The Fasties: Kat Thompson Mukbang
Casual joint where Asian-inspired sandwiches rule
Good things happen when people come together. And when the owners of the Filipino food pop-up Good Fortune Kitchen and Mesa’s Drunken Tiger came together earlier this year they gave us something really, really good in the form of Deez Buns. The North Tempe spot offers a shortlist of Asian-inspired steam bun sandwiches that include pho, bulgogi, Korean fried chicken, and satay options -- all in handheld form, naturally.
The pasta spot everyone’s been waiting for
The duo behind Saint Pasta made some big moves this year, literally. Jersey boys Joe Cetrulo and Racan Alhoch moved into the kitchen space at Uptown Phoenix’s Linger Longer Lounge. Before the takeover the two were serving pasta of all kinds from their food truck and fulfilling influxes of mobile food orders to carb-lovers willing to drive across town to pick-up their brown box of noodles. Offering up a choice selection of Jersey-Italian eats, the expanded Saint Pasta menu satisfies with classics like pomodoro, vodka, and bolognese pastas, to name a few. And there’s also pizza, chicken parm sandwiches, garlic knots, and zeppoles (super-delicious gobs of fried dough dusted with sugar), just waiting to be unabashedly demolished. Abandon your diet now.
Burger joint brought to life by one of The Valley’s top chefs
Commander Hamburger is the latest grab-and-go spot to open up inside of The Churchill. This spot has exactly what you would expect to find at a place dreamed up by Bernie Kantak: burger patties made from a blend of brisket and Angus chuck, crispy buttermilk chicken sandwiches served on Noble Bread buns, salty fries, tater tots, and soft-serve ice cream crafted by Danzeisen Dairy.
A farmers’ market favorite turned buzzy brick-and-mortar
When the folks from Pershepshen say that they make everything from scratch, they aren’t lying. These scratch-made dishes include craveable snacks like bacon wrapped chorizo stuffed dates with harissa sauce and real big plates intended to share like the crispy roasted half duck with orange reduction or the tandoori chicken. And not to be missed, the dessert section of the restaurant’s seasonally-driven menu features tasty little luxuries like pomegranate macarons and chocolate cream pie.
Easy-going taqueria with kick-ass al pastor
This family-owned Phoenix Chihuahuan-style restaurant is deceptively simple from the outside, but c’mon, you’re not still judging a book by its cover, right? If you’ve heard of this place before, it’s probably for their carne asada and el pastor tacos. If this is a new one to you, go ahead and order up some carne asada and el pastor tacos.
The perfect pairing of pizza and cider
Arizona’s first cidery recently underwent quite the expansion. Cider Corps took over the 2,000 square-foot space next door. The extra space gives co-owners Josh and Jason Duren room for production equipment and a bottling line. The duo also added a patio facing Robson Street which can seat about 40 people. Mesa-based pop-up pizza stand, Myke’s Pizza, has moved in, too. A succinct selection of wood-fired pizzas are available for takeaway or dine-in orders. Co-owners Myke Olsen and Manoly Kladovasilakis hope to expand their offerings to include sides and salads… eventually.
Go-to for an upscale omakase experience
Shinbay has made its anticipated return after a long hiatus. This time the high-end contemporary Japanese concept makes its home under the same roof as Sizzle Korean BBQ in Old Town Scottsdale. The newest incarnation of Shinbay has a modest 15-seat counter. It’s here where seasoned chef Shinji Kurita serves up his artfully-plated omakase sushi. An omakase tasting runs $185 per person and you’ll need to secure your seat with a reservation.
Est. 2018 | Coronado
Where wood fire cooking is central
Bri, named after a type of wood fire grill commonly found in South Africa traditionally spelled braai, presents a collection of eclectic cuisines in a casual, unpresumptuous setting inside of a converted Coronado neighborhood bungalow on 7th Street. While traditional South African food is not exactly the focus here, Vince Mellody’s restaurant offers smoked fish, duck legs, pork spare ribs smothered in a black bean sauce, and even some vegetarian-friendly options like the all vegan scallops, comprised of seared lychee in a chilled carrot curry.
Est. 2018 | South Tempe
Public house with a heavy focus on Arizona ingredients
Indigenous ingredients and foraged treasures find their place in seasonal, shareable dishes at South Tempe’s Cotton & Copper. Executive chef Tamara Stanger, formerly Helio Basin Brewing, has curated a tight network of both farmers and ethical foragers from across the region that she relies on. She’s even known to forage for unique ingredients herself. The South Tempe spot also has an impressive cocktail program headed up by Sean Traynor. Imbibers can enjoy handcrafted house cocktails mixed with spirits produced in right here in Arizona and a concise selection of craft beers from around the state. Which is more than enough reason to raise a glass, or two.
Est. 2018 | Midtown
No nonsense dining destination for tapas, sustainable seafood, and wood-fired noshes
Italian-born chef Claudio Urciuoli has transformed a 1930s-era Midtown bungalow into a gathering place where epicureans from across The Valley can come together and enjoy wood-fired dishes and a selection of tapas that are never overcomplicated. Many of the ingredients are sourced locally -- like handmade tortillas or mussels sourced from Nelson’s Meat + Fish. At Pa’La the menu is handwritten on a chalkboard and changes almost daily. Which means that there will almost always be something different to try.
2018 | North Scottsdale
Refined Spanish fare delivered by a chef to watch
Arizona’s culinary scene is going through a period of transition and innovation. Chefs like Samantha Sanz of Talavera are leading the charge. When she took over the kitchen at Talavera she was one of the youngest chefs in all of the Four Seasons to lead a restaurant kitchen. Sanz is part of a younger generation of chefs ready to make their mark on Arizona’s cuisine. And she’s already making headway. Sanz was nominated for one of the culinary industry’s most prestigious awards: The James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year.
Est. 2017 | Mesa
Real deal Chinese food for The East Valley (and the rest of us)
Hungry denizens 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, and for that we are very grateful.
Est. 2017 | Melrose
Sets the bar for what a contemporary restaurant should aim to be
This Melrose neighborhood restaurant 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 to the table. The tasting menu is a must-try. For a more casual experience, head out back and grab a wood-fired pie at Dino’s Napoletana. The cash only spot is the most recent addition to the Progress family.
Est. 2017 | Phoenix
Thai restaurant at the top of every “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 diners 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. Actually, order a few.
Est. 2016 | Downtown Mesa
Life-changing buffalo chicken sandwiches
Owners Jim and Kelsey are no strangers to the restaurant scene; both left management jobs to open up Worth Takeaway in 2016. The shop, located in Downtown Mesa, specializes in craft sandwiches built with locally-sourced and homemade ingredients. Considering 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. And, with their recent expansion into the neighboring space next door, there’s room for even more. As for your stomach? That’s for you to decide.
Est. 2016 | Arcadia
This restaurant’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 interesting yet delicious ingredients.
Est. 2015 | South Tempe
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.
Est. 2015 | Tempe
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.
Est. 2015 | Garfield
Modern day diner that accommodates most dietary preferences
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 fries.
Est. 2015 | South Scottsdale, Uptown Phoenix
Go-to for the freshest seafood in The Valley
Chula Seafood considers itself a fish market first. They even distribute to local restaurants across town. Complementing their well-stocked cold case, the South Scottsdale joint has, hands-down, the best damn poke bowls in the area. Chula recently swung open their doors at Uptown Plaza where they offer an expanded menu that features standouts like the swordfish tacos and sashimi platter.
Est. 2014 | Biltmore
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 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 for a handful of years now.
Est. 2013 | South Phoenix
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 cuisine -- often best accompanied by a glass of Arizona wine.
Est. 2013 | Scottsdale
Intimate arts district spot with a gardenesque patio
After cooking in numerous award-winning kitchens, chef Gio Osso ventured out and opened his Medditerranean-influenced Scottsdale restaurant. Not too long after its opening in 2013 the restaurant nabbed a handful of accolades, including a semifinalist nod for Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation. Tucked inside of the Bespoke Inn, Virtu Honest Craft features a seasonally-driven menu that changes frequently. Guests can expect a menu comprised of Mediterranian flavors which consists of an ample selection of housemade pastas like pillowy gnocchi, seafood dishes, and bistecca tagliata -- a 40-ounce Niman Ranch tomahawk ribeye intended for two.
Est. 2012 | Phoenix
The cure-all for your taco cravings
Oaxacan-style street eats are on Parade at Phoenix’s Tacos Atoyac. Dealing in tacos, burros, tamales, and tlayudas (Mexican pizza), this beloved taqueria can fill that empty hole in your stomach on the cheap.
Est. 2011 | Scottsdale
Great for happy hour and late night dining
This award-winning Downtown Scottsdale gastropub specializes in sophisticated, but never stuffy, pub-style eats. Enjoy bar snacks like the cravable bacon-fat heirloom popcorn. And savor their signature dishes. We suggest starting with The Original Chopped Salad or Bernie's mac and cheese.
Est. 2010 | Downtown Phoenix
Downtown tea house dealing in traditional Japanese cuisine
Born and raised in Tokyo, Beard winner 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.
Est. 2010 | Phoenix, Sunnyslope
Valley institution known for Central Texas-style ‘cue
Little Miss BBQ is gives the top ‘cue spots around the country a run for their money. Here, Central Texas-style ‘cue is cooked up daily with Arizona oak and pecan wood on an enormous smoker. Eats are served up market-style on paper with onions, pickles, and a generous handful of white bread. Classic sides like potato salad, beans, and slaw are standard but the standout is the jalapeño cheese grits. Get 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 second location in Sunnyslope, which debuted in late 2018, serves booze, and has extended hours.
Est. 2009 | 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 Beard award winner, chef Charleen Badman, FnB will make you fall in love with vegetables. And with a highly celebrated wine list curated by Pavle Milic, you’re bound to fall in love with Arizona wine too.
Est. 2007 | Melrose
Family-owned BYOB sushi joint
With its tenured staff and impeccable selection of fresh seafood, Central Phoenix’s Hana Japanese, which is also BYOB, 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.
Est. 2003 | Tempe
Affordable, flavorful Indian food served in a lively atmosphere
The Dhaba should be your first choice when your cravings for real Punjabi food hit. Make the obvious choice and start out with the garlic naan bread. The tandoori chicken is hard to beat and is definitely a must-order. There’s a certain level of spiciness that may be off putting to some palates. However, dishes can be ordered based on a spiciness scale from 1-10, with 10 being the most audacious choice. And although not required, it’s wise to make a reservation during peak hours and on weekends.
Est. 2002 | Phoenix
The original barrio
Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza, whose favorite ingredient to cook with is “anything Mexican,” has been redefining Mexican food in The Valley since the early 00s, when she first opened Barrio Café on 16th Street. Dishes like her cochinita pibil or the chiles en nogada are not-to-be-missed. In addition to the original, chef Esparza is responsible for the Barrio-brand restaurants Barrio Avion at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Barrio Café Gran Reserva on the corner of Grand Avenue and McKinley.
Est. 2002 | Chandler
Five-star dining with native roots
Kai brings to life the Pima people’s food in a way that’s both pleasing to the eye and appetite. Kai, which means “seed” in the Pima language, has earned top honors as Phoenix’s first AAA Five-Diamond and Forbes Five-Star Restaurant. Not only does Kai serves high-end cuisine, its staff offers impeccable service all while educating patrons about traditional American Indian dishes and ingredients over the course of the entire dining experience.
Est. 1998 | Downtown Gilbert
Smoky BBQ served up in historic digs
At Joe’s you can fill up your tray with smoky barbecue, but leave room for some of this spot’s 12 housemade sides. This East Valley joint is co-owned and operated by two barbecue-obsessed Gilbert families, the Johnstons and the Peelens. They’ve created a community hangout of sorts in their climate-controlled picnic-style patio, which makes an ideal setting to devour some ‘cue.
Est. 1994 | Phoenix
Upscale locale with an expansive wine list
Tarbell’s helped the Phoenix culinary scene gain its footing in its infancy. Since its opening in the early ‘90s, chef Tarbell and his restaurant have snagged hundreds of accolades. Today, the restaurant is alive and well, and some things just don’t change (the menu even says so). First timer? Try Mark’s Famous Spaghetti and The Meatball. The signature dish is drenched in a divine organic housemade marinara sauce that can be effortlessly paired with an Italian wine from the restos global wine list.
Est. 1993 | Scottsdale
The Valley’s original farm-to-table restaurant
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.
Est. 1992 | Phoenix
Go here for the award-winning fry bread
Fry bread originated over 150 years ago. Uncomplicated, traditional fry bread is made from fried dough and is typically served as-is but can be topped with honey and jam or layered with beans, vegetables, meats, and cheeses. The Fry Bread House was created in the early ‘90s by Cecelia Miller of the Tohono O'odham Nation. Today the business is still owned and managed by the family. While the locations have changed over the years, the menu still features originals based on family recipes from the eatery’s early days. In 2012 The Fry Bread House earned top honors when it was named an American Classic by the James Beard Foundation. The award honors family-owned restaurants across America.
Est. 1988 | Downtown Phoenix
The reason why Phoenix is America’s best pizza city
Not much needs to be said about Pizzeria Bianco. Bianco’s pies have catapulted Phoenix’s food culture into national conversation. Over the years, the highly-lauded Heritage Square pizza haven has become a favorite of locals from every corner of The Valley and a must-visit for the pizza obsessed -- for good reason. A word of advice? Don’t come here on a diet. You’ll want to try everything, especially the wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas like the margherita or Biancoverde.
Est. 1987 | Tempe
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 cuisine. The seasonally-inspired menus feature an eclectic fusion of flavors and cultures. And their award-winning wine list features 300 varieties from around the world.
Est. 1974 | Multiple locations
Family-owned pizza joint with Chicago roots
In the early ‘70s, founder Ken Spinato and his family relocated from an Italian neighborhood on the South side of Chicago to Arizona. More than 40 years later, Spinato’s is still family-run, the sausage is still made in-house, and the secret sauce is still a secret. Earlier this year the family debuted a shiny new (and huge) location in Tempe that’s three times larger than its original Smith Street locale.
Est. 1964 | Phoenix
Soul food spot with lots of heart and lots of history
This long standing casual fried chicken spot has been a go-to for decades. Positioned nearby a convenient light rail stop, Mrs. White’s Golden Rule Cafe is best known for its hearty soul food, which includes a lineup of satisfying grub like mac and cheese, chicken-fried steaks, cornbread, greens, pork chops, and black eyed peas -- so maybe loosen your belt a few notches before you order. For dessert lovers, the peach cobbler here cannot be beat. You can thank Mrs. White for joints like Lo-Lo’s Chicken and Waffles and The Root and Soul. The owners of both spots are her grandsons. She’s credited for encouraging their talent and teaching them their way around a kitchen.
Est. 1947 | Phoenix
Arizona’s original steakhouse
Not many restaurants can boast that John Wayne used to be a regular. The country western star was known to enjoy his steaks in Booth 26. Bankers, politicians, cattlemen, and yes, even movie stars were known to frequent the iconic steakhouse. The Stockyards offers a hearty selection of meat and potatoes but the menu goes beyond the predictable steakhouse staples; think rainbow trout, elk medallions, bison meatloaf, and wild boar. Today it’s listed on the city’s historic register and still maintains its western charm.
Est. 1947 | Multiple locations
Valley go-to for English-style fish and chips
Pete’s Fish & Chips founder Peter Grant Jr. was inspired to open a restaurant after seeing a number of chip houses around Europe during his service in World War II. Since its humble beginnings operating out of a wooden shack with no running water in 1947, Pete’s has expanded to eight Valley locations. Decades later, generations of loyal customers keep coming back for the fried fish, low prices, and Pete’s original sauce (duh).
Est. 1937 | Paradise Valley
A dining experience that’s authentically Arizona
The ultimate dining destination, positioned at the base of Mummy Mountain, El Chorro provides both an unparalleled view from the patio and an impressive regularly-rotating menu. While the menu changes, the restaurants iconic sticky buns are here to stay. Instead of standard bread service, El Chorro delights guests with sugary-sweet miniature cinnamon buns, bringing a basket to each table on arrival. Originally built as a school for girls in 1934, El Chorro has undergone renovations and revamps across the years and today provides an upscale dining experience that is authentic to Arizona.