We're more than halfway through 2015 and already the Valley has gained some incredible new restaurants this year. From a food stall with affordable and inventive Southern-inspired cuisine to a neighborhood pizzeria with unparallelled enthusiasm for authenticity, these five restaurants represent some of the best and hottest places to eat in metro Phoenix right now.
2201 East McDowell Road
This simple Italian eatery has wasted no time becoming a must-go destination for food lovers in the Valley. Brought to a sleepy strip of McDowell Road by chef Claudio Urciuoli and baker Jason Raducha, the lunch-only restaurant serves an ever-changing menu of sandwiches, salads, and smorgas (open-face sandwiches that often feature fresh seafood). Urciuoli lets the ingredients shine with rustic preparations built on a solid foundation of house made bread. The duo also operates Noble Bread, a micro-bakery that uses local grains and mills them in-house to create some of the best bread in the state.
BP Street Cafe
1845 East Broadway Road, Tempe
You'll be hard-pressed to find another Malaysian restaurant in town — and that's fine because we're more than pleased with the quality of food at BP Street Cafe. The family-owned and operated restaurant offers authentic Southeast Asian cuisine at a price point that's pretty much impossible to beat. Start with an order of the roti canai ($2.50), an Indian-inspired flatbread that comes with a side of rich curry, then move on to well-spiced entrées such as sambal fried rice that's fried extra crisp. Even the drinks are worthy of some exploration. Options include tea tarik, or Indian pulled tea; a lightly sweet pineapple drink; coconut water; and iced tea.
1915 East McDowell Road
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Just up the street from Noble Eatery, you'll find this hidden gem of a restaurant where Moroccan-born owner Abdul Chaara welcomes diners into the restaurant's tiny dining room decorated with silky scarves and paintings of Moroccan bazaars. Everything you order — from tender kebabs to rich vegetable stew — comes with a generous serving of couscous. Fluffy and nutty, the restaurant's durum wheat is the best we've ever tasted. And whether you ask for it or not, you'll usually be offered a housemade date shake. Sweetened with cinnamon and peanut butter, it makes a perfect end to your meal.
301 West Roosevelt Street
Forno 301 joined downtown Phoenix's already-crowded pizza scene in mid-March, and though we didn't think we needed another place for wood-fired pies, we're more than happy to have this one. Owners Roberto Dadone and Luca Dagliano, both of whom grew up in northwestern Italy, bring enthusiasm and authenticity to the craft of pizza-making — and you can taste it in every bite. The menu includes a list of 11 pizzas that's complemented with daily specials, salads, panini, and bruschetta. House red and white wine costs just $6 a glass and Italian beers including Peroni and Moretti sets you back $4 a bottle.
Yard Bird + The Larder
915 North Central Avenue (inside the DeSoto Central Market)
Located inside the DeSoto Central Market, this pocket-size food stall serves inventive Southern-inspired fare that's unbelievably affordable and always impeccably prepared. Chef Stephen Jones constantly creates new items that take comfort food classics and re-invents them with local and modern influences. The battered cauliflower served with pickled celery, bleu cheese, and locally made hot sauce have become an instant classic, and we're fans of the chef's version of Hoppin' John, a Southern dish made with peas and rice that Jones kicks up with onions, celery leaves, and chive flowers. Fluid and fun, this menu always keeps us interested.