Best Bar Food 2023 | The Brickyard Downtown | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Tirion Boan

Bar food usually consists of the classics: wings, a pretzel, some version of a hot dog, maybe some pizza. But that is far from the case at The Brickyard Downtown, a swanky cocktail lounge in downtown Chandler. Not many bars have an executive chef, but at The Brickyard, Nick Gibbs commands a kitchen that consistently churns out exceptional bites. The menu is designed for sharing and sampling, so order a few cocktails and see how they pair with a variety of plates. Burrata served with apple mousse and pickled orange has a blend of creamy and citrusy flavors that complement the cocktails, while the lamb chimichangas offer a rich, warming contrast. Pork belly skewers served with honey soy and peanuts bring a savory note to the party, and churros elevated with berries, chocolate and creme Anglaise round out the experience.

Lauren Cusimano

Since it first debuted in 2017, the spot formerly known as Restaurant Progress has undergone an evolution. A few years later, its owners opened a wine shop next door called The Montecito. Over time, the two concepts merged, giving the dining room a bit more breathing room and allowing customers the opportunity to walk over to the wine room and select their own bottles off the shelf. Now called Progress, its romantic nature and exceptional food remain. Plan a date night to the Melrose District and impress your partner with a table on the cozy patio. If the evening turns chilly, heaters keep the twinkle-light-strung space nice and warm as you sip wine and watch expert chefs craft dishes in the open kitchen. Almost all of the tables at this small restaurant only seat two, so romance is on the menu.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

The steakhouse isn't a concept; it's a living artifact. It connects (via prime cuts) our dining past with its exciting present. Trends may come and go, but the steakhouse remains an eternal, experience-based celebration. That pretty much encapsulates why The Stockyards has been so important since it opened its doors back in 1947. Whether you opt for the New York strip, a ribeye, a Delmonico or a pricey chateaubriand for two, The Stockyards will grill your fine cuts of meat with true care and expertise. It's not about innovation through fancy dishes or novel spins — it's about leading the way by nailing the classics and doing it perpetually for each new generation of hungry guests. The Stockyards may seem overly indulgent, bordering on needlessly stuffy to some folks, but it's about inviting diners in for an experience that they can't find in many other places these days. It's a place that blurs the line between home and the old-school elegance of eating out, only with more red meat and way less pretentiousness than this dynamic may imply. You come to The Stockyards for something very specific, and it will continue to deliver as long as there are steaks to be cooked and whiskey to be sipped.

Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Repeat after us: The best steaks in Phoenix aren't in the steakhouses. If you want a competently prepared piece of cryovac beef that looks pretty and tastes predictably acceptable, go to one of the city's many Mastro's clones. If you want to see what somebody who actually knows his way around the animal can do with a steer, go to Persepshen. Chef Jason Dwight buys whole, grass-fed, organic beef carcasses from Arizona purveyors and slowly breaks the animal down over the course of months. (His walk-in is not for the squeamish.) In addition to eliminating waste, this allows Dwight to offer a wide variety of cuts at various ages, including some smoking flat irons and giant Flintstones ribeyes aged a mind-bending 270 days (not a typo), lending them a supple texture, concentrated flavor and a hint of complex, mineral-rich funk. Dwight offers different cuts as he works his way through the animal, and the more popular ones can disappear quickly, so it's best to call and reserve. He may dress them up or dress them down, but simply presented or fancified with sauces and garnishes, the steak he serves is something special.

In a city dominated by dusty ham-and-egg dives of dubious quality and kitschy faux-retro corporate chains, 40th Street Cafe stands tall as a bastion of quality, no-frills short-order diner fare. This boxy little joint may lack the patina and romance of the Tom Waits aesthetic, but the servers can sass, the kitchen can cook and there's even a tiny counter crammed into the back of its diminutive strip mall footprint. The food isn't artful, just pretty damn good — exactly what you expect, right down the middle of the plate. A Taylor Ham breakfast sandwich with an egg your way comes on bread griddled so perfectly it shatters. Pancakes are thick and fluffy with a gentle, sweet scent. The tuna melt doesn't fuss, filled with tuna salad that's little more than fish and mayonnaise. And local touches shine, like a "taco omelet" that arrives smothered in tender, flavorful chunks of stewed beef.

Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Should we care if a restaurant is cool or trendy somehow? Yes, if it's done in the way Welcome Diner has over the last seven years from its place near 10th and Fillmore streets. Because it's not just that Welcome has repurposed and reinvigorated the look of the '50s-style diner for our modern age. Or that it's taken the same approach to its menu, which includes jackfruit french fries, a burger with peanut butter and garlic aioli, chicken biscuits with house beer mustard and the criminally unsung bourbon salted chocolate pecan pie. Not even that it's always crowded with the young and cool flocking for chicken melts and PBR tall cans. No, it's that Welcome does all of this without making a big deal out of it. That truly unassuming approach, and that care for a laid-back but nonetheless tantalizing experience, is why Welcome Diner is undeniably cool across the board. It's why this diner has helped shape and reflect the city's culture around the most important things, like community and slamming down endless poutine.

Jackie Mercandetti Photo

The Larder + the Delta celebrates Southern cuisine, showcasing and evolving well-known dishes like shrimp and grits, Hoppin' John and blackened catfish. Chef Stephen Jones cooks seasonally, spotlighting Arizona produce and inviting diners to look beyond the classics with playful dishes that bring local ingredients to the fore, like shatteringly crisp chicken skins with oranges, dressed with honey from Twisted Bee Farms. The kitchen is open to the intimate dining room and L-shaped bar — offering a chef's table-like experience where you can watch them and the bartenders at their craft. The space is always humming but never loud, with a hip-hop playlist in the background as Jones' team puts on dinner and a show.

The denizens of West Chicago would be lost without a good dog or beef sandwich every now and again, and though Portillo's is the hulking behemoth that stole the spotlight, Luke's remains the insider's spot for the best Chicago-style eats. Cary Del Principe has the pedigree to do this food right. He comes from a family that knows the steam tables and deli slicers of Chicago grub stands, and the institutional knowledge shows. The Vienna dogs have the telltale steam magic, the sausage is fat and juicy with great char, and Italian beef stands that take the time to roast their own rather than using processed, cryovac beef are getting hard to come by in Chicago, to say nothing of Phoenix. Plus, Luke's offers Chicagoland esoterica like corn roll tamales, pepper and egg sandwiches and a killer Maxwell Street Polish. The soda fountain is even loaded with RC Cola.

Richardson's has been serving New Mexican cuisine in central Phoenix for 35 years, and it continues to reign supreme, serving massive portions and graciously drenching them with its red and green chiles. A visit to the restaurant almost feels like an occasion, thanks to its moody lighting; comfy, cozy booths; and ever-roaring fireplace that set the tone and feel delightfully old Santa Fe and, in an ever-evolving restaurant scene, old Phoenix. The Santa Fe Trail portion of Richardson's menu reads like a compilation of greatest hits, including classic New Mexican dishes like chile relleno, carne adovada and enchiladas. If you can't decide, the New Mexican Platter is a veritable smorgasbord, featuring a cheese relleno, chicken burrito and tamale of the day, along with rice, beans, your choice of chile to top it with and a dinner plate-size tortilla. Bring your appetite — and plans for those inevitable leftovers.

Benjamin Leatherman

There aren't very many British pubs in the Valley, but out of the slim pickings, George & Dragon is undeniably the best. Grab a stool by the bar, a high-top table in the main dining room decked out with football flags and scarves or a table in the cozy side room filled with royal memorabilia. Start with a pint, such as a Boddingtons or Smithwick's on tap, before digging into the menu. Highlights include the bangers and mash; the chicken curry, available as an entree or stuffed into a flaky pasty; and the Sunday roast, available, you guessed it, on Sundays. Mint sauce is available for those who wouldn't contemplate eating lamb without it. Finish off with a sticky toffee pudding and maybe a game of darts.

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