This fiercely original restaurant, which opened its heavy front door in Arcadia in 2019, is a gem from start to finish. Chefs Eric Stone and James Fox have developed a one-of-a-kind menu, driven by vegetables, rooted in Latin America, laced with countless dimensions of chile heat. It also drills down to molecular details like few other places in Arizona. For instance: elote, simple street corn, contains some 40 ingredients. Other dishes include unlikely elements, like a beautifully pepper-centric habanero salsa that gains its creamy X-factor from butter. Entering the minimal restaurant with a bar in the middle, you wouldn't expect such a nuanced approach. What you sense when you enter is smoke — grill smoke that perfumes the restaurant from the rig in the kitchen, where mesquite burns, which plays a role in almost every dish on the menu. Most of those dishes are small: potatoes with jalapeño crema, Peruvian-style hiramasa ceviche with an unspeakably lush coconut-based sauce, cauliflower crushed by 900-degree heat, a pepper-kissed romaine salad with Mexican Sriracha. Large-format plates go big. They've included a blackened pork chop with dazzling escabeche and, yes, carne asada rib-eye with thick ribbons of mesquite-perfumed fat. The beer list has rare finds, like Pistachio Shake by Arizona Wilderness. And then, Miguel Mora is maestro of a cocktail program kicking with personality. New Normal: Vecina has separate dining room and patio reservations. Curbside pickup is also available.
- Price: $$, $$$
- Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 4-9 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 4-10 p.m.
- Outdoor seating: Open-air patio
- Reservations: Recommended
- Call restaurant to order/pay
- Curbside pickup
- Use restaurant website to order/pay