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The Best Restaurants in Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

The Best Restaurants in Phoenix 2021: Our Top 100 List

Much has changed since March 2020, when Phoenix New Times published its inaugural list of the Top 100 Restaurants in Phoenix. Nearly all the restaurants on the list — James Beard Award winners, strip-mall taquerias, white-tablecloth classics — have struggled simply to stay open amid a pandemic that ripped through the hospitality industry like a hurricane. Dining out has become an entirely different type of activity. In some ways, going to a restaurant may never be the same again.

Our 2021 list of the Top 100 Restaurants in Phoenix reflects this new era of dining. It includes pandemic-related safety policies regarding things like social distancing, carryout and curbside, expanded outdoor seating, and more. It swaps out dearly departed gems for innovative up-and-comers. But mostly it continues to celebrate the culinary multitudes this city contains. The world has changed, but the reasons we go out to eat — to celebrate, to commune, to be excited by some strange new combination of flavors — have not.

Note: For more information on how local restaurants are serving customers during the pandemic, check out New Times’ guide to Phoenix Takeout, Delivery, and Restaurant Dining 2021.

Cafe Lalibela
Cafe Lalibela
Timur Guseynov

No one lives in Tempe for long without hearing, "You've got to try Cafe Lalibela." The husband-and-wife-run Ethiopian restaurant has occupied a strip mall suite for decades, and given that its foods are starting to appear as local items in area grocery stores, it's only getting easier to sample the offerings of Cafe Lalibela's menu. Serving some of the best African food in all of metropolitan Phoenix, the eatery specializes in vegetarian dishes (though several meat items are on the menu) and is known for teaching many an Arizona State University student about the importance of injera and wat. Injera, or a crepe-like sourdough bread made with teff, is served with most orders. And wait till you try this wat. The Ethiopian stew comes spicy or not, meatless or not, but we recommend the key sega wat (spicy beef stew). Do not fear, possibly unadventurous eaters: The menu comes with a glossary. New Normal: Seating is limited inside, but Cafe Lalibela offers curbside pickup and no-contact delivery.($$)

849 W. University Dr., Tempe, 85281
480-829-1939, website

Cafe Lalibela

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