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.