Best of Phoenix

10 Best New Restaurants in Metro Phoenix of 2017 (So Far)

One of the Smith Cafe's breakfast offerings.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
One of the Smith Cafe's breakfast offerings.

With half of 2017 already in the books, now seems like a good time to highlight some of our favorite spots that have opened in metro Phoenix so far this year. From a high-profile chef’s buzzy new osteria to a 37-seat neighborhood gem, here are 10 restaurants that are making the Valley a more delicious place to eat and drink.

click to enlarge Restaurant Progress' TJ Culp plates up a starter salad of roasted beets with goat cheese, berries, carrots, quinoa, and fennel. - SHELBY MOORE
Restaurant Progress' TJ Culp plates up a starter salad of roasted beets with goat cheese, berries, carrots, quinoa, and fennel.
Shelby Moore
Restaurant Progress
702 West Montecito Avenue
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight; Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; closed Monday

With the debut of Restaurant Progress back in February, the Melrose district finally got the neighborhood restaurant it deserves. This intimate 37-seat spot brings seasonally inspired fine dining airs to a commercial district known mostly for casual diners and bars. TJ Culp, the restaurant’s chef-owner, is one of the city’s most impressive young culinary talents, and nearly everything about his first restaurant already feels well-honed. The modern American menu, which changes monthly, offers around a dozen dishes that include cold appetizers, hot and cold small plates, and entrees. There is also a five-course chef’s tasting menu available for $75. Dinner might begin with something like a crudo of yellowtail, a sophisticated dish featuring meaty hunks of hamachi paired beautifully with a bright, creamy scoop of avocado puree. Octopus and pork belly, a mid-course plate on a recent visit, featured a lovely muddle of white beans flecked with herbs. No matter what’s on the menu, though, chances are you’ll be regaled with smart, confident cooking.

click to enlarge The exterior of Mora Italian, located in uptown Phoenix on Seventh Street south of Bethany Home Road. - JACOB TYLER DUNN
The exterior of Mora Italian, located in uptown Phoenix on Seventh Street south of Bethany Home Road.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
Mora Italian
5651 North Seventh Street
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 4 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4 to 11 p.m.

A chic, high-energy modern osteria from celebrity chef Scott Conant and restaurateur Stefano Fabbri, Mora Italian was the most high-profile opening of the spring. The dining room is spacious and lively, but the real attraction is the menu, which is steeped in the approachable, modern Italian cooking that has become the hallmark of Conant-brand restaurants. The shareable antipasti most closely associated with Mora Italian is the grilled octopus ceci. You’ve had a decent octopus salad before, maybe, but this one is extra-tender, yet also pleasantly chewy. Pork Milanese, a popular house entree, yields an extra-succulent, skillfully cooked pan-fried chop served with gravy-like brown butter on the side. The restaurant offers bread cart service, and the homemade focaccia di recco is reason enough to stop in for dinner.

click to enlarge The braised lamb belly at Weft & Warp. - JACKIE MERCANDETTI
The braised lamb belly at Weft & Warp.
Jackie Mercandetti
Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen
6114 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to midnight; Sunday and Monday, 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Hotel restaurants are not usually associated with culinary ingenuity, but Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen delivers surprisingly refined and creative Sonoran-inspired flavors at the new Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa. The menu, developed by chef Adam Sheff, plays with desert ingredients and flavors in a way that rarely feels contrived. You’ll find simple but refined small-plates like Arizona-grown Medjool dates, sliced and served with fresh cream and pistachio crumbles, and Crow’s Dairy goat cheese dumplings, rolled in dark onion ash and served on a buttery tangle of spaghetti squash. Highlights from the small, well-composed dinner menu include a whole roasted chicken paired with a dark, earthy adobo sauce. The Sonoran “risotto,” made with local wheat berries, wild rice, and quinoa, is inventive, richly textured, and surprisingly indulgent.
click to enlarge The Smith Cafe in Arcadia. - JACOB TYLER DUNN
The Smith Cafe in Arcadia.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
The Smith Cafe
3701 East Indian School Road
Hours: Daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Acacia Café is gone, but in its place, we have The Smith Café, a sweet little breakfast and lunch spot that opened this spring in Arcadia. The café comes to us from the same folks behind Base Pizzeria, which explains the laid-back Aussie slang on the menu. “Brekie” dishes are available all day, including The Queen Mother, a deliciously hearty take on a traditional English breakfast. The oversize platter comes with a couple of eggs done your way, a juicy, herb-scented link of Schreiner’s sausage, gorgeously crisped-up cubes of potato, and some roasted mushrooms and withered tomatoes on the side. For flavors that run more local, the green chile bowl is wonderful. The slow-cooked pork is gorgeously savory and spicy, and so tender and soft that you can eat it with a spoon. Local ingredients, cheerful service, and a great breakfast menu are already turning The Smith Café into one of Arcadia’s most indispensable brunch spots.

click to enlarge J.B. Snyder mural on the Dressing Room in Roosevelt Row. - LYNN TRIMBLE
J.B. Snyder mural on the Dressing Room in Roosevelt Row.
Lynn Trimble
The Dressing Room
220 East Roosevelt Street
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Don’t be fooled by The Dressing Room’s tiny menu and limited square footage. This “micro-restaurant” on Roosevelt Row happens to be one of the most satisfying new restaurants around downtown Phoenix. The menu is described as “food from streets, beaches, carts, and trucks,” which essentially translates to casual and creative globally inspired fare that includes burgers, tacos, and salads. The house RoRo Burger, a saucy, well-cooked burger squeezed into an English muffin, brilliantly dressed in a sweet-spicy Russian sauce, already seems to be destined to become a local classic. Try it with the restaurant’s heavenly, ultra-fresh miso slaw. The Peruvian ceviche salad, meanwhile, is a crisp, texture-rich, delicious antidote to warm weather. Don’t leave without trying the house dessert: a churro ice cream sandwich featuring a thick slab of vanilla ice cream cemented between two sugar-encrusted, freshly fried churros.