Best Dumplings 2023 | Happy Baos | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Happy Baos

There are increasingly more restaurant options at Mekong Plaza in Mesa, but Happy Baos continues to sell the best dumplings in town. Find the restaurant inside the plaza, close to but not inside the food court. The small eatery features pictures decorating the walls to help customers decide on their order. We're partial to the signature dumplings, thick, doughy handmade specimens that have a satisfying bite and oh-so-good chew. Inside, they're filled with pork and shrimp, pork and cabbage, or chicken and cabbage. If you can't choose, the 20-piece dumpling combo has a little something for everyone. Along with these shui jiao dumplings, Happy Baos also serves bao buns, xiao long bao soup dumplings, noodle soups and rice dishes.

The irony of Urbanh Café's location merely adds to its charm. Across the street, you'll find the spindly, stingy sandwiches of California banh mi titan Lee's Sandwiches. But just a punt return touchdown away, on the other side of Warner Road, this tiny storefront shop — mostly carryout, with just a couple of tables — slings some of the best banh mi in town. There's nothing fancy here, just good eats, including the usual suspects like Vietnamese charcuterie, grilled pork and chicken, sausage or fried eggs, all slipped into crackling French baguettes with a smear of pâté, a dash of Maggi and pickled vegetables with cilantro and jalapeño. The difference is in quality ingredients, careful assembly and a bread-to-filling ratio that doesn't feel like a bait and switch.

Kabob Grill N Go

A tiny strip mall restaurant that only serves takeout, Kabob Grill N Go has gained national attention thanks entirely to its exceptional food. One taste and the flavors stick in your head, leaving you with an instant craving for more. Tony and Hasmik Chilingaryan opened the restaurant in May 2020 and since then have earned rave reviews from The Arizona Republic, The New York Times, Yelp and yours truly. At the front counter, the available meats are on display in a refrigerated case. Seasoned beef koobideh, barg, chicken thighs and pork ribs are skewered on dangerous-looking swords, waiting for their turn in the fire. Tony mans the grill, which often fills the space with mesquite smoke, adding an element of Arizona to the otherwise Armenian flavors. Since receiving so much acclaim, the small restaurant often sells out far before closing time. So make sure to call ahead and place an order to secure the takeout you've been dreaming of.

Bahar Anooshahr

Pan au raisin. Ham and Gruyere croissants. Fresh-baked baguettes. JL Patisserie is a carb-lover's dream. This French bakery is helmed by skillful chef and patisserie expert Jenna Leurquin, and her attention to detail carries through everything on the menu. And we're not the only ones who love this bakery. It was a semifinalist in the 2023 James Beard Awards, competing against bakeries from all over the country. For those who want to learn for themselves how to create the buttery layers of croissants, the perfect domed shells for macarons or the technique to pipe eclairs, the bakery also hosts cooking classes at its original Scottsdale location. Otherwise, leave it to the pros and stop in for a pastry and a latte to brighten your morning.

Custard trifles, mini banoffee pies, Bakewell tarts, millionaire's shortbread slices and sausage rolls are tasty treats for Americans to try. For Brits, they are an essential taste of home. Walking into The Great Gadsby Bakery in Gilbert is like a sigh of relief for those homesick for the flavors of the U.K. And the bakery isn't just serving standard versions of these hard-to-find treats. The baked goods made here are exceptional. The sausage roll has a golden, flaky, buttery pastry that envelops a rich meat filling. The caramel used in many items is cooked to the perfect point of gooey, salty toffee-flavored goodness. And the tarts are made with precision more frequently found in French patisseries. The bakery can sell out early, so we recommend getting there before lunch and ordering a box of pastries to go and a hot sausage roll to eat on the way home.

For a bread lover, Proof Bread is sourdough heaven. The current rendition of the bakery launched in 2017 when married couple Jon Przybyl and Amanda Abou-Eid bought the popular artisan brand from Jared Allen and shifted operations to their own garage in Mesa. Devotees so love their crusty, chewy sourdough creations that they flocked to contribute thousands to an online fundraising campaign that helped Proof move into a Mesa storefront in 2021. In July, the company opened a second location, this one in Phoenix's so-called Sheaborhood. Their sandwich loaf is without the puff and holes you find in typical sourdough loaves, with the butter and brown sugar used to help it rise giving it that special Proof taste. Don't fret — there are traditional sourdough loaves, too, sitting on shelves alongside a multigrain version, baguettes, muffins and buns. Nearly everything in the place has a sourdough base, even the pizza and sweet treats. Even with the storefronts, Proof stays true to its roots and still offers its baked goods at several farmers markets around the Valley.

To be sure, bagels — the traditional ones with a crusty shell and chewy inside — are the star at Bagelfeld's. But the quirky business and its owner, Brooklyn-born chef Charles Blonkenfeld, add to the experience. Blonkenfeld started boiling and baking bagels during the pandemic and gained exposure at local farmers markets and a handful of restaurants around the Valley. Local bagel aficionados took notice, often depleting his daily supply, and helped Bagelfeld's become so popular that it earned local and national accolades. The bakery and small retail area sit inside a nondescript brick building tucked at the rear of a parcel along Thomas Road. The menu boasts eight regular offerings — from plain to everything and blueberry — with a special fennel raisin bagel offered only on Saturdays. The storefront opens early at 6 a.m., yet still regularly sells out before closing time a few hours later. Your best option is to review their FAQs and then order online the day before. They don't answer the phone.

Judy Nichols

A good cookie is a powerful thing. It can transport you to your childhood or create a new happy memory. It has the power to sweeten your day. And at Urban Cookies, the baked beauties are just the right amount of sweet. A little salt joins the party to create craveable cookies that will leave you dreaming of your next visit. Make sure to try the classic chocolate chip made with milk and dark chips, the double chocolate sprinkled with big flakes of salt, the colorful confetti and the sweet and cinnamony snickerdoodle. Sugar cookies come in the format of buttery shortbread shaped into cute saguaros or seasonal snowmen. Stop in throughout the year for a selection of flavors to meet any occasion.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

Remember that saying about eating dessert first? Well, the pancakes at Otro Cafe make a strong argument for eating dessert for breakfast. These flapjacks come single or in a short stack and topped with fresh berries or chocolate chips. But the real winner is the Cajeta Flapjacks. This decadent breakfast starts with fluffy pancakes topped with fresh sliced bananas and creme fraiche. The whole thing is then drizzled with a dizzying, salty-sweet cajeta caramel and sprinkled with candied peanuts. It's rich, sweet, salty and over the top in the best way possible. Otro starts service at 8 a.m., meaning this dessert can be a very good way to start your day.

In our current age of wild, over-the-top doughnuts laden with toppings, there's something to be said for a doughnut shop that keeps it simple. At Dutch Donut Factory in east Mesa, some of the doughnuts have sprinkles. That's about it as far as bells and whistles go, but when the basic element is this good, you don't have to slap a bunch of stuff on it. All the classic varieties of doughnuts are represented here — plain, glazed, frosted — as well as other mainstays like cinnamon rolls, bear claws and apple fritters. They're excellent warm if you get there in early in the morning or later in the day, with just the right texture and sweetness.

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