Best Fries 2023 | Dazzo's Dog House | Food & Drink | Phoenix

With all due respect to the tremendous strides our local businesses have made in precision-crafted frozen spud technology, there's something about a fresh-cut potato chucked in lard that can't be replicated on a greasy, gut level. Dazzo's is a solid joint for hot dogs and burgers, but the real star here is the french fries — thick-cut with the skins on, fried to a deep golden color, just a little creamy on the inside while the craggy and erratically cut edges take on a shattering crisp. They're served blistering hot with way too much salt (i.e., just the right amount), and you will neither get nor should you desire anything more than perhaps a dab of ketchup. Mostly? They actually taste like potatoes. Which is as it should be.

The battle for wing supremacy is fierce, and personal taste may rule the day, but for our money, no establishment consistently sticks the landing quite like Valley Wings. Take "boneless wings" out of the equation. (The category is Best Chicken Wings, not Best Chicken Nuggets.) Valley Wings' superlative traditional wings deftly walk the line between juicy and crisp, fried enough to give their lightly dusted surface a lively, sizzling crackle, but not so much that the tender meat within dries out and turns into chicken jerky. There's Buffalo-style for the purists and a cavalcade of flavors — both wet and dry — for those who like a little variety. Most are solid choices, and they'll sauce heavy or light, per your preference. And while the ranch and blue cheese aren't top-notch, they're better than most, and good enough not to get in the way of the beautiful meat.

Chris Malloy

Folks tend to be territorial about their favorite pupusa joints, but if there's one Salvadoran restaurant capable of winning over converts, it's Seydi's. The menu at this North Phoenix mainstay looks the same as the rest — pick a pile of pupusas stuffed with cheese-laced fillings like chicken, chicharron, calabaza and the like. But these pupusas are charmingly quirky, erratically shaped in contrast to the others' clinically perfect discs, lending them a pleasant, rustic texture. The dough is unusually light and tender, griddled to a robust golden color, deeply flavorful and scalding hot on your fingertips. The cheese oozes and pulls, and a little always escapes during cooking, adding crispy griddled cheese bits to the edge. And they're paired with a bright and zippy curtido that needs just a little squirt of house salsa to contrast the earthy fillings within.

Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Little Miss BBQ is the strongest argument that Best of Phoenix should start retiring jersey numbers. This is a much tougher call than it was when Scott and Bekke Holmes opened the OG location on University in 2014. But the fact remains that nobody does as much as well and as consistently as Little Miss BBQ. The Texas-style fatty brisket with its slippery, oozing layers of smoky fat still reigns supreme, but both varieties of sausage are top-notch, specials like the beef rib and the pastrami are heart-stoppers (literally, if you aren't careful), and even the second- and third-string meats are better than most joints around town. Plus, just when you think everybody else is starting to catch up, Scott starts playing around with Mexi-Q and threatening to leave everybody in the dust all over again. His smoked green chile burrito with barbecue meat and ranch beans smothered with green mole is not only some of the best barbecue in town, it's also one of the best burritos in town. Some people make it look easy.

Chris Malloy

Smoked turkey may not be at the top of everyone's list when visiting a Texas-style barbecue restaurant, but at Eric's Family Barbecue, the supple meat is a reason on its own for a trip to Avondale. The talented barbecue masters inject the turkey with sweet tea while it's cooking, keeping it moist and soft awhile it is steamed by the tea. A crust of salt, pepper and garlic forms on the outside, providing a savory contrast to the slight sweetness. The turkey is smoked and then wrapped in foil to bathe in au jus. Enjoy it on a sandwich with pickles, onions and mustard sauce or by weight on barbecue platters best paired with creamy baked macaroni and cheese, pinto beans stewed with barbecued meats and tangy coleslaw.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

Chris Bianco and his pizzeria are synonymous with wood-fired pie-fection. Indeed, even as the list of well-made pizzas available around the Valley and the state grows, Pizzeria Bianco continues to stand out because of its dogged commitment to craftsmanship and by letting simple, high-quality local ingredients shine. Several things have happened over the past year that have put Bianco and the pizzeria on the radar of out-of-state foodies and pizza fiends. First, Bianco was recognized by the James Beard Foundation as Outstanding Restaurateur for 2022, applauding the culinary trio of Bianco joints — the pizzeria and sister restaurants Tratto and Pane Bianco. Bianco then stretched his legs, taking the pizzeria and deli to Los Angeles. That was followed up with a feature in Netflix's "Chef's Table: Pizza," which showcased not only Pizzeria Bianco's rise to culinary fame but also Bianco's near-obsession with how every element, from the grain that becomes the flour used in the dough to the amount of time in the oven, affects the final product. All this added focus solidifies what so many in the Valley already know: The best pizza comes from Pizzeria Bianco.

With no shortage of Chicago transplants, the Valley has a strong deep-dish pizza game. Vero, however, is head and shoulders above the rest thanks to its consistently authentic hearty crust and some of the best-tasting toppings of any place selling Windy City-style pies. Ingredients like spinach, Roma tomatoes and basil are always fresh and full of life. The meatballs, marinated chicken and Italian beef — which you can dress up with hot giardiniera if you really miss a taste of home — blow away the common ham and pepperoni. And ricotta, Pecorino Romano and Asiago cheeses add a gourmet touch. Even better, you can choose from predesigned pizzas that are named after Chicago places and landmarks, like the Lake Shore Drive, Wrigley Field, Lincoln Park or our favorite, the Water Tower Place with fresh garlic, sauteed spinach and mushrooms topped with Asiago cheese. Fun fact: Vero used to be Buddyz but rebranded in 2021 and is no longer confused with Buddy's Pizza, the original Detroit-style pizza with a completely different composition.

Jackie Mercandetti Photo

In between the car payment expense of the $250 omakase and the all-you-can-eat chumbuckets, there's a band of neighborhood sushi joints that targets the intersection of quality and affordability. In Phoenix, the former is harder to come by than the latter. But Sushi Nakano is not only among the best sushi joints in town, it's also the undisputed champion of sushi bang for your buck. For just a few dollars more than the average sushi joint, Leo Nakano offers a short menu of simple nigiri and rolls that are a quantum leap beyond his contemporaries. The texture of Nakano's rice is sublime, perfectly seasoned with the requisite balance of sour, salty and sweet. His fish is carefully sourced and expertly prepared, and his rolls — though tipping a cap to popular Americanized sushi standards — are lighter and more restrained than the usual schlocky mayo maki. Specials are always sharp, and if you really want to do a blowout meal, his omakase is an object lesson in preparing sushi creatively while still honoring its integrity.

Koibito Poke

We're always proud when a local restaurant goes national. And in the case of poke joint Koibito Poke, it's certainly well-deserved. Koibito offers a number of signature bowls; the salmon bowl (salmon, house sauce, cucumber, edamame, green onion, ginger, crab mix and sesame seeds) is a popular option, and there's a keto bowl (cauliflower rice, ahi tuna, salmon, sriracha aioli, cucumber, green onion, Brussels sprouts, kale and sesame seeds) if you're watching your carbs. But we prefer to design our own bowl of raw fish, and it's inevitably heavy on Koibito's Hawaiian tuna. The marinade, with notes of soy and ginger, gives the fish a rich flavor and a silky texture. We're happy to share the greatness that is Koibito Poke with three other states and counting.

Origami Ramen Bar

There's really no argument when it comes to naming the best ramen in the Valley. Origami Ramen Bar takes the title by a landslide. The restaurant's owner and chef, Yusuke Kuroda, grew up in Osaka, Japan, and worked at Nobu's Beverly Hills restaurant. In 2020, he traded the glamour of Los Angeles for Phoenix where he brought his talents to his own restaurant on Ray Road. There, he makes excellent tempura rice bowls, dumplings and chicken katsu. But the star is the ramen, which comes with original, miso, spicy or unique black broth. Our favorite is the Black Soy bowl, made with a mix of chicken and pork broth topped with chicken chashu and black garlic oil, which gives it a super savory flavor. Sweet corn kernels offer a bright contrast, creating a sweet and salty bite. Two varieties of noodles are available. The bouncy, curly noodles have great chew, while the thin noodles are smooth and perfect for slurping. Stop in on a cool afternoon for a steaming hot bowl of the best ramen in town.

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