Baked Lumache Pasta at Ocotillo (Vegetarian)
Since opening late last year, Ocotillo has become one of our go-to restaurants. With a grassy field and outdoor bar detached from the main restaurant, it’s one of the best gathering spaces in midtown, so it’s only natural your friends and family would want to meet here for an evening of drinks and dinner. And honestly, that's fine because the Baked Lumache Pasta is one of the most flavorful vegetarian pasta dishes we've ever had. The dish includes house-made noodles combined with winter greens, a creamy tang of goat cheese, and the sweetness of butterkin squash. If you're not familiar, butterkin is a newer version of popular butternut squash that’s just a touch sweeter, a little bit creamier in texture, and less stringy.
Forbidden Rice Bowl at St. Francis (Vegan)
We love the seasonal aspect of this dish. It’s an ever-changing combination of seven vegetables, ginger, garlic, and sweet and spicy dressing that leaves you feeling satisfied and healthy. The soft rice contrasts with the snap of fresh vegetables, so each forkful delivers a variety of flavor and texture. And this vegan-friendly dish isn't forbidden to meat-lovers, since chicken can be added for a $4 surcharge.
Fried Green Tomato Sandwich at Welcome Diner (Vegetarian)
For those looking for a backyard hangout and community vibe, Welcome Diner on Roosevelt Row is the spot. This casual diner offers mixed drinks, the friendliest staff ever, and one of the best fried green tomato sandwiches in metro Phoenix. The fried green tomatoes are warm, sweet, breaded, and crunchy, served on toast that’s been slathered in a bright chipotle sauce. Topped off with sweet corn and spicy arugula, the flavors on this sandwich work together to create the perfect spice-to-sweet ratio.
Paella at Otro Café (Vegan)
Let's start by saying this dish is fantastic. The name, however, is slightly misleading. Spanish paella is hard to recreate, and Otro's version is far from traditional. The restaurant's menu says the rustic dish is prepared in an iron skillet with saffron rice and seasonal vegetables. The saffron rice is hearty and filling, and each bite is full of perfectly-seasoned savory vegetables. Even if you’re not vegan, you won’t miss the cheese in this dish, but you can easily add it (and avocado if you’re into that) for more of a Mexican rice bowl experience. This dish also pairs well with street corn and a prickly pear margarita — or two.
Falafel Burger at Brat Haus (Vegetarian)
If you’re into beers but not brats, then Brat Haus' falafel burger is for you. With a long list of seasonal beers, you can find food and drinks for everyone at this Old Town Scottsdale restaurant. Brat Haus actually features several vegetarian dishes ranging from salads to sides, but the best is the Chelsie’s Falafel Burger. It's served solo, with a garnish of pickles, and comes topped with tzatziki sauce and lettuce. Unlike with many house-made veggie burgers, you can actually tell what vegetables the restaurant used to create this patty, and the burger doesn't crumble apart as you eat it. The garbanzo bean flavor is unique and ever-present, while the tzatziki sauce is creamy and complex. We can never have enough, so we suggest asking for an extra side.