Do you know the best place in town to snag a bottle of wine? What about a good spot for gluten-free cupcakes? And do you have any idea where to score some mango with chamoy in this piece? Good thing our annual Best of Phoenix awards are here to help.
From best farmers market (they're all pretty, but you know) to the top panaderia, liquor store, and spot to pick up baking supplies, here's where to grab-and-go food and drink around the Valley.
Best Farmers MarketUptown Farmers Market
5757 North Central Avenue
If only there was somewhere you could buy a single-origin cappuccino, and a sunflower seed brownie, and a dehydrated chicken breast for your cat, and a new apron for your mother-in-law, all in one convenient stop. Oh, wait. There is such a place — the Uptown Farmers Market on the North Phoenix Baptist Church grounds at Central Avenue and Bethany Home Road. Uptown is home to Caffio Espresso, and Lee's Aprons, and Practical Art, and the Flying Bakery. While you're there, you can scoop up some locally grown kale from any number of Arizona farmers, as well as a jar of apothecary bone broth and some of the tastiest pickles in town. Uptown Farmers Market isn't the biggest local outdoor bazaar, but it's fast becoming the most popular place to buy quail eggs, kettle corn, and bok choy on a Saturday or Wednesday morning. Home to the Iconic Cocktail Company and tahini brownies from Blissful Bakery, Uptown is barely four years old and yet already has made USA Today's list of markets worth traveling to visit. Go find out why — and get there early. There's a lot of parking, but even more savvy outdoor shoppers (and indoors on Wednesdays all summer).
Best BakeryLior the Baker
10953 North Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard, #105, Scottsdale
It seems like everyone we know these days is embracing a gluten-free or carb-free lifestyle. We support their decision, but we think baked goods are too wonderful to give up, especially the items we find at Lior the Baker. Make sure the place is open before you head to north Scottsdale to shop, because the hours are limited. But when you get there, you've got nothing but good options, from several varieties of challah bread to a rotating selection of desserts. If you can, pick up one of the shop's flat Moroccan breads, heavily spiced and baked on flat river stones.
Best Gluten-Free BakeryGluten-Free Creations
7607 East McDowell Road, Scottsdale
"Gluten-free baked goods" used to be an oxymoron, or at the very least, an unappetizing prospect. We're glad that's no longer true. Gluten-Free Creations is where we go to pick up treats that are both delicious and safe for our gluten-sensitive friends and family. There's plenty to choose from here, from cookies, cakes, and brownies to bagels, biscuits, and sandwich bread. We like the jalapeño cheese bagels, the snickerdoodles, and the triple-chocolate marble bundt cake. Both locations also serve a limited sit-down menu Wednesday through Saturday; think bagels with cream cheese, black bean burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, and chicken strips.
Best Place To Eat And Be ScarySpooky's Swirls
3029 North Alma School Road, #117, Chandler
A combination gluten-free bakery/horror movie museum is not the most predictable mashup, but at Spooky's Swirls, it works. Open since July, Spooky's serves macabre and sci-fi-themed treats like "cereal killer" Fruity Pebbles marshmallow bars, mini mouse cheesecakes, and cupcakes topped with chocolates that look like Han Solo encased in carbonite. Before or after you order, feel free to browse the rotating selection of movie memorabilia from the Horror & SciFi Prop Preservation Association. On a recent visit, we saw a stunt machete from a Friday the 13th movie, toiletries from the Bates Motel TV show, and a Gizmo from Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Movies play on a flatscreen TV, and there are old issues of Fangoria and Starlog to peruse while you eat your gluten-free treats.
Best Seafood MarketNelson's Meat + Fish
2415 East Indian School Road
Of all the many improbable, beautiful, soul-stirring sights a person can see in Phoenix, the fish case at Nelson's might be the most consistently fantastic. When it comes to the art of sourcing marine life, Chris Nelson has powers somewhere between Harry Houdini and Pablo Escobar. Like magic, an iced rainbow of fish appears in the case every morning the shop opens. Glistening purple octopus. Halibut like vanilla ice cream. Salmon more orange than a magic marker. Oysters that glisten like living creatures in their blue shells and slide over your tongue with a hypnotic rush of brine. Scallops that hit you like a sweet sea wave. Sure, you have to fork over some serious change for the specimens that Nelson overnights to his shop from across the globe. But dropping the ocean into the desert is well worth the splurge.
Best Liquor StoreSunrise Market
4349 North Seventh Avenue
Sunrise Market is your one-stop, no-thrills-or-frills neighborhood liquor store with a bodega feel. Just leave your bike outside. Not only does Sunrise have a wider variety of adult beverages than your favorite gas station, it has your favorite Mexican candies and cleaning supplies in case your get-together gets a little messy. Oh, and its deli is now open for a late-night, next-morning snack. Back to the liquor. It has a whole shelving unit full of sake and an entire aisle of wine in case you're feeling fancy. Feeling trashy? There's a variety of under-$2 tallboys; you'll find one to fit your night's vibe. Surprisingly, the market also has a space in its fridge dedicated to ciders. Basically, Sunrise Market has it all, and no one's going to judge you (even if you pick up some White Claw).
Best Vino DestinationSauvage Bottle Shop
901 North First Street, #109
Avoiding the industry phrase loaded with cachet, Chris Lingua won't call his offerings "natural wines." He prefers similar nomenclature that gets at overlapping ideas — that very little sulfur and other additives have entered the mix, resulting in wines with room to develop groovier personalities. Lingua sources some good ones. Horizontally, they line the wall of his shipping-container nook in The Churchill, organized by price point. Offerings at Sauvage Bottle Shop change daily, often considerably. He has stocked nero d'Avola and frappato blends from a progressive Sicilian vintner. Austrian zweigelt, sold in the state for the first time at his shop. Biodynamic cider from Oregon. This is the cutting edge of wine today. Locally, it lives in this tiny-but-mighty downtown shop.
Best CarniceriaCarniceria Sonora
3135 South 48th Street, #107, Tempe
A local market for unique Mexican meat, marinades, and authentically made salsas, tortillas, guacamole, and the like since 1995, Carniceria Sonora provides helpful customer service and above all, fresh and delicious products. Showing up to a poolside cookout with Sonora's freshly made tortillas and an assortment of preparada meats (marinated in a family recipe of herbs, citrus, and spices) instantly will make you the hero of the party. Having access to this family-owned market and its authentic offerings is tantamount to having a loving grandmother, uncle, or neighbor whose sole joy in life is to prepare food according to the age-old tradition of their homeland. If you don't have that relationship with someone, rest assured (and give thanks) that Carniceria Sonora welcomes you, lovingly, at any of its locations.
La Purisima Bakery 2
2318 East Indian School Road
Una de esa, una de esta, y otra de esa ... pues dame tres conchas de chocolate también — it's easy to get carried away picking up pan dulce at La Purisima Bakery 2. A dozen becomes two dozen quickly. Maybe it's the intimate setting, or the always smiling, charismatic women. If anything, the well-lit pastry cases filled with a picture-perfect variety of conchas and galletas have you reaching for more than your wallet and waistline bargained for (it's well worth it, though). We won't name any names, but we'll guarantee these conchas are never dry like some of the Big Brand's conchas — nothing's worse than a dry concha. Oh, you can't forget the homemade tortillas gracefully sitting on top of the cases. You're definitely leaving with the whole panaderia. While you munch on your puerquito, be sure to scroll through La Purisima's Twitter page, because yes, your local panaderia has a lit social game and dank taste in memes.
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Best Mexican Snack ShopLa Carreta de Lily
2902 West Van Buren Street
When we visit Mexico, we take evening walks on the boardwalk along the beach. Those walks always include a snack or a treat — anything from ice cream to tacos. Food vendors are a staple in plazas and boardwalks in Mexico, and those evening treats are what La Carreta de Lily is all about. You can go for the fruit option — mango with chamoy, fruit cocktails, or strawberries with cream. There's ice cream in a variety of flavors, served on its own or as a topping. Or be adventurous and try the mixes like Tostito chips with Mexican-style street corn. La Carreta de Lily has the answer for your every sweet or savory craving.
Best Baking SuppliesABC Cake Decorating Supplies
2853 East Indian School Road
Everywhere you turn, from Instagram to The Great British Bake Off, people are doing incredible things with cookies, pies, and cakes. If all those gorgeous creations inspire you to up your home baking game, we suggest heading over to ABC Cake Decorating Supplies. The no-frills space has everything you need to create, transport, and display your work: molds, cake pans (including a great selection of Nordic Ware), cookie cutters, seasonal and themed decorations, bakery boxes, cake towers, and much, much more. The staff is more than willing to help you find what you need, and if you'd really like to take your baking to the next level, the store offers a number of classes each month. Whether you've got a project in mind and just need supplies, or you're looking for inspiration for your next creation, ABC is the place to go.
Best Convenience StoreBrian's Discount Market
13648 North 19th Avenue
In the Valley's endless sea of Circle K and 7-Eleven franchises, Brian's Discount Market is an oasis of snack-food delights. Tucked away in a strip mall in north Phoenix, the shop carries an assortment of sugar-addled goodies — like Slurpees, Cheetos, and Skittles — paired with more "exotic" delights, like off-kilter chips and soft serve. But more than all the sugar in the world, Brian's real draw is the massive assortment of beer, be it classic American brews, sturdy IPAs, or even a chai ale — plus, like, six pumpkin concoctions. Convenience isn't always measured in proximity or general customer service; it's about feeding as many hungers as possible with the least amount of effort. In that sense, a Brian's deserves to stand on every street corner from Litchfield Park to Queen Creek.