You might think chef's boards are a fail-safe option on any restaurant menu, but the truth is, not all combinations of meat, cheese, and accoutrements are created equal.
Cellophane-wrapped meat straight out of the supermarket, subpar bread, and low-quality fixings might do in a hurry, but the right board of meaty, spreadable, curable delights (even a flourish of figgy jam and a marinated sprig of asparagus) offers indulgent bites of personalized perfection.
Now that you’re in the mood for a good charcuterie board, here’s the real meat and cheese of this story — the best boards in town.
North ItaliaMultiple locations
The key to building a badass chef’s board is finding just the right mix of flavors, textures, colors, and crunches so that you swoon at the visuals but crush even harder the more you nibble. On this, North Italia delivers. The chefs don’t just select the provisions, they do much of the handiwork, too. Think prosciutto di parma, pecorino toscano, crescenza, grilled piquillo pepper, pesto zucchini, castelvetrano olive, marcona almond, fig mostarda, and grilled bread.
Pomo PizzeriaMultiple Locations
At the Gilbert and Scottsdale locations of Pomo Pizzeria, the Antipasto Italiano board is an ideal warm-up board to try before the Neapolitan pizzas arrive. The assorted cured meats, slices of Parmigiano, and grilled veggies are neatly arranged on the board, which is also weighed down with some olives and fresh bread. They also have salumi and formaggi boards, but the Antipasto Italiano has a little something for all tastes.
Quiessence at The Farm6106 South 32nd Street
This is sex on a board — the real deal. At Quiessence at the Farm, everything has to do with an affinity for seasonal ingredients, scratch-made preparation, and symmetry of sapidity. The pork is house-cured and served up ingeniously: lonza topped with plum preserve, pistachio, and fresh basil, head cheese with a dehydrated apple chip and pickled shallot, and coppa served solo in spicy bites. There are also house-made raisins, pickled watermelon rind, salt-cured strawberries, cubes of savory apple butter, walnuts drizzled with local honey, pickled veggies from right next door, creamy mounds of chevre, and salty cubes of feta from Black Mesa Ranch. You just might need a cigarette after this one.
Sorso Wine Room15323 North Scottsdale Road, #150, Scottsdale
Epic. That’s the simplest way to sum up Sorso's Grande Charcuterie, an ambitious platter of meats, cheeses, olives, nuts, and jam. It's a something-for-everyone shared plate that can sate both heroic appetites and discerning palates. No matter how you stack it — Felino salame with curly cues of Petit Basque sheep’s milk from France, super-spreadable double-cream Brie with spicy chorizo, prosciutto di Parma with flavor-packed porter cheddar from Ireland — your taste buds will be singing. The supersize drinks menu follows suit, with 150 bottles of wine, 32 self-serve wine dispensers, and craft beers aplenty. If you’re more into grazing then gobbling, they have a half-priced platter that’s less epic but equally as tasty.
The Parlor1916 East Camelback Road
The Parlor gets points for its choose-your-own-adventure-type board. Diners get a checklist of meats, cheeses, and accompaniments ($5 each), and out comes a masterpiece of your own making. Not that you do all the work. The real art comes in the menu, a carefully curated harmony of award-winning cheeses (the mustard-seed infused cheddar from England is the bomb), melt-in-your mouth meats, gourmet spins (the mortadella is infused with pistachios) and house-made extras (the spicy candied pecans are perfection). All of the above come with grilled bread and wood-fired flatbread drizzled in olive oil and a trio of herby, peppery, and pickled toppers that add zing to every bite.
The Sicilian ButcherMultiple Locations
This Valley Italian restaurant has dedicated an entire section of its menu to charcuterie boards, ranging in scope from the mozzarella board with burrata and mozzarella di buffalo to the Polenta Board to the Cured Meat & Cheese Board. However, The Sicilian Butcher is better known for its Sicilian in Strada — a signature family favorite (as they put it) served on a five-foot-long board. Yes, five feet long. It's loaded with polenta, house craft meatballs, artisanal meats and cheeses, pickled condiments and jams, and your traditional bruschetta. You'll need to have at least a party of four to even be allowed to order this thing.
Tuck Shop Kitchen & Bar2245 North 12th Street
Tuck Shop's Charcuterie Board has "work of art" written all over it. The wooden paddle canvas is a palette of pastel green, red, olive, and orange, thanks to piled-high stacks of delicately shredded sage Derby, smoked Gouda, Spanish chorizo and prosciutto, plus olives, almonds, house-made red pepper hummus and a green apple sliced like a Frank Gehry staircase. The whole thing is finished off with Jackson Pollock-like drizzles of olive oil and fresh crushed pepper. The cheeses are a tad one-note, but what the board lacks in bite, it more than makes up for in presentation. However, every day is different, and you’re encouraged to ask your server for the daily selection of cheese and meats.
Stock & Stable5538 North Seventh Street
Given the restaurant’s name, it’s no wonder Stock & Stable's Salumi Board (the Italian word for cured pork or beef), is a feast of meat, a mosaic of salami, chorizo, perfectly marbled creminelli coppa, and salty soppressata with a generous side of cocktail sausages glazed in sticky sweet grape jelly. Chef Joe Absolor knows all that salty needs sweet, sour, and creamy for balance, so cured stuff comes with rosemary-crusted goat’s cheese, Gouda infused with potato chips, and pickled fruits and vegetables that’ll pop in your mouth. Who knew marinated melons could taste so good? And every bite tastes better with the scratch-made rhubarb-plum-cherry jam, even if it’s just mated with spongy Noble Bread.
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Tomaso’s on Camelback and Tomaso’s Italian KitchenMultiple Locations
Calling for at least two guests, the Charcuterie Board of Antipasto at two locations of Tomaso’s — Tomaso’s Italian Kitchen and Tomaso’s on Camelback — offers an array of fun stuff to pick over with a partner. Picture a wooden board adorned with eggplant caponata, pickled condiments, bruschetta, prosciutto, salumi, artisan cheeses, colorful olives, and roasted bell peppers. It’s a real adventure.
Second Story Restaurant & Liquor Bar4166 North Scottsdale Road, #102, Scottsdale
If you can handle your chef’s board with a side of snobbery, Second Story — a Rat-Pack-meets-Meghan-Trainor upscale speakeasy above The Gelato Spot in Old Town — is your spot. Make it past the hostess manning the door (reservations are preferred, apparently), and you enter a world of whiskey, leather, and ambient lighting. Served up on a slate turntable, the chef’s board has the same buttoned-up panache as the bartenders and the same substance behind the style. The soppressata is saltier and denser than any cured meat you’ve nibbled before, the drunken cherry mostarda will get you drunk with delight, the marbled black truffle cheese is a revelation, and the pickled caper berries make all the flavors sing.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on September 19, 2016. It was updated on February 11, 2020.