Best Canto-American Chinese Food 2023 | Jade Palace | Food & Drink | Phoenix

The unique style of Americanized Cantonese cuisine has seen its share of devotion and derision over the decades, but if you grew up on it, there's no substitute. Canto-American has recently engendered a new wave of appreciation for its unique cross-cultural charms, the key being that Americanized Chinese food doesn't have to be greasy to-go counter Cheapinese. Jade Palace is unquestionably Americanized, but it executes the classic takeout fare with skill. Meats are lightly dusted and crisply fried rather than entombed in a thick batter sarcophagus. Sauces are thick and sugary-sweet, but they're vibrant and flavorful rather than tasting of cornstarch. Juicy potstickers are deftly pan-fried, the sizzling rice soup actually sizzles, and the titanic New York egg roll still looks like a bloated, deep-fried dirigible, but the filling is fresh, the casing is crisp and it boasts the unmistakable, sweet nuttiness of a light smear of peanut butter. It's not Chinese, exactly, but it's ours, and it's delicious.

If there's one universal truth about Indian cuisine, it's that you'll never get everyone to agree on the best. There are too many regions, too many styles, too many inflexible preferences. But if there's one Indian restaurant that got us the most excited this year, it's assuredly City of Spice. On the surface, it looks like any other family-run Indian restaurant lining Bell Road, save for the lack of a buffet. But that lack of a buffet is the first clue that City of Spice is different. Brothers Azher and Syed Uddin hail from Hyderabad, and along with Azher's wife, Bhoomi, the trio have pushed to maintain a level of quality they feel is lacking in most Phoenix Indian restaurants. It started with a refusal to let their food slowly languish in a steam table, an unpopular choice that allowed them to focus on preparing everything to order. And it continues with their commitment to India's regionality, working to prepare each dish as faithfully as possible rather than presenting hacked versions built on the same base. Their rich flavors and complex blends of spices positively sing, and between the dosas, biryanis, sauces and breads, there isn't a miss on the menu.

Jackie Mercandetti

You might know Curry Corner from late-night visits during your college years at ASU, or you may recognize it from a 2013 episode of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." But however you were introduced to this Tempe destination, the food is enough to bring you back. A blend of Indian and Pakistani recipes make up the menu, along with some student-friendly spins like the tikka masala fries. Our favorite way to sample multiple dishes at once is with a thali, a large, metal tray with individual sections filled with meat or veggie curries, rice and naan. The Arabic thali blends even more flavors and comes with creamy hummus. Dry meats are cooked tandoori style and include a selection of wings and kebabs. Finish the meal with kheer, a type of chilled rice pudding, or a sweet and tangy mango lassi.

Patricia Escarcega

We are blessed in metro Phoenix with a deep roster of tried-and-true Middle Eastern restaurants and markets, and yet we always return to Haji Baba. Why, you ask? Familiarity and comfort are factors. Virtually nothing has changed in the 20-plus years that we've been going there, from the menu options to the friendly service. But mostly, it's the food. Haji Baba makes the juiciest, most delicious chicken shawarma we've ever had, and the pungent garlic sauce it's served with is perfection. We frequently make room on the table for starters such as the crispy falafel and the flaky spanikopita. And we always leave time to step over to the market side of the space after our meal, where we add chunks of fresh feta cheese, Arabic coffee and bags of spices to our bill.

Chris Malloy

If you visited Authentic EthioAfrican a few years ago, we implore you to go back. What started as a simple and sparse takeout counter has since evolved into a full-service, fully decorated sit-down restaurant where a meal is worthy of an evening. The food is designed for sharing and is the most fun split between a group. You can order the sega wot key stewed lamb and the defen meser lentils as single dishes, but the sharing platters are designed for two to four and offer a taste of everything. Giant plates are lined with spongy, tangy injera bread that is then dolloped with hearty spoonfuls of different curries and stews. The result is a color wheel of a plate with bright yellow chickpeas next to a deep, rich beef stew, followed by collard greens, bright pink beets and crisp white house-made cheese. The kicker to the whole experience is the coffee service. When sharing with friends, order the pot of coffee that comes in a traditional clay kettle topped with a smoking ember and is poured steaming hot into small espresso cups.

Chris Malloy

Oft overlooked as a dining destination due to its baker's hours and limited seating, Balkan Bakery nonetheless serves up some outstanding food. Bakir Osmic, along with his children Jasenko and Aldijana, fled the Bosnian war of the 1990s and landed in Phoenix, where they opened this cornerstone of the Bosnian expat community. The family prepares a short but robust list of breads and sweets, including Balkan specialties like crescent-shaped kifla and keks torta with its layered biscuits. But the hot savories are the main draw. Aldijana makes cevapi, Bosnian beef sausages, juicy and sizzled and stuffed into bread. Meanwhile, Jasekno deftly rolls up coils of burek, sirnica and zeljanica — flaky, tubular savory pastries stuffed with ground meat, cheese or spinach, respectively, baked up fresh and piping hot throughout the day.

This category nearly became an old-school/new-school battle for the ages in 2023, but Little Pickle's self-imposed hiatus makes it easy to pick a favorite. Goldman's lineage runs through Chicago rather than New York, which is why you'll often find Jerry Reinsdorf sitting out on the sidewalk, chomping a cigar and holding court with a team of White Sox scouts. Jerry knows where to hang. Goldman's doesn't have the panache or cachet of a Katz's or a Langer's, but it's a tasty local joint run by friendly folks who make great soups and a fine sandwich. Chicago roots mean the case is packed with kosher dogs, smoked fish and particularly good chopped liver. Most customers come for the corned beef and pastrami, both of which hit the spot, however you choose to dress them. Plus, the matzo balls are floaters, the chicken broth is salty and intense, and a bowl of icy cold beet borscht with a dollop of sour cream is a helluva tonic on a hot summer day.

Bahar Anooshahr

Nestled in a row of restaurants and shops on Grand Avenue sits a welcoming and friendly eatery. Twinkle lights shine through the windows and light up a mural of our blue planet with a happy cow, chicken and pig. Earth Plant Based Cuisine is an entirely vegan restaurant that serves a Mexican- and Southwest-inspired menu packed with flavor. Start with the Boss Nachos made with fresh veggies and a creamy vegan cheese sauce or elote with vegan mayo, cotija cheese, chile and lime. Entrees include flautas filled with potatoes or vegan chicken and tacos stuffed with soy chorizo or seasoned mushrooms. There are burger, barbecue sandwich, burrito and chimichanga options as well. This restaurant offers something for everyone, as many of the dishes can also be made gluten- or soy-free upon request. Whichever food you settle on, make sure to pair it with a sweet horchata, or our favorite, the coconut honeydew melon refresher.

Almost every city in the Valley has at least one farmers market perfect for shopping and picking up your weekly produce al fresco. But of all the options, Uptown Farmers Market takes the cake, or bread, or breakfast sandwich. The first benefit to this market is its large footprint at NPHX Church and huge amount of parking. There's plenty of space to unload your kids, dogs and wagon and get yourself situated before entering the sea of white tents. Once you pass beneath the banner into the labyrinth of vendors, grab a coffee and start your stroll. Pick up some fresh bread from Proof or a croissant from Chacónne Patisserie, then fill your tote bag with fresh tomatoes, citrus and kale. If you're hungry in the moment, head to one of the multiple food trucks serving burritos, dumplings or acai bowls. And in the summertime, you don't have to worry about the heat, as much of the market conveniently moves inside the church for comfortable shopping.

The Mesa supermarket and housewares store has everything you need for a Korean barbecue and more. The national chain store sells rice cookers ranging from basic models to top-of-the-line appliances and everything in between; portable barbecue grills are also within reach in the same aisle. Then, the diversity of barbecue meats is sold in bundles or individual portions, with pork belly or sirloin cuts ready to marinate with premade sauces imported from Korea, China, the Philippines, Vietnam and other Asian countries. The market also a wide range of seafood, some of which is flown in directly from the Fulton Fish Market, near where H Mart was founded in New York city in 1982. A Korean barbecue is not complete without banchan (side dishes), and banchan — kimchi, stir-fried fish cake, spicy squid and much more — is abundant and sold in to-go containers. Finish off your feast with unique desserts or a fruity, potent bottle of soju.

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