The Best Restaurants in Phoenix Right Now
These are the best new restaurants (and some old favorites) to put at the top of your list for your next dining excursion.
If you haven’t made it out to Phoenix in the last five years, things here look very different. Not only has a population surge expanded the borders of the metro Phoenix area, but the growth has helped bring about more defined districts and neighborhoods, each with their own personality. New restaurants are popping up, showcasing bold flavors and creative visions, with menus that change seasonally— sometimes daily—all backed by fresh and local ingredients. A city that once was a culinary desert now overflows with options. From Southeast Asian fusion to regional Mexican cuisine to Caribbean flavors and beyond, it’s an exciting time to dine in The Valley of the Sun. Here are the most exciting restaurants you should eat at in Phoenix right now.
Nestled inside a 1930s art deco building downtown and helmed by chef Ivan Jacobo from the West Valley, Anhelo showcases some of the best local talent. Jacobo grew his successful pop-up into a sleek and modern dining room, where his menus are crafted from fresh and seasonal ingredients. Evergreen entrees like duck with Arizona honey and lavender or his signature beef Wellington are expertly executed. Scallop dishes showcase what wonders can be done with seafood in the desert. The young restaurant is already a Wine Spectator award winner for its carefully curated wine list, but the real win here is its wine dinners in which some of the world’s best wineries pair pours with Jacobo’s tasting menu. It’s no wonder tickets quickly sell out.
Ms. Martha’s Caribbean Kitchen
Government furloughs forced owner Martha Laurencin to consider turning her passion for cooking into a serious business venture. Now, Ms. Martha’s Caribbean Kitchen is one of the best ways to get your fill of the Caribbean and not just from the food. With regular live music to set the atmosphere and shelves of Caribbean goods to shop from, the restaurant is a great way to stock up on island vibes and ingredients. But the biggest reason to stop by, hands down, is the food. The raved-about oxtails are a must, but so are the crispy chicken wings, curried goat, and the brown stew chicken. And what about starting things off with a deep fried johnny cake or a Jamaican patty stuffed with meat? There’s lots to love at this joint filled with Caribbean soul, but make sure you check the tricky hours of operation before you head down. Reservations are not accepted at this time.
Neighborly Public House
The most dangerous part of Neighborly Public House is how easily you can slide from innocent happy hour drinks to all-out dinner. Here, you feel like you’re hanging out at, well, a neighbor’s house. The extremely comfortable seating is designed to make customers feel at ease settling in for a while, snacking on the High End Junk Food menu during Social Hour, which includes oysters Rockefeller. The food is delicious and uncomplicated, with entrees like rotisserie chicken and braised short ribs, but there’s also a surprisingly large seafood selection with some of the city’s best crab cakes. Also, there’s a reason they break out the dessert menu separately on the website. Don’t miss it.
A food truck so popular they had to go brick-and-mortar, Phoenix Coqui is dishing up authentic Puerto Rican cuisine courtesy of partners Juan Alberto Ayala and Alexis Carbajal. The location’s simple storefront disguises warm hospitality and mouth-watering flavors. Anyone familiar with Puerto Rican food should feel right at home here, and anyone new to it will be eager to try more; the menu includes flaky empanadillas, tostones, a pernil plate piled with slow roasted pork and arroz con gandules, plus mofongo topped with fried pork or tomatoey shrimp.
When you combine a turn of the 20th century home with a modern French restaurant, you get Sottise in all its cozy glory. The charming eatery welcomes guests with aperitifs and an atmosphere that inspires lingering over meals. Sottise is a strong addition from chef TJ Culp, who also operates Restaurant Progress in the Melrose District, and restaurateur Esther Noh. The cuisine manages to capture both Parisian refinement and countryside comfort, with a focus on shareable plates. Baked brie is combined with calvados honey and hazelnut vinaigrette alongside a beef tartare and chicken liver mousse, with plenty of fresh baguettes to devour. Entrees step things up a notch, with classics like lobster thermidor and short rib bourguignon, plus a strong escargot offering, but never feeling too fussy. A well-rounded cocktail and wine menu provide the perfect backdrop to an elegant yet relaxed meal.
Wren & Wolf
Downtown once existed for those who worked the 9-to-5 and populated power lunches and happy hours. Now, a strong dining scene keeps patrons around 24/7. Wren & Wolf has taken all of that into a unique morning-to-night concept and serves up upscale comfort food and steakhouse favorites gone wild, perfect for the lunch meeting or the indulgent dinner sans office. Wren & Wolf’s coffee bar is open for caffeine and fresh pastries at the start of the day. While the menus are frequently updated, keep an eye out for wild boar bolognese or a charred bone marrow to start. The eclectic decor of taxidermied animals might feel strange but combined with add-on caviar bumps or hibachi with Japanese A5 wagyu, it all seems to balance out.
Oak on Camelback
The Uptown area near Camelback and Central has seen an enormous change over the last several years and Oak has been a well-received addition. Formerly the St. Francis, the distinctively designed restaurant provides a wonderfully cozy and laid-back charm for happy hours at the open-air bar or weekend brunch. A strong happy hour menu makes it perfect for $8 classic cocktails. The food is New American, which makes it a perfect suggestion for a group of coworkers or friends, as everyone will be able to find something delectable on the menu. There’s a Moroccan meatball wood-fired pizza or fried chicken with forbidden rice and green curry, alongside a short rib sandwich and truffle wild mushroom burger. Don’t forget about brunch, where there’s a secret (shhh!) menu—fried chicken egg sandwich anyone?
Obviously, if you’re craving a taco in The Valley, you have plenty of options. Trying to narrow it down is like trying to choose your favorite taco (impossible) but if you happen to be by Taco Boys’ Roosevelt or Tempe locations, you should absolutely stop in. The small menu offers burritos, quesadillas, and of course, tacos—including vampiro tacos, a Sonoran speciality where a soft tortilla is grilled until crunchy and is a must-try. The charcoal grill cranks out authentic options like tripa, cabeza, and barbacoa, but there’s also carne asada and pollo worth trying.
Via Della Slice Shop
Don’t let the limited hours of operation (open Thursday to Sunday) put you off hitting up this addition to Phoenix’s busy pizza scene. Via Della Slice Shop is the perfect answer to any of your pizza cravings while roaming Downtown with simple but well-executed pieces of pie. There’s, of course, the requisite pepperoni but also a green pie made with pesto crema and jalapeño-pineapple marmalade or the white pie that includes a sesame seed crust. The rest of the menu is rather small, with wings, a prosciutto sandwich, a seasonal salad, and calzone available, along with a daily dessert. And in case you’re wondering, yes, you can buy the whole pie.
Those who need to peruse a menu online prior to heading to a restaurant, take note: Pa’Ladoesn’t exactly roll like that. The wood-fired Italian fusion restaurant with two locations is all about ingredients that are available daily, which means a menu might be available on the restaurant’s Instagram, but that’s about it. Instead, just trust that if you like seafood and well-prepared food, you’ll enjoy Pa’La. With an emphasis on tapas and small bites meant to be shared, diners get the chance to experience the variety of what Pa’La offers, alongside sandwiches and expertly prepared entrees. Melding Mediterranean with Japanese and South American, you might come across something like smoked burrata with Japanese honey curry vinaigrette or scallops with sunchoke miso. If the menu’s frequent updates aren’t enough to keep you interested, there is an omakase option available to really make things interesting.
Hot Daisy Pizza
Any self-respecting local knows the name Tammie Coe and the delicious pastries that follow. The dessert queen’s foray into craft pizza in one of the hottest districts in town makes it a no-brainer to try and her (savory) pies do not disappoint. The Just Fuggetthaboutit pizza combines pepperoni with white truffle burrata while the Corny Baby elote pizza combines the best in Mexican street corn with Coe’s delicious crust. Specials abound on a regular basis and you can always add fun toppings like an egg to your pizza.
With national acclaim, the small and hip Bacanora has come out swinging onto the Phoenix dining scene. Focusing on a limited menu (there’s two appetizers and one is for Daily Specials), Bacanora highlights the flavors of Sonoran cuisine with sharply crafted dishes. They seem simple on the menu —burrito or pollo asado, for example—but the flavors are expertly built with the wood-fired grill. Daily specials could be anything, like bone-in ribeye or octopus, and all will go down well with a selection from the cocktail menu. Try the Bacanorita, which is crafted from the underrated bacanora spirit, and includes a Chiltepin rim. The only thing not to like about Bacanora is the difficulty in getting a reservation for one of the 36 seats available for dinner Wednesday to Sunday or brunch on Saturday. But keep trying—it will be worth it.
Everyone needs a go-to spot and Valentine covers pretty much all of the bases for, well, all the go-to needs. Early morning coffee and fresh pastry? Check. Brunch menu till 3:30? Yep. What about dinner or late-night cocktails? All available, with Southwestern flavors and surprising twists (a tepary bean-miso yogurt, for instance). The day menu offerings run the gamut, from a biscuit and gravy that includes a duck egg to a limited number of daily quiches. The varied selection continues at dinner, with a bison tartare tostada, elote pasta, and pork ribs with a sarsaparilla glaze. Valentine’s natural wine selection provides a different variety to evening glass of vino while a decent cocktail menu makes it a perfect destination for a nightcap.
Testal Mexican Kitchen
One of the wonderful changes to Phoenix’s culinary options over the years has been the diversification to its Mexican cuisine scene. With more restaurants showcasing regional dishes, diners are able to experience the differences in flavor profiles and Testal Mexican Kitchen is a perfect example. A James Beard semifinalist, the restaurant focuses on the dishes of Northern Mexico, providing burritos, tacos, and bowls. Protein selections include chicharron in salsa verde, colorado (pork with red sauce), or a savory and slow-cooked birria (beef). Don’t expect burritos the size of your arm and stuffed to the gills; these Chihuahuan specialties are more loosely wrapped around the fillings, which are almost stew-like, with fresh and light tortillas. The tortillas are a signature and the name Testal is the word for a tortilla dough ball. Testal has also spent time breaking out a vegan menu, an excellent option for those following a plant-based diet to indulge in its punchy flavors.
Belly Kitchen and Bar
A Southeast Asian-inspired eatery that now has an additional location in Gilbert is here to preserve traditions and twist classics. Open for lunch and dinner with the word ‘funky’ dotted across the menu, Belly offers a wide range of dishes that are good to chow down solo but easy to share with a group. There’s the recognizable crispy spring rolls, green papaya salad, and fried rice dishes—all with deliciously fresh and local ingredients whenever possible—but watch for the pork belly and egg claypot, prepared traditionally, or the crispy soft shell crab bao buns.
Chantico Mexican Restaurant
From Walter Sterling, the mind behind Ocotillo and Sidecar Cocktail Lounge, comes Chantico and its approach to modern Mexican cuisine. With one of the best patios in town, the large bar provides access to the full lineup of agave spirits beyond tequila and mezcal; think bacanora and sotol. Enjoy good weather at the bar with the sweet potato-coconut soup or the clams al vapor with tomato broth and spicy chorizo. Move onto the birria quesa tacos or the Mesquite grilled achiote chicken or the roasted pork shank with chipotle mashed potatoes.
Phoenix loves its fusion cuisine and Kaizen is another remarkable example of how well it can be done. Blending the flavors of Japan, Mexico, Central, and South America together, Kaizen provides deceptive categories like Bowls or Small Plates and then hits you with dishes like papas fritas that has both red mole and yuzu aioli or hotate aguachile with Hokkaido scallops, aguachile, and chiltepin dust. There’s plenty of selections to keep those looking for nigiri or sashimi simplicity and an omakase option to turn things up a notch.
With Latin American roots and an imagination to create a very one-of-a-kind menu, Vecina has taken seemingly classic dishes and spun them on their head. Faroe Island salmon tacos include a yuzu kosho aioli and smoked chicken has chiltepin, peanut mole, and tomatillo nam prik to play with. Even the elote, a normally simple street corn, has been elevated to phenomenal levels. A kiss of mesquite smoke greets visitors inside the simple restaurant, whose name means “neighbor” in Spanish and complimentary to its location in the charming Arcadia district. To really understand the mesquite smoke, order the carne asada ribeye with a habanero pomme puree and chimichurri. A small happy hour menu provides the chance to nosh on some appetizers, like the white bean puree with crispy short rib.
Asonta Benetti is a contributor for Thrillist.
Lauren Topor Reichert is a Phoenix-based multimedia storyteller, photographer, and content creator. Her work has been featured in travel guides, national publications, and the social feeds of some stellar local restaurants. Follow her around Arizona, and beyond, on Instagram @hungryinphoenix.