As fun and delicious as dining out can be, sometimes we want to try our hand at creating dishes at home. But even when we're feeling particularly ambitious, trying to cook a new cuisine can be a daunting task. First of all, you've got to be able to find the right ingredients — and while we can't help you perfect the art of flambé, we do know a few places where you can find what you need to turn even the most exotic recipes into reality.
At the following Phoenix-area markets, you can find the basics, the obscure, and everything in between. So whether you’re hoping to spice up your cooking or create some foreign fare, look no further than one — or all — of these spots to try flavors and dishes from all over the world.
Los Altos Ranch Market
Walking into Los Altos Ranch Market (formerly known as Pro’s Ranch Market) in Phoenix is an instant mood-booster. Colorful flags and upbeat music welcome guests into a world of Mexican food and culture that bears only the most obvious resemblance to your average grocery store. The giant market boasts a built-in restaurant that wraps around into a meat and cheese counter, and then flows into a seafood section where guests can enjoy a meal either before or after shopping. In between the various food counters you'll find low-price, traditional, and flavorful Mexican and Latin American foods that you're not likely to find at your typical grocer. Los Altos’ produce section is by far the most interesting area, as you can find multiple types of edible cactus leaves and Mexican fruits.
Luci’s Healthy Marketplace
Luci’s Healthy Marketplace on Bethany Home Road is a treasure trove of snacks and silly ephemera. The shelves are filled with natural and organic edible treats that not only look delicious, but are also surprisingly well-priced. We recommend you try the flavored kale chips and peruse the selection of beers. The cafe menu features plenty of nutritious items including salads, sandwiches, and burgers, and are available in large portions that usually ensure leftovers. And while the food supply is impressive, the non-food related items add a sense of fun to the restaurant and market. Decorative socks, cartoon-themed lunchboxes, and pencils capped with poop-shaped erasers make for fun and/or funny gifts, and the impressive collection of cookbooks will delight all types of chefs.
If you love ramen (seriously, the market stocks at least 10 different kinds), mochi, or dried pieces of squid, then the small-but-popular Fujiya Market in Tempe is the destination for you. Maybe you just love trying new things and are looking to absorb some Japanese culture. But in any and all of these cases, this little Japanese market on the corner of University and Priest Drive is worth a trip. Shoppers can find wine and magazines in one corner, and imported beer and freshly made bento boxes that make for a perfect lunch in another. You'll also find unique snacks, adorable home decor items, and envy-worthy tea sets for a price that puts World Market to shame.
French Grocery owner Kevin Lentz moved to Phoenix from New Orleans, and brought his affinity for French and Creole cooking with him. He opened the French Grocery, a popular grocery on 7th Street, about two years ago, and these days the little market and restaurant offers a small selection of groceries and French favorites such as escargot, imported preserves, and handmade chocolates. Naturally, there's also an impressive selection of imported wine; the market specializes in Old World varieties, and also stocks a selection of cheeses (cut to order) so shoppers can build a perfect wine-cheese pairing. While perusing the aisles, guests can get a reasonably priced, very strong cup coffee that's brewed fresh and always served piping hot. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, don’t forget grab a box of macaroons before you leave. The baking staff makes them in unique flavors, such as strawberry balsamic, and honestly, they’re huge.
House of Rice
House of Rice on Hayden Road has long been a staple in the Scottsdale neighborhood. The crowded shop, located in an aging strip mall, offers shoppers affordable Asian provisions that could help you add some new flavors to your next meal. To the right of the small store, you see endless rows of snacks, spices, and drinks such as (probably) unfamiliar Chinese candies, soup bases, and even frozen goods. To the left, you’ll find trinkets, kitchen wares, and decorations stacked on top of each other up to the ceiling. Highlights of the market's selection include incredibly fair-priced loose-leaf tea and animal-shaped Buddha statues.
On 20th Street and Fillmore, Baiz Marketplace offers shoppers a true halal, Middle-Eastern experience. The deli counter, where there's often a line, serves all the cuts of meat with which you're already accustomed — as well as some less common options, including goat head with eyes. The market also has an ample fruit selection, complete with exotic melons and colorful berries, plus aisles of freshly baked bread, dry goods, and even a selection of Middle Eastern and European cheese. Friendly staff make shopping at Baiz a particularly enjoyable experience. And be sure to make it the next spot on your errands list if you like olives and/or dates; both can be purchased by the handful or in drums.
La Grande Orange Grocery & Pizzeria
If you like to brunch, then chances are you’ve been to Arcadia’s famous La Grande Orange Grocery & Pizzeria. The restaurant menu is great for those who enjoy healthy and hearty meals, but the grocery store is equally as impressive. Its refrigerators are filled with craft beers and gourmet ice creams, and the wine is stacked high in its own dedicated corner. There are grab-and-go sandwiches, salads, and even cold-pressed juices, plus the option to order food to-go from a counter. For those who are able to enjoy carbs, LGO is heaven, and the oven in which the restaurant/market bakes its bread is truly hypnotic. Bread and other edible goods aside, the market is also filled with shirts, notebooks, candles, and other quirky items. Keep this place in mind come the holiday season; you’ll be able to find something for everyone in one place.
In an embellished and unmistakable purple building on Apache Boulevard in Tempe, shoppers can find The Dhaba, an Indian restaurant and market that's been around for years. The restaurant/market combo offers guests real Punjabi food and culture. In the market, there's a limited, but impressive selection of produce and a seemingly endless supply of hard-to-find spices. Curries, mustard seeds, cinnamon, and more make for a colorful and fragrant display that's as much a treat for your cooking as it is an education for the senses. Immediately next to the market, shoppers can find accessories and clothing that reflect Indian trends.
DeFalco’s Italian Deli and Grocery
Since 1972, DeFalco’s in Scottsdale has attracted a loyal clientele that can often be found chatting and laughing with market staff. The Italian grocery's menu boasts favorites including pizza, calzones, meatball sandwiches, and cannolis; but DeFalco’s is also a fully-functional deli-grocer and features Italian cuisine that tastes and smells, amazing. The meat counter is stocked with imported goods such as pancetta and prosciutto — and the selection is so good it draws shoppers from all across the Valley. Honestly, even the market's frozen pasta packages are impressive. Don’t miss out on the market's beverage section either. Coffee and wine enthusiasts can find popular Italian selections of both at decent prices.
Bodega Market and Red Goat Wine
Walking into Bodega Market in Old Town Scottsdale is like walking into a home kitchen. It’s located in a very narrow building, and there are prices and products scrawled on the the chalkboard walls that look more like notes to the employees than to the customers. The smell of fresh basil fills the air and herbs hang high from the shelves. The market — which is attached to FnB Restaurant — works with the simple goal of encouraging conscious at-home cooking. It offers local produce and other Arizona products, including Noble Bread and Crow’s Dairy. The owners are also willing to help home chefs by offering delicious pre-made sauces and desserts. Shoppers should arrive between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., or can wait for their night hours, which are between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.