Best of Phoenix

Best of Phoenix 2021: Top Breakfast Eats and Drinks

A brunch spread from Prep & Pastry.
A brunch spread from Prep & Pastry. Prep & Pastry
For some, there's nothing like a hearty breakfast to start the day. For others, it's more of a grab-and-go situation as you're scurrying out the door for work. Thankfully, the Valley has some tasty breakfast spots that can accommodate both. Here are breakfast eateries and their delights that secured a 2021 Best of Phoenix award.

click to enlarge Ollie Vaughn's has the best breakfast in the Valley. - OLLIE VAUGHN'S
Ollie Vaughn's has the best breakfast in the Valley.
Ollie Vaughn's

Best Breakfast

Ollie Vaughn's
1526 East McDowell Road

Part informal breakfast spot with lighter plates, part bakery, part coffeehouse where you can eternally linger eating snacks and enjoying a slow caffeine drip, Ollie Vaughn's punches way above its weight when it comes to morning eating. The croissant creations, like an egg sandwich and a croissant pudding, simply don't miss. The breakfast sandwich with meat changes all the time and tends to feature banger after banger, like a buttermilk biscuit with ham, eggs, and pimento; or another biscuit sammy with Schreiner's sausage, green chiles, and eggs. Some of the best baked goods here are classics. Don't sleep on the workaday strawberry muffin with ample powdered sugar. At Ollie Vaughn's, the tea selection is just wide enough, and the coffee list covers all the essential bases admirably.


The baked goodies at Barb's Bakery can't be beat. - DIANA MARTINEZ
The baked goodies at Barb's Bakery can't be beat.
Diana Martinez

Best Bakery

Barb's Bakery
2929 North 24th Street

We used to have a friend named Dino, but we stopped speaking to him when he said he didn't like the gingerbread men at Barb's Bakery, which has been serving Phoenix for decades. We don't need negativity like that in our life. What we do need is one of those spicy, warm cookies from Barb's, and we need one every week. Also a half-dozen of Barb's butter cookies, iced just so and perfect with a glass of cold milk. Barb's Orange Dreamsicle cupcake is the best thing we've ever tasted, next to her made-from-scratch cinnamon roll, sticky with sweet icing and nearly big enough for two. Except we don't like to share our stash from Barb's. Get your own.



click to enlarge Gluten-free treats at Sweet Dee's Bakeshop. - CHRIS MALLOY
Gluten-free treats at Sweet Dee's Bakeshop.
Chris Malloy

Best Gluten-Free Bakery

Sweet Dee’s Bakeshop
7350 East Stetson Drive, Suite C101, Scottsdale

A lot of people seem to think "You can't even tell it's gluten-free!" is the highest compliment you can pay a gluten-free baked good. We're here to tell you: It's not enough for us that our gluten-free goodies pass as "regular" treats. They had better be delicious, too. Sweet Dee's never fails to live up to our standards; each day, its lineup of pastries includes a number of outstanding gluten-free options. We've tried the butterscotch chip brownie, moist and rich; a tart, smooth lemon bar; and exquisite macarons in flavors like matcha and dark chocolate pomegranate. Also gluten-free are Dee's Nuts (LOL), the bakery's mini doughnuts. Sweet Dee's food menu, which offers light fare like quiche, avocado toast, sandwiches, and salads, also notes that any menu item can be made sans gluten. All in all, Sweet Dee's is where we go for pastries with none of the gluten and all of the flavor.


Rainbow Donuts wins by keeping it basic. - RAINBOW DONUTS
Rainbow Donuts wins by keeping it basic.
Rainbow Donuts

Best Doughnuts

Rainbow Donuts
1347 East McDowell Road

Since spots like Portland, Oregon's iconic Voodoo Doughnuts opened in 2003, the game has changed for the oft-one-holed pastry; a slew of spots around the globe have gotten super-creative with their interpretations. That's all well and good, but sometimes a simple fried dough offering satisfies the doughnut craving like no other. Rainbow Donuts isn't trying to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. This old-school joint is just concerned with dropping delectable pastries on the daily. Glazed, raised, filled, plain, and sprinkled are mostly what you'll find in their lengthy glass case. The buttermilk bars are exceptional, too, but if you arrive at Rainbow too far past sunrise, they will have long been sold out. Delicately dense and subtly sweet with a tinge of nutmeg, these hearty bars are enough of a reason to put this shop on your route.


The chocolate eclair is one of many delights at Essence Bakery. - ESSENCE BAKERY
The chocolate eclair is one of many delights at Essence Bakery.
Essence Bakery

Best Chocolate Croissant

Essence Bakery
3830 East Indian School Road

If you're lucky enough to get to Essence Bakery just as the pastries have come out of the oven, you'll smell the chocolate croissant before you taste it. The first bite will stop you in your tracks. Although we're talking about a pastry made with butter and stuffed with chocolate, Chef Eugenia Theodosopoulos' pastry is exceptionally airy and flaky. You may have to take a couple of bites to uncover the rich, dark chocolate nestled within the pastry, but your teeth, and soon your fingers, will eventually discover the utter softness within. Before too long, you'll have devoured the whole thing, leaving only pastry flakes on your shirt and butter and chocolate smeared on your fingertips. You may as well order another — this little bit of pastry heaven only costs $4.

Best Bagels

Bagelfelds

There is a tragic dearth of good bagels in Phoenix. Luckily, we've got Bagelfelds, whose bagels, which are marketed as Brooklyn-style bagels, are phenomenal. Biting into one of these fresh, chewy everything bagels smothered in a garlic pepper smear is a borderline New York experience; it's even better when you know you have more bagels in your paper bag since you splurged on a dozen. The menu includes flavors like fennel seed and golden raisin, and sea salt, and you've also got cream cheese options like lemon herb and honey brown butter. They don't have a formal storefront, but you can get your Bagelfelds fix at stands at Uptown Farmers' Market, Downtown Phoenix Public Market, Stoop Kid at The Churchill, and Nelson's Meat + Fish.

Arizona Bread Company is a longtime Valley favorite. - JAMIE PEACHEY
Arizona Bread Company is a longtime Valley favorite.
Jamie Peachey

Best Bread

Arizona Bread Company
7000 East Shea Boulevard, 101, Scottsdale

It's not unusual for a bakery to make an excellent kalamata olive loaf, which Arizona Bread Company certainly does, all chewy and stuffed with olives and sprinkled with cheeses. And there are several local bakeries that offer a really good round raisin challah, too (though none half so dense and tasty as Arizona Bread's). But can someone please help us find a tastier, more perfect loaf of Italian rosemary bread than the one baked at this longtime Valley favorite? No, never mind. You can't do it; we've tried and failed to find one we like more. Don't take our word for it — try this aromatic, crusty loaf yourself. And while you're there, don't miss an opportunity to take home a hunk of Arizona Bread's dark honey wheat bread, or to try their Paris-perfect baguette, with its hard, crisp outside and chewy, soft inside.

click to enlarge Prickly pear jelly from Cotton Country Jams. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Prickly pear jelly from Cotton Country Jams.
Lauren Cusimano

Best Preserves

Cotton Country Jams
3801 South Central Avenue

Step aside, Bonne Maman. Cotton Country Jams is in the house. Amanda Hawkins' grandmother started this business in 2000; at the time, the only product was wild Maine blueberry jam. Hawkins took over in 2008, and today, she offers jams, jellies, pickled products, and syrups, using mostly local ingredients and Grandma's recipes. We keep our kitchen stocked with the prickly pear jelly and the bread-and-butter pickles by snapping them up when we spy them at local farmers' markets. But the crown jewel of the lineup is the fig jam. Made with figs, lemons juice, sugar, citric acid, and pectin, it's got just the right texture (not too thick, not too thin), flow, and sweetness. You can also find Cotton Country Jam products locally at Woods & Whites, Sphinx Date Co., Noble Eatery, and Pane Bianco.

click to enlarge The Futuro is now. - ALLISON YOUNG
The Futuro is now.
Allison Young

Best Coffeehouse

Futuro
909 North First Street

Inside a room that feels like being enclosed in a box of glossy computer paper, Jorge Ignacio Torres oversees the most vibrant coffee program in Phoenix. Futuro exists inside Palabra, the multipurpose downtown space that also houses the eatery Pasado, a hair salon, and rotating displays of up-to-the-minute avant-garde art. The coffee, much of it single-origin, pushes new limits creatively, making you reconsider what coffee can be. Innovative blends like a double espresso with milk and marzipan candy, or cold brew with nectarine, honeysuckle, and cream often come in stemless wine glasses when iced, hand-thrown ceramics when hot. Torres' beans and whimsical-yet-rigorous flavor weavings have deep roots in Mexico. Classics like cafe de olla and cajeta latte feel brand new.

The Roastery of Cave Creek knows its beans. - ROASTERY OF CAVE CREEK
The Roastery of Cave Creek knows its beans.
Roastery of Cave Creek

Best Cold Coffee

Roastery Of Cave Creek
7003 East Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek

With two decades of roasting experience and some of the most sought-after roasting machinery in the world in his shop, Kansas transplant Dave Anderson and his Cave Creek crew roll out the red carpet for coffee beans, bringing them to their full pre-brew flavor. He started canning his nitro cold brew a few years ago. It has a deeply frothy head that could give Guinness a run for its money and such an astonishing array of lightly nutty, malty, fragrant flavors that it almost seems like you aren't drinking coffee — until its buzz zaps you like a thunderbolt. Wake up with one of these, and a big day is pretty much guaranteed.

click to enlarge The churro macchiato at Native Coffee Co. - CHRIS MALLOY
The churro macchiato at Native Coffee Co.
Chris Malloy

Best Mobile Coffee

Native Coffee Co.

Pulling up to this sky-blue, cloud-white, wood-paneled coffee trailer with a psychedelic saguaro painted on its door feels like a block party. Whether they're parked in their customary lot in downtown Tolleson or elsewhere, Raul Chavez and Brittany Martinez-Chavez sling their fun latte riffs to big crowds. They use Quetzal Co-Op coffee and mix espresso-based drinks like a Mexican hot chocolate mocha and a churro latte. Native Coffee Co. drinks are sweet and iced and giant, the best ones a touch or more crazy. The two also brew mean teas, some from Native Seeds/SEARCH, like prickly pear and desert mint. But the coffees deserve their star turn. They're just so unique: Mexican in spirit with Akimel O'odham influences and plenty of whimsy.

click to enlarge A brunch spread from Prep & Pastry. - PREP & PASTRY
A brunch spread from Prep & Pastry.
Prep & Pastry

Best Brunch

Prep & Pastry
7025 East Via Soleri Drive #175, Scottsdale

If you want the full brunch experience, meaning the breakfast cocktails and sticky sweets and wide savory selection and good coffee and a scene, then Tucson-based Prep & Pastry is the spot. The pastry counter of the on-canal Scottsdale location has some circus skills, from a croissant with puff and shatter to passion fruit pavlova and praline eclair. The plated brunch dishes are just as creative. Highlights include a peanut-butter-and-jelly French toast on Japanese milk bread, breakfast poutine with pork belly, and a cast-iron duck confit with cherries and goat cheese that could masquerade as a dinner entree. Drinks are thoughtful riffs on brunch classics, and they tend to disappear fast in the pleasant blur of a meal that reaches everything that the idea of brunch promises, but almost never actually delivers.
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