Wood-Grilled Pizza: Pizza or Flatbread?
A French-influenced American bistro worth the trip
Toting the most restaurants per capita of any town or city in Arizona, Carefree boasts a unique dining scene. And the addition of Confluence -- housed in the old Binkley’s space -- is no exception. Manned by husband and wife duo, Brandon and Tori Gauthier, the resto doles out fresh-baked breads, globally inspired dishes, and a curated wine list that will make you want to come back for more.
Community-focused market and cafe
Local restaurateur Aaron Chamberlin must have been feeling ambitious this year. The Chef and restaurateur who trained alongside Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten in New York and developed his culinary skills at the James Beard award-winning restaurant Boulevard in San Francisco, opened three new restaurants in 2018. One of which was Tempe Public Market, a hip hangout modeled after his Phoenix Public Market, but with its own South Tempe twist. The neighborhood-focus is only amplified with the market’s must-attend community nights and seasonal patio cookouts.
Contemporary Southwest cuisine done right
Ghost Ranch is one of the three new restaurants from chef and restaurateur Aaron Chamberlin that opened in 2018. Neighboring his Tempe Public Market in the South Tempe neighborhood, Ghost Ranch gives your common southwestern cuisine a refreshing, contemporary update. The menu features house specialties like “Aztec Cake,” taco platters, enchiladas, and a selection of wood-fired options like grilled trout and a 14-ounce cowboy steak.
Real-deal Chinese food for The East Valley, and the rest of us
Hungry foodies searching for authentic Chinese will certainly not mind the commute to pay a visit to Shaanxi Garden. Located at the intersection of Dobson and Main Street in Mesa, Shaanxi Garden offers up a diverse menu of more than 50 dishes ranging from barbecue kebabs to handmade biang biang noodles. Shaanxi Garden provides us with a friendly, and tasty, introduction to traditional cuisines served throughout the Shaanxi region in North Central China.
Posh hideaway for craft cocktails and coastal seafood
In 2018, Chef Cullen Campbell closed Crudo and opened Bar Pesce in its place. The space itself, and the menu, both got makeovers. Crudo loyalists can still find Campbell’s signature dishes inspired by coastal cuisines from the world-across as well as premium meats grilled over pecan wood on the list of offerings.
Trendy hangout for the Downtown crowd
The Churchill isn’t just one thing, it’s many things. The Downtown Phoenix hangout, made from a series of industrial shipping containers, debuted in 2018. The Churchill is home to a number of shops and restaurants including the first brick-and-mortar location of Freak Brothers Pizza, Foxy Fruit, The Brill Line, Provecho, Breadwinner, and Pobrecito, a cocktail bar from the Barter & Shake folks. Visitors can kick back in the 9,000 square foot courtyard, a space that will also be used for art and fitness classes, pop-up artist galleries, and more.
Hotel diner with way more than continental breakfast
The team behind one of last year’s best new restaurants, Roland’s, which includes power trio Chris Bianco, Nadia Holguin, and Armando Hernandez, did it again. This time with The Normal Restaurant. Formerly The Normal Diner, the new adaptation of the Graduate Tempe greasy-spoon offers a fresh take on comfort food favorites blended with Mexican ingredients that can be picked up from a grab-and-go window.
Thai restaurant at the top of every foodie “must-visit” list
Brightly colored floral tablecloths cover the patio dining tables at Glai Baan, a Thai street food establishment that has made a big impression on foodies across The Valley since its inception in 2017. Bring your appetite and some friends. Family-style dining is highly-encouraged at Glai Baan. So go ahead, order the steamed pork dumplings “to share.”
Hip Mexican spot in a historic hood
In 2017, Doug Robson’s Gallo Blanco made its triumphant return in a new location after closing up at The Clarendon Hotel in 2015. Fans of Robson’s takes on Mexican fare have applauded the restaurants re-emergence in the historic Garfield district. The newish menu features both the classics, a strong pork al pastor dish, uncomplicated tacos, and tortas served up on telera bread.
Bona fide Italian spot with wood-fired pies and handmade pastas at the forefront
In Phoenix, we have a thing for Italian. Standout Italian eateries can be found on practically every corner and neighborhood across town. And one of the latest to join the list of notables is located in Peoria, of all places. The West Side Italian locale on Lake Pleasant Parkway took up residence in an unassuming Peoria strip mall in late 2017 and has been pleasing palates ever since. Born and raised in Italy, Chef Fabio draws from a collection of family recipes handed down from his grandparents and works with produce and ingredients from local growers. Order the butternut squash ravioli -- you won’t be disappointed.
No nonsense dining destination for tapas, sustainable seafood, and wood-fired noshes
Italian-born Chef Claudio Urciuoli, formerly of Noble Eatery, wows with Pa’La. At Pa’La, which opened in late 2017, guests can order tapas, seafood, local heritage grains, humanely-raised meats, airy Italian flatbreads, and dishes drizzled with olive oils direct from Italy and Spain from a menu that changes daily based on what’s available.
Old Town Scottsdale
Hip addition to Super Chunk with kick-ass bagels
This is your best bet for a fancy bagel in Old Town Scottsdale. From the Super Chunk Sweets & Treats bakery team comes New Wave Market, which burst onto the scene in 2017. The airy cafe offers more than hand-rolled bagels. They’ve got a serious lineup of sandwiches, salads, and breakfast offerings as well as loose leaf tea options and coffees from Chandler-based Peixoto. Bagels are served daily, until they run out.
Fast-casual ramen in a North Scottsdale strip mall
If visions of goma, shoyu, and miso dance through your head, you’ll want to pay a visit to Hot Noodles Cold Sake. The latest concept from Chef Joshua Hebert, formerly of the now-shuttered POSH, is dedicated to Japanese noodle soups. A student of Japanese cuisine, Hebert spent time living and cooking in Tokyo. And after more than two years of searching for the perfect space, his dream of opening his own ramen joint is now a reality. A tasty one, at that.
Great resort dining and amazing sunsets
Tucked inside of the award-winning Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa, Weft & Warp offers an exceptional resort dining experience and an unmatched sunset view to go with. The stylish restaurant is flanked by floor-to-ceiling windows and its interior space is decorated with colorful artworks from regional artists. And the food is just as impressive as the setting. Each dish is delivered to the table without flaw.
Modern-day diner that accommodates most dietary preferences
Welcome Diner has shiny new digs. The Roosevelt favorite relocated to the Garfield neighborhood in 2018. The new home offers more space, a given, as the old diner had just nine seats inside, whereas the new joint has room for 80. And while the location has changed, the focus has stayed the same -- think Southern-style biscuits and crowd favorites from the red-and-white original like the vegan jackfruit french fries.
If you’ve never had cactus in a taco, try it here
Downtown Chandler is quickly becoming a destination for East Valley epicures. All of your cravings (whether it be Tennessee-style barbecue, coastal crudos, fine cocktails, paletas, craft beer or specialty coffee) can all be found within walking distance of each other. Which leads us to GhettYo’ Taco, a brightly-colored taqueria steps away from the hustle and bustle of Boston Street that deals in cheap tacos and traditional postres. The shop regularly features weekly taco specials, but the huevos y nopales is a must-try menu mainstay.
Build-your-own enchiladas joint
Craving enchiladas? There's no better place to go to satisfy your ferocious appetite for hot cheese and spicy red sauce than Gadzooks -- other than your own abuela’s kitchen. Offering a smattering of soups, including a vegetarian choice, and a seemingly endless lineup of build-your-own enchilada options, Gadzooks -- which currently operates in two locations, the newest in Arcadia -- is sure to fill up that empty spot in your stomach. Good news for those of you in Tempe: the owners plan to debut a new Gadzooks in your 'hood soon. Keep an eye out for it.
Refined Italian fare delivered by an up-and-coming chef to watch
The interior of Parma Italian roots is stylish. And its offering of Italian-style plates, which includes an assembly of handmade pastas and cured meats, are just as beautiful with their vivid colors and delicate edible flowers. Chef Chris Gentile, by-way of San Diego’s Double Standard Kitchenetta, is serving up a new-style of Italian food. A style that can’t be defined as exclusively “Italian.” And what he is doing is really impressive.
Old Town Scottsdale
Sophisticated comfort food paired with a first-class wine list
FnB is where epicureans from all over go for local, organic, and sustainable fare and a selection of wines that match. Headed by James Beard nominee Chef Charleen Badman, FnB will make you fall in love with vegetables. And with an award-winning wine list curated by Pavle Milic, you’re bound to fall in love with Arizona wine here, too.
Upscale eats served in a rustic, ranch-themed setting
Established in 2001, Cartwright’s Modern Cuisine has established a reputation as one of The Valley’s top dining destinations. The award-winning restaurant has a focus on game, prime beef, wild seafood and celebrates Arizona’s bounty of regional ingredients, many of which -- including berries, morels, Mesquite pods, and Saguaro seeds and fruit -- are procured through foraging. The Destination Chef’s Tasting is a fine way to get yourself acquainted with this well-established Cave Creek restaurant.
South Tempe’s gift to the greater Phoenix dining culture
Jeff Kraus’ Crêpe Bar puts Arizona ingredients front-and-center. The award-winning breakfast and lunch spot deals in crêpes of both the sweet and savory variety, like the crowd-favorite Chipotle Crêpe with chorizo and cheesy eggs. Brunch-goers with a fondness for sweets can opt for sacchariferous selections including crêpes with Arizona pecans or Sonoran blossom honey.
Wood-fired pizza is the name of the game
Housed inside of Gilbert’s BARNONE, the community-focused order-at-the-counter pizza shop uses rustic cooking methods, including a wood-fired oven that makes for perfect crusts. Many of the ingredients are sourced directly from Gilbert’s community farm at Agritopia, so pizza lovers are always guaranteed some fresh and seasonal tastes on their slices.
Modern deli churning-out wood-fired lunch staples
Noble’s baked goods are easily some of the best you will encounter around The Valley. Here you can order salads, sandwiches, and other lunchtime favorites from their Arizona farm-focused and daily-changing menus. Although Noble Eatery swung open the doors to its new lunch-focused location 2017, it's been sharing the bread love with local restaurateurs and farmers markets around the area, making a name for itself and its doughy goodies since 2013.
Farm-to-table before the cliche
Practically the OG of farm-to-table dining in The Valley, Rancho Pinot has been cooking with a local approach far before farm-to-table became a trite buzzword. This Valley institution recently celebrated its 25th year in business. And when it comes to the ethos of the restaurant things are very much how they were in the early days. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Valley institution known for Central Texas-style ‘cue
Phoenix hasn’t earned a spot on the list of America’s great BBQ cities; yet. But joints like Little Miss BBQ are setting their sights on that top spot. Here, Central Texas-style ‘cue is cooked up daily with Arizona oak and pecan on an enormous smoker. Eats are served up market-style on paper with onions, pickles, and a generous handful of white bread. Sides like potato salad, beans, and slaw are standard but the standout is the jalapeño cheese grits. We advise getting there early. The original Little Miss BBQ is open until 4pm, but it’s not unusual for them to run out of the good stuff by then. Their newest location in Sunnyslope serves booze, and has extended hours.
Small plates that set the bar for contemporary restaurants
The Valley dining scene is making strides. And it’s evident in Restaurant Progress. Headed by Chef TJ Culp, the Melrose neighborhood spot offers a focused menu that features a well-crafted lineup of New American entrees and small plates, all of which are artfully crafted and presented. The tasting menu is a must-try, and the heirloom carrots are not-to-be-missed.
Intimate spot for elevated Mexican fare
A quick glance at the menu here and you might notice some familiar favorites, like James Beard nominated Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza’s Cochinita Pibil or the Barrio classic, Chiles en Nogada. But you will also find inventive takes on Mexican classics such as the piñon y rosa mole, a mole made with Mexican pine nuts and rose petals) or Baja oysters in aguachile negro at Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva. A five-course tasting menu is also available here, which for non-meat eaters, can accommodate vegan diets, too. Chef is currently experimenting with barbecue at her landmark restaurant. And we’re all for it.
Go-to for some of the freshest seafood in The Valley
Chula Seafood, a San Diego-based company that opened up shop in Scottsdale in 2016, considers itself a fish market first and even distributes its fresh catch to local restaurants across town including FnB and The Gladly. Complementing their well-stocked cold case, the South Scottsdale joint has, hands-down, the best damn poke bowls in the area. The Chula team plans to open a second location at Uptown Plaza in early 2019. Which is something we can all get excited about.
Easy-going taqueria with kick-ass Al pastor
Just off of the 51, this family-owned Phoenix Chihuahuan-style restaurant is deceptively simple from the outside, but its food is pretty damn delicious -- looks aren’t everything people! Order at the counter from the straightforward menu of tacos, burritos, and gorditas (the the carne asada and el pastor tacos are what you’re here for), and then load up at the impressive homemade salsa bar while you wait for your food.
Intimate trattoria for refined Italian cuisines and cocktails
Tratto comes from the culinary genius who gave us the some of the best pizza in the country, James Beard award-winner Chef Chris Bianco. The rustic Italian bistro specializes in ultra-fresh pasta -- lots of it. Tratto checks the boxes for elevated apps, mouthwatering mains, and desserts, too. Its intimate atmosphere guarantees Italophiles a cozy, well-taken-care-of dining experience.
Life-changing buffalo chicken sandwiches
Owners Jim and Kelsey are no strangers to the restaurant scene; both left management jobs at Upward Projects to open up Worth Takeaway in 2016. The shop, located in Downtown Mesa, on Main Street, specializes in craft sandwiches built with locally-sourced and homemade ingredients. And considering the partnerships with the likes of Proof Bread, Crooked Sky Farms, Danzeisen Dairy, and The Simple Farm, it’s possible this might be the best sandwich you’ll ever have.
College town locale with lots of history and heart
House of Tricks has been a long-time favorite of Valley gourmands. For more than 30 years the Tempe hideaway -- housed inside of two side-by-side historic bungalows -- has been a destination for garden patio dining and farm-fresh cuisines. The seasonally-inspired menus, which change regularly, feature an eclectic fusion of flavors and cultures. And their award-winning wine list features 300 varieties from around the world.
Downtown tea house dealing in traditional Japanese cuisine
Born and raised in Tokyo, James Beard award-winning Chef Nobuo Fukuda has worked in Phoenix for more than three decades. His iconic multi-course omakase can be enjoyed at Nobuo at Teeter House, a turn-of-the-century bungalow-turned-eatery tucked inside of Downtown Phoenix’s Heritage Square.
High-end farm-to-fork fare served up in a dreamy countryside setting
Lush green grass, picnic tables, and a canopy of trees set the scene at The Farm at South Mountain, home to a café where breakfast is the speciality, a walk-up kitchen, and Quiessence. Organic ingredients, freshly-harvested vegetables, and artisan breads and cheeses comprise the menu here, which rotates weekly. Chef Dustin Christofolo delivers uncomplicated and award-winning cuisines -- often best accompanied by a glass of Arizona wine.
The resto’s name doubles as your go-to order
Street tacos aren’t exactly hard to come by in Phoenix. But it’s unlikely that you’ll come across ahi poke, Korean fried chicken, or duck versions that often -- unless you’re dining at Crujiente. Executive Chef Rich Hinojosa opened Cru in 2016 with co-owner Jason Morris, and the restaurant offers soft and crunchy options that bring street tacos into the modern dining space with delicate plating and uber-interesting ingredients.
The ultimate in Phoenix fine dining
At Binkley’s your dining experience will take you and your dining counterparts on a journey from the garden to the bar and finally into the dining room; an exploration of upscale and carefully-plated fare prepared by James Beard-acclaimed Chef Kevin Binkley that lasts about 3.5 hours. Here, reservations are required and can be made from Tuesday through Saturday. Binkley’s can accommodate 24 spots each evening, and when it’s sold out, it’s really sold out.
Go here when you crave homemade noodles
Tampopo Ramen boasts some of the most slurpable Japanese-style ramen you can find in The Valley. Fill your belly with braised pork belly, steamed buns, homemade Japanese dumplings, grilled octopus, and Japanese fried chicken. For ramen, choose from favorites like a bowl of Tonkotsu with slices of pork, black wood fungus, or go all-out and order the ultra spicy version with Tampopo hot sauce, chili oil, roasted pork, and seaweed.
West-Coast Italian served up in fancy digs
Notable for its brunch and impressive ambiance, Nico Heirloom Kitchen was brought to life by Valley chef and James Beard nominee Gio Osso, who’s also known for Scottsdale’s Virtù Honest Craft. Diners can expect to find West Coast-inspired Italian dishes on the menu which includes an ample selection of housemade pastas, risotto, and bistecca tagliata -- a 40-ounce Niman Ranch tomahawk ribeye intended for two.
Family-owned BYOB sushi joint
With its tenured staff, impeccable selection of fresh seafood, and a BYOB policy with no corkage fee, Hana Japanese checks all of the boxes. Attentive and well-delivered service: check. Great food: check. Plant yourself at the sushi counter and watch closely as the sushi chefs do magic with uni, tako, masago, scallop, squid, yellowtail and more. The sushi menu changes frequently for both freshness and availability, but the signature house roll Hana Pride should be experienced, at one point, by all Phoenix sushi lovers.
Luxe bistro with its own whiskey bar
Comfort food is dressed up in upscale duds at The Gladly. The follow up concept by the owners of the extolled Citizen Public House in Old Town Scottsdale has a contemporary setting where local crowds can enjoy lunch, happy hour, and dinner. Chef Bernie Kantak has crafted a menu that embodies modern American cuisine and accompanies the beverage offerings flawlessly.