Welcome to The Essentials, our catalog of indispensable and quintessential Phoenix food and drink. From now until May, we'll be sharing 50 dishes, drinks, and food experiences that make up the culinary backbone (and personality) of metro Phoenix. This list is highly eclectic, mixing classics with newer and lesser-known favorites. But all The Essentials have one thing in common: We think they're required eating (and drinking) in metro Phoenix.
31: Toffee Banofi Sundae at Sweet Republic
What is one of the most photographed ice cream sundaes in metro Phoenix? The Toffee Banofi Sundae at Sweet Republic.
The popular artisanal ice cream shop, with two locations in the Valley (plus a location at Terminal 4 at Phoenix Sky Harbor), has been making this signature sundae for almost a decade. It was notably featured a few years ago on the Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate, where none other than Alton Brown named it one of his favorite all-time ice cream treats.
So, what's the big deal about the Toffee Banofi? And what the heck is a "banofi"?
The dessert is a nod to the classic, teeth-achingly sweet, '70s-era British dessert called Banoffee pie. In its original incarnation, the sweet treat is essentially a cream, banana, and toffee pie. The name is a portmanteau of the words "banana" and "toffee."
The ice cream sundae version made at Sweet Republic is ingeniously well-composed. It all starts with the shop's house-made Madagascar vanilla ice cream, which is intensely smooth and subtly infused with the flavor of true vanilla. Two spears of halved bananas are wedged around two ice cream scoops, and then the treat is drizzled with caramel sauce, decorated with puffs of whipped cream, and sprinkled with chunks of homemade almond toffee.
The almond toffee brittle, also made in-house, is good enough to eat all on its own: salty-sweet, extra-crunchy, nutty, and intensely addictive. The whole thing comes together in a lovely balance of sweet, salty pleasure. Take a picture of it, if you must — it will definitely last longer that way.
50: Tequila Sunrise at the Arizona Biltmore.
49: "Dragon" Dumpling Burger at Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour.
48: Dizzy Fig Empanada at Republica Empanada.
47: Linguine Carbonara at Avanti.
46: The Food Court at Mercado de los Cielos.
45: Chicken Feta Salad at George’s Kitchen.
44: Spinach & Cheese Chimi Burro at Mi Patio Mexican Restaurant.
43: Dinner at Rustler's Rooste.
42: Gyro Omelet at Mel's Diner.
41: Zipps Wings at Zipps Sports Grill.
40: Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa.
39: Asian Nachos at Moto.
38: Olive Oil Tasting at Queen Creek Olive Oil Mill.
37: Baby Back Ribs at Don & Charlie's.
36: Limoncello at Cibo.
35: Chili Salt Chicken Wings at Asian Café Express.
34: Smoked Prime Rib at Texaz.
33: Steak Salad at Feeney's.
32: Tasting Menu at Kai Restaurant.