Best Korean Barbecue 2023 | Sizzle Korean BBQ | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Tim Chow

Yeah, it's a bit bougie, and some might bristle at the a la carte format and phalanx of tableside grill cooks. But the fact remains that if you're looking to stuff your gullet with the best Korean-style grilled meats Phoenix has to offer, it's awfully tough to make a case against Sizzle Korean BBQ. Hyunwook Lee set his sights on elevated fare from the get-go, trucking in top-shelf meats from a Korean butcher in Los Angeles and prepping them with exceptional care. In doing so, he raised the bar and carved out a niche for premium Korean BBQ theretofore unheard of in Phoenix. Cuts of beef and pork with stunning marbling unfurl on the grill in front of you, and while it's fun to cook your own, most of the tableside cooks will do a better job if you let them. Marinades avoid the common trap of being too cloying, while sauces are potent and sparingly applied, but the truth is that these succulent, sizzling slips of meat are so good on their own, they don't really need either.

Lauren Saria

Hana Japanese Eatery is a perennial favorite located just north of the Melrose District. On any given evening, Lori Hashimoto's restaurant is abuzz with activity: Sushi chefs work with precision, servers hustle around the two-room space, and folks from around the neighborhood wait patiently for to-go orders. The menu gives diners plenty of options of both the sushi and non-sushi variety. The vegetable tempura, chicken katsu and spicy tuna will delight fans of classic Japanese fare, but more adventurous diners will find plenty to explore. We love the perfectly chewy takoyaki, octopus dumplings with Japanese mayo, house-made sauce, pickled ginger, green onions and bonito; and the Hana Pride roll, crafted with six kinds of fish with pickled burdock root, avocado, asparagus and sprouts wrapped in cucumber. Choose one of Hana's many sake and Japanese beer options and prepare for a feast.

Jackie Mercandetti Photo

When you walk into Old Town Taste in Tempe, the first thing you notice is the turquoise. It's not the most traditional color scheme for a Chinese restaurant, but the teal-colored walls accented with murals, teal chairs and teal booths make for a distinctive appearance. But the bright decor will cease to draw the eye once your food appears on the table. Old Town Taste serves Sichuan-style cuisine, and the byword here is "spice." Chongqing-style chicken, a specialty, comes out delicately fried, accompanied by green beans and polka-dotted with chiles. Fried lamb with cumin is rich and earthy, and Special Flavored Pork Ribs have an incredible barbecue pork flavor as you nibble the meat off the bones. The restaurant also serves more Americanized Chinese dishes, like General Tso's chicken and kung pao shrimp, but you can find those anywhere. When at Old Town Taste, lean into the more authentic side of the menu.

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.

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