Cala7501 East Camelback Road, Scottsdale
calascottsdale.com Walking into Cala at Senna House Scottsdale, a glitzy Camelback Road hotel, is like immersing yourself in a tropical paradise complete with rattan furniture, terra-cotta planters hung from the ceiling, and curved linen booths that beg you to stay and savor another cocktail. And while it’s a great spot to enjoy small bites and sips before a wild night in Old Town, Cala, which debuted in January, is much more than that. Celebrity chef Beau MacMillan, who also runs Elements at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain, and executive chef Peter Quaid have created a memorable Mediterranean menu. Expect dishes such as flaming saganaki, a Greek cheese flambeed tableside that will impress even your most theatrical friends; whipped ricotta accompanied by crusty garlic and black pepper focaccia; and lobster and sweet corn ravioli with foraged mushrooms and asparagus. The tuna tartare with toasted pistachios and citrus vinaigrette is a must for fans of seafood, while the Linz Reserve Ribeye Chop with chimichurri, cooked to a meticulous medium rare, is optimal for sharing. Influencers and birthday boys and girls buzz about the space as servers deliver sparklers. At Cala, it’s as much about the people-watching as it is about the food.
Call Her Martina
7135 East Camelback Road, #165, Scottsdale
callhermartina.com There are lots of trendy restaurants with loud music and fashionable patrons in Old Town Scottsdale. But at Call Her Martina, the food is just as impressive as the ambiance. After finding your seat in the dark dining room, along the cozy bar, or at a large high-top communal table, dig into the menu. Start with an order of the Ribeye Chicharon Guac studded with satisfying chunks of carne asada. Bright pops of pomegranate seeds provide a sweet and cold contrast to the warm, salty steak and creamy guac. Grab a cocktail or two, sample a selection of indulgent entrees, and make sure to leave room for dessert. The homemade flan topped with fresh mint is close-your-eyes good. This new Scottsdale waterfront spot lands a level above the rest.
Dos Pink Tacos
1900 East Fifth Street, Tempe
Dos Pink Tacos is the vegan taqueria of our dreams. Opened by married couple Brittany and Shayna Lawber at Tempe Food Court in August, the restaurant features a menu full of must-order items, including burritos, crunch wraps, mini churros, and, of course, tacos. The namesake tacos are photogenic, overflowing, and bursting with flavor. Headliners include panko-fried avocado, plant-based chicken, and carne asada, marinated for at least 12 hours to taste just like the real thing. The vegan meats are paired with colorful jalapeño coleslaw, street corn, cilantro, and sauces and salsas made from scratch, all served on eye-catching, bright pink tortillas that get their blush from beets. In fact, everything about Dos Pink Tacos is fun, fresh, and pretty in pink, from their website to the hot pink logo stamped on their thoughtfully packaged takeout bags (extra points for compostable containers). This is order-on-your-phone, indulgent plant-based fast food that satisfies both junk food and cozy evening cravings.
Espiritu123 West Main Street, Mesa
espiritumesa.com Tacos Chiwas is a local institution with crave-worthy food. Bacanora is a national restaurant darling, racking up awards and steadily becoming the hardest reservation to get in the city. So when the owners of these two beloved spots teamed up to open a new restaurant, we knew we were in for a treat. Espiritu, a trendy and slender dining room and bar, debuted on Main Street in Mesa in January, transporting east Valley diners somewhere fresh and new. The cocktail list is extensive, the food menu is tight. Similar to Bacanora, the specials are, well, special. On a recent visit, whole fried snappers arrived at tables standing upright on the plate. A seasonal winter salad included warm butternut squash bathed in a sweet glaze atop tangy crema and supple wedges of toast. Aguachile and ceviche add a hint of Mexico, while a cheeseburger and grilled cheese plant this restaurant's feet back stateside. Don your hipster-best and head to this hot new spot to sit among the haphazard photo frames and dripping candles as the kitchen and bar battle it out for top flavors.
Feringhee Modern Indian Cuisine3491 West Frye Road, Chandler
feringhee.com The flavors at Feringhee stick in your brain. Black lentil dal, tandoori shrimp, Himalayan lamb chops, and fresh scallops dot the menu with garnishes of sliced kumquats, lime caviar, and mint chutney. Pair a selection of small and large plates with enticing cocktails that feature masala chai-infused vodka and ghee-infused Jack Daniels. At this south Chandler spot decorated with bright yellow booths, turquoise accents, and a large mural, Indian food gets fine dining treatment, creating an experience unlike anything else in the Valley. We recommend taking a group, ordering a selection of dishes, and sharing a feast. This new restaurant is on the outskirts of the metro area, but it is so worth the drive.
Fire at Will4912 East Shea Boulevard, #108, Scottsdale
The space is dark and moody, the service impeccable, and the food is an eclectic mix of American and Mediterranean. Chef and owner Dom Ruggiero’s third concept following Hush Public House and TVG Tap Room & Bottle Shop is a clear winner. Fire at Will opened in early November in a plaza at Tatum and Shea boulevards in Scottsdale, and during a recent visit, each selection was as irresistible as the next. In the Hush-favorite Macaroni Au Gratin, the Gouda, manchego, Gruyere, Parmesan, and American cheeses melt together to form a magnificent macaroni medley, while the baby kale salad offers some zest, crunch, and freshness. The beef bolognese is meaty and hearty and generously coats each rigatoni noodle, and the lobster roll is petite yet robust, with fresh seafood wedged between buttered and grilled toast and served with charred lemon.
Lom Wong218 East Portland Street
lomwongaz.com For regional Thai cuisine in the Valley, it doesn’t get much better than Lom Wong, a new restaurant that hails from a black bungalow at Second and Portland streets in downtown Phoenix. Owners Yotaka "Sunny" Martin and Alex Martin are precisely positioned to bring the flavor. Yotaka grew up in a village in northern Thailand's Chiang Rai, where she planted herb and rice gardens, raised animals, and cooked fragrant dishes under the guidance of her mother and grandmother. Alex lived in Thailand for 12 years while working in academia and met Yotaka at a Starbucks one fateful day. The two eventually moved stateside, and downtown Phoenix is better for it. A seasonal menu boasts dishes such as Yam Mamuang Boran, green mango salad with hand-torn shrimp; and Kaeng Phet Fak Tawng, curry paste and coconut milk with kabocha squash, bamboo shoots, and Thai eggplant, served with fluffy jasmine rice. The cocktails are just as impressive, whether you go for the Thunder's Pina Colada, an airy concoction made of rum, coconut cream, and a dash of fish sauce, or the Eleven Tigers, a smoky bourbon tipple with Campari, grenadine, and ya dong, a Thai sugarcane spirit.
Mika's Kitchen648 West Pierson Street
instagram.com/mikaskitchenphx On a small neighborhood street, next to a used car dealership, sits a little patio serving big flavors. Mika's Kitchen opened this fall, when Netanel “Nate” Harat decided to follow his dream to share food from home with Phoenix. Harat grew up in Jerusalem and sells a selection of dishes he learned from his mother, Mika, with a few tweaks of his own. The stewed beef falls apart and has a richness almost like lamb. The grilled chicken is soft and fragrant, marinated overnight in spices. The hummus is tangy with tahini, and all of the dishes get a bright pop of flavor from a range of colorful hot sauces made in-house — or rather, in the commissary kitchen where all of the food is prepared before it's brought to the Melrose cafe and loaded into the custom stainless-steel food card. This little spot is open for weekday lunch only, but it makes for the perfect workday break. The vibe is friendly and casual, and the food is outstanding.
St. Urban5538 North Seventh Street
If you didn't know it was there, St. Urban would be easy to miss. This small but stylish restaurant is located above Neighborly Public House on Seventh Street. Head up a flight of stairs and enter the pink-hued space, complete with a wrap-around bar, rose-patterned wallpaper, and plush pink seating. This spot is perfect for your next girls' night out. While it certainly is pretty, this restaurant offers more than just looks. The menu is stacked with shareable appetizers and flatbreads, plus a few individual entrees. We're partial to the burrata served with spicy tomato jam, but it's hard to go wrong with any selection. St. Urban is the latest addition to Common Ground Culinary's repertoire, and it's a welcome addition to the party.
Tia Carmen5350 East Marriott Drive
A celebrity chef at the helm may give a restaurant some attention, but it doesn't guarantee quality. But in Tia Carmen, at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge, Top Chef alum Angelo Sosa has created an outstanding dining experience that doesn't need a famous name to draw in guests. The white-and-beige decor is an elegant neutral palette that pushes the food front and center, and what Sosa has created certainly deserves the spotlight. In the summer, a tomato salad with pureed and burnt corn, basil, pickled onions, and serranos was simple but exquisite. The ember-roasted purple yam, which comes doused in a thick queso sauce, is a lick-the-bowl delight we can't get enough of. But the dish we can't stop thinking about is the Wagyu tomahawk steak, a 32-ounce behemoth with a price tag to match. Served with a crust of bone marrow butter and plated with Sosa's house-aged tepary bean mole negro, the result is a rich, complex flavor bomb that short-circuits the senses and re-routes all available resources to the taste buds. As a hotel restaurant, Tia Carmen serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, meaning there's no bad time of day to experience what it's got to offer.