Welcome to 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.
13: Fried Chicken & Pork Chops from Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe
Not many restaurants in town can say they've been in business since the Johnson administration. Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe, located just east of downtown Phoenix, certainly can, though. The restaurant has been feeding Phoenix home-style, deep-fried Southern eats for more than 50 years. It opened in 1964, making it one of the first restaurants to bring soul food to metro Phoenix, and it's still one of the best.
The restaurant is a Phoenix institution, the kind of place that's been around for so long, you may start to take it for granted. Maybe you even forget for a minute that it's right there, on Jefferson Street, until a rainy day comes along and it becomes clear that nothing will deliver more deep-fried comfort than a platter of golden-brown fried chicken with a couple of buttery sides.
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True, Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe is low on frills. The bare-bones dining room probably isn't the most obvious choice for your next power lunch. But many of us would trade all the tufted leather booths and free valet parking in the world for a bite of Mrs. White's classic Southern-fried chicken.
Your experience at the cafe commences even before the food comes out. It starts with the unmistakable scent of deep-fried chicken, which wafts through the dining room and maybe quickens your pulse a beat or two. The chicken has a flaky, gorgeously crackly exterior, the breading seasoned just right with a spice mix that has remained a secret for decades. The chicken itself is piping hot and extra-juicy — watch it drip onto your plate. For an extra layer of flavor, order your fried chicken smothered, and it will arrive floating in a salty, flavor-rich gravy.
Fried chicken is the main attraction at Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe, but it certainly isn't the only great dish. You'll find the kitchen makes a mean chicken-fried steak, too, and meaty, flavorful oxtails are often available. But don't overlook the pork chop platter. One order gets you a couple of deep-fried chops, which are exceptionally juicy and succulent.
There are all the great Southern sides, too, of course. But before you fill up on macaroni and cheese and black-eyed peas, before you succumb to the first inevitable stirrings of a food coma, you'll want to try and leave room for dessert. You really don't want to miss the peach cobbler.
The Essentials so far:
50: Tequila Sunrise at the Arizona Biltmore.
49: "Dragon" Dumpling Burger at Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour.
48: Dizzy Fig Empanada at Republica Empanada.
47: Linguine Carbonara at Avanti.
46: The Food Court at Mercado de los Cielos.
45: Chicken Feta Salad at George’s Kitchen.
44: Spinach & Cheese Chimi Burro at Mi Patio Mexican Restaurant.
43: Dinner at Rustler's Rooste.
42: Gyro Omelet at Mel's Diner.
41: Zipps Wings at Zipps Sports Grill.
40: Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa.
39: Asian Nachos at Moto.
38: Olive Oil Tasting at Queen Creek Olive Oil Mill.
37: Baby Back Ribs at Don & Charlie's.
36: Limoncello at Cibo.
35: Chili Salt Chicken Wings at Asian Café Express.
34: Smoked Prime Rib at Texaz.
33: Steak Salad at Feeney's.
32: Tasting Menu at Kai Restaurant.
31: Toffee Banofi Sundae at Sweet Republic.
30: Big Jim at Welcome Diner.
29: Sonoran Hot Dog at El Caprichoso.
28: Sashimi at Nobuo at Teeter House.
27: Oysters at Casey Moore's Oyster House.
26: Spring rolls at Da Vang.
25: Bruschetta and wine at Postino.
24: Hot green chili fry bread at Fry Bread House.
23: The Big One at The Chuckbox.
22: Cahuamanta Stew at Cahuamanta El Yaqui.
21: Dim Sum at Great Wall Cuisine.
20: Fried chicken at The Horny Toad.
19: George & Dragon’s Famous Fish & Chips.
18: Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches at Pho 43rd Express.
17: Cerreta Candy Co. Factory Tour & Candy Sampling in Downtown Glendale.
16: Steak Dinner at The Stockyards.
15: Margarita + Guacamole del Barrio at Barrio Cafe.
14: Barbecue Plate at Joe's Real BBQ.