Mexican | Pizza | Upscale | Craft Cocktails | Only in Phoenix | 10 Best Burgers

Where to Eat & Drink
Central Phoenix | Scottsdale | Tempe | Downtown Phoenix | Around the Valley


Border Town

For upscale central‑southern Mexican cuisine, there’s no place better than chef Silvana Salcido Esparza’s Barrio Café (2814 N. 16th St., Phoenix, 602‑636‑0240, www.barriocafe.com), where dishes such as pollo en mole and cochinita pibil get an elegant French twist. Be sure to start with the award‑winning guacamole, sweetened with fruit and prepared tableside during dinner service. And it’s not a bad idea to try Esparza’s signature dish, chiles en nogada, which features a roasted poblano pepper stuffed with chicken, fruit, and pecan and served with an almond cream sauce. The food alone warrants a trip to this spot, but it’s also worth it to check out the Calle 16 mural project, an impressive collection of street art than spans the blocks around the restaurant.

The famous upscale restaurant also is close to the Phoenix location of La Santisima Gourmet Taco Shop (1919 N. 16th St., Phoenix, 602‑254‑6330, www.lasantisimagourmet.com), a casual eatery serving top‑notch tacos, quesadillas, and burritos. But as good as the Oaxaca black mole taco and sweet, fruit‑filled horchata can be, the restaurant’s claim to fame is its salsa bar, where you’ll have nearly a dozen varieties of housemade salsas to spice up your food. You also can check out the restaurant’s second location on the west side of town, not far from the heart of downtown Glendale (5932 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale, 623‑939‑3292).

Los Sombreros (2534 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480‑994‑1799, www.lossombreros.com) offers diners a spacious patio and cozy, romantic dining room, and the restaurant serves excellent cuisine inspired by owner Azucena Tovar’s annual trip to her hometown of San Miguel de Allende. Don’t miss dishes such as the huitlacoche crepas and hibiscus enchiladas, and the restaurant offers a 10‑course tasting menu that serves two diners for $75.

And if you make it to Los Dos Molinos (8646 S. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602‑243‑9113, www.losdosmolinosphoenix.com), be warned that the restaurant’s New Mexican chile‑filled food packs serious heat. You’ll probably want a cold margarita to wash down sweat‑inducing dishes such as the popular adovada ribs and shrimp Veracruz, but we promise the pain is worth it. There are multiple locations of the local mini‑chain, but the best experience can be found at the South Phoenix location. That well‑loved restaurant is housed inside a cozy adobe building filled from wall to wall with colorful kitsch.

For an even more humble experience, try Carolina’s (1202 E. Mohave St., Phoenix, 602‑252‑1503, www.carolinasmex.com), a local mini‑chain where the name of the game is housemade tortillas. The restaurant’s stretchy, thin flour tortillas are a thing of beauty and serve as the base for much of its menu. For an authentic experience, be sure to visit the location just south of the downtown Phoenix core. It won’t win any awards for charm or style, but we think the no‑frills atmosphere only makes a spicy beef machaca or chorizo burrito even easier to enjoy.

Finally, at Gallo Blanco (401 W. Clarendon Ave., Phoenix, 602‑327‑0880, www.galloblancocafe.com), a lively restaurant located inside the stylish, mid‑century‑inspired Clarendon Hotel, chef and owner Doug Robson crafts approachable and affordable Mexican eats at low prices that don’t immediately indicate the high quality of ingredients Gallo Blanco uses, but with one bite of Elote Callejero or an Ensalada del Inca you’ll notice the difference.

Little Italy

Over a decade ago, Chris Bianco became the first pizza chef to win the coveted Best Chef: Southwest award from the James Beard Foundation, a fact that helped ignite a national trend of artisan pizza making. It also made Phoenix the nation’s de facto pizza capital, and the local collection of excellent pizzerias hasn’t yet stopped growing. The original location of the chef’s Pizzeria Bianco (623 E. Adams St., Phoenix, 602‑258‑8300, www.pizzeriabianco.com) can be found in the heart of downtown Phoenix, though you’d better be prepared to wait for a table if you’re planning to visit during the dinner rush. A second location of the restaurant at the Town & Country Shopping Center in Central Phoenix (4743 N. 20th St., Phoenix, 602‑368‑3272) tends to be a safer bet for a shorter wait and also serves an expanded menu that includes handmade pastas and large entrées in addition to the chef’s world famous pizzas.

On the west side of the Valley, the pinnacle of the pizza game can be found at La Piazza al Forno (5803 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale, 623‑847‑3301, www.lapiazzaalforno.com), a family‑owned brick oven pizzeria located in historic downtown Glendale. The restaurant specializes in Neapolitan‑style pies cooked for just a few minutes in a wood‑fired brick oven. La Piazza sources top‑quality ingredients, including San Marzano Tomatoes and mozzarella di bufala, then combines them to make simple but exceptional creations such as the classic Regina Margherita.

Pomo Pizzeria (8977 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480‑998‑1366, www.pomopizzeria.com) also offers Neapolitan‑style pizzas perfected by chef Matteo Schiavone. For a testament to the restaurant’s authenticity, look no further than the V.P.N. Verace Pizza Napoletana, an Italian trade organization from which the restaurant holds a certification. Pizza options include classics such as Bufala Verace, as well as more unique creations such as the Pizza Fritta, a fried calzone with Tomato San Marzano DOP, Fior di Latte, Parmigiano Reggiano, and basil. Best of all, a meal at Pomo always includes a complimentary dessert and a shot of handmade limoncello crema to end the experience.

Until last year, you could snag a pizza from downtown Phoenix’s Cibo (603 N. 5th Ave., Phoenix, 602‑441‑2697, www.cibophoenix.com) during dinner hours only, but these days, you can head to the cozy spot for a pizza fix just about any time. Nighttime on the restaurant’s softly lit patio is a magical experience, one that certainly extends to include Italian chef and pizza expert Guido Saccone’s Italian cuisine. You may be surprised by Cibo’s lengthy list of Pizza Bianche, or white pizzas — in fact, they actually outnumber the more common red sauce‑based offerings. The list includes options such as the Dolce Vita, made with creamy burrata, speck, arugula, and balsamic glaze, and the Tartufata, with mozzarella, mushrooms, prosciutto crudo, and truffle oil.

For a place that expertly combines style and excellent pizza, a wonderful option is The Parlor (1916 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602‑248‑2480, www.theparlor.us) pizzeria. Housed in a repurposed mid‑century beauty parlor, the restaurant’s unique aesthetic serves as a perfect backdrop for the menu of affordable Italian cuisine. Wood‑fired pizzas come in varieties such as spicy barbecue chicken and classic pepperoni, though the Smokey pizza made with speck, olive tapenade, smoked mozzarella, ricotta, and arugula is a fan favorite. For non‑pizza eaters (if they exist!), try the housemade pastas or seasonal salads. It’s worth mentioning that the bar program is reputable in its own right, so you may want to skip the vino for a boozy concoction instead.

Fancy Plates

Just outside the Valley in Cave Creek, you’ll find chef Kevin Binkley’s temple of molecular gastronomy, Binkley’s Restaurant (6920 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, 480‑437‑1072, www.binkleysrestaurant.com). And though it’s located a good distance from the city center, the James Beard Award‑nominated chef’s namesake restaurant continuously draws diners from all over the world who seek to experience his unique skill at using seasonal produce in creative ways. Though the restaurant atmosphere isn’t as formal as you might expect, the dining experience certainly is an entertaining show. In between each of the meal’s multiple courses, guests receive a number of playful amuses bouche — the ever‑changing selection may include everything from a miniature take on a classic Sloppy Joe to a dramatic show involving dry ice and flashing lights. It’s as visually stunning an event as it is a delicious meal.

Posh (7167 E. Rancho Vista Dr., Scottsdale, 480‑663‑7674, www.poshscottsdale.com) restaurant, found in Old Town Scottsdale, also makes for a one‑of‑a‑kind dining adventure. Chef Josh Hebert offers diners “improvisational cuisine,” a take on the Japanese omakase dinner. Guests get a checklist of ingredients, mark those they like and dislike, and then leave the rest in the hands of the chef and his team. It may seem a scary leap of faith, but Hebert’s impeccable technique and dedication to scouring top‑quality ingredients means there’s almost no chance you won’t enjoy every last bite.

Trusting diners may also want to consider dinner at ShinBay (7001 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480‑664‑0180, www.shinbay.com), the James Beard award‑nominated restaurant where chef Shinji Kurita crafts sophisticated Japanese cuisine. Beyond the number of courses you’d like to enjoy, there’s little selection left to the diner; the good news is that dishes such as pan‑fried whole soft shell crab and sake‑steamed mushrooms are certain to please. For nearly every guest, the meal will include the chef’s signature Tsukuri Six, a dazzling selection of small seafood bites that can feature anything from tuna tartare to a fresh Kumamoto oyster with ponzu gélee and rich sea urchin.

For a more down‑to‑earth experience, food enthusiasts won’t want to miss FnB (7125 E. 5th Ave., Scottsdale, 480‑284‑4777, www.fnbrestaurant.com), where chef Charleen Badman, fondly nicknamed the “Vegetable Whisperer,” takes local food to a new level. Her constantly changing menu of rustic New American cuisine highlights local food producers and farmers with dishes such as Tuscan kale falafel, fried green tomatoes, and roasted chicken served with spaetzle and mushrooms. To round out the experience, allow front‑of‑the‑house chief Pavle Milic to guide you through the restaurant’s menu of Arizona wines — and if you find one you like, you can even stop by the restaurant’s adjacent wine store and market to pick up a bottle or a few locally made food products. FnB also is open for lunch.

Rancho Pinot (6208 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480‑367‑8030, www.ranchopinot.com), found just north of downtown Scottsdale, offers a similar dinner experience, though chef Chrysa Robertson’s rustic‑chic restaurant boasts a more authentically Southwestern atmosphere. Amid décor such as a giant cactus, cowboy paintings, and roughhewn chairs, diners enjoy Robertson’s menu of gourmet comfort fare. For more than a decade, fans have returned for grilled quail, lamb chops, and Robertson’s ricotta gnocchi appetizer and famous Nonni’s Sunday Chicken.

Bottoms Up

Though Phoenix may not have a reputation as a national drinking destination, there certainly are places where cocktail culture thrives in this town. A good place to start your boozing adventure is Bar Crudo (3603 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, 602‑358‑8666, www.crudoaz.com), where mixologist Micah Olson and his team of talented barkeeps craft seasonal drinks that push the envelope of local cocktail culture. For colder weather, Bar Crudo offers creations such as the Hans and Franz, a hot drink made with apple cider, Aquavit, sherry, and Averna, while their homage to the tradition of tiki cocktails includes the Crazy Eights, made with Bacardi 8 Rum, Smith & Cross Rum, Galliano, lime, orange, honey, falernum, and an allspice dram. For a particularly sweet deal, swing by during the bar’s happy hour (offered from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday), when a lengthy list of classic cocktails can be had for just $7.

In downtown Phoenix, the best bar experience can be found at Bitter & Twisted (1 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix, 602‑340‑1924, www.bitterandtwistedaz.com). This cocktail destination boasts a 24‑page “Book O’ Cocktails” that’s loaded with diagrams, illustrations, and sassy descriptions to help you select the perfect drink. Brought to the historic Luhrs building by Scottish owner and lead bartender Ross Simon, this drinking hole is tricked out with state‑of‑the‑art equipment and manned by a team of top talent. The swanky vibe makes this a true don’t‑miss drinking spot, though we recommend making a reservation if you want to stop by. The seats have been known to fill up quick and there’s no standing room allowed.

Head north on Central Avenue and you’ll find the Clever Koi (4236 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602‑222‑3474, www.thecleverkoi.com). The Asian restaurant offers inventive fusion cuisine but also benefits from a notable bar program headed by mixologist Joshua James. At the restaurant’s bar, James crafts simple but ingenious cocktails that define new‑school drinking in the Valley of the Sun. Look for an impressive collection of herbal liqueurs and infused spirits, such as lemon‑infused plantation rum and hickory‑infused Dickel 12 Year whiskey. For a true test of talent, there’s always the Hey Bartender, an option that allows adventurous drinkers to pick a spirit and profile and leave the rest to chance.

And if “balanced” is a descriptor you like to use in reference to your drinks, then you’ll want to head to Paradise Valley’s Hermosa Inn. At the historic hotel’s The Last Drop bar, (5532 N. Palo Cristi Road, Paradise Valley, 602‑955‑7878, www.lastdropbar.com), Spirit Guide and mixologist Travis Nass offers impeccably well‑balanced cocktails made with handmade bitters, syrups, and more. You’ll recognize Nass by his signature handlebar mustache, but don’t let the fun‑loving appearance fool you; this guy holds a trove of knowledge about cocktail culture and sprit history.

Finally, for Old Town Scottsdale drinking adventures, we head to Citizen Public House (7111 E. 5th Ave., Scottsdale, 480‑398‑4208, www.citizenpublichouse.com), an upscale restaurant with one of the best bars in town. Long after the dining room shuts down, the square‑shaped bar remains open as a booze‑filled oasis from the area’s buzz‑y nightlife scene. Along with an ever‑changing menu of late‑night eats (available on the weekend only), you’ll find a menu of well‑executed cocktails made with craft sprits and accoutrements.

Only in Phoenix

Chicken and waffles is something of a classic combination, but chicken and doughnuts? Well, that’s a little harder to find. Lucky for Phoenicians (and Valley visitors), the holy combination of fried dough and fried meat comes together beautifully at the newly opened Welcome Chicken + Donuts (1535 E. Buckeye Road, Phoenix, 602‑258‑1655). At this casual spot, a second restaurant from the folks behind the successful Welcome Diner, you’ll find succulent bone‑in fried chicken in Asian‑inspired flavors such as Vietnamese Herb, Korean Chili, and Japanese BBQ. Every order comes with a classic cake doughnut, though you’d do well to save room for extra dessert. If you get there early enough — because the doughnuts do sell out nearly every day — you may be able to snag a half‑dozen of the artisan creations, which come in unique varieties such as chocolate, rose, and pistachio; apple fritter with cheddar cheese; and chocolate almond coconut.

Crepe Bar (7520 S. Rural Road, Tempe, 480‑247‑8012, www.crepe‑bar.com), found in south Tempe, also offers a playful lunch experience thanks to the talents of culinary mastermind Jeff Kraus. Though the focus is certainly on the menu of sweet and savory crepes, there’s plenty more to be enjoyed than just the chef’s modern take on a French classic dish. Be sure to grab a cup of the carefully crafted coffee drinks or try a flavor‑infused glass of housemade cold brew. And if you really want to experience something different, take the time to explore the chef’s menu of small plates, which take inspiration from the locally sourced produce Kraus acquires from a nearby farm.

To satisfy your sweet tooth, head to Scottsdale, where nationally recognized ice cream shop Sweet Republic (9160 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale, 480‑248‑6979, www.sweetrepublic.com) set up shop. (A recently opened Phoenix location is at 6054 N. 16th St.) This gourmet ice cream destination offers outside‑the‑box flavors that are sure to appeal to just about every kind of diner. Popular combinations include Sichuan orange chocolate, honey blue cheese, basil lime sorbet, and I Heart Bacon, a sweet‑and‑savory creation made with tiny bits of caramelized smoked bacon. Sweet seekers also love the Toffee Banofi sundae, made with two scoops of Madagascar vanilla ice cream, almond toffee brittle, fresh bananas, and salted caramel sauce.

In downtown Scottsdale, you can try Super Chunk Sweets and Treats (7120 E. 6th Ave., No. 19, 602‑736‑2383), an artisan candy shop owned by husband‑and‑wife team Sergio and Country Velador. The couple crafts everything in the store by hand, including hand‑pulled toffee, sweet gumdrops, and several types of flavored caramels. The shop’s signature offerings are the sweet‑and‑savory popcorns, which come in blends such as brown butter fleur de sel, white cheddar truffle, and chocolate bacon caramel corn.

Beer lovers will have plenty of options to explore thanks to a recent explosion of breweries around town, but serious beer geeks won’t want to miss a chance to visit Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. (721 N. Arizona Ave., Gilbert, 480‑284‑9863, www.azwbeer.com) in Gilbert. It’s new to the local scene but already has been named the best new brewery in the world by www.ratebeer.com, known as the preeminent craft beer ranking site. The spot specializes in experimental brews, often made with off‑the‑wall and locally sourced ingredients, from cacao nibs to spruce tips.

And for a real taste of Arizona booze, we’d recommend a trip to the Arizona Distilling Company (508 W. 1st St., Tempe, 480‑233‑9439, www.azdistilling.com) tasting room. This Tempe‑based distillery produced Copper City Bourbon last year, the first legally distilled spirit made in the state since Prohibition. Since then, they’ve expanded their offerings to include several types of whiskey, gin, and even moonshine, all of which can be tasted and purchased at the distillery.

10 Best Burgers in Metro Phoenix

With so many diverse varieties in existence, you easily could argue that there’s no bad time to indulge in a well-prepared burger. There are burgers for breakfast, burgers for lunch, and of course, burgers meant to be enjoyed as a hearty dinner. Our list of favorite burgers around town runs the gamut from simple burgers done exceptionally well to the kind of burger that feels more like a luxury that a guilty pleasure. If one thing’s for sure, it’s that we’ve got the beef.

The Standard with Cheese from The Stand Burgers & Tacos: Sometimes you just want — nay, need — a basic-as-they-come cheeseburger. And when such a craving hits, we head to The Stand. The restaurant’s Standard burger offers a double serving of all-beef patties, seared but still juicy, topped with American cheese, crisp lettuce, tomatoes, onions (we like ’em grilled), pickles, and Stand Sauce. If your in Arcadia then chances are this is your go-to burger joint, or should be, thanks in part to the fact that it offers a drive-thru option. It’s not the speediest one in town but for lazy days it does the trick. (3538 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, 602-314-5259, www.thestandbnt.com)

PB& B from Welcome Diner: We’ll admit, it doesn’t seem like peanut butter, cheese, and pickles should taste good on a burger but that’s part of the appeal of this glorious dish. Welcome Diner combines these three ingredients along with bacon and a burger patty to make a cheesebuger that’s truly one-of-a-kind. The combination of crunchy, salty peanut butter; sweet and spicy pickles; and melted cheese makes for a union of flavors that’s somehow comforting while also being quite unexpected. (924 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, 602-495-1111, www.marthaandmary.net/welcomediner)

The Farmer’s Daughter Burger from Ingo’s Tasty Food: Fans of a classic Reuben sandwich will have a hard time resisting the Farmer’s Daughter Burger at Ingo’s Tasty Food. Brought to the corner of 40th Street and Campbell by the folks behind LGO Hospitality, this futuristic-looking dining spot delivers some of the best burgers in town. The Farmer’s Daughter combines a grass-fed beef patty with house-made dijon sauce, tangy sauerkraut, and thick slice of nutty fol epi cheese. The fluffy-yet-sturdy poppyseed buns are an architectural marvel, somehow able to support the weight of all that food while still retaining a delicate texture. (4502 N. 40th St., Phoenix, 602-795-2884, www.ingostastyfood.com)

The Great Big One from The Chuckbox: There’s absolutely nothing fancy about The Chuckbox or its food. In fact, it seems that over the years this restaurant has made a conscious effort to remain true to its plain roots. When it comes to the food that means you can still get burgers cooked over an open flame — though that’s not the only thing The Chuckbox has going for it. The secret blend of spices (a.k.a. “magic dust”) that goes into every patty also helps make this the only place in town to find a backyard barbecue-style burger done to the highest level. At lunchtime be prepared to wait in line and stop at the ATM on you way, The Chuckbox is cash only. (202 University Dr., Tempe, 480-968-4712, www.thechuckbox.com)

Zinc Burger from Zinc Bistro: As you might expect from a cozy Parisian-looking bistro in the heart of Scottsdale, Zinc Bistro knows how to deliver a highly refined burger eating experience. Chef Matt Carter’s burger consists of a dense, thick beef patty topped with sliced tomatoes, lemon and garlic arugula, and your choice of either bacon blue cheese or truffled Gruyère. The latter is obviously a popular option; the Gruyère adds saltiness to the mix while the truffle create richness and depth. (15034 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-603-0922, www.zincbistroaz.com)

Brunch Burger from Orange Table Tempe: Though Orange Table shuttered its doors in Old Town Scottsdale last year, the breakfast and brunch spot has since resurfaced in Tempe. Much of the menu is exactly the same, including (thank goodness) our favorite Brunch Burger. These days a hand-shaped patty gives the dish a home-spun feel, but the elements of an over easy egg and potato hash remain pretty much the same. The real secret to success is the maple mayo that comes drizzled on the inside the toasted bun; it gives sweetness to the whole messy endeavor. Just go ahead and ask for an extra side. You’re going to want it. (203 E. 7th St., Tempe, 480-967-2006, www.orangetabletempe.com)

Southwest Burger from Joe’s Farm Grill: Southwest-inspired burgers can easily become a heavy, peppery mess but at Joe’s Farm Grill in Gilbert the regional dish takes on a different form. A 6 oz. beef patty comes rubbed with taco spice and loaded up with pepper jack cheese, fresh pico de gallo, chipotle mayo, and slices of avocado. The combination of spicy elements and cool avocado will remind you of a taco or torta, which makes this burger an ideal combination of some of our favorite cuisines. (3000 E. Ray Road, Gilbert, 480-563-4745, www.joesfarmgrill.com)

Zinburger from Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar: Whether you’re at the location at the Biltmore Fashion Park or headed to the newest Valley location in Gilbert, you can count on Zinburger’s signature offering to deliver on flavor. The classic Zinburger means a grass-fed beef patty that’s topped with melted Manchego cheese, braised onions, lettuce, and mayo. The whole thing is simple enough to satisfy just about every diner (after all, isn’t that the whole point of Sam Fox’s restaurants?) and can even be upgraded to a Kobe beef patty for those seeking a more luxurious experience. Either way this is a burger that scratches your beef-eating itch without leaving you feeling guilty and grease-covered when you’re done. (2502 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602-424-9500, www.zinburgeraz.com)

The Ivan from The Attic: It may not be the biggest restaurant, or the easiest to find, but The Attic sure knows how to cook a burger. The Ivan Burger is the simplest of the bunch, made with a sizable grilled patty topped with spring mix lettuce, tomato, red onion, and chiptole mayonnaise. The restaurant’s pretzel bun is everything you could want from both a pretzel and a burger bun: buttery, soft, and sturdy. You’ll have your choice of cheeses including American, Swiss, provolone, cheddar, and pepper jack, as well as the option to add bacon, mushroom, or bleu cheese for $1 each. (4247 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, 602-955-1967, www.facebook.com/theattic4247)

Bacon Burger from Bink’s Midtown and Scottsdale: When it comes to bacon and burgers, no one does it quite like Bink’s. The Bacon Burger, available at both Bink’s Midtown and Bink’s Scottsdale during lunch, features a crisp patty made with bacon ground into the beef. The result is an even distribution of rich, bacon flavor that’s paired with spicy pickles and sharp cheddar cheese. The whole thing gets a boost of richness from a combination of smoked caramelized onion mayo that’s spread on the inside of a fluffy onion roll. For a side, don’t skip the fries, which come with a trio of sauces including truffle ketchup and garlic aioli. (Bink’s Midtown, 2320 E. Osborn Road, Phoenix, 602-388-4874, www.binksmidtown.com; Bink’s Scottsdale, 6107 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-664-9238, www.binksscottsdale.com)

Where to Eat & Drink

Central Phoenix

Christopher’s Crush and Lounge: James Beard Award‑winning chef Christopher Gross delivers top‑notch French cuisine at this Biltmore area restaurant. The menu includes everything from classic escargot en croute to a selection of pizzas made in a wood‑fired oven. For a light meal or snack, try the menu of affordable petit plates, a French take on Spanish tapas. (2502 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602‑522‑2344, www.christophersaz.com)

The Fry Bread House: A few years ago, this locally owned eatery nabbed a James Beard Award that recognized the restaurant as an American classic. The specialty is, of course, Native American fry bread, which can be enjoyed as either a savory meal or a sweet dessert. Try it topped with red chili to start, followed up with a second piece slathered in chocolate and butter. (1003 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, 602‑351‑2345)

Hana Japanese Eatery: For sushi lovers seeking an unpretentious but exceptional meal, Hana in Phoenix is a winning choice. The family‑owned and operated restaurant serves fresh slices of hamachi, sake, and unagi, as well as harder‑to‑find options including uni and toro (fatty tuna belly). The rest of the menu is worthwhile as well — try the ramen, steamed clams, or the calamari starter. (5524 N. 7th Ave., Phoenix, 602‑973‑1238, www.hanajapaneseeatery.com)

La Grande Orange: Whether you’re looking for pizza, a fresh salad, or a last‑minute hostess gift, this Arcadia neighborhood restaurant and market can meet your needs. For a coffee break, casual breakfast, or dinner to go, La Grande Orange Grocery makes dining simple and stress‑free. For breakfast, don’t skip the housemade English muffins, which are widely regarded as the best in town. (4410 N. 40th St., Phoenix, 602‑840‑7777, www.lagrandeorangegrocery.com)

Over Easy: Chef Aaron May’s casual breakfast spot serves a playful menu that’s earned the restaurant national attention on the Food Network several times. You’ll find classic morning fare at this neighborhood spot, as well as fun creations such as Waffle Dogs, a dish that include three waffle‑battered breakfast sausages fried to a golden brown and served on a stick. (4730 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, 602‑468‑3447, www.eatatovereasy.com)

Postino: There are several locations of this approachable wine bar and restaurant, each of which boasts a spacious patio and energetic atmosphere. An ever‑changing wine list features varietals from all over the globe and glasses cost just $5 before 5 p.m. every day. To pair with your drink, don’t miss the bruschetta boards made with ingredients such as goat cheese, creamy mozzarella, and tomato jam. (3939 E. Campbell Ave., Phoenix, 602‑852‑3939, www.postinowinecafe.com)

St. Francis: Chef Aaron Chamberlin’s Phoenix restaurant certainly isn’t short on style, making this a cool place to enjoy contemporary American cuisine. The menu revolves around the restaurant’s wood‑fired oven with specialties including wood‑roasted vegetables, flatbreads, and meats. The restaurant’s freshly baked San Francisco style sourdough bread is also not‑to‑be‑missed; most days you can even purchase a loaf to take home. (111 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602‑200‑8111, www.stfrancisaz.com)

Steak 44: This modern steakhouse blends the feel of a neighborhood eatery with that of an upscale restaurant thanks to its dark, cozy décor and amiable service. Here you’ll find a selection of classic chophouse fare combined with some unexpected options such as soft shell crab in vanilla bean tempura and fried deviled eggs. (5101 N. 44th St., Phoenix, 602‑271‑4400, www.steak44.com)

T. Cook’s: Located at the Royal Palms Resort, this romantic and upscale restaurant serves Mediterranean‑influenced cuisine crafted by executive chef Paul McCabe. The menu showcases local and seasonal ingredients, which McCabe combines to make thoughtful dishes such as venison tartare, housemade saffron pappardelle, and whole roasted loup de mer with heirloom tomatoes. (5200 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602‑808‑0766, www.royalpalmshotel.com/dining/phoenix‑scottsdale‑restaurant)

True Food Kitchen: Diners seeking healthy options while dining out need look no further than True Food Kitchen, where restaurateur Sam Fox has teamed up with Dr. Andrew Weil to create a restaurant menu that adheres to his anti‑inflammatory diet. Gluten‑free, Paleo, and Whole 30 dieters will see TFK as a safe option for dinner out — and best of all there are plenty of enjoyable eats for restriction‑less diners, too. (2502 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602‑774‑3488, www.truefoodkitchen.com)


Brat Haus: Old Town Scottsdale’s most popular beer hall offers a lot more than just 30 craft beers on tap and about 40 more by the bottle. There’s also a menu of German‑inspired cuisine (think housemade brats, burgers, and more), as well as a sprawling outdoor patio filled with strings of lights, potted plants, and games including Giant Jenga. (3622 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 602‑738‑1274, www.brathausaz.com)

Cool Gelato Italiano: Tucked into an alley across from the Scottsdale Center for the Arts, this shop serves real‑deal Italian gelato made by husband‑and‑wife team Alberto Della Casa and Letizia de Lucia. Italy’s champion gelato artisan trained both of the owners and together they make 20 varieties of fresh gelato every day. (7373 E. Scottsdale Mall, Scottsdale, 480‑941‑3100, www.coolgelatoitaliano.com)

Cowboy Ciao: Out‑of‑towners looking for the quintessential Southwestern vibe will find it at this Scottsdale eatery. As the name implies, Cowboy Ciao showcases Western‑chic décor, but the food here is definitely no joke. Go for classics such as the sumptuous mushroom pan‑fry with double‑cooked polenta or the famous Stetson Chopped, made with dried corn, couscous, smoked salmon, arugula, tomatoes, currants, asiago, and pepitas. (7133 E. Stetson Dr., Scottsdale, 480‑946‑3111, www.cowboyciao.com)

Fate Brewing Company: It’s certainly not the biggest brewpub in town, but since opening in 2013, Fate has built a reputation for always having something new and interesting on tap. Owner and head brewer Steve McFate produces limited amounts of lovable brews such as a coconut oatmeal IPA and Candy Bar Milk Stout, brewed with cocoa nibs, vanilla bean, sea salt, and honey‑roasted peanuts. (7337 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale, 480‑994‑1275, www.fatebrewing.com)

GrabbaGreen: This juice bar and restaurant offers healthy food in a fast‑casual setting designed to make good‑for‑you dining both easy and affordable. The menu includes grains‑based bowls and salads, all of which feature all‑natural ingredients sourced locally whenever possible. To improve the convenience factor you can even order online for quick curbside pickup. (7366 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale, 480‑991‑8999, www.grabbagreen.com)

The Original ChopShop Co.: Looking for a post‑hike bite? Head to a Scottsdale eatery where vegetables and fruits of all manner are chopped into fresh salads, mixed into hearty bowls, and blended into flavorful juices. Best of all, these good‑for‑you eats won’t break the bank, with most options coming in under $10. (7158 E. 5th Ave., Scottsdale, 480‑794‑1536, www.chopshopco.com)

Pink Pony: Baseball fans will probably know this classic dining destination: It’s the oldest restaurant in the city of Scottsdale and features a collection of baseball memorabilia, including a wall of caricatures of legendary players. The restaurant underwent an extensive overhaul in recent years, but rest assured that the new menu and design still make it a worthwhile stop. (3831 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480‑945‑6697, www.pinkponyrestaurant.com)

RnR: During the daytime, Scottsdale’s party scene thrives at this laid‑back restaurant and bar, where you’ll find crowds of young, attractive drinkers and diners almost anytime of day. For happy hour or a pre‑party dinner, RnR is a perfect choice. (Bonus: There’s Sunday brunch with bottomless Bloody Marys and mimosas). (3737 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480‑945‑3353, www.rnrscottsdale.com)

Roka Akor: This North Scottsdale spin‑off of London’s Roka restaurant specializes in robatayaki (Japanese‑style grilled dishes). The restaurant’s charcoal grill serves as a dramatic centerpiece for the stylish spot, where diners indulge in perfectly prepared steaks and fresh sushi. Be sure to order the butterfish tataki with white asparagus and a glass of house‑infused sochu. (7299 N. Scottsdale Road, Paradise Valley, 480‑306‑8800, www.rokaakor.com)

The Upton: This newcomer to the Scottsdale scene offers a fun, energetic vibe and elevated versions of classic dishes from all over the world. Try small, sharable plates such as the char siu ribs or go big with satisfying large plates like the thyme‑marinated Southern fried chicken. Either way you go, chef Chris Schlattman will deliver well‑executed cuisine at a fair price point. (7216 E. Shoeman Lane, Scottsdale, 480‑991‑6887, www.theuptonaz.com)


Café Lalibella: You don’t have to look far to find a one‑of‑a‑kind culinary adventure in the heart of Tempe. Café Lalibella brings the flavors of Ethiopia to the Valley of the Sun, including wat, a traditional Ethiopian stew; spongy, flat injera bread; and a variety of Ethiopian coffees, teas, wines, and beers. (849 W. University Dr., Tempe, 480‑829‑1939, www.cafelalibela.com)

Cartel Coffee Lab: Check out the flagship location of the Valley’s top coffee roaster, where coffee is much more than just a vehicle for getting caffeine into your bloodstream. This popular local coffee shop and brewery is the real deal thing and sources its beans from a single high‑elevation farm in the Sul de Mina region of Brazil. (225 W. University Dr., Tempe, 480‑432‑8237, www.cartelcoffeelab.com/cartel‑ash‑ave‑tempe‑az)

Culinary Dropout at The Yard at Farmer Arts District: Sam Fox’s largest creation to date includes a third Valley location of Culinary Dropout, a gastropub‑type restaurant serving approachable eats and drinks. To complement the eatable offerings, there’s also The Yard, a spacious covered outdoor patio with games, lounge seating, and plenty of people watching. With multiple bars, TVs, and stylish décor, there’s hardly a better place to be seen in the Tempe neighborhood. (149 W. Farmer Ave., Tempe, 480‑240‑1601, www.culinarydropout.com)

Curry Corner: Chef and owner Farah Khalid brings homey Indian‑Pakistani cuisine to Tempe diners at this cozy, casual restaurant. Nearly everything on the menu makes for a satisfying meal, including a wide variety of flavorful curries and the popular Mix Grill Sizzler, a fragrant plate of tandoori grilled meats that’s as impressive visually as it is delicious to eat. (1212 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe, 480‑894‑1276)

D’Lish Kitchen and Coffee House: It’s rare to find a drive‑thru with eats like this. We’re talking about salads, wraps, and sandwiches all made with produce from local growers and using top‑quality ingredients. For a light meal, try the juices, smoothies, and shakes and for an afternoon pick‑me‑up, there’s always the selection of coffee and espresso drinks. (1135 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe, 480‑517‑1111, www.dlishdrivethru.com)

Four Peaks Brewing Company: By far Arizona’s best‑known brewery, this Tempe institution serves elevated bar eats and handcrafted beers to crowds of fans both day and night. Enjoy a cold pint of 8th Street Ale or a tall Kiltlifter on the outdoor patio or inside, where you’ll have a front row view of the brewing process. Brewery tours are also available, though reservations are required. (1340 E. 8th St., Tempe, 480‑303‑9967, www.fourpeaks.com)

Green New American Vegetarian: Looking for vegetarian and vegan eats that go beyond a flavorless mountain of vegetables and fruits? Try Green in Tempe, where non‑meat eaters can still chow down on kung pao bowls, a BBQ bacon burger, and spicy buffalo “wings” — all made with mock meats, of course. (2240 N. Scottsdale Road, Tempe, 480‑941‑9003, www.greenvegetarian.com)

House of Tricks: Romantic dining doesn’t get any better than House of Tricks, where guests can enjoy elegant New American cuisine in a one‑of‑a‑kind setting. The restaurant is housed in a 1920s cottage and 1903 adobe brick house that are joined by an outdoor bar, patio, and fireplace. For drinks or a luxurious dinner, this is one of Tempe’s best upscale destinations. (114 E. 7th St., Tempe, 480‑968‑1114, www.houseoftricks.com)

The Revival: In what once was an outdated Tempe dining institution, chef Kelly Fletcher crafts Mexican cuisine that draws inspiration from all over the world. Dishes such as braised duck taquitos, chipotle‑guajillo braised short rib, and steamed mussels provide a new outlook on Mexican cuisine. Try the pork osso buco, made with red chile pork, black beans, roasted corn salsa, Calabrian chile, and cotija cheese. (603 W. University Dr., Tempe, 480‑921‑0111, www.therevivalaz.com)

Umami: It’s not the most traditional ramen shop, but Umami nevertheless delivers a satisfying bowl of noodles and soup. Chef Jaren Lupin’s menu lets diners build their own bowls or bento boxes, both of which can be enjoyed in the bright, colorful dining room. For happy hour, get discounts on both food and drinks including beer, sake, cocktails, and more. (21 E. 6th St., Tempe, 480‑222‑2244, www.facebook.com/umamitempe)

Downtown Phoenix

Blue Hound Kitchen and Cocktails: Located on the second floor of the Hotel Palomar at CityScape, this gastropub serves sophisticated American fare and pours a solid selection of cocktails. The seasonal menu and carefully crafted concoctions make this a comfortable place for dinner or drinks — and it’s all available right in the heart of the city’s urban center. (2 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix, 602‑258‑0231, www.bluehoundkitchen.com)

The Breadfruit: You probably wouldn’t expect to find this cheery Jamaican restaurant on an otherwise quiet downtown street. And yet this casual eatery continues to draw diners and drinkers to its off‑the‑beaten path location with spicy jerk chicken, fresh fish, and one of the largest selections of rum you’ll find, well, anywhere. (108 E. Pierce St., Phoenix, 602‑267‑1266, www.thebreadfruit.com)

Churn: This adorable retro ice cream shop serves classic flavors such as butter pecan and Madagascar vanilla, as well as a rotating selection of seasonal flavors such as white chocolate raspberry sorbet and blackberry buttermilk ice cream. For a super‑size dessert, try the ice cream sandwiches, which you can build yourself with any of the cookies on display behind the colorful counter. (5223 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602‑279‑8024, www.churnaz.com)

Hanny’s: Between the $5 martinis and the stylish décor, it’s no wonder Hanny’s manages to be a popular haunt with the downtown crowd. The all‑day menu may not be much to write home about (just a concise selection of appetizers, pizzas, sandwiches, and salads) but the fact that the kitchen stays open until 1 a.m. makes this one of downtowns best late‑night dining options. (40 N. 1st St., Phoenix, 602‑252‑2285, www.hannys.net)

Jobot: If you were looking to get a sense of the downtown arts community, then hitting up Jobot wouldn’t be a bad idea. Located in the middle of Roosevelt Row, this coffee shop, hangout, and restaurant attracts creative types seeking a caffeine fix or a late‑night bite. Open 24 hours over the weekden and until midnight during the week, Jobot makes for a great place for gathering at almost any time of day or night. (918 N. 5th St., Phoenix, 602‑501‑9076, www.jobot‑coffee.com)

Lux Central: Part coffee shop, part bar, and part hipster hot spot, Lux might just be the coolest spot in Phoenix. Though it’s technically north of downtown, its location along the light rail makes Lux just as accessible as it is popular with everyone from students to professional types. Go here for relaxation, socializing, or to focus when you need to really get to work. (4402 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602‑327‑1396, www.luxcoffee.com)

Matt’s Big Breakfast: To Phoenicians, Matt’s is the golden standard of breakfast. It’s why you’ll usually find a sizable crowd outside this downtown spot on weekend mornings. There’s nothing particularly fancy about the food served here, but everything from the crispy peppered bacon to the buttery hash browns are simple, perfect, and always satisfying. (825 N. 1st St., Phoenix, 602‑254‑1074, www.mattsbigbreakfast.com)

Nobuo at Teeter House: Ever heard of izakaya? Well, it’s a Japanese place for after‑work drinks, and that’s what James Beard Award‑winning chef Nobuo Fukuda aims to create at his chic downtown restaurant housed in a historic bungalow. Whether for lunch or dinner, the restaurant offers unpretentious but impeccable plates of Japanese cuisine that can and should be paired with a craft cocktail or a Japanese brew. (622 E. Adams St., Phoenix, 602‑254‑0600, www.nobuofukuda.com)

Short Leash Sit . . . Stay: Located on Roosevelt Row, the downtown arts district, this spot takes hot dogs to a new level. Using locally made sausages and naan bread in place of a bun, this food truck gone brick‑and‑mortar offers diners unexpected creations such as The Lady, made with chipotle cream cheese, sautéed onions, and fried pickles. (110 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, 602‑795‑2193, www.shortleashhotdogs.com)

The Vig Fillmore: The downtown location of this locally owned chain of pubs welcomes diners onto a large patio that’s decked out with an outdoor bar, stringed lights, and lively music. The elevated bar fare may not be the best meal you’ve ever had, but with a cold pint or easy‑to‑drink cocktail, you’re guaranteed to have a good time anyway. (606 N. 4th Ave., Phoenix, 602‑254‑2242, www.thevig.us)

Around the Valley

Amuse Bouche: There aren’t many reasons to make the trek out to Surprise, but the country‑French cuisine served by husband‑and‑wife team Snir and Kiersten Mor is definitely one of them. Both chefs were trained in France and, together, they make some of the best quiche Lorraine in the Valley, as well as excellent cioppino and delectable desserts. (17058 W. Bell Road, Surprise, 623‑322‑8881, www.amusebouche.biz)

Angry Crab Shack: Get ready to throw out the notion that you can’t get good seafood in the desert, because at Angry Crab Shack you’ll find pounds and pounds of fresh seafood that’s boiled and flavored to your desired level of heat. The most popular seasoning will be the Trifecta blend, made with garlic, lemon pepper, and Cajun spices. You can have it rubbed all over a bag full of crab, shrimp, and even crayfish when they’re in season. (2740 S. Alma School Road, Mesa, 480‑730‑2722, www.angrycrabshack.com)

Bryan’s Black Mountain Barbecue: People drive all the way across the Valley to get their hands on the pulled pork and coleslaw sandwich from Bryan’s Black Mountain Barbecue. The Cave Creek restaurant also serves a menu of classic barbecue fare, including ribs, brisket, and chicken. The atmosphere is casual and clean, with food served cafeteria‑style and meats available by the half‑pound. (6130 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, 480‑575‑7155, www.bryansbarbecue.com)

China Magic Noodle House: If you’ve never seen Chinese noodles made by hand, then you don’t want to skip a trip to this Chandler restaurant. Here, every noodle is pulled to order in dramatic fashion and, yes, you can watch the show from the dining room through a large window. It’s a no‑frills dining situation, but the excellent soups and bowls of fried noodles are worth making a visit for. (2015 N. Dobson Road, Chandler, 480‑786‑8002, www.chinamagicnoodle.com)

Cornish Pasty Co.: Ever had a pasty? It’s the Cornwall version of a potpie that was initially intended to be a one‑handed lunch for mine workers. At Cornish Pasty, the dish comes in many flavors, ranging from pesto chicken to chicken tikka masala. The more classic options include The Oggie, made with steak, potatoes, onion, and rutabaga and served with a side of red wine gravy. Check the website for other locations across the Valley. (1941 W. Guadalupe Road, Mesa, 480‑838‑3586, www.cornishpastyco.com/index.html)

Haus Murphy’s: This downtown Glendale restaurant is just about as charming as an eatery can possibly be. Specializing in classic German food and pints of German beers, Haus Murphy’s goes all the way to create an authentic‑ish atmosphere. Just ask the servers, who have to wear dirndl costumes. (5739 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale, 623‑939‑2480, www.hausmurphys.com)

Morning Glory Café: Located at the picture perfect Farm at South Mountain, Morning Glory Café feels like a peaceful oasis from the bustle of the city. The serene outdoor restaurant specializes in breakfast dining, at which time diners can dig into plates of buttery French toast and thick Belgian waffles, all while taking in the rural‑like surroundings. (6106 S. 32nd St., Phoenix, 602‑276‑8699, www.morningglorycafeaz.com/index.php)

Republica Empanada: Housed in a renovated midcentury building in downtown Mesa, this family‑owned empanadería serves more than 20 types of sweet‑and‑savory empanadas. For about $3 each, you can pick and choose a combination as you please, and there’s a sizable collection of bottled beer for enjoying with your meal. (204 E. 1st Ave., Mesa, 480‑969‑1343, www.republicaempanada.com)

Vogue Bistro: Thanks to the talents of chef Aurore de Beauduy, Vogue Bistro offers its West Valley neighborhood a menu that gives French cuisine a modern American twist. You’ll find classics such as escargot and rabbit civet, alongside more approachable plates of meatloaf, burgers, and stuffed mushrooms. Wash it all down with a cocktail from the Vogue bar. Each is named after a French fashion designer. (15411 W. Waddell Road, Surprise, 623‑544‑9109, www.voguebistro.com)