Sky-high plates of chicken and waffles in Youngtown. Crispy catfish po'boys in south Phoenix. Bites of Hoppin’ John that would transport you to the muggy outdoor cafe tables in the French Quarter. The Valley is lucky to have a wide variety of Black-owned restaurants offering incredible food in vital spaces.
We have many suggestions. Here are several restaurants in greater Phoenix we recommend for today and well beyond.
Jupiter Rings Wings and More4700 North 12th Street
If you’re looking for a new restaurant, try Jupiter Rings Wings and More. Jason Higgins came to Phoenix with just a buffalo sauce recipe. He has since created a popular vegan version and opened a restaurant — and will soon be selling his product in grocery stores nationwide. Check out thoughts from our first taste in June 2020.
Rag’s Real Chicken & Waffles12242 North 111th Avenue, Youngtown
Tucked away in the northwest Valley city of Youngtown, Rag’s Real Chicken & Waffles is a small, family-owned restaurant that plates sky-high chicken and waffles — truly, the dish has to be about six inches tall off the surface of the table. Aside from the huge portions, there is much more to appreciate here — like the sides, the live music, and the BYOB policy.
ATL WingsMultiple Locations
For some seriously, seriously good wings, go to ATL Wings. Many wing options in Phoenix are pretty good, but these are some of the best. If you love a good dry rub, ATL Style should definitely be your order. Each piece, drum, or wing is hefty and evenly coated with that heavy, oily blend of herbs and spices. It’s no surprise they won a Best of Phoenix award in 2018. (Personal note: I’ve eaten myself sick on ATL Wings many times.)
Honey Bear’s BBQMultiple Locations
Many restaurant owners have stories, but not all can recall a time they catered the crew of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It's true. Honey Bear’s BBQ owner Mark Smith remembers the first time this group of highly energetic and friendly young people walked into his barbecue restaurant in 1987. The next three months would be filled with some excellent adventures. Also, you can drink the sauce here, and many do.
Mrs. White’s Golden Rule Café808 East Jefferson Street
Mrs. White’s Golden Rule Café is one of the city’s top restaurants. Named for founder Elizabeth White, it serves utterly timeless food. The writing on the wall literally informs you this 50-year-old restaurant is where you’ll find one of Phoenix’s most famous Southern dishes: the golden brown Southern fried chicken (with suggested sides of cabbage and black eyed peas). Mrs. White has spinoffs everywhere, including her grandson, Larry “Lo-Lo” White’s spot, Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles.
the Larder + the Delta200 West Portland Street, #101
Operated by chef Stephen Jones, the Larder + the Delta is also one of Phoenix’s top restaurants. We reviewed the restaurant in 2018, and we stand by it. The restaurant's second location is in sleeker digs, but the menu is still killer Southern fare. Entrees include pork ribs and chicken fried chicken, but smaller plates are the main draw here. The cauliflower is made with sauce from Cutino Sauce Co. (another Black-owned business), the Hoppin’ John makes you feel like you're in NOLA, and the crispy pig ears are dusted in Cheetos. We could write a poem about the chicken skins.
Stacy's Off Da Hook BBQ and Soul Food1804 West Glendale Avenue
We think Stacy's Off Da Hook BBQ and Soul Food has some the best soul food in town. In addition to offering a well-decorated (but not yet opened) dining area, this casual soul food restaurant serves "ole fashion" barbecue, fried chicken, and chitterlings, and has Kool-Aid on tap. That crispy fried chicken is some of the best in town; it comes from a secret recipe concocted by owner Stacy Phipps himself — who most likely will be in the restaurant when you visit. We also gave it a Best of Phoenix award in 2019 for its food in general.
Café Lalibela849 West University Drive, Tempe
Metro Phoenix has several standout African restaurants and coffee shops. But one is a cut above, and we've deemed it one of the Valley's top restaurants. Located in Tempe, the husband-and-wife-run Café Lalibela is a cozy Ethiopian restaurant that has occupied a strip mall suite for decades. The eatery specializes in vegetarian dishes, though several meat items are on the menu like the key sega wat. Injera, or a crepe-like sourdough bread made with teff, is served with most meals.
Monroe’s Hot ChickenMultiple Locations
Remember when hot chicken was all anyone could talk about around here? One place has done it extra well — but not extra well done. The sandwiches are juicy and hot at Monroe’s Hot Chicken, which we discovered in a very early visit. But we had such a good time on follow-up visits we gave the restaurant, owned by Larry White (also the man behind Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles), a Best of Phoenix 2019 award for best downtown lunch. What's more, there's now a Tempe location.
JL Smokehouse1712 East Broadway Road
Our food critic, Chris Malloy, is a big barbecue fan. He's dedicated countless hours to his series Smoke Rings. Along this journey, smoke master James Lewis claimed “I got the best pulled pork in the country.” Lewis' barbecue joint, JL Smokehouse, uses oak and mesquite in service of exceptional menu items like the Chicago sausage sandwich, the brisket, pulled pork, rib tips, and sides like the coleslaw, potato salad, mac and cheese (goosed with smoked gouda), and beans (flavor halfway between barbecue and Cajun). Just to name a few.
Trapp Haus BBQ511 East Roosevelt Street
Roosevelt Row is known for cocktails, galleries, and maybe a craft beer spot, which is what makes Trapp Haus BBQ all the more worth a visit. Proprietor Phil "the Grill" Johnson is a "seasoned barbecue master," and he plies his trade on standout items like the Jumbo Philly Crack Wings, which we gave a Best of Phoenix award in 2019. Other memorable menu items include the St. Louis ribs and Trappetizers like burnt ends and the hot chicken skins.
Island Sensation Cuisine830 East Indian School Road
We’re big fans of quality, inexpensive lunches, which is why we also recommend Island Sensation Cuisine. We recommend you start with the house-made ginger beer brew and then work your way down the menu. Chef Lloyd Campbell offers classically Jamaican food, which he fine-tuned in culinary school in Kingston. Plates include classic stewed oxtail with gravy and rice, jerk chicken thighs, and sides like “island” coleslaw.
Authentic Ethio African Spices1740 East McDowell Road
Spotted by the colors of the Ethiopian flag at 18th Street and McDowell Road, Authentic Ethio African Spices is another one of the Valley’s outstanding African restaurants. Injera is easily accessible, as is ginger-spiked chicken stew, and fresh cheeses, and vegetarian options. We also gave this cozy African café a Best of Phoenix award in 2018 after a couple of mesmerizing visits.
West Alley BBQ111 West Boston Street, Chandler
We’ve been fans of West Alley BBQ in downtown Chandler since it opened in 2018. After attending Chandler’s Great American BBQ & Beer Festival in early 2017, owners Bardo and Christian Brantley decided to spring for a storefront in the east Valley. The barbecue joint specializes in St. Louis-style ribs, Tennessee-style barbecue, and more. It also had its own installment in our Smoke Rings series.
The Original Pancake House6840 East Camelback Road, Scottsdale
Some restaurant recommendations hardly need to be stated. If you want pancakes, The Original Pancake House in downtown Scottsdale is where you go. The breakfast chain has been around since 1953, and our Scottsdale location has been open since 1988, when the griddle was first overseen by owner Ron “The Pancake Man” Horton. The Midcentury vibe, coupled with house specialties like the apple pancake, Dutch baby, and Ron’s Special Southwest Eggs, make this place a real first meal gem. Read our 2012 ode to its 49’er FlapJack here.
Gojo Restaurant3015 East Thomas Road, #101
Gojo Restaurant is named after the Amharic word for hut, and the place is indeed cozy and homelike. Like most quality Ethiopian restaurants, Gojo serves a variety of flavorful stews, like doro wot (chicken), key wot (beef), and alitcha wot (lamb). It also hosts bunna — an Ethiopian coffee ceremony — on Mondays when the dining room is open. For a deeper dive, check out our piece from our 2015 visit.
Hot Pot Caribbean Cuisine2081 North Arizona Avenue, # 132, Chandler
Around for more than 10 years, Hot Pot Caribbean Cuisine is a small restaurant inside a featureless strip mall in Chandler. But the dishes here are multiple times more eye-catching than the eatery’s exterior. Hot Pot serves a mean Brown stew chicken, plus Goat curry, Oxtails, and deep-fried Escovitch fish. For more recommendations and ravings, check out our 2017 review.
Big Marble Organicsc/o The Breadfruit & Rum Bar
108 East Pierce Street, #2051
Dwayne Allen and Danielle Leoni, owners of The Breadfruit & Rum Bar, recently released their own ginger beer. The Big Marble Organics beverage was created thanks to their usual ginger beer provider going dark. Searches for a good replacement weren’t going well, and the Rum Bar stopped making Dark and Stormy cocktails, “because we were dissatisfied.” So, they made their own. And we’re fans. In addition to our informal review of this Arizona-made ginger beer, we provided a Dark and Stormy recipe given by Allen himself.
Word of Mouth Grill7660 South McClintock Drive, Tempe
Recently, we took an extended tour of the Valley’s grilling, smoking, and saucing world in “Cafe Review: Journeying Through Phoenix’s Thriving Black Barbecue Scene.” During it, we met Demetrious Makel and his wife, Jacque Gomez-Makel of Word of Mouth Grill in Tempe. The Makels are big on seasoning but make sure there is plenty of flavor in the meat as well. We recommended his house-made sauces, of which there are 10, and the “uncommonly juicy” rib tips.
SugarJam Southern Kitchen15111 North Hayden Road, #170 Scottsdale
First thing's first: SugarJam BakeShop & Bistro is now SugarJam Southern Kitchen. And with the rebrand comes a location change. Owner Dana Dumas recently moved her bakery, bar, and breakfast spot, but she definitely brought her deep fryer. For fans of chicken wings, this is exciting news, as brunch items include — and these are how you'll see them on the menu — Smackin’ Fried Chicken Wings and French Toast Breakfast, Downhome Fried Chicken Wings & Belgian Waffle, and Flapjacks N' Fried Chicken Wings. Pair any of that with SugarJam's signature cocktails like a Berry Cobbler Smash or the Mason Dixon and you'll be flyin'.
Sapiens Paleo Kitchen10411 East McDowell Mountain Ranch Road, Scottsdale
Keto-friendly French cuisine is promised over at Sapiens Paleo Kitchen. The Scottsdale eatery offers French cuisine via a 100-percent paleo and gluten-free menu. Helpfully named menu items include the Keto Burger and the Paleo Meatloaf, while other entrees include French rabbit stew, Sapiens Duck and duck confit, free-range chicken, and the Vegetable Napoleon. Plus, every entree has a keto-friendly substitute option that will swap out any vegetable high in sugars (your potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc.). Non-dairy desserts are also available, including clafoutis made with almond flour.
Roll It Up Ice Cream13370 West Van Buren Street, Goodyear
The family-owned Roll It Up Ice Cream is a specialty ice cream shop using a distinct rolling process to construct its desserts. The menu changes monthly, but some popular orders include the Too Short (a strawberry shortcake-themed cup) and the Prince (Fruity Pebbles, strawberries, and bananas). Vegan flavors are also available. Just be sure to get a photo in front of the neon “Roll It Up” sign. This spot is just one of many great local restaurants in Goodyear.
And a whole bunch of vegan businesses …
There is a growing number of Black-owned vegan food businesses around the country — and across metropolitan Phoenix, including new restaurants and home-based bakeries. Starting with pastries and touching on plant-based soul food, here are nine Black-owned vegan food ventures in the Valley.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on June 5, 2020. It was updated on March 4, 2021.
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