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A gordita stuffed with bright red meat and another stuffed with green salsa verde meat and a white rectangular plate.
A pair of gorditas from Tacos Chiwas
Bill Addison

Phoenix’s 38 Essential Restaurants

Where to eat in the Valley of the Sun, from spots dishing up fluffy picadillo-stuffed gorditas to outstanding omakase restaurants serving delicate sushi

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A pair of gorditas from Tacos Chiwas
| Bill Addison

It feels like ancient history now, but in spring 2020, just before the pandemic, greater Phoenix earned a whopping 17 James Beard Chef Award semifinalist nominations. Today, more than a year later, Phoenix’s food scene has shown resiliency and even growth. Food and drink in the sprawling metro area enveloped by North America’s most vibrant desert have risen to a level that might surprise outsiders, with many chefs doing work unique to central Arizona. Here’s where to begin.

The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is here; dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers. Please be aware of changing local rules, and check individual restaurant websites for any additional restrictions such as mask requirements. Find a local vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Kai Restaurant

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5594 Wild Horse Pass Blvd
Phoenix, AZ 85048
(602) 225-0100
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Indigenous ingredients from near and far are the heartbeat of this hotel restaurant in the Gila River Indian Community. Chef Ryan Swanson and his team transform them into deeply Sonoran dishes: Bison steak with saguaro syrup, cactus “key lime” pie, octopus in a velvety sauce of jamon Iberico and wolfberries are just some of the stellar dishes coming out of this kitchen. For the full experience, opt for the “Journey” tasting menu. 

2. Hola Cabrito Birria De Chivo

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4835 S 16th St
Phoenix, AZ 85040
(602) 513-8384
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Goat birria. That’s all you need to know about this unadorned South Phoenix restaurant. Wide bowls of rich stew arrive with all the fixings: salsa, limes, chopped onion, chopped herbs. Many customers opt, additionally, to spoon into goat consommé laden with chickpeas. For Phoenix birria enthusiasts, Hola Cabrito tends to top lists. 

3. Carolina's Mexican Food

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1202 E Mohave St
Phoenix, AZ 85034
(602) 252-1503
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Mexican American cooking thrives at this beloved neighborhood eatery. South of downtown Phoenix in a stark white-brick building that seems to draw a crowd throughout the day, Carolina’s griddles flour tortillas to life before your eyes. These wrap proteins like machaca, beans, and eggs, which come as burros, chimichangas, enchiladas and more. 

4. Mrs White's Golden Rule Cafe

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808 E Jefferson St
Phoenix, AZ 85034
(602) 262-9256
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Elizabeth White’s downtown nook has been plating soul food since before man landed on the moon. Staffed with many family members, the kitchen turns out fried chicken, a stewed oxtail special, and a “moist succulent” pork chop. White walls slant and loop with Sharpied customer messages. In-the-know diners end plate meals with sweet potato pie. 

5. Tratto

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1505 E Van Buren St
Phoenix, AZ 85006
(602) 296-7761
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Cassie Shortino captains the kitchen of Chris Bianco’s trattoria, which recently moved into a larger space downtown. The menu changes often, tracking the local micro seasons. Shortino shapes pasta using grains like farro and Bluebeard durum. Crudos, roasted chicken, and rich meats are all prepared minimally. The drink program offers house-made liqueurs, arcane amari, and thoughtful Italian wines. 

6. Mariscos Playa Hermosa

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1605 E Garfield St
Phoenix, AZ 85006
(602) 462-1563
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For nearly two decades, the Maldonado family has served Mexican seafood and oversized drinks. Mariscos Playa Hermosa is just as fluent with raw seafood (ceviche tostadas and oyster-shrimp aguachiles) as it is cooked (fillet divorciadas and molcajetes teeming with shrimp). Diners can go as big and party-sized as seafood towers or as small as tacos gobernador. 

7. Rito's Mexican Food

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907 N 14th St
Phoenix, AZ 85006
(602) 262-9842
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Friendly and unassuming, Rito’s, is a great place to enjoy the particular collision of Southwestern, Mexican, and Mexican American cuisines that characterizes so many Arizona restaurants. On the Garfield location’s small patio, people eat the likes of hard-shell tacos with chile beef and yellow cheese, bean burritos absolutely smothered with red or green chile, and one of the state’s more legendary chimichangas. 

8. Welcome Diner

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929 E Pierce St
Phoenix, AZ 85006
(602) 495-1111
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This Garfield diner takes cues from the South and Southwest alike. Think: chorizo meatloaf and smoked pork over heirloom corn grits. Fried chicken rises from biscuits and fried green tomatoes fill sandwiches. For a diner, the cocktails have a sterling reputation, especially the hurricane. Folks sip on the wraparound patio deep into the night. 

9. The Breadfruit & Rum Bar

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108 E Pierce St #2051
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(602) 267-1266
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The Breadfruit is a downtown institution. At its small but mighty Rum Bar, Jamaica native Dwayne Allen guides drinkers through pours, flights, and cocktails powered by his collection of more than 150 bottles. In the kitchen, Danielle Leoni deeply considers sustainable practices in cooking the staples of the island, like jerk chicken, pepper shrimp, and goat curry. Her motto: “where local meets tropical.” While temporarily closed until fall 2021, folks can still seek out a taste of the Breadfruit via the owners’ new drink line, Blue Marble Ginger Beer.

10. Palabra

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909 N 1st St
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(602) 730-3227
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Many concepts co-exist within Jorge Ignacio Torres’s Palabra, an experimental space in downtown Phoenix. It’s an art gallery and, in back, a hair salon. But it’s also a Mexican coffee bar that serves thoughtful drinks like café de olla and espresso with cacao and piloncillo. Pasado, the space’s tiny kitchen, plates a rotating lineup of Mexican dishes like posole, tamales, and ceviche for just a few hours per day a few days a week.

11. The Larder and The Delta

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200 W Portland St Ste 101
Phoenix, AZ 85003
(480) 409-8520
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Stephen Jones calls the cooking at his downtown restaurant “New Southern.” With roots in the Midwest, West Coast, and South, he weaves disparate influences into progressive versions of Southern dishes, like hoe cakes with cured egg yolks and Hoppin’ John with herb salad. In his sleek, lofty space, so different from the nearby food stall where he got his start, Jones’s signature dish remains a Buffalo “chicken” that loses the bird and plugs cauliflower into a madly reimagined equation. 

12. EL Caprichoso Hotdogs

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2826 N 35th Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85009
(602) 561-3723
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The Sonoran hot dog has many possible looks and ingredients ingredients. One of Metro Phoenix’s undisputed favorites comes from El Caprichoso. Served from a cart until well after midnight, a plump dog appears in a wildly puffy char-marked bun, the meat nearly eclipsed under a tight zigzag of mayo. Fixings like pico and guac accent, but the secret is the chewy bun.

 

13. La Mejor Comida Mexicana

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6522 N 59th Ave
Glendale, AZ 85301
(602) 687-3200
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Near Downtown Glendale, this restaurant turns out platters heaped with lamb barbacoa. Though great versions of barbacoa can be found across the metro area, this relative newcomer has already won a place among the most esteemed. Slow-cooked sheep is the main event, yet there are plenty of other standbys, like huaraches and menudo.

14. Da Vang Restaurant

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4538 N 19th Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85015
(602) 242-3575

One of the jewels in greater Phoenix’s robust Vietnamese food scene, Da Vang offers a seemingly endless menu of spring rolls, bun, pho, and other specialties. The banh mi are classic and priced well, just like the rest of the menu. Vietnamese hot pot and chao, long-stewed rice porridge, hit the spot even in the withering heat of the desert. 

15. Hana Japanese Eatery

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5524 N 7th Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85013
(602) 973-1238
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Lori Hashimoto’s Japanese restaurant covers a lot of ground: sushi, hibachi, katsu, tempura, soba, and much more. The family-style eatery focuses on the classics and is known for cooking them deftly. Grilled seafood including miso-marinated tuna, yellowtail collar, and whole squid are a highlight. So is the much-celebrated fact that this restaurant is BYOB. 

16. Fry Bread House

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4545 N 7th Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85013
(602) 351-2345

A James Beard Award winner, Fry Bread House specializes in Indigenous preparations like stews and tamales. There is an emphasis on the Tohono O’odham recipes that the late founder Cecilia Miller grew up with, like c’emet, a wide flour tortilla cooked in the Sonoran Desert for centuries. It sidekicks soups and wraps burros. Frybread comes in both sweet and savory forms. 

17. Valentine

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4130 N 7th Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85013
(602) 612-2961
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Born mid-pandemic, this deeply modern Southwestern restaurant by Blaise Faber and Chad Price has food, coffee, pastry, and beverage programs that innovate and impress. Cocktails combine regional concoctions like cactus vermouth, Arizona gin, and creosote bitters. Much of Donald Hawk’s intricate cooking centers on desert crops like red fife, heirloom squash, and tepary beans, often using a smoker or woodfire. 

18. Durant's

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2611 N Central Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(602) 264-5967
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Since long before Phoenix was a sophisticated metropolis, Durant’s has been cooking steaks. In recent decades, the red-lighted dining room has been a place for power lunches and meetings between town’s movers and shakers. It is a classic steakhouse through and through, with giant broiled cuts of meat and buttered seafood dishes out of the 20th century.

19. El Chullo Peruvian Restaurant & Bar

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2605 N 7th St
Phoenix, AZ 85006
(602) 279-8425
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Peruvian restaurant El Chullo remains one of the best South American restaurants in greater Phoenix. Esperanza Luzcando and Jose Ramirez keep plates classic and cover plenty of ground, from seafood (ceviche, jalea) to beef (lomo saltado, skewered hearts) right on down to choclo (large-kennel corn) and the ubiquitous huancaina (smooth yellow pepper sauce).

20. TEG Torta Shop - Tortas El Güero

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2518 N 16th St
Phoenix, AZ 85006
(602) 252-9228
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Owner Gustavo Lom’s shop is a mainstay of the 16th Street corridor, a hotbed of great Mexican eating. He plates Mexican-style sandwiches with fillings like cochinita pibil and fried turkey tails. A fiery torta ahogada sees a bolillo roll stuffed with tender pork and avocado smothered in chile de arbol sauce. Lom also stocks a decked-out salsa bar. 

 

21. Barrio Cafe

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2814 N 16th St #1205
Phoenix, AZ 85006
(602) 636-0240
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The Mexican food scene in Phoenix can be divided into two eras: before Barrio Cafe’s 2002 opening, and after. Silva Salcido Esparza, a classically trained chef who sold copper-pot-cooked carnitas out of her father’s bakery when she was young, lightly applies French cooking and other techniques to preparations from all over Mexico. Outer and inner walls swirl with painted art. Banana leaves leak cochinita pibil juices. Agave-based spirits brim in cold glasses. 

22. Glai Baan

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2333 E Osborn Rd
Phoenix, AZ 85016
(602) 595-5881
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This Central Phoenix restaurant specializes in the fare of Northeastern Thailand. Chef Pornsupak “Cat” Bunnag highlights dishes from her native Ihsan, with an emphasis on street food. String lights cross above a cozy dining room of brick walls and framed pictures. Below, an eclectic crowd slurps khao soi and digs into mackerel fried rice. The cocktail program helmed by Maxwell Berlin ranks among the top in town. 

23. Binkleys Restaurant

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2320 E Osborn Rd
Phoenix, AZ 85016
(602) 388-4874
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The Binkley’s dining experience, at least three hours and at least a dozen courses, unfolds in a small house that recreates the experience of a dinner party. You start on the patio for light drinks and bites, move to a bar for imaginative bar food, and finish in a formal dining room with a run of more formal courses. At any point in the meal, you can get up and browse the house, and even watch genre-bending New American chef Kevin Binkley in the kitchen. 

24. Nelson's Meat + Fish

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2415 E Indian School Rd
Phoenix, AZ 85016
(602) 596-4069
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Chris Nelson summons impossibly fresh seafood to the desert from far waters of the world. What isn’t sold whole is sold as prepared food like lobster rolls and salmon banh mi. The rotating ceviche might feature Nantucket Bay scallops and blood orange, and John Dory and yuzu the next. Don’t miss the oysters or raw fish platters made using whatever’s fresh. 

25. Pizzeria Bianco

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4743 N 20th St
Phoenix, AZ 85016
(602) 368-3273
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Chris Bianco makes some of the country’s most fabled pizzas. He and his team source and mill ever-changing flour blends, hand-shape mozzarella, and top pies with tomatoes from his own California label. His style sets the focus on an intricate, shattering crust that calls to mind the ancient flatbreads predating pizza. It eludes standard category and is probably best defined by the crowds and giddy critics that have flocked in for decades.

26. Dick's Hideaway

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6008 N 16th St
Phoenix, AZ 85016
(602) 241-1881
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Like the other restaurants in the Richardson’s family, this sliver of a room dominated by bar space specializes in New Mexican cuisine, though the menu strays. Green and red chile sauces slather a good portion of the dishes, including carne adovada sliders, chile relleno, pork belly, and a tamale of the day. 

27. FnB Restaurant

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7125 E 5th Ave #31
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
(480) 284-4777
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For more than a decade, Charleen Badman has skillfully turned the Valley’s bounty into vegetable-forward plates that draw inspiration from a constellation of world cuisines. In 2019, she won a James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest. The intensely local nature of her food is echoed by Pavle Milic’s ambitious beverage program, which puts a rigorously curated roster of common and obscure Arizona wines at center stage.  

28. ShinBay

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3720 N Scottsdale Rd #201
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
(480) 361-1021
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Japan native Shinji Kurita curates omakase dinners, sushi journeys that begin with wildly creative marine preparations and end with long runs of nigiri. He tweezes and torches and tops iridescent slips of fish, slicing and molding and placing bites before you as modern instrumental music plays. The whole experience is pared with rare Japanese beers and sake. 

29. Hush Public House

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14202 N Scottsdale Rd #167
Scottsdale, AZ 85254
(480) 758-5172
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Chef Dom Ruggiero pulls from an arsenal of skills honed over the years, including butchery, meat curing, smoking, and handmade pasta at Hush Public House. His intimate-yet-unfussy New American restaurant plates novel dish after novel dish, the menu always changing. Staples include crab hushpuppies, date cake, and a riff on Chicago’s Italian beef that celebrates oxtail.

30. Cafe Chenar

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1601 E Bell Rd ste a-11
Phoenix, AZ 85022
(602) 354-4505
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Run by the Uvaydov family, Cafe Chenar brings the Bukharian culinary tradition to North Phoenix. Dumplings abound, including pelmeni and manti. A wide-ranging selection of kebabs sees liver, sweetbreads, lamb ribs, ribeye, and more cooked on metal skewers. Among the specialties, too, are hearty meat pies, plov, lagman, and grilled Cornish hen.

31. Little Miss BBQ-University

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4301 E University Dr
Phoenix, AZ 85034
(602) 437-1177
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Scott Holmes’s indoor-outdoor barbecue joint by the airport platters Central Texas-style meats. On giant offset smokers welded from old propane tanks, Holmes smokes all of the major barbecue staples, sold by the pound and on sandwiches. His beef — fatty brisket, short rib, and pastrami — is local legend, as is the pecan pie smoked just like the meat.

32. Cafe Lalibela Ethiopian Cuisine

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849 W University Dr
Tempe, AZ 85281
(480) 829-1939
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Simply put, Cafe Lalibela is a classic Ethiopian restaurant that has long maintained a top-notch reputation. Tangy discs of injera heap with stews made from meats like beef and vegetables like lentils and split peas. Individual plates bring smaller-form options, like kitfo (raw ground beef) or fried lamb. An impressive Ethiopian coffee and tea program includes clay pot brews. 

33. Chou's Kitchen

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1250 E Apache Blvd Ste 101
Tempe, AZ 85281
(480) 557-8888
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Lulu Zhou and Sunny Zhao’s two Chou’s locations focus on Northeastern Chinese delicacies, but are unafraid to reach to provinces beyond. Noodles, soups, and stews abound. The main events here, though, are savory pies and dumplings. Dumplings are stuffed lavishly: mackerel, squash, pork, and pickled vegetables. 

 

34. Haji-Baba

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1513 E Apache Blvd
Tempe, AZ 85281
(480) 894-1905
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This Tempe eatery and grocery has been serving Arizona State and the surrounding community for decades. Broadly Middle Eastern specialties are surprisingly well priced, including staples like tabbouleh, falafel, and ful medames. Some of the most popular orders are kabobs, Greek gyros, and lamb tongue sandwiches built on hot, handmade pitas, minimally adorned. Several flavors of baklava, like pistachio and Arizona pecan, are available for dessert. 

35. Tacos Chiwas

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127 W Main St
Mesa, AZ 85201
(480) 590-7163
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Nadia Holguin and Armando Hernandez’s Chihuahuan-style specialties extend far beyond the taco despite their restaurant’s name. Fluffy gorditas enrobe picadillo and shredded beef and burritos are stark, packed with little more than al pastor or lengua, featuring tortillas shaped from freshly milled grains. At the downtown Mesa location, you can also post up at a bar and sip drinks.

36. Worth Takeaway

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218 W Main St
Mesa, AZ 85201
(480) 833-2180
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On downtown Mesa’s Main Street, this tiny shop serves sandwiches that depart a little from convention. The signature is a fried chicken sandwich with honeyed Sriracha on soft ciabatta. Roasted pork, Calabrian turkey, and a roast beef jazzed with rotating giardiniera are some of the other favorites. Yes, they open for breakfast.

 

37. Drunken Tiger

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1954 S Dobson Rd #5
Mesa, AZ 85202
(480) 755-7555
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Justin Park’s Korean eatery in Mesa is built, to a large degree, for drinking. Diners knock back soju, soju cocktails, soju bombs, Korean beers from bottles and the tap, and numerous related libations from shareable towers. A “drunken munchies” menu section features YOLO orders like bulgogi nachos, kimchi pork fries, and a Korean take on elote. Tteokbokki, yang nyum chicken, and more traditional dishes are on offer, too. 

38. 24 Carrots

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1701 E Guadalupe Rd
Tempe, AZ 85283
(480) 753-4411
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Sasha Raj pulls out so many stops at 24 Carrots — chutneys, “labneh,” powder from mushrooms she forages herself — that “vegan restaurant” doesn’t fully capture her meatless style of cooking. There are raw soups, juices, tacos, “burgers.” Beloved global preparations get thoughtful remixes, everything from dan dan noodles to Sonoran “hot dogs.” 

1. Kai Restaurant

5594 Wild Horse Pass Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85048

Indigenous ingredients from near and far are the heartbeat of this hotel restaurant in the Gila River Indian Community. Chef Ryan Swanson and his team transform them into deeply Sonoran dishes: Bison steak with saguaro syrup, cactus “key lime” pie, octopus in a velvety sauce of jamon Iberico and wolfberries are just some of the stellar dishes coming out of this kitchen. For the full experience, opt for the “Journey” tasting menu. 

5594 Wild Horse Pass Blvd
Phoenix, AZ 85048

2. Hola Cabrito Birria De Chivo

4835 S 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85040

Goat birria. That’s all you need to know about this unadorned South Phoenix restaurant. Wide bowls of rich stew arrive with all the fixings: salsa, limes, chopped onion, chopped herbs. Many customers opt, additionally, to spoon into goat consommé laden with chickpeas. For Phoenix birria enthusiasts, Hola Cabrito tends to top lists. 

4835 S 16th St
Phoenix, AZ 85040

3. Carolina's Mexican Food

1202 E Mohave St, Phoenix, AZ 85034

Mexican American cooking thrives at this beloved neighborhood eatery. South of downtown Phoenix in a stark white-brick building that seems to draw a crowd throughout the day, Carolina’s griddles flour tortillas to life before your eyes. These wrap proteins like machaca, beans, and eggs, which come as burros, chimichangas, enchiladas and more. 

1202 E Mohave St
Phoenix, AZ 85034

4. Mrs White's Golden Rule Cafe

808 E Jefferson St, Phoenix, AZ 85034

Elizabeth White’s downtown nook has been plating soul food since before man landed on the moon. Staffed with many family members, the kitchen turns out fried chicken, a stewed oxtail special, and a “moist succulent” pork chop. White walls slant and loop with Sharpied customer messages. In-the-know diners end plate meals with sweet potato pie. 

808 E Jefferson St
Phoenix, AZ 85034

5. Tratto

1505 E Van Buren St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

Cassie Shortino captains the kitchen of Chris Bianco’s trattoria, which recently moved into a larger space downtown. The menu changes often, tracking the local micro seasons. Shortino shapes pasta using grains like farro and Bluebeard durum. Crudos, roasted chicken, and rich meats are all prepared minimally. The drink program offers house-made liqueurs, arcane amari, and thoughtful Italian wines. 

1505 E Van Buren St
Phoenix, AZ 85006

6. Mariscos Playa Hermosa

1605 E Garfield St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

For nearly two decades, the Maldonado family has served Mexican seafood and oversized drinks. Mariscos Playa Hermosa is just as fluent with raw seafood (ceviche tostadas and oyster-shrimp aguachiles) as it is cooked (fillet divorciadas and molcajetes teeming with shrimp). Diners can go as big and party-sized as seafood towers or as small as tacos gobernador. 

1605 E Garfield St
Phoenix, AZ 85006

7. Rito's Mexican Food

907 N 14th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

Friendly and unassuming, Rito’s, is a great place to enjoy the particular collision of Southwestern, Mexican, and Mexican American cuisines that characterizes so many Arizona restaurants. On the Garfield location’s small patio, people eat the likes of hard-shell tacos with chile beef and yellow cheese, bean burritos absolutely smothered with red or green chile, and one of the state’s more legendary chimichangas. 

907 N 14th St
Phoenix, AZ 85006

8. Welcome Diner

929 E Pierce St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

This Garfield diner takes cues from the South and Southwest alike. Think: chorizo meatloaf and smoked pork over heirloom corn grits. Fried chicken rises from biscuits and fried green tomatoes fill sandwiches. For a diner, the cocktails have a sterling reputation, especially the hurricane. Folks sip on the wraparound patio deep into the night. 

929 E Pierce St
Phoenix, AZ 85006

9. The Breadfruit & Rum Bar

108 E Pierce St #2051, Phoenix, AZ 85004

The Breadfruit is a downtown institution. At its small but mighty Rum Bar, Jamaica native Dwayne Allen guides drinkers through pours, flights, and cocktails powered by his collection of more than 150 bottles. In the kitchen, Danielle Leoni deeply considers sustainable practices in cooking the staples of the island, like jerk chicken, pepper shrimp, and goat curry. Her motto: “where local meets tropical.” While temporarily closed until fall 2021, folks can still seek out a taste of the Breadfruit via the owners’ new drink line, Blue Marble Ginger Beer.

108 E Pierce St #2051
Phoenix, AZ 85004

10. Palabra

909 N 1st St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

Many concepts co-exist within Jorge Ignacio Torres’s Palabra, an experimental space in downtown Phoenix. It’s an art gallery and, in back, a hair salon. But it’s also a Mexican coffee bar that serves thoughtful drinks like café de olla and espresso with cacao and piloncillo. Pasado, the space’s tiny kitchen, plates a rotating lineup of Mexican dishes like posole, tamales, and ceviche for just a few hours per day a few days a week.

909 N 1st St
Phoenix, AZ 85004

11. The Larder and The Delta

200 W Portland St Ste 101, Phoenix, AZ 85003

Stephen Jones calls the cooking at his downtown restaurant “New Southern.” With roots in the Midwest, West Coast, and South, he weaves disparate influences into progressive versions of Southern dishes, like hoe cakes with cured egg yolks and Hoppin’ John with herb salad. In his sleek, lofty space, so different from the nearby food stall where he got his start, Jones’s signature dish remains a Buffalo “chicken” that loses the bird and plugs cauliflower into a madly reimagined equation. 

200 W Portland St Ste 101
Phoenix, AZ 85003

12. EL Caprichoso Hotdogs

2826 N 35th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85009

The Sonoran hot dog has many possible looks and ingredients ingredients. One of Metro Phoenix’s undisputed favorites comes from El Caprichoso. Served from a cart until well after midnight, a plump dog appears in a wildly puffy char-marked bun, the meat nearly eclipsed under a tight zigzag of mayo. Fixings like pico and guac accent, but the secret is the chewy bun.

 

2826 N 35th Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85009

13. La Mejor Comida Mexicana

6522 N 59th Ave, Glendale, AZ 85301

Near Downtown Glendale, this restaurant turns out platters heaped with lamb barbacoa. Though great versions of barbacoa can be found across the metro area, this relative newcomer has already won a place among the most esteemed. Slow-cooked sheep is the main event, yet there are plenty of other standbys, like huaraches and menudo.

6522 N 59th Ave
Glendale, AZ 85301

14. Da Vang Restaurant

4538 N 19th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85015

One of the jewels in greater Phoenix’s robust Vietnamese food scene, Da Vang offers a seemingly endless menu of spring rolls, bun, pho, and other specialties. The banh mi are classic and priced well, just like the rest of the menu. Vietnamese hot pot and chao, long-stewed rice porridge, hit the spot even in the withering heat of the desert. 

4538 N 19th Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85015

15. Hana Japanese Eatery

5524 N 7th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85013

Lori Hashimoto’s Japanese restaurant covers a lot of ground: sushi, hibachi, katsu, tempura, soba, and much more. The family-style eatery focuses on the classics and is known for cooking them deftly. Grilled seafood including miso-marinated tuna, yellowtail collar, and whole squid are a highlight. So is the much-celebrated fact that this restaurant is BYOB. 

5524 N 7th Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85013

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16. Fry Bread House

4545 N 7th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85013

A James Beard Award winner, Fry Bread House specializes in Indigenous preparations like stews and tamales. There is an emphasis on the Tohono O’odham recipes that the late founder Cecilia Miller grew up with, like c’emet, a wide flour tortilla cooked in the Sonoran Desert for centuries. It sidekicks soups and wraps burros. Frybread comes in both sweet and savory forms. 

4545 N 7th Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85013

17. Valentine

4130 N 7th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85013

Born mid-pandemic, this deeply modern Southwestern restaurant by Blaise Faber and Chad Price has food, coffee, pastry, and beverage programs that innovate and impress. Cocktails combine regional concoctions like cactus vermouth, Arizona gin, and creosote bitters. Much of Donald Hawk’s intricate cooking centers on desert crops like red fife, heirloom squash, and tepary beans, often using a smoker or woodfire. 

4130 N 7th Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85013

18. Durant's

2611 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004

Since long before Phoenix was a sophisticated metropolis, Durant’s has been cooking steaks. In recent decades, the red-lighted dining room has been a place for power lunches and meetings between town’s movers and shakers. It is a classic steakhouse through and through, with giant broiled cuts of meat and buttered seafood dishes out of the 20th century.

2611 N Central Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85004

19. El Chullo Peruvian Restaurant & Bar

2605 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

Peruvian restaurant El Chullo remains one of the best South American restaurants in greater Phoenix. Esperanza Luzcando and Jose Ramirez keep plates classic and cover plenty of ground, from seafood (ceviche, jalea) to beef (lomo saltado, skewered hearts) right on down to choclo (large-kennel corn) and the ubiquitous huancaina (smooth yellow pepper sauce).

2605 N 7th St
Phoenix, AZ 85006

20. TEG Torta Shop - Tortas El Güero

2518 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

Owner Gustavo Lom’s shop is a mainstay of the 16th Street corridor, a hotbed of great Mexican eating. He plates Mexican-style sandwiches with fillings like cochinita pibil and fried turkey tails. A fiery torta ahogada sees a bolillo roll stuffed with tender pork and avocado smothered in chile de arbol sauce. Lom also stocks a decked-out salsa bar. 

 

2518 N 16th St
Phoenix, AZ 85006

21. Barrio Cafe

2814 N 16th St #1205, Phoenix, AZ 85006

The Mexican food scene in Phoenix can be divided into two eras: before Barrio Cafe’s 2002 opening, and after. Silva Salcido Esparza, a classically trained chef who sold copper-pot-cooked carnitas out of her father’s bakery when she was young, lightly applies French cooking and other techniques to preparations from all over Mexico. Outer and inner walls swirl with painted art. Banana leaves leak cochinita pibil juices. Agave-based spirits brim in cold glasses. 

2814 N 16th St #1205
Phoenix, AZ 85006

22. Glai Baan

2333 E Osborn Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

This Central Phoenix restaurant specializes in the fare of Northeastern Thailand. Chef Pornsupak “Cat” Bunnag highlights dishes from her native Ihsan, with an emphasis on street food. String lights cross above a cozy dining room of brick walls and framed pictures. Below, an eclectic crowd slurps khao soi and digs into mackerel fried rice. The cocktail program helmed by Maxwell Berlin ranks among the top in town. 

2333 E Osborn Rd
Phoenix, AZ 85016

23. Binkleys Restaurant

2320 E Osborn Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

The Binkley’s dining experience, at least three hours and at least a dozen courses, unfolds in a small house that recreates the experience of a dinner party. You start on the patio for light drinks and bites, move to a bar for imaginative bar food, and finish in a formal dining room with a run of more formal courses. At any point in the meal, you can get up and browse the house, and even watch genre-bending New American chef Kevin Binkley in the kitchen. 

2320 E Osborn Rd
Phoenix, AZ 85016

24. Nelson's Meat + Fish

2415 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

Chris Nelson summons impossibly fresh seafood to the desert from far waters of the world. What isn’t sold whole is sold as prepared food like lobster rolls and salmon banh mi. The rotating ceviche might feature Nantucket Bay scallops and blood orange, and John Dory and yuzu the next. Don’t miss the oysters or raw fish platters made using whatever’s fresh. 

2415 E Indian School Rd
Phoenix, AZ 85016

25. Pizzeria Bianco

4743 N 20th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016

Chris Bianco makes some of the country’s most fabled pizzas. He and his team source and mill ever-changing flour blends, hand-shape mozzarella, and top pies with tomatoes from his own California label. His style sets the focus on an intricate, shattering crust that calls to mind the ancient flatbreads predating pizza. It eludes standard category and is probably best defined by the crowds and giddy critics that have flocked in for decades.

4743 N 20th St
Phoenix, AZ 85016

26. Dick's Hideaway

6008 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016

Like the other restaurants in the Richardson’s family, this sliver of a room dominated by bar space specializes in New Mexican cuisine, though the menu strays. Green and red chile sauces slather a good portion of the dishes, including carne adovada sliders, chile relleno, pork belly, and a tamale of the day. 

6008 N 16th St
Phoenix, AZ 85016

27. FnB Restaurant

7125 E 5th Ave #31, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

For more than a decade, Charleen Badman has skillfully turned the Valley’s bounty into vegetable-forward plates that draw inspiration from a constellation of world cuisines. In 2019, she won a James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest. The intensely local nature of her food is echoed by Pavle Milic’s ambitious beverage program, which puts a rigorously curated roster of common and obscure Arizona wines at center stage.  

7125 E 5th Ave #31
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

28. ShinBay

3720 N Scottsdale Rd #201, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Japan native Shinji Kurita curates omakase dinners, sushi journeys that begin with wildly creative marine preparations and end with long runs of nigiri. He tweezes and torches and tops iridescent slips of fish, slicing and molding and placing bites before you as modern instrumental music plays. The whole experience is pared with rare Japanese beers and sake. 

3720 N Scottsdale Rd #201
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

29. Hush Public House

14202 N Scottsdale Rd #167, Scottsdale, AZ 85254

Chef Dom Ruggiero pulls from an arsenal of skills honed over the years, including butchery, meat curing, smoking, and handmade pasta at Hush Public House. His intimate-yet-unfussy New American restaurant plates novel dish after novel dish, the menu always changing. Staples include crab hushpuppies, date cake, and a riff on Chicago’s Italian beef that celebrates oxtail.

14202 N Scottsdale Rd #167
Scottsdale, AZ 85254

30. Cafe Chenar

1601 E Bell Rd ste a-11, Phoenix, AZ 85022

Run by the Uvaydov family, Cafe Chenar brings the Bukharian culinary tradition to North Phoenix. Dumplings abound, including pelmeni and manti. A wide-ranging selection of kebabs sees liver, sweetbreads, lamb ribs, ribeye, and more cooked on metal skewers. Among the specialties, too, are hearty meat pies, plov, lagman, and grilled Cornish hen.

1601 E Bell Rd ste a-11
Phoenix, AZ 85022

31. Little Miss BBQ-University

4301 E University Dr, Phoenix, AZ 85034

Scott Holmes’s indoor-outdoor barbecue joint by the airport platters Central Texas-style meats. On giant offset smokers welded from old propane tanks, Holmes smokes all of the major barbecue staples, sold by the pound and on sandwiches. His beef — fatty brisket, short rib, and pastrami — is local legend, as is the pecan pie smoked just like the meat.

4301 E University Dr
Phoenix, AZ 85034

32. Cafe Lalibela Ethiopian Cuisine

849 W University Dr, Tempe, AZ 85281

Simply put, Cafe Lalibela is a classic Ethiopian restaurant that has long maintained a top-notch reputation. Tangy discs of injera heap with stews made from meats like beef and vegetables like lentils and split peas. Individual plates bring smaller-form options, like kitfo (raw ground beef) or fried lamb. An impressive Ethiopian coffee and tea program includes clay pot brews. 

849 W University Dr
Tempe, AZ 85281

33. Chou's Kitchen

1250 E Apache Blvd Ste 101, Tempe, AZ 85281

Lulu Zhou and Sunny Zhao’s two Chou’s locations focus on Northeastern Chinese delicacies, but are unafraid to reach to provinces beyond. Noodles, soups, and stews abound. The main events here, though, are savory pies and dumplings. Dumplings are stuffed lavishly: mackerel, squash, pork, and pickled vegetables. 

 

1250 E Apache Blvd Ste 101
Tempe, AZ 85281

34. Haji-Baba

1513 E Apache Blvd, Tempe, AZ 85281

This Tempe eatery and grocery has been serving Arizona State and the surrounding community for decades. Broadly Middle Eastern specialties are surprisingly well priced, including staples like tabbouleh, falafel, and ful medames. Some of the most popular orders are kabobs, Greek gyros, and lamb tongue sandwiches built on hot, handmade pitas, minimally adorned. Several flavors of baklava, like pistachio and Arizona pecan, are available for dessert. 

1513 E Apache Blvd
Tempe, AZ 85281

35. Tacos Chiwas

127 W Main St, Mesa, AZ 85201

Nadia Holguin and Armando Hernandez’s Chihuahuan-style specialties extend far beyond the taco despite their restaurant’s name. Fluffy gorditas enrobe picadillo and shredded beef and burritos are stark, packed with little more than al pastor or lengua, featuring tortillas shaped from freshly milled grains. At the downtown Mesa location, you can also post up at a bar and sip drinks.

127 W Main St
Mesa, AZ 85201

36. Worth Takeaway

218 W Main St, Mesa, AZ 85201

On downtown Mesa’s Main Street, this tiny shop serves sandwiches that depart a little from convention. The signature is a fried chicken sandwich with honeyed Sriracha on soft ciabatta. Roasted pork, Calabrian turkey, and a roast beef jazzed with rotating giardiniera are some of the other favorites. Yes, they open for breakfast.

 

218 W Main St
Mesa, AZ 85201

37. Drunken Tiger

1954 S Dobson Rd #5, Mesa, AZ 85202

Justin Park’s Korean eatery in Mesa is built, to a large degree, for drinking. Diners knock back soju, soju cocktails, soju bombs, Korean beers from bottles and the tap, and numerous related libations from shareable towers. A “drunken munchies” menu section features YOLO orders like bulgogi nachos, kimchi pork fries, and a Korean take on elote. Tteokbokki, yang nyum chicken, and more traditional dishes are on offer, too. 

1954 S Dobson Rd #5
Mesa, AZ 85202

38. 24 Carrots

1701 E Guadalupe Rd, Tempe, AZ 85283

Sasha Raj pulls out so many stops at 24 Carrots — chutneys, “labneh,” powder from mushrooms she forages herself — that “vegan restaurant” doesn’t fully capture her meatless style of cooking. There are raw soups, juices, tacos, “burgers.” Beloved global preparations get thoughtful remixes, everything from dan dan noodles to Sonoran “hot dogs.” 

1701 E Guadalupe Rd
Tempe, AZ 85283

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