. Started by Charles Blonkenfeld as a pandemic pivot, the Brooklyn-born chef grew up on bagels, but it wasn't until 2020 that he started making them. The process takes three days and uses old-world traditions like slow-fermenting, hand-rolling, boiling in malt syrup and honey water, and baking to a burnished exterior, for a New York (chew and flavor) meets Montreal (size and sweetness) finish that's all Phoenix. Not only do Bagelfeld's bagels bookend both the bomb breakfast sammies at Stoop Kid and the sell-out Saturday sandwich at Nelson's Meat + Fish, loyal followers line up at farmers' markets and the recently opened brick-and-mortar on Thomas Road. Standout flavors include asiago, jalapeño cheddar, and fennel raisin, and all pair perfectly with their house-made schmears (lemon and herb cream cheese on an everything bagel — yes please). The only downside is they sell out quickly.

If you feel like getting twisted, The Salted Knot has you covered. Sure, "getting twisted" could be defined in many ways, but in this case, it means you have a hankering for a soft, hot, buttery pretzel. This Tempe-based business was founded during the pandemic by Maria Vassett and Chad Day for a couple of reasons. They were interested in starting a new side-hustle business, and they liked the idea of providing patrons with something that would make the challenging world events feel a little less stressful. The pair developed a signature recipe through trial and error until they got their perfect blend. Nowadays, folks are lining up at their booths at area farmers' markets to get their fix. Covered in butter and salt is one way to enjoy these mouthwatering doughy delights, or maybe you'd dig one that's buttered and topped with a heady everything-seasoning blend. Sweet pretzels are on the menu, too — cinnamon sugar blends with the melty butter to make you downright giddy.

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