Need a recommendation for dinner on Saturday night? How about a great breakfast place? Maybe a late-night spot, too. Instead of scrolling through the virtual insane asylum halls that is Yelp, or texting your gadabout coworker, take a look at our 2019 Best of Phoenix restaurant winners. From best restaurant to best patio dining, best Thai food to best authentic Arizona restaurant, here are our 2019 frontrunners.
Best RestaurantBinkley's Restaurant
2320 East Osborn Road
Even through the fantastic river of high-end wine, beer, and sake that comes with the drink pairing, a meal at Binkley's is something you can see clearly in your memory long after the storied night goes down. Structured like a dinner party at a friend's, the meal btake a look at our 2019 Best of Phoenix restaurant winners. From best restaurant to best patio dining, best Thai food to best authentic Arizona restaurant, here are our 2019 frontrunners.egins on the patio for a few courses, moves into the bar room, and finishes in the cozy formal dining room. At any point during your meal, you can rise and wander around the bungalow where the magic steadily unfolds, the spell seamlessly cast by Kevin Binkley, Amy Binkley, and their highly capable staff. You can even go into the kitchen and watch the chefs cook, if you please. Binkley is an inspiring talent, plating the likes of micro lamb pastrami sliders, apples in chimichurri, Hokkaido scallops poached for 38 seconds, and a carnival of playful, perfectly executed small plates, some two dozen in all. A meal at Binkley's is like a trip to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, but for adults who love food and appreciate living genius.
Best Place To Take A FoodieCotton & Copper
1006 East Warner Road, #113, Tempe
Though not located in the crook of bustling downtown Phoenix or the reviving Melrose District, Cotton & Copper stands as a crown jewel of the dining destination that is the northeast corner of Rural and Warner roads. This 50-seat south Tempe restaurant and bar overseen by Chef Tamara Stanger serves New Arizona-style dishes and thoughtful cocktails. Food enthusiasts may be interested in knowing how many of the ingredients in Stanger's dishes are foraged from the surrounding Sonoran Desert. Heck, even the eatery's name ticks off two of Arizona's Five Cs. Aside from Cotton & Copper's progressive Arizonan cooking style, another draw is bartender Sean Traynor shaking up house cocktails in the saloon-style bar, including the must-try Agua Caliente.
Best New RestaurantHush Public House
14202 North Scottsdale Road, #167, Scottsdale
A lot of our Best of Phoenix categories are close calls. Not this one. Opened by Dom Ruggiero and Charles Barber in February, Hush Public House has been plating A-plus food since the very beginning. Barber has assembled a rock-solid drink program based on classic cocktails, and manages the front of the house with the bonhomie and familiarity of an old friend from college grown up and moved on to big things. Ruggiero has proven to a large audience what his followers already knew: He is a rare talent whose food overflows with heart and soul. On a nightly basis, he displays his mastery of plant and animal, land and sea, and giant, smoky, chile-driven flavor combinations as well as subtle balancing acts (pea, strawberry, salty cheese, pepper, olive oil). Just a half-year in, many dishes already feel like time-honored classics — oxtail "Italian beef" and chicken liver mousse most of all. The best thing about Hush is how young it is, and how great this already 10/10 restaurant could one day become.
Best Food TruckEverest Momo
Subash Yadav's food draws from both north India and Nepal, the countries of his parents, crossing the border as freely as his truck crosses the Valley. His most popular plate? The momo, a rarity in this part of the world. Yadav fills his Himalayan dumplings with chicken, beef, or vegetables. They are lavishly spiced with ginger, turmeric, and other warm flavorings. The sloping walls of these Nepali-style dumplings are thick and rich, and disclose hot, tender interiors, plus intense flavors lengthened by cilantro and chile sauce. Be sure you order these should you spot the blue-and-white truck, and be sure to round them out with Yadav's other memorable offerings, like mango lassi with cardamom and saffron. Yadav is just getting started. He's looking to expand his menu — and his momo styles — at Everest Momo.
Best RebootAnhelo Restaurant
628 East Adams Street
The old Rose & Crown building in Heritage Square recently morphed into Anhelo, a playful restaurant helmed by 28-year-old Chef Ivan Jacobo. Until he rewired the lighting and relaid the floors of this spot, refreshing the structure while preserving the old charm, Jacobo helmed a cult pop-up called Hidden Kitchen. The whimsical vibe of that bygone endeavor carries over to the space of the old building, made new by some of Jacobo's uncommon ideas. Giving to charity. Operating with almost no fridge space. Going way out of his way to compost. Plating a ceviche that features not marine life but cubes of watermelon. Coating Caesar salad in a blanket of cheese. Plating a cluster of scallops on one point of a sweet potato ring tracing the rim of the dish. And crafting some of the more surprising desserts you can find these days, like granitas and pavlovas with pickled strawberries, and a cold quenelle of salted caramel ice cream striped with honey surrounded with fixings to turn you into a kid again.
Best Time Machine to the '50sMacAlpine's Diner & Soda Fountain
2303 North Seventh Street
MacAlpine's is an iconic spot on the boundary of downtown Phoenix that seems never to have aged in 60 years. There are red booths, jukeboxes, and an antique store (you can buy saddle shoes!) attached to the restaurant, along with endless syrup options and ice cream sodas available to order with fun names referencing pop culture. The staff wear those pink dresses you won't see anywhere else; essentially, this dessert haven is like living in the moment when Tobey Maguire arrives in Pleasantville, except it's not black-and-white — it's full color, but just as beautiful a thing. So pop a quarter in the jukebox, order soda and a pie, chat up the friendly staff, and forget what year it is. The '50s are just around the corner.
Best Authentic Arizona RestaurantCartwright's Modern Cuisine
6710 East Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek
Ever had an au jus made with preserved ocotillo flowers? How about White Sonora wheat pasta tossed in miso, made from Gambel oak acorns foraged from the forest near Payson? Scallops and fermented blueberry paste? No? How about pickled palo verde sprouts with a tang to sub for capers? When you order correctly at Cartwright's in Cave Creek (hint: tasting menu), you eat in a radical, galvanizing sphere apart from what we expect from our dining scene, but one vital to eating in our state in 2019. Whether it's ga'ivsa and Navajo steamed corn mingled under line-caught fish, or an artful composition squiggling through a smear of saguaro jam, Chef Brett Vibber's creations wheel you through the groves, washes, and pine forests far beyond town. He leads his kitchen crew out into the backcountry to forage for ingredients like sumac and wild grapes. Many are pickled, jammed, dried, or otherwise preserved for select use well beyond their seasons. In recent years, Vibber has grown and fine-tuned his foraging program, which is exciting for this pioneer of New Arizonan cuisine. Eating at Cartwright's is eating Arizona.
Best BreakfastHarlow's Café
1021 West University Drive, Tempe
Harlow's Café sates every morning mealtime craving imaginable: the early-bird cup of joe, the quick and healthy, the greasy and hearty — and the chorizo and eggs may be the best hangover cure in the state. Oh, and if a hair of the dog is your thing, find solace in the fact that Harlow's recently added booze to the menu. This experience is everything you could want from a classic local diner that has been open for business for over 40 years. Everything is made from the greasy pits of Arizona love, from the Pancho platter (pancakes, eggs, and bacon or sausage) to the Percy omelet (onion, garlic, bell pepper, tomato, sausage, and cheese).
5223 North Central Avenue
Bringing up the Phoenix neighborhood staple Windsor as a brunch option after a lengthy night fueled by laughs and libations is the most assured way to win the debate with your friends about where to nurse your party wounds and reminisce about the night before. Let's face it: Brunch is mainly about quelling the hangover that screams for your immediate attention from the howling, depths of your core. In such a frail condition, you want to know that you're going somewhere that is devoid of judgmental eyes and also unwavering when it comes to the quality of grub, booze, and atmosphere. We get it. Your demonic hangover demands a shady patio, a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar, endless coffee, biscuits and gravy, french fries, and — oh, dear God — a bacon cheeseburger? Okay, this might be more serious than we thought. Get to Windsor's brunch, stat.
Best Downtown LunchMonroe's Hot Chicken
45 West Jefferson Street
Pickles. Chicken. Heat. That's what's for lunch at Monroe's, founded by Larry White, the man behind Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles. Modeled after the Nashville-style hot chicken meals that have become a trend from coast to coast, this chicken packs the kind of intensity you want when skipping the bagged lunch al desko. Chicken gets a heavy breading. You could probably design maps of each piece's varied landscapes. All that furrowed, contorted, brown-fried casing doesn't have the shatter you would expect — but there, rising hard and fast, comes the heat. The secret is to dig in before the pepper sauce that makes the chicken molten sogs the exterior. Milkshakes frost over the heat some. If you get a chicken sandwich, the slaw will control the fire and lend a nice snap. However you do Monroe's, you're in for a downtown lunch with the personality to make your day better.
Best Place to Eat at the BarThe Rokerij
6335 North 16th Street
If you have never descended the dark stairwell into The Rokerij, the cellar bar at Richardson's, put this unique Phoenix experience at the top of your list. Sitting at "the wood" is serious business, and when you belly up to the bar in this beautiful underground restaurant, you immediately know that you're in for something special. In this intimate, cabin-like setting, the bar is the focal point, stretching magnificently through the middle of the place. The shelves on the back wall are filled with an impressive lineup of spirits, and the happy hour (not to mention reverse happy hour) doesn't skimp on the wine list. Experienced bartenders, dim lighting, classic rock coming through the speakers, and a beautiful copper bar top are all reasons to get to The Rokerij early, pull up a stool, and stay late.
Best Bar FoodBao Chow
31 West Southern Avenue, Tempe
Bar food is easy to over-enjoy, because you're most likely drinking while you're enjoying it. But occasionally, bar food is a tier above some microwaved pizza and wings (not that those aren't good). Enter Bao Chow, specializing in handheld Taiwanese ... tacos, let's say. It's found in the Whiskey Lounge at the famous Yucca Tap Room music venue in Tempe. A pillowy, mildly sweet, steamed bun is wrapped around bulgogi, fried chicken, or tofu. The fried chicken is heaven-sent and deserves its own sentence, which is this one. Other Bao Chow menu items include tacos, build-your-own burgers, breakfast stuff, wings, and maybe the best basket of piping-hot tots you can imagine. Bao Chow is open to people of all ages daily until 7 p.m., and then you must be over 21 to be at the Yucca. The kitchen's open from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily.
Best Restaurant for RomanceCafé Monarch
6934 East First Avenue, Scottsdale
Imagine not flying to France, but still dining European villa-style with a customized menu and privacy. There is a reason why Café Monarch was voted the second-most romantic restaurant in the country by TripAdvisor. Couples will receive special attention from the staff, and if it seems you're treated like family, it may be because the restaurant is family-owned and -operated. Gustavo Lewkowicz is the chef. His wife, Sofia, is in charge of the decor, and their sons Christian and Phillip run the place. The restaurant's farm-to-table ingredients ensure the highest quality in cuisine. In fact, the Traveler's Choice Awards named it the third-best restaurant in the United States for fine dining. Only two New York City restaurants finished higher. This true gem is a place to linger with your love and let the romance take center stage.
Best Patio DiningWelcome Diner
929 East Pierce Street
It doesn't get any better than Welcome Diner's patio when you're kicked back, drink in hand, watercolor sun setting or night already late and weird. Under the green and red neon lights that sear the palm-treed sky over the Garfield District, you, me, her, them, him, they, everybody in this nook of town seems to be having a blast. The hurricanes and palomas flow like oxygen, booze sopped up by poutine and fried chicken and chorizo meatloaf. This is the kind of spot that seems to vanquish your goals and dreams of faraway places, leaving you content in the moment. It's also the kind of small and mismatched but ideal patio that wouldn't even need good food or drink, but has both, making Welcome a Phoenix landmark.
Best Restaurant to Take the KidsThe Teapot
818 North Fifth Avenue
Socializing can be difficult with little ones running around, especially when you want to catch up with an old friend over a cup of coffee. There's no way anyone can carry on a conversation at a local fast-food restaurant or kid-themed pizza joint (let alone want to eat there). Don't fret, parental units. The Teapot, located in a restored downtown house just south of Roosevelt Street, is both a cool spot and a place for the little ones to play. Created by two parents, one of whom hails from London, the menu consists of delicious British pastries, kid-friendly noshes, and handcrafted caffeinated beverages and juices. What makes The Teapot perfect for families is the expansive play place in the backyard complete with pedal cars surrounded by canopied benches. This makes The Teapot a hip yet practical hangout.
Best Late-Night DiningGrand Avenue Pizza Company
1031 Grand Avenue
Grand Avenue Pizza Company doesn't open until 4 p.m. It stays open until 3 a.m, but only five days a week (four in the summer). Do that math. Frustrating as it may be for the lunch crowd, this represents a lot of what Grand Avenue is about. It knows its vision, and it doesn't mess with a winning formula. Using all high-quality and natural ingredients (Arizona-grown when possible) and making everything in-house, Grand Avenue doesn't need to compensate for anything with ridiculous toppings or bougie presentation. Nothing tastes better at 1 a.m. after a Van Buren dance night than a slice of pepperoni and one of its famed PB&J cookies.
2611 North Central Avenue
Walking into this nearly 70-year-old steakhouse feels like you're stepping into a Martin Scorsese film. When you open the back door and step into the kitchen where steaks and chops are being broiled for the hungry customers inside, it's another world. Once you go through the kitchen's swinging doors, a team of tuxedo-clad waiters will cater to your needs, whether it's a martini or a filet mignon cooked perfectly to your liking. Phoenix's history practically oozes from the red walls. So much has been said of the establishment's founder that you knew someone would make a movie out of Jack Durant's life (and yes, someone did). Leave what you've heard or seen at the door. The truth is that when you have something to celebrate, you go someplace legendary. You eat at Durant's.
Best DinerHandlebar Diner
5149 South Inspirian Parkway, Mesa
If you live in any part of the Valley remotely west, north, or even central, driving to Handlebar Diner can start to feel like a road trip pretty quickly. But that's almost part of the experience, a vibe the residents of Eastmark, the large-scale, master-planned community in southeast Mesa where Handlebar Diner is located, don't get. This Valentine-style diner is small inside, but the patio, with its flatscreen TVs, picnic tables, and outdoor lighting, is where you'll want to spend breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or just drinks. Some suggestions include the Vietnamese-style wings, Adam's Mac and Cheese, Highway 44 raviolis, the Eastmark Cobb, and the Keto Smothered Chicken. For those cool nights on the deck, order local, imported, or domestic beers off the menu of libations, or go for a house cocktail like the Chef's Hurricane or Handlebar Mule.
Best Soul FoodStacy's Off Da Hook BBQ and Soul Food
1804 West Glendale Avenue
There's only one place in town to get something Stacy style, and that's Stacy's Off Da Hook BBQ and Soul Food. The casual American restaurant plates "ole fashion" barbecue, fried chicken, and chitterlings, and has Kool-Aid on tap. That crispy fried chicken comes from a secret recipe concocted by owner Stacy Phipps himself, who most likely will be in the restaurant when you visit. Pair your plate with sides like creamy mac and cheese, salty green beans, collard greens, and corn muffins. Off Da Hook also offers breakfast pairings, including catfish and grits, and chicken and waffles. The dining room is as enjoyable as the menu, so sit back and take in the classic R&B; photos of icons like Rosa Parks, Wilson Pickett, and the Obama family; and of course, the plate of soul food in front of you.
Best Southern Restaurantthe Larder + the Delta
200 West Portland Street
Chef Stephen Jones puts the "South" in "Southwestern," taking Southern food to gustatory and intellectual places we haven't seen in Phoenix. He is deservedly famous for the cauliflower he gives a Buffalo treatment, replete with smoked blue cheese and pickled celery. You see final dishes like these — hoppin' John, Nashville-style hot chicken, radish-jeweled hoe cakes — and they impress. But what you might not expect from afar is the microscopic detail and thoughtfulness that go into their components. Jones artfully pickles corn when in season. He hoards vegetable scraps and burns them into an ash used for seasoning or garnish. He has baked parsley roots in hay. Together, these small, skillful maneuvers and Jones' calculated creative style make his cooking some of the most interesting in town at the Larder + the Delta.
Best English PubCornish Pasty Company
You can grab a pint at any number of English-themed bars in town, but maybe it's because owner Dean Thomas grew up in Cornwall, England, that Cornish Pasty Company feels more authentic. You can make a new friend as you sit on one of the communal benches while drinking from the selection of beers on tap, including offerings from local microbreweries to the finest stouts from abroad. On some nights, you can even catch a great local band playing at one of the locations. Oh yeah, did we mention the pasties? We recommend the hearty Oggie, but there's plenty on the menu to suit your palate.
Best Irish PubRúla Búla Irish Pub
401 South Mill Avenue, Tempe
Any bar can pour you a pint of Guinness. This Mill Avenue pub will make you wait two whole minutes for your stout. The bartenders don't mind seeing you anxiously wait for that beer, either. They know that's the way it's supposed to be done, setting this bar apart from the other themed bars and eateries that serve you fast rather than right. There are a variety of sandwiches, fish and chips, and an authentic boxty with braised beef on the menu for you to enjoy while drinking your brew on the outdoor patio. Afterward at Rúla Búla, sip a warm Irish coffee and sample the restaurant's delectable bread pudding as a Celtic band plays live for you.
Best German RestaurantHaus Murphy's
5739 West Glendale Avenue, Glendale
Every fall, German food and drinks are thrust into the spotlight during Oktoberfest, the Bavarian festival that is now celebrated all over the world by people who enjoy beer and lederhosen. But Valley residents don't have to wait for October to enjoy hearty German fare; they just need to make the trip to Historic Downtown Glendale and grab a table at Haus Murphy's. You might hear a server speaking German to customers when you sit down inside the wood-paneled dining room. Start with the restaurant's famous giant Bavarian pretzel if it's available, then pick an entree — maybe the sauerbraten with spaetzle and red cabbage, or a hearty schnitzel platter. Desserts options include an apple strudel and a chocolate sauerkraut torte. Naturally, there's a great lineup of German beers and wines to choose from as well. So no matter what month it is, there's a fantastic German meal awaiting you at Haus Murphy's.
Best Italian RestaurantTratto
4743 North 20th Street
A saying that many attribute to Leonardo da Vinci captures the essence of Tratto: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." The understanding of Italian food — which from north to south is all about simple food simply prepared — as well as just how far Chef Cassie Shortino can take you into the mountains and open fields of Italy, all seen through a Sonoran lens, is unmatched in Phoenix. Tratto shapes whole-wheat cavatelli. Cuts spaghetti alla chittara. Coats boxed pasta shells in pomodoro sauce. Foods as simple as roasted chicken or chickpea crepes seem to pulse with vibrant life, especially in your memory, at the close of a meal, when taking down arcane amari. In the Chris Bianco spirit, Tratto thrives on a low-key philosophy of sourcing the freshest ingredients possible and using craftsmanship to, by the time the cooking starts, have the guts to step aside and let them shine. The result is simple, sophisticated food alive with the seasons and true to the way things are done in the old country, even if being in Arizona makes it all fresh and new.
Best French RestaurantGeordie's Restaurant
2501 East Telawa Trail
Try to think of a Phoenix restaurant where Frasier and Niles might dine. What would be their chez away from chez? Cue Geordie's. The historic Wrigley Mansion's gourmet eatery, Geordie's Restaurant, offers kitchen space to the James Beard Award-winning Chef Christopher Gross. He and his experienced culinary team plate many European dishes, including French cooking in the form of caviar, duck confit, foie gras, and the chocolate tower loved 'round the city. Geordie's Restaurant offers lunch, dinner, small plates, happy hour specials, and one of the most exciting brunches in town. The extensive wine list offers more than 800 bottles, many from France, and all selected by award-winning wine director Paola Embry. Wrigley Mansion also offers verandas, patios with twinkling city views, five private dining rooms, and the elegant Jamie's Wine Bar.
Best Native American FoodThe Fry Bread House
4545 North Seventh Avenue
Prep trays at this longtime Phoenix staple have a set capacity: 77 balls of dough. Some are destined to become frybread served beside bowls of homestyle Tohono O'odham red chile. Others will crackle in molten oil before getting finished, right out of the fryer, with melted butter and liquid chocolate, which river down through dough valleys and onto the serving paper. Frybread is a complicated food. It was born from deep tragedy. But it has sustained indigenous people for generations. For a quarter-century, the Miller family has been serving it at Fry Bread House's shifting location. When visiting, be sure you look beyond the lacy brown disks. C'emet, the indigenous Southwestern wheat tortilla, wraps soft squash burros. Green chile, with its full-throated spice powered by Hatch chiles from late summer to fall's end, is a visceral reminder of our desert's harsh beauty.
Best Peruvian RestaurantLos Andes Peruvian Cuisine
6025 North 27th Avenue, #24
Peruvian food is one of the original fusion cuisines. Italian and Asian influences are a part of Los Andes' menu, with a number of linguine and fried-rice plate options. But the real star of this hole-in-the wall west-side restaurant is the seafood. The ceviche, with its unique blend of Peruvian spices, tastes different from other traditional ceviche. The Pescado a lo Macho is a fried fish filet covered in a mixed seafood sauce that is, trust us, quite difficult to re-create. Los Andes is a journey through hundreds of years of Peruvian cuisine brought to metro Phoenix.
Best Vietnamese RestaurantDa Vang Restaurant
4538 North 19th Avenue
Da Vang is the neighborhood spot that's regularly been selected for Best of Phoenix because it keeps its formula consistent — good food at good prices. The authentic Vietnamese menu is quite extensive, but that just means you can keep coming back for something different each time. Most of the items are under $10, but the portion sizes are anything but small. The com tam dac biet is a dish of broken steamed rice with barbecue pork, shrimp, a fried shrimp cake, a barbecue pork meatball, a crab-egg cake, shredded pork, and a fried egg. Whether you're in the mood for noodles, sandwiches, a big bowl of pho, or one of the other soups, Da Vang is there with fresh food and quick service.
Best Thai RestaurantThai-E-San
616 West Indian School Road
Visit Thai-E-San and you'll get authentic, affordable food that delivers on price and serving size, whether you dine in or out. The staff is friendly and remembers regular customers' orders. Menu highlights include the pad see ew noodles, the Royal Curry, and the coconut soup. And vegetarian or not, the fried tofu that can be added to any dish is not to be missed. If you come for lunch during the week, choose from a curry or traditional dish with your choice of protein, plus an egg roll, wonton chips, and the soup of the day. All dishes are customizable spice-wise from a mild "1" to a super-hot "5."
Best Korean RestaurantDrunken Tiger
1954 South Dobson Road, #5, Mesa
The atmosphere is electric at Drunken Tiger on a Friday or Saturday night. Large and small groups of happy diners talk and laugh over the sounds of K-pop. Servers move swiftly around the space, passing out hot platters of Korean fusion food. Drunken Tiger is the place to try some traditional Asian favorites like tteokbokki and takoyaki as well as fun takes on Korean fare like bulgogi nachos and kimchi pork fries. You can't go wrong with the Yang Nyum Chicken (popcorn chicken tossed in a spicy Korean red sauce) or the galbi. And don't forget to explore the drink menu; Drunken Tiger has a great list of Korean beers and soju cocktails to wash down all that great food.
Best Japanese RestaurantHana Japanese Eatery
5524 North Seventh Avenue
Japanese food is not hard to come by in the Valley, but true Japanese food is a different story. Find Hana Japanese Eatery at Seventh and Missouri avenues, occupying a strip-mall slot and offering a lengthy sushi bar, bustling dining areas, and a BYOB policy. Patrons may bring their own sake, beer, or bottle of wine for a $5 corkage fee, and the Hana staff will keep it cold. The spot has been owned and overseen by renowned Chef Lori Hashimoto — nutrition science graduate and daughter of a local vegetable farmer — since its 2007 opening. Head to Hana for a bento box at lunchtime, or something with a little more detail, like the tai nanbanzuke (fried red snapper), at dinnertime.
Best Chinese RestaurantChou's Kitchen
1250 East Apache Boulevard, #101, Tempe
The east Valley has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to incredible Asian food. Many of the restaurants have opened in the last couple of years, but our favorite place for Chinese food has been around for a bit longer. Chou's Kitchen, which serves the cuisine of northeastern China, has a diverse menu worth exploring. We love the stir-fried eggplant with minced pork and garlic sauce, the fish filet in hot chile oil, and above all, the xiaolongbao, steamed dumplings filled with soup and pork. Travel + Leisure included Chou's Kitchen on its list of the best Chinese restaurants in the U.S. several years ago, bringing well-deserved national attention to this local favorite.
Best Indian RestaurantIndia's Flame
4427 South Rural Road, #3 and #4, Tempe
At India's Flame, to start, the naan has a flaky, wafery bite and gives you the same warming goodness as buttered popcorn. During lunch, well-spiced cups of chai are included with a sprawling buffet, and so are bracing glasses of mango lassi. You can pick and choose from the extensive menu or ride with the buffet. In either case, don't miss daal maharani, a creamy slurry of lentils with a mellow curry heat. A hearty, refined curry features bone-in goat, a shade chewy but rich and satisfying. The list of standouts goes on: tandoori chicken perfectly moist inside despite oven-blackening on the surface, coconut-milk-deepened korma packed with vegetables, and a nice carrot rendition of halwa for dessert. This hidden gem does it all.
Best Middle Eastern RestaurantHaji-Baba
1513 East Apache Boulevard, Tempe
This deli-cafe-grocery's lamb tongue sandwich gets all the love. But what makes this longtime Arizona State University and Tempe staple the best isn't its best dishes. It's that the simplest meals and bites of food are so satisfying. A chicken shawarma sandwich at Haji-Baba explodes with juice, and gets just the sour touch it needs from pickle spears. Its pita is soft, hot and chewy, the kind of wrapping that you could eat without what it wraps. Shawarma and other sandwiches, all unreasonably cheap, are often tightly foiled and ready almost immediately. If you are even driving by this restaurant's modest sign in its fading strip mall, at least stop in for a bag of fresh Aleppo pepper, a brick of feta, or baklava to go. Bars of baklava are simple, crackly, hypnotically syrup-soaked, and chewy on their non-crackly lower halves, with all the goodness of pecan pie and then some. They're even great for breakfast.
Best African RestaurantJollof King
325 West Elliot Road, Tempe
The food that owner Kwasi Nyerko and Chef Mercy Boadi serve at Jollof King is Ghanaian, Nigerian, and a hybrid of the two West African countries. At a seat in the vibrant restaurant, you can happily dig into warm spoonfuls of gelatinous okra stew or egusi, a renowned African stew made with melon seeds. Some of the standouts at this low-key spot include the lumpy banku — a ball of starchy corn with a pleasant, barnyard funk built through fermentation. Nut soups star. The chef makes two, including ground-nut soup, one of Ghana's most beloved dishes. The crimson depths are a warming, beautiful union of tomato, smooth peanuts, and, most of all, habanero. Garlic and ginger help shape it all into something soulful, and so does the pillowy fufu dumpling plopped in the bowl if you wisely opt for one. This is one of the best soups in town.
Best Jewish DeliChompie's
Chompie's isn't necessarily the Katz's Delicatessen of greater Phoenix, but it's close enough. Started in 1979 by the Borenstein family from Queens, New York, Chompie's has gone from a simple bagel shop to a restaurant chain in its 40 years in the Valley. The New York-style deli and bakery lists menu items like kishka with double-baked Jewish rye, cabbage rolls, schnitzel, and that piled-high pastrami sandwich. All this, while the bakery features East Coast-esque bagels and the ultimate treat of peace, the black-and-white cookie. Chompie's also offers holiday menus for occasions like Christmas, Passover, St. Patrick's Day, and Yom Kippur break-the-fast.
Best Kosher RestaurantCafé Chenar
1601 East Bell Road, Suite A-11
For people who love to eat the world, one of the most exciting openings of the last year was Café Chenar in north Phoenix. This one-room restaurant — the third eatery opened by the Uvaydov family, who also run LaBella Pizzeria and Restaurant, and Kitchen 18 — serves Bukharian food. This is the cuisine of a Jewish minority in Uzbekistan, one at the intersection of Europe and Asia and at a prominent point of the old Silk Road. Being kosher, the dining room observes the laws of kashrut, meaning there's no dairy on the menu. Steamed manti arrive in a bamboo vessel not with the customary sour cream but a ramekin of light tomato sauce that lifts the rich noodles. This is a menu that you could close your eyes, point at, and be perfectly happy. It's loaded with plov, Cornish hen, lamb rib kebabs, and enough dumplings to fill a book — or the stomachs of a large, hungry party. During Hanukkah, the kitchen serves sufganyiot, simple and satisfying with a cup of green tea.
Best Vegan RestaurantVerdura
5555 North Seventh Street, #108
Verdura takes a second to process. The tables and chairs in the large dining room are spaced apart like a well-planned neighborhood. Then there are the open kitchen, plants, lava lamps, and big framed photos of Prince, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, and Joan Jett. The counter-service, plant-based eatery has fun dish names like London Calling and the CBGB Salad, but the food is all business. The carne asada nachos, made with seitan, are in the running for best nachos in town. The I'm Just a Po'boy sandwich is a pile of flash-fried mushrooms, while London Calling is "phish" and chips. Everything is spot on, but the Goth Waffle will have you popping in for a visit at random hours. It's a warm, black-in-color bubble waffle, made with activated charcoal and topped with tart raspberry sorbet. Verdura is not just vegan-friendly — it may be vegan-converting.
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Best Vegetarian RestaurantThe Coronado
2201 North Seventh Street
Do you want to trick your carnivore friends into abandoning their sinful, meat-eating ways by showing them how stupidly good vegetarian food can be? Then go to The Coronado and prepare to be confused: Its veggie burgers are so good you'll forget you're not eating meat. The goat cheese and jalapeño marmalade quesadilla is so absurdly delicious it won't matter that your hands are crazy sticky and your mouth is on fire just a little bit. The Coronado also has brunch specials that vary from week to week, outside seating, beer on tap, games in the back, and an array of beautiful and tasty baked goods.
Best Restaurant to Trick Yourself Into Eating HealthierGreen New American Vegetarian
Here's a common complaint about many vegan food items from one flesh-loving carnivore: A lot of it tastes like soy and old tube socks. But then, Green opened up in Phoenix and Tempe, spreading the gospel of proper vegan cuisine to the steak-obsessed masses. Chef Damon Brasch had the magical idea to blend a multitude of cooking styles, yielding tasty comfort food from vegetarian or vegan ingredients that's both familiar and daring. There are the West Coast Fries, better than any spuds from In-N-Out; barbecue wings worthy of any sports bar; and, hands down, the best crab puffs in the entire Valley. But Green does more than simply trick the taste buds into eating better — the menu shows the true versatility of spinach, chickpeas, and cabbage when prepared with a lot of care and a dash of excitement. Were it not for actual burgers or wings, Green could make a vegan/vegetarian out of almost anyone.
Best Gluten-Free RestaurantJewel's Café
4041 East Thomas Road, #101
Food allergies and sensitivities definitely make eating out more challenging; for those who require gluten-free food, options can be limited and not always tasty. But in Jewel's Cafe, the gluten-sensitive among us have a place where everything on the menu is safe to eat, and it's all delicious. Jewel's does breakfast, brunch, and lunch; highlights include the award-winning Nashville hot chicken sandwich, the chicken and waffles, and the chorizo burrito. The baked goods here also are incredible; on any given day you might find red velvet cheesecake bars, chocolate chip scones, or peanut butter bacon brownies. What we're saying is, Jewel's isn't a great gluten-free eatery — it's a great place to eat that happens to be gluten-free.