Food & Drink

The Most Important Restaurants in Phoenix

Lauren Topor Published On 10/19/2015 Published On 10/19/2015
Courtesy of El Chorro Lodge

El Chorro

This spot was originally developed and built as a school for girls by John C. Lincoln for his own daughter in 1934. But the school was extremely short-lived, and in 1937 it was sold and converted into a restaurant and lodge. Early patrons included Clark Gable and David Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright’s son. In 2009 the space was revived again, and with those new renovations El Chorro Lodge became the first Arizona resto to earn a LEED certification (that means it’s sustainable, green, and innovative). In addition to the huge patio, the PV spot even has a bocce ball court to go with its excellent food. 

Courtesy of Matt’s Big Breakfast

Matt’s Big Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And this breakfast spot has received national attention for its extremely well-made offerings. Everything’s under $11, and unlike other joints who have jumped on the breakfast/brunch bandwagon and overcharged for their burnt bacon and carton OJ, Matt’s is showing people that diner-style staples can be fresh, delicious, and still cheap.

Nobuo at Teeter House

Nobuo at Teeter House

Hailing all the way from Tokyo, Japan, Chef Nobuo Fukuda got his culinary start at Benihana. Fast-forward to 2002 when he opened the Japanese tapas bar Sea Saw (which, we should note, won him a James Beard Award), and Fukuda was catapulted into the spotlight. Today, Nobuo at Teeter House continues to push the boundaries of modern Japanese cuisine with creativity and care -- we recommend you request the omakase (a multi-course meal prepared by the Chef himself according to the day's best ingredients) and that you book at least a couple of weeks in advance. 

Barrio Cafe

Barrio Cafe

Phoenix’s Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza and her team of chefs are changing that way that people --both locals and out-of-towners -- think about Mexican food. If you’re looking for chips and salsa at your table, or nuclear-yellow American cheese you won’t find it here. Instead, you’ll have barrio-style guacamole, sprinkled with pomegranate, and 24hr pork pibil marinaded in sour orange. The four-time James Beard Award nominee has also had a big impact on the Phoenix community -- she's worked with artists and muralists from around the city to bring life, color, and culture to one Phoenix street, Calle 16.

Beckett's Table

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Venue Name

Beckett’s Table

Venue Node ID

3884636

Beckett’s Table

Chef Justin Beckett has been working around food since he was 14, and while the rest of us were playing video games and sneaking into our parents' liquor cabinets, he was developing his trade. Beckett’s Table has strong ties to the community, from the winegrowers to the local farmers, and the restaurant proudly supports independently owned businesses. In 2014, Beckett opened Southern Rail in the old Beef Eaters space (RIP). But we think the space, called The Newton does it justice.

Mrs White’s Golden Rule Cafe

Mrs White’s has the best soul food Phoenix has to offer. Period. Catfish, fried chicken, pork chops, okra, lemonade, Kool-Aid, you name it. If you haven’t dined at this Phoenix spot where the menu is written on the wall, do yourself a favor and check it out. The resto has been in business for more than 50 years, and current owner Larry White got his start here bussing tables. You might known Larry as Lo-Lo (as in Lo-Lo’s Chicken and Waffles). Well, he learned everything he knows from his grandma, Elizabeth White, and he first put chicken and waffles together in her cafe’s kitchen.

FnB Scottsdale

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Venue Name

FnB

Venue Node ID

4118784

FnB

Chef and co-owner Charleen Badman is one of Arizona’s most notable chefs. In 2014 and 2015 she was a James Beard Foundation best chef southwest-nominee. She’s also spent time at New York’s Lobster Club and the Greenwich Village restaurant, Inside. For the past five years she’s been here in The Valley cooking with locally grown ingredients and putting together globally accented seasonal menus, but FnB’s menu spans far beyond the food -- the wine selection is unbeatable, offering Arizona’s best wines (though if you must sip something from out-of-state, you can opt for FnB’s "Plan B" wine menu).

Durant’s

Acting like a kind of weird time-jump to the '50s, this Phoenix steakhouse has been in the biz for over 65 years, and let’s face it, not much has changed. Sure, there have been some changes that some old-timers and devotees haven’t been happy about, but Durant’s is still one of Phoenix’s most iconic foodie staples, and an essential part of the fabric of the restaurant community. 

Lauren Topor/Thrillist

Mother Bunch Brewing

Mother Bunch has got two lady powerhouses at the helm: owner, and self-proclaimed beer geek, Julie Meeker, and brewer Holly Arguello, who together set the Phoenix microbrewery apart from the competition. And yes, it is a brewery -- but you can still get a meal here. They’ve got more than just bar food; think huge slow-roasted pork belly sourdough sandwiches, fiery three alarm burgers, and jumbo beer-marinaded shrimp. In an industry that’s tough for women to break into, these two are showing just what can be achieved.

Courtesy of DeSoto Central Market

DeSoto Central Market

DeSoto isn’t exactly a single restaurant, and nor is it strictly a market either. It's a huge shopping hub and grocery outlet where you can get that fresh produce turned into a delicious meal before you eyes. Here, people from around The Valley can come to eat & drink local from spots like DCM Burger Bar, Yardbird + The Larder, Walrus & The Pearl, Tea & Toast, Adobo Dragon, Radish, and more. In no other place in the Valley is there such a concentration of food talent. 

Flickr/Taro the Shiba Inu

Pizzeria Bianco

More than almost any other place in recent memory, Pizzeria Bianco has put The Valley on the national culinary map by putting out some of the finest pizzas in the country. People will line up for hours for a pie, and by all accounts it’s more than worth it.

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Lauren Topor is a Phoenix writer who will gladly take Chef Silvana’s Barrio-style guac instead of chips and salsa. Follow her: @LaurenTopor.

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1. El Chorro 5550 E Lincoln Dr, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253 (Paradise Valley)

Open since 1937, this Paradise Valley spot has perfected the art of cocktail making. Try something off the seasonal cocktail list or enjoy some cuisine as well, with a wine and food recommendation from the restaurant.

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2. Matt's Big Breakfast 116 East Garfield Street, Phoenix, AZ 85004

Matt's is a super affordable, all-day breakfast and lunch spot that uses grain-fed pork, local and organic ingredients, and eggs from humanely-raised chicken. Straightforward omelettes, sandwiches, and burgers are served at this relaxed cafe.

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3. Nobuo at Teeter House 622 E Adams St, Phoenix, 85004

Award winning chef, Nobuo Fukunda creates visually stunning and palatably adventurous modern Japanese cuisine. From delightfully fresh salads to buttery soft meats and of course, all the fresh fish you could dream of, Nobuo is worth visiting and revisiting for the full experience.

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4. Barrio Cafe 2814 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006 (Uptown Phoenix)

The menu at this Uptown joint is extensive, so you can pick a new dish just about every time you come. But start off with the avocado-topped tacos, and come back on a Sunday for its famous brunch featuring the Huevos Divorciados, which is two eggs (any style), one topped with salsa verde and the of topped with salsa tatemada.

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5. Beckett's Table 3717 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85018 (Arcadia)

There is an indescribable warmth the moment you walk through the door of this Arcadia resto, and you just know that every detail has been carefully considered, from the contemporary decor to the continually evolving American menu.

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6. Mrs White’s Golden Rule Cafe 808 E Jefferson St, Phoenix, AZ 85034

Since the 70s, Mrs White’s Golden Rule Cafe has been the epicenter of homestyle and southern cooking in Phoenix. Soul food items include peach cobbler, chicken fried steak, catfish, and homemade cornbread.

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7. FnB 7125 E 5th Ave Ste 31, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Locally sourced, globally-inspired cuisine can be found at this refined, farm-to-table gastropub that boasts an ever-changing menu.

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8. Durant’s 2611 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004

Durant's is an old-school, ultra-luxe chophouse that has been a Phoenix staple for more than 65 years. Although it's mostly applauded for filets, porterhouses, and T-bones, the family-owned restaurant is also known for its rich history and tradition. The servers still wear the same style of red tuxedo vests as they did when the doors first opened in the 1950s, and the walls are still plastered with crushed red velvet wallpaper.

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9. Mother Bunch Brewing 825 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006 (Downtown Phoenix)

Owned and operated by self-proclaimed beer geek Julie Meeker and brewer Holly Arguello, Mother Bunch in Downtown Phoenix functions as both a top notch microbrewery and delicious eatery. A variety of rotating taps -- both local and national -- can be paired with refined eats like slow-roasted pork belly sourdough sandwiches, fiery three alarm burgers, and jumbo beer-marinaded shrimp.

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10. DeSoto Central Market 915 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004

A whole host of local food items and cuisines come under one roof at this high-ceilinged, industrial chic market. Vendors include DCM Burger Bar, Yardbird + The Larder, and Adobo Dragon.

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11. Pizzeria Bianco 623 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004 (Downtown Phoenix)

If you were to look at a list of Arizona's best pizza, you'd find Pizzeria Bianco at the top of nearly every single one. James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Bianco has done great things for artisanal pizza since he first opened his shop in 1988. Pizzeria Bianco's first iteration was in the back of corner of a grocery store, and it now has two locations in Phoenix and one in Tucson. No matter when or where you go, there'll be a wait. The line is worth it though because the thin-crust, crispy pizza is all you'll ever need.

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