Welcome to the 2018 edition of The Essentials, our catalog of indispensable and quintessential Phoenix food and drink. From now until May, we'll be sharing 50 dishes, drinks, and food experiences that make up the culinary backbone (and personality) of metro Phoenix. This list is highly eclectic, mixing classics with newer and lesser-known favorites. But all The Essentials have one thing in common: We think they're required eating (and drinking) in metro Phoenix.
4: The Chop & Chick from Matt's Big Breakfast
I remember standing in line to eat at Matt's Big Breakfast shortly after it first opened in 2004. More than a decade later, people still wait in line to eat at Matt's, especially on weekend mornings, when waffles, eggs, and thick-cut toast fly out the kitchen window at breakneck speed.
Matt's Big Breakfast is not yet 20 years old, but it's already firmly enshrined in the small canon of Phoenix restaurants that are recognizable to diners outside of Arizona. The restaurant has been been featured on many of the big Food Network shows, and its strong local following has cemented its reputation as perhaps the most loved of all Phoenix breakfast spots.
Why so much fuss over a spartan breakfast and lunch spot with a compact menu? Matt's stripped-down, back-to-basics take on breakfast and lunch felt refreshing back in 2004, and it still feels that way. Wholesome, old-fashioned ingredients like organic milk, butter, and olive oil are faithfully employed, with no regard to whatever diet or "superfood" happens to be trending in the food universe.
There's nothing novel about a dish like The Chop & Chick, Matt's signature hungry-man breakfast. The big, buttery pork chop is served with two eggs your way, plus your choice of hash browns or rosemary home fries. It's a savory, filling feast, rounded out by the restaurant's signature thick-cut toast served with a side of fresh fruit compote. The dish is emblematic of what Matt's Big Breakfast represents for so many people: honest, uncomplicated, delicious food.
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What started as a downtown breakfast nook is now a small but growing empire, with four locations in metro Phoenix. Earlier this year, founder Matt Pool announced that the restaurant will soon be expanding beyond Arizona, including a Denver location that's projected to open later this year.
Now that Matt's Big Breakfast is expanding to other cities, will it continue its reign as Phoenix's favorite homegrown breakfast spot? Will people in other cities stand in line for the Chop & Chick, or the restaurant's famously huge Belgian-style waffle?
Time will tell. Here in Phoenix, at least, the crowds keep coming.
The Essentials So Far:
50: Soul food platter at Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles
49: The Bear at Short Leash Hot Dogs + Rollover Doughnuts
48: Grilled squid and other specialties at Andreoli Italian Grocer
47: I-10 Nachos at Cocina 10
46: Coffee made from ROC2 beans
45: The Haturo Sub Sandwich at Cheese 'n Stuff
44: Zookz at Zookz
43: Jade Red Chicken at Chino Bandido
42: Tasting menu at Quiessence at The Farm
41: Single-origin Papua New Guinea Bar at Zak's Chocolate
40: Green chile at Casa Reynoso
39: Brûlée burger from Paradise Valley Burger Company
38: Hand-pulled noodles from China Magic Noodle House
37: Carne adovada sliders at Dick's Hideaway
36: Crispy Pig Ear and Amaro cocktails from Crudo
35: Chile-laced specialties from Cafe Ga Hyang
34: Martinis at AZ88
33: Nooner at Duck & Decanter
32: Eggs Maximilian at Harlow's Cafe
31: Beef Tacos from Asadero Norte De Sonora
30: Orange Blossom from Huss Brewing Company
29: Rye bread from Yasha From Russia
28: Scotch Beef and Mashed Potatoes from Tarbell's
27: Griddled Corn Cakes and Ramona Farms Super Food Salad at Phoenix City Grille
26: Soup from Reathrey Sekong
25: Lamb tongue sandwich at Haji Baba
24: The Special at Grand Avenue Pizza Company
23: Red chile at Elmer's Tacos
22: Marranitos at La Purisima Bakery
21: Kronuts from Karl's Bakery
20: Beef pies at Chou's Kitchen
19: Bavarian pretzels & schnitzel at Haus Murphy's
18: Red chili burro and sopapillas from Los Dos Molinos
17: Camelback Soda at The Sugar Bowl
16: Brisket Sandwich at Chelsea's Kitchen
15: Taco Hazz from Ta'Carbon
14: Barnone at Agritopia
13: The Jazzy from Emerson Fry Bread
12: Flour Tortillas from La Sonorense Tortilla Factory
11: Peach picking at Schnepf Farms
10: The Purple Fusion at Snoh Shaved Ice
9: Sours from Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company
8: Umi No Sachi at Hana Japanese Eatery
7: Carne Asada Tacos from Taquería Los Yaquis
6: Tasting Menu from Different Pointe of View
5: Sausage from Schreiner's Fine Sausage
4: The Chop & Chick from Matt's Big Breakfast