Thursday, April 24, 2014



Clever Koi

There's nothing fishy about this slick Modern Asian midtown eatery – and more the shame.

It's hard to put your finger on Clever Koi. At face value, this buzzy neo-Asian hotspot feels exciting and of-the-moment. Spoon a little bit deeper and, while energetic and sincere, Clever Koi feels surprisingly held-back. Less than what it could be.


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Ingo’s Tasty Food

The folks behind La Grande Orange return to the winner's circle with gourmet burgers and classy digs.

When Ingo's Tasty Food opened in November, I asked myself: Does Phoenix really need another haute-burger-inspired eatery? After sinking my teeth into a juicy Ingo's cheeseburger, I had my answer: Why the heck not?


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Cuttlefish Ocean Kitchen

PHM0314Flash-2The heir to the Tomaso restaurant fortune dives into clean, refined coastal Italian fare.

Cuttlefish owner and executive chef Joey Maggiore has some pretty big loafers to fill. His father is Tomaso Maggiore, the culinary godfather whose eponymous Italian restaurant in the Camelback Corridor has charmed Valley palates for 35 years. What's more, Maggiore must live up to expectations set by Cuttlefish's original chef, the Le Bernadin-trained Michael Dei Maggi, whose reign in the kitchen lasted only three days following the Scottsdale restaurant's opening last November.


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50 Best AZ Restaurants

0114BNRWe ate. Then we drove. Then we ate some more. On and on, until we felt qualified to hand you this hand-picked platter of the Grand Canyon State's finest culinary outposts, from Winslow to Sonoita and many points between.

Valley food fanatics do not nosh on foie gras-stuffed quail alone. Nor do they exclusively dine in the prime culinary corridors of Scottsdale and Phoenix. We tried to keep these facts in mind while compiling our list of Arizona's 50 best – or, if you prefer, most essential – restaurants.


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Astor House

Goodbye, eclectic breakfast fare. Hello, Arizona barbecue.

When I heard that Astor House, the quirky Coronado neighborhood sidekick to The Tuck Shop, ditched its New Orleans-themed mishmash menu in favor of smoked meats and barbecue sauce, I tucked a napkin in my shirt and got in line. As any fan knows, central Phoenix is a criminally underserved market for the barbecue arts.

The place is still called Astor House (along with the somewhat ungainly postscript "Coronado 'Cue & Watering Hole"), still has counter service and retains its groovy mid-century decor. But now, hallelujah, there's a real smoker on premises – two, in fact, stuffed with hickory wood. The fragrant slabs of meat pulled from their gobs won't win any Kansas City Barbecue Society trophies, but several specimens will quell your low-and-slow cravings.


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La Ristra

A Los Dos Molinos heir banks on the family legacy at his own New Mexican-inspired eatery in Gilbert.

Family history can be a boon, and a bane.

Tell it to John Gabaldon, owner of the recently opened La Ristra New Mexican Kitchen in Gilbert. As a third-generation flag-bearer of the Los Dos Molinos restaurant clan – a line that traces back to his great aunt, Victoria Chavez, who founded the original Los Dos almost 40 years ago – Gabaldon inherits immediate street cred. At the same time, he faces grand expectations by launching the family's first off-brand venture.


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The Gladly

The culinary troika behind Citizen Public House gives rise to another enchanted New American superpub.

Generally speaking, when you subtract one big-box corporate steakhouse and add one swank independent gastropub, it results in a net positive gain. A food-scene "win." It's basic culinary math.

Case in point: The closing of Ruth's Chris Steak House on Camelback Road near Biltmore Fashion Park, and the subsequent opening of The Gladly in the same space. Led by Chef Bernie Kantak, mixologist Richie Moe and manager Andrew Fritz, the chic New American eatery is a more global, slightly more urbane answer to the trio's beloved Citizen Public House in Scottsdale: inspired pub fare, crazy-good revivalist cocktails and stylish period digs. There are also 175 varieties of whiskey to chose from – a nod to the Roaring Twenties jazz-lounge mystique that also gives the restaurant its name.


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