5 New Metro Phoenix Restaurants You've Got to Try Right Now

Try Belizean food — in Chandler, Arizona.
Try Belizean food — in Chandler, Arizona. Felicia Campbell

Get out and try a new restaurant, Phoenix — we've got a great line-up here, including comfort food, kitsch, a reboot, and a California transplant.

Elvira's Belizean Cafe

Set on the coast of Central America, Belize counts the Caribbean Sea as its border to the east, and beyond a lush, dense jungle, Guatemala and the Mexican state of Yucatan, form its inland borders. Given such geography, it isn't much of a surprise that that the dishes of this small country reflect both its neighbors and the confluence of cultures that has become a trademark of the Caribbean islands.

Rustic Mayan foods prepared since ancient times, when the ruins that still dot the interior landscape stood tall and proud; trade-town-style Caribbean dishes infused with elements of Spanish and African culture; and modern Mexican and South American street foods, with distinctly Belizean flare, are reflections of the country's distinct and diverse set of influences.

The staple dish of Belize exemplifies this cacophony: Coconut rice and beans are served with a tangy, black pepper-heavy potato salad; sweet fried plantains; and rich, stewed chicken, beef, pork, or oxtail. Meanwhile, breakfast in Belize might include omelets served alongside fry jack, a puffy bread made of flour, shortening, and baking soda that's deep fried to a golden brown. A plethora of snacks are familiar in name or appearance, but distinct in flavor and cooking style, as with garnache, a crisp corn tortilla topped with beans, onions, and pungent cheese, or half-moon panada pastries, stuffed with fish or beans and deep fried. Though some things are purely Belizean. On every table, at every meal, you will be sure to find a bottle of the Belizean-made Marie Sharp's pepper sauce; a bright orange condiment made of habanero peppers.

As of April, the simple, hearty food of Belize became available here in Metro Phoenix for the very first time.

click to enlarge Grande Stand in Scottsdale is the latest project from Arcadia's The Stand. - FELICIA CAMPBELL
Grande Stand in Scottsdale is the latest project from Arcadia's The Stand.
Felicia Campbell

Grande Stand

The Stand — one of our favorite hamburger joints — opened its second location in May in a strip mall near Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard, just next to the Harkins Shea 14 movie theater. The new space — which once famously housed Amy's Baking Company — retains a casual vibe, with a bar lining the front wall, and a scattering of tables filling the bright space.

In addition to table service, the new location also has a full bar with a strong selection of Arizona craft brews on draft.

click to enlarge Pork blood, intestine, and Spam in hot chili oil at Original Cuisine. - JACKIE MERCANDETTI
Pork blood, intestine, and Spam in hot chili oil at Original Cuisine.
Jackie Mercandetti

Original Cuisine

One of the most satisfying Sunday meals we've had in recent months involved a bowl of spicy stew at Original Cuisine, Mesa’s latest hot spot for Sichuan-style Chinese cuisine. This particular stew was spicy, salty, sour, bitter, and smoky all at once, and it jolted my taste receptors in a way that made it hard to pinpoint exactly what made it taste so bewitchingly good. Was it the heat of the dried chili peppers, the lip-numbing properties of Sichuan peppercorns, or the skillful blending of spices like ginger and cloves? Was it the neat squares of coagulated pork blood, the musky chew of the pork intestines, or perhaps the ingenious infusion of salty luncheon meat? Clearly, it was the delicious alchemy of all the above; the impressive depth and flavor of this particular stew involves the skillful layering of flavor upon flavor, a hallmark trait of well-executed Sichuan cooking. The stew, listed on the menu as “Pork Blood, Intestine, Spam in Hot Chili Oil,” defies the tired notion that Sichuan-style cooking boils down to just chili oil and peppercorns. Served in an oversize ceramic bowl that can easily feed two or three, this dish alone is reason enough to visit Original Cuisine, which opened earlier this year on Broadway Road in Mesa, just across the road from the Arizona International Marketplace.

This is the second location of Original Cuisine (the first is in Irvine, California), and the restaurant takes over a standalone spot formerly occupied by a string of mom-and-pop shops and fast food restaurants. You might never guess it used to be a fast food joint, though, as the dining room features splashy design touches like colorful wallpaper, midcentury-inspired dining chairs, and a partially open kitchen. It’s not quite as comfortably spacious and group-friendly as other Sichuan spots around town.

But, cramped quarters aside, there’s much to love about dining at Original Cuisine, including its very strong appetizer menu. Really, you're going to go for the food.

Camp Social

Even if you hated summer camp as a kid – or if almost everything you know about sleepaway camp has been gleaned from watching cheesy ‘80s movies – there’s a good chance you’ll get a kick out of Camp Social.

The camp-themed restaurant, one of the newest spots on the Seventh Street restaurant corridor, is located next door to Joe’s Midnight Run. It’s the latest project from Glass Half Full, the Chicago-based group behind last year’s revival of Dos Gringos in Old Town Scottsdale (now called Old Town Gringos).

Glass Half Full is known for its high-concept restaurants, such as The Rabbit Hole in Chicago, a sports bar and restaurant loosely inspired by Alice in Wonderland.

For its first original Phoenix concept, the group has created a space and menu designed to evoke fond memories of time spent in the great outdoors.

click to enlarge Gallo Blanco Cafe & Bar opened in the Garfield neighborhood of Central Phoenix on July 1. - FELICIA CAMPBELL
Gallo Blanco Cafe & Bar opened in the Garfield neighborhood of Central Phoenix on July 1.
Felicia Campbell

Gallo Blanco Cafe & Bar

Oh the whining, the crying, the kvetching on social media! You'd have thought someone took away our favorite spot for guac, street corn, tacos and margaritas.

Because they did! But we can rejoice, Phoenix, because Doug Robson's Gallo Blanco reboot does not disappoint. Located in a roughish patch of town — the Garfield neighborhood — the spot is buzzing with activity and we predict this is just the beginning for Garfield. Not for Robson, who brings a lot of experience to a menu still packed with tacos, salads and a wider tequila selection than ever.

And GB is now officially opened for lunch. So you have no excuse. We won't tell if you day drink as long as you don't tell if we do.

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