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Food & Drink

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Best Biscuits
Rise Biscuit Co.
Few things in life provide the simple, homespun pleasure of a warm, flaky biscuit slathered with butter, honey or jam. Kay Allison’s buttermilk beauties help you recreate the ideal country breakfast in our desert metropolis. Get them hot and fresh daily at UNION at the Biltmore or at Phoenix Public Market’s open market on Saturdays, or order mixes (gluten-free available), biscuit cutters, tea towels and honey sticks on Rise’s website.

Best French Toast
Pain Perdu at Vovomeena
A crossbreed of bread pudding and the classic breakfast treat, Vovomeena’s twist on French toast marries thick slices of banana bread with a decadent whiskey-infused caramel that’s worth a surreptitious plate-lick or two. It’s prepared New Orleans-style, using sweet custard batter instead of plain eggs, making for a rich dish that’s a better (and tastier!) hangover cure than hair of the dog. 1515 N. Seventh Ave., Ste. 170, Phoenix, 602-252-2541,


Best Gourmet Doughnut Shop
Born & Glazed
Partners Nick Campisano and Joshua James – better known as the general manager and mixology maven at Clever Koi, respectively – jumped on the artisanal doughnut bandwagon in 2015 with this dessert pit-stop cleverly named by James’ fiancée Colleen. Bright and trendy, the shop features a rotating selection of flavors including maple-bacon with vermouth, cinnamon roll and prickly pear. Our favorite is the Samoa, a chocolate-drizzled coconut temptation that’s nearly identical in taste to its cookie namesake. 3213 N. Hayden Rd., Scottsdale, 480-284-5007,


Best Sunday Eats
Sunday Love at FnB
Regulars rejoiced when the restaurant moved the late-night Saturday special to all day on Sundays, dubbing the usually global, always comforting dish “Sunday Love.” The only way to know what’s in store each Sunday is to watch the restaurant’s social media streams, when sometime on Saturday, the dish is revealed. It might be Vietnamese bun (chilled noodle salad) or makhlama lahm (Iraqi eggs with spicy lamb and tomatoes). Bonus: Wines by the glass or bottle are half-off on Sundays. 7125 E. Fifth Ave., Scottsdale, 480-284-4777,


Best Green Chile Breakfast
Ranch House Grille
There’s nothing fancy about the chile verde draping an armful of big breakfast plates at this Valley mainstay diner. Sure, there are more gourmet versions around town, but what this homey, soupy stew lacks in flair is more than made up for by honest-to-goodness flavor. Not too spicy, not too mild, the unmistakable flavor of green chile, a touch of cumin and bits of tender pork shoulder wrap around the tongue like a lumberjack hug. 5618 E. Thomas Rd., 
Phoenix, 480-946-1290,


Best Animal-Free Breakfast
Bragg’s Factory Diner
Every breakfast dish at Bragg’s is vegan or vegetarian, from the spicy tofu scramble with fire-roasted poblano to the almond French toast to doughy biscuits with savory pepper gravy. All are safe bets for finicky meat-avoiders, but every dish at Bragg’s holds its own against the animal-based versions found in traditional diners. 1301 NW Grand Ave., Phoenix, 602-733-8076,


Best Bakery
Essence Bakery
Before she opened two award-winning restaurant/bakeries, French-trained Chef Eugenia Theodosopoulos was an award-winning caterer, wowing Phoenicians with French macarons, petit fours and, believe it or not, spanakopita, a nod to her Greek heritage. Since 1994, Theodosopoulos has set the standard for tarts, croissants, galettes, brioche and savory treats like an elegant pot pie and quiche Lorraine. Nobody does French pastries better. 825 W. University Dr., Tempe, 480-966-2745; and 3830 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-296-4958,


Best Burger: Non-Beef Division
The Niman Ranch pork patty is clearly the star of this two-fister DeSoto Central Market SXSW burger, but the accoutrements are no slouches. Charred poblano chile strips, candied jalapeños, roasted corn aioli and pepper jack cheese play award-winning supporting roles, as does a toasted brioche bun. Put it all together and nobody is asking where the beef is. Grab extra napkins for the drip and a cold brew to counter the slight chile kick. 915 N. Central Ave., 
Phoenix, 602-680-7747,


Best Place to Eat Healthy When You’re in a Hurry
Salad and Go
When Roushan Christofellis couldn’t find healthy fast food options in her Gilbert neighborhood, the former elementary school teacher launched her own concept: a “drive-thru salad bar” offering 10 gourmet creations by Bourbon Steak chef Daniel Patino. In less than three years, Salad and Go now has three busy locations in Gilbert and will open another eight – in Phoenix, Cave Creek, Mesa, and Tolleson – by summer 2016. 743 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert and two other locations, 480-304-5662,


Best Food Court
DeSoto Central Market
Far from your stereotypical medley of pizza and wiener-on-a-stick joints, the gourmet food court known as DeSoto Central Market features six chef-driven concepts, including an oyster bar, the Southern-influenced yard bird + the larder, and an Asian fusion bistro called Adobo Dragon. Creator Shawn Connelly likens DeSoto to New York’s famed Chelsea Market, a comparison strengthened by a chic selection of farmers’ market vendors and the soon-to-be-added florist and sandwich shop. 915 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-680-7747,


Best Vegan Bakery
Treehouse Bakery
Eggs, shmeggs. At Treehouse, sisters Corianne and Amanda Sizemore hold their handcrafted treats together sans animal byproducts, and with tasty morsels like cupcakes, cookies, cinnamon rolls, doughnuts, “pop-tarts” and scones, you won’t miss the milk and eggs. Our favorites are the gloriously fudgy brownies. Need a special-occasion cake? The Sizemores have churned out everything from a Mickey Mouse baby shower cake to a Deadpool birthday cake. 1348 W. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, 480-560-5233,


Best Culinary Use of Flowers
Hibiscus Enchiladas at Los Sombreros
Most people enjoy flowers by admiring their beauty and breathing in their fragrance, but Los Sombreros chef/owner Azucena Tovar also gives diners the opportunity to taste them. After soaking the dehydrated hibiscus flowers and blending them with sugar water, she adds caramelized onions, fresh plums, garlic, onion and spices to make a sweet paste. Stuffed into corn tortillas, topped with cheese and smothered in green sauce, the hibiscus transforms from beautiful flower to a taste sensation. 2354 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-994-1799,


Best Fungal Takeover
Original Mushroom Bar at Betty’s Nosh
As far as we know, Betty’s Nosh is home to the only “bar” in the Valley exclusively devoted to fungi. You’ll find a slew of toppings for your mushroom main dish, from “The Godfather” – a hearty combo of meatballs, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese – to “Spinach Florentine,” a veggie-centric blend of steamed spinach and house-made Hollandaise sauce. And for those who are fungi-phobic, you can order the toppings with crostini sans mushrooms. 6685 W. Beardsley Rd., Glendale, 623-561-6674,


Best Brussels Sprouts Dish
Brussels Sprouts Nachos 
at Diego Pops
It’s hard to find a menu these days that doesn’t boast a Brussels sprouts offering, but Diego Pops elevates them to star status. The casual eatery showcases the opinion-evoking vegetable (you either love ‘em or hate ‘em) in its popular nachos appetizer – tortilla chips blanketed in two kinds of queso and a generous dollop of garlic beet crema, layered with crunchy Brussels sprouts and topped with a fried egg. 4338 N. Scottsdale Rd., 
Scottsdale, 480-970-1007,


Best Vegetarian Comfort Food
Spaghetti Squash Casserole at True Food Kitchen
Anyone who’s tried to work with uncooked spaghetti squash knows it takes some muscle and a very sharp knife. At True Food, they do the hard work for you. The faux spaghetti is topped with melted fresh mozzarella cheese and mixed with organic tomatoes and julienned zucchini in a tomato sauce laced with bits of caramelized onion. This dish delivers all the comfort you need, vegetarian or otherwise. 15191 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-265-4500; and 2502 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-774-3488,


Best Non-Traditional Doughnut
Red Wine and Chocolate Pudding Doughnut at Welcome Chicken + Donuts
Wine and chocolate are a natural pairing – especially when combined into one tasty dessert at this airport-area gem. The fruitiness and acidity of dark chocolate elevates the tongue-teasing filling, with the bitter tannins of the vino mitigating the pastry’s sweetness. A dash of Pinot Noir salt adds the finishing touch to activate every taste bud. 1535 E. Buckeye Rd., Phoenix, 602-258-1655,


[meat, etc.]

Best Burger by Budget

Under $5
Teriyaki Burger at Rocket Burger & Subs
Made fresh to order with 100 percent Angus beef and loaded with tangy teriyaki and pineapple, Rocket’s thin, diner-style island patty is juicy and sweet with a buttery bun. 12038 N. 35th Ave., Ste. 2, Phoenix, 602-993-0834,

The Farmer’s Daughter at Ingo’s Tasty Food
The earthy flavor of perfectly prepared grass-fed beef contrasts with tangy sauerkraut and nutty fol epi cheese from the Loire Valley in this grand offering from LGO Hospitality’s pint-size burger shack. 4502 N. 40th St., Phoenix, 602-795-2884,

The Classic Burger at Bink’s Scottsdale
There’s no need to order a bacon cheeseburger at Bink’s, where thick-cut piggy slices are ground directly into the meat. The result is a moist patty dripping with natural juices, served with Lucy’s pickles on a fluffy buttermilk bun. 6107 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-664-9238,

$15 +
Buffalo Burger at The Grind
The Grind’s coal-fired grill is the secret to its success, imbuing locally raised buffalo with a substantial char flavor that provides a sturdy base for white cheddar, crisp bacon and caramelized onions. 3961 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-651-1848,


Food Challenge Quadrathlon
Are you hungry enough to meet these Valley big-plate challenges? A free meal – and, very likely, massive indigestion – await.

Big Papi 6.2-Pound Burrito at Papi Chulo’s Mexican Grill & Cantina
Many have tried, few have succeeded at decimating this plate-size monster tortilla stuffed with shredded meat, sour cream, cheese and tomatoes and smothered in savory sauces. Finish within 30 minutes for a free meal and a spot on the coveted wall of fame. 5101 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-543-1043,

48 oz. Steak at Durant’s
It’s difficult to imagine any of the high-society patrons at this Rat Pack-era hangout wolfing down a massive 48 oz. porterhouse, yet more than 1,000 locals have completed the mighty task over the decades. There’s no time limit for this one (a welcome kindness given the meal’s $105.95 price tag); challengers who beat the meat score membership in the restaurant’s Porterhouse Club. 2611 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-264-5967

30-Inch Pie at Il Primo
Teams of two have one hour to power down a 30-inch pizza with a few pounds of cheese and choice of toppings. The shop’s owners are so convinced that challengers will end up on the losers’ Wall of Shame that victors score free pies for a year. 6661 W. Bell Rd., Glendale, 602-439-1333,

The Belly Buster Burger at Wimpy’s Paradise
There’s no evidence this is the food challenge that frightened Adam Richman into retirement, but it wouldn’t surprise us. We’re talking five half-pound Angus chuck patties separated by four slices of Tillamook sharp cheddar, topped with two fried eggs, and served on a pretzel bun. Many have taken it on, but only two have finished in the allotted 30 minutes. 48 S. San Marcos Place, Chandler, 480-821-3197,


Best Brisket
Texas BBQ House
Though co-founder Mike Pitt’s roots are in Corpus Christi, the meat found at this South Phoenix rib shack is the epitome of Central Texas ’cue: moist and smoky, with fall-off-the-bone texture and melty tallow. Prepared in a wood-pellet Cookshack smoker, the meat takes on a mellow, oaky quality. It’s addictive as-is, or dipped in tangy, mildly sweet house-made barbecue sauce. 5037 S. 24th St., Phoenix, 602-343-6447,


Best Dinner-in-a-Jar
Chicken Pot Pie at The Duce
Recommended by gastronomic guru Guy Fieri of Food Network’s Drive-Ins, Diners and Dives, The Duce’s Mason jar pot pie hits a nostalgic note in keeping with the circa-1928 warehouse digs. Look for thick, creamy chicken gravy that puts Granny’s red-eye to shame, combined with soft veggies and a buttery, golden brown crust that’s a total knockout. 525 S. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-866-3823,


Best Place to Enjoy Bacon by the Glass
Beer Research Institute
While creating the menu for his Mesa brewpub, co-owner Matt Trethewey experimented with making spicy, sriracha-flavored bacon. But it wasn’t until he candied it with a little sugar that he hit the jackpot. His so-called “Meat Candy” quickly became BRI’s signature food item when the brewpub opened last year, available on its best-selling Spanglish sandwich or as a side (a handful of strips served in – what else? – a pint glass). 1641 S. Stapley Dr., Mesa, 480-892-2020,


Best Late-Night Eats
Opened in April 2015 by the FEZ team, Corduroy dishes up shareable, globally-inspired noshes from barbecue pork empanadas and spanakopita to wine-soaked mussels and chicken katsu until midnight Tuesday through Sunday. The house-made desserts and seared scallops with crisp pancetta are stellar – as is the fact you can order a full meal after 10 p.m. without hearing the dreaded phrase, “Kitchen is closed.” 2601 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-374-7585,


Best Southern Food
Yard Bird + The Larder
Hard to believe, but Stephen Jones wasn’t born anywhere near the Bible Belt. But you’d swear that was the case after tasting a few explosive dishes from his DeSoto Central Market stall: chicken fat biscuits, shrimp and grits, and Low Country perlou. Just so y’all know, this ain’t some Mississippi mama’s home cooking. New Jersey-born Jones is a chef (previously at The Boulders and Blue Hound Kitchen), and chefs tend to gussy things up, so expect some panache on your hoppin’ John. 915 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-680-7747,


Best Fried Chicken
Welcome Chicken + Donuts
When the line is out the door at this tiny eatery, it means the Korean fried chicken is finally ready. Chef Michael Babcock (Welcome Diner) twice-fries his fowl in a light batter for a skin that’s almost impossibly crisp. You can eat it au naturel, but for the real experience, have it tossed in one of three thick, clingy Asian sauces. Oh, and get a doughnut, too. Chicken and waffles, watch your back. 1535 E. Buckeye Rd., Phoenix, 602-258-1655,


Best Shrimp and Grits
Lo-Lo’s Chicken and Waffles
There aren’t as many grits-based dishes on Valley menus as those of us with Southern blood might prefer. Thankfully, Lo-Lo’s fills the void with Uncle Brotha’s Shrimp and Grits: seven plump, succulent, spicy crustaceans nestled in a bed of well-cooked hominy – not soupy, but not sludgy, either – with cheese, bacon and mushrooms. It’s a little steep at $15, but then, it’ll be a while before you’re hungry again. 1220 S. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-340-1304, and other Valley locations,


Best Offal
At this easygoing Italian spot, Chef Peter DeRuvo (Sassi, Davanti Enoteca) rotates a variety of meats like other restaurants do their seasonal vegetables. A guy you can trust with roast marrowbones, headcheese, and springy slices of mortadella, DeRuvo will even put together a charcuterie board for the offal-ly serious. His meltingly tender porchetta, a kind of ode to all that is pig, is the best in town. (It might be the only one in town.) 4175 N. Goldwater Blvd., Scottsdale, 480-265-9814,


Best Southwestern
Sierra Bonita Grill
The bold fare coming out of the kitchen in this Sonoran ranch-chic haunt is a rustic fusion of cowboy, Native American and Mexican cooking. Vibrant, zingy green chile pozole is a must. So is a fresh-squeezed margarita. After that, try wrangling cowboy-style buttermilk-fried chicken with chile-studded mashed potatoes and gravy, or saddle up to stacked enchiladas with Hatch green chile sauce. Don’t miss the rollicking happy hour, either. 6933 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602-264-0700,


Best Place for “Iowa-Style” Pizza
Happy Joe’s Pizza
Who knew the Hawkeye State was such a hotbed of pizza creativity? This Bettendorf-based chain, which opened its first Arizona location earlier this year, has a near-cult-like following across the Upper Midwest. It lays claim to inventing the taco pizza in the early 1970s, but its most popular pie is the Happy Joe’s Special: diced Canadian bacon and sauerkraut. 263 E. Warner Rd., Gilbert, 480-474-4500,


Best Italian Deli
Guido’s Chicago Meats & Deli
The smell hits you as soon as you walk in the door – fresh-baked bread rising in the oven, garlicky marinara sauce being poured over mostaccioli, salamis drying in the air. You can order a hot plate of penne pasta or a fat pastrami sammie and shop while you wait, choosing from a great selection of imported Italian pastas, dried meats, cheeses, olive oils and spices. Mangia! 10893 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-951-0636,


Best Meatballs
Pane Bianco
Wars have been fought over lesser meatballs. Eh, maybe that’s a stretch, but if you find a better meatball, we’ll surrender. Francesca Bianco’s long-time recipe is tweaked only by the addition of Arizona grass-fed beef, ground in-house. The ingredients are simple: salt, pepper, garlic, Parmesan, milk-soaked bread and a splash of tomato sauce. A nice sear in olive oil and a turn in the oven and that’s it. Mamma mia. 4404 N. Central Ave., 602-234-2100,


Best Chicken & Gravy
We could have said “Best Antipasti” and called it a day, but among the near 20 appetizers, the chicken thigh reigns supreme. Chef Peter DeRuvo first brines, then marinates the thigh in buttermilk spiked with a “secret” Asian ingredient. Tossed in a rice flour/panko crumb and fried until deep brown, the crisp chicken is served atop olive oil-infused mashed red potatoes and smothered in a duck demi-glace gilded with foie gras. ‘Nuf said. 4175 N. Goldwater Blvd., Scottsdale, 480-265-9814,


Best Deviled Eggs
Salty Sow
If we had only one word to sum up Chef Harold Marmulstein’s take on the beloved picnic staple, it would be this: flawless. Soft, silky yolks are passed through a sieve with mayo, whipped sour cream and Creole mustard for an impossibly light texture. Scented with truffle oil and spiral-piped into expertly cooked and peeled egg whites, it’s hard to know whether to take a picture or a bite. We suggest both – in that order. 4801 E. Cactus Rd., Phoenix, 602-795-9463,


Best Filipino
Casa Filipina Bakeshop & Restaurant
The pastry case is downright mesmerizing, dotted with familiar and not-so-familiar desserts. Those shockingly royal purple-hued ones are made with ube, a Filipino yam – and they’re delicious, not too sweet. Still, you’ll most likely get your pastries to go after filling up on some mighty fine examples of traditional Filipino dishes, like finger-thin lumpia Shanghai (crunchy eggrolls filled with pork) and pancit (garlicky stir-fried glass noodles). 3531 W. Thunderbird Rd., Phoenix, 602-942-1258,


Best Cambodian
Reathrey Sekong
So it’s the only Cambodian restaurant in town, but high marks are in order for boldly flavored dishes served with gracious hospitality in Zen-like digs. The cuisine is inspired by Vietnam, China and Thailand, which is why most dishes feel familiar even if flavor profiles differ. Katheaw noodle soups resemble pho, but are more assertive; lok lak is stir-fried beef; and the national dish, amok, is a robust, steamed tilapia with curry, coconut milk and lemongrass. 1312 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 480-238-0238


Best Eggplant
Beijing Gardens
Eggplant is commonly associated with Mediterranean cuisine: batter-fried with Parmesan over pasta, or in Greek moussaka. Splendid as these are, Asian cooking has plenty of eggplant game, too. This fine, inexpensive Chinese eatery at COFCO Center prepares the noble nightshade fruit two ways: in a spicy sauce, or in a garlic sauce with chopped veggies and hearty black fungi. Either way, Beijing Gardens’ eggplant is – pardon the pun – eggs-cellent. 668 N. 44th St., Phoenix, 602-286-6868


Best Place to Eat with Chopsticks While Reading Comics
The Prime Chinese Restaurant
Inexpensive, delicious Asian favorites in an unpretentious uptown setting are The Prime’s main virtues. But the location is great, too – tucked between the main and discount hubs of All About Books and Comics, so you can grab a bite while reading your latest finds. That is, as long as you don’t mind the odd spot of garlic sauce on your X-Men Legacy #268. 24 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-274-7219


[latin love]

Expand your south-of-the-border repertoire with this all-Latin overview.

Best Tacos
Paz Cantina
The mantle for “best Valley taco menu” is a hard-fought, frequently swapped thing – held variously by Gallo Blanco, Tacos Atoyac and, for exactly nine days in 2012, La Condesa – but we suspect Paz will keep it for a bit. Drawing on his Asian cooking background, Chef Brian Webb always strikes the perfect high-note/low-note balance in his little saucers of heaven, including the insane pork belly taco – a treat for the ages. 1011 N. Third St., Phoenix, 602-368-2487,


Best Margarita
Mexx 32 Signature
Heads turned when Lenny Rosenberg remade his casual Revo Burrito space into a gorgeous, upscale, full-service modern Mexican restaurant. And the signature margarita is a double entendre tongue-wagger. Made with Siete Leguas blanco tequila, Royal Combier (orange liqueur spiced with cinnamon and cardamom), lime juice and agave nectar, the potent elixir is shaken – not stirred – and served in a martini glass with half the rim dipped in a smoky chile salt. 3154 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-522-6255,


Best Bargain Margarita
Paz Cantina
Gotta love a $3 margarita that tastes mucho más deliciosa than house margaritas at most joints – Mexican or not – that charge double. Owner Michael Reyes decided early on that he was going to make a fresh marg without taking customers to the cleaners. He uses 100 percent agave plata tequila, simple syrup, fresh-squeezed organic lemons and limes, and shakes every one to order. You can take that to the bank. 1011 N. Third St., 
Phoenix, 602-368-2487,


Best Cubano
Toro Latin Kitchen
Atypical? Totally, and that’s why we’re so drawn to this (lunch only) Cubano. Get this: a butter-and-pork-fat-griddled bolillo stuffed with plancha-seared carnitas, which started out a day earlier as pork shoulder slowly simmered in condensed milk spiked with orange zest and juice, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and a bay leaf. Black Forest ham, Emmenthal cheese, dill pickles and house-made Chinese mustard sauce round out this lip-smacking bandido. 7575 E. Princess Dr., Scottsdale, 480-585-4848,


Best Mexican Breakfast
Barrio Urbano
For those who prefer their eggs with fiery house-made salsas and spicy longaniza sausage, or their French toast as crisp-edged slabs of bolillo bread alongside piloncillo syrup and curly slices of jalapeño-cured bacon, James Beard Award nominee Silvana Salcido Esparza offers them (and more) at her latest lively little spot inside The Yard. Suddenly, valeting your car for chilaquiles slathered in a stinging roasted tomatillo salsa doesn’t sound so crazy. 5632 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602-287-9000,


Best Chile Relleno Burrito
El Norteño
Muchas gracias to the first amigo who had the gumption to tuck a chile relleno inside a flour tortilla and raise the humble burrito to a new, edacious level. Granted, there aren’t many joints serving the gluttonous beast, but count the rendition from the barebones, old-school El Norteño’s as tops. A batter-fried green chile stuffed with melted cheese and smothered in saucy green chili is wrapped in a soft tortilla for a moan-inducing, heart-stopping shot of Mexican comfort food. 1002 N. Seventh Ave., Phoenix, 602-254-4629,


Best Spicy Carrots
Los Taquitos
Behold, the most underrated sector of Mexican restaurant evaluation: spicy, marinated carrots. Known as zanahorias en escabeche in Spanish, these tangy condiment items – made by marinating carrot shards in white vinegar, onion, jalapeños and myriad spices – have the magical ability to transform any mediocre bean burrito into a ringing symphony of flavor. But they have to be done right – and this North CenPho eatery does them really right, with red peppers, plenty of salt and perfect chew. 7000 N. 16th St., Phoenix, 602-371-01111,


Best Peruvian Restaurant
El Chullo
Culinary school grad Omar Velarde’s hole-in-the-wall family eatery is as homey and warm as its namesake: a woolen hat worn in the Andes. Crunchy maiz chulpe (think soft, salted popcorn kernels) is complimentary with every meal, paving the way for mouthwatering comfort fare such as creamy chicken soup and lomo saltado, a poutine-like mélange of beef strips and fries in a soy-spiked gravy. 2605 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602-279-8425,


Best Uraguayan
Cuban Food’s Bakery and Restaurant
The goodies at this Cuban joint, from the medianoche sandwiches to the shrimp-stuffed plantains, are tempting enough to make grammar tyrants overlook the erroneous apostrophe in the signage. And for those who crave Uruguayan cuisine, there’s the glorious “Uruguyo Bistec,” a pork cutlet wrapped around ham and cheese, over black beans and rice. It’s a Cuban idea of Uruguyan food, but until somebody opens Café Montevideo or something, it’ll do. 10649 N. 43rd Ave., Phoenix, 602-296-5759



Best Spirit Selection Roundup
Many bars and restaurants claim to have the largest selection of a particular type of liquor, but without hiring a CPA to count them, it's debatable. Here are the winners, based on self-reported numbers.

La Hacienda at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
This tony Mexican restaurant stocks close to 240 different tequilas and employs a “Tequila Goddess” to better acquaint guests with the inventory. They offer tequila flights, cocktails or just plain shots. 7575 E. Princess Dr., Scottsdale, 480-585-4848,

Magnum’s Cigars, Wine and Spirits
Boasting around 350 single-malt scotches, 100 small-batch bourbons and more than 100 rye, Irish, Canadian and American whiskeys, Magnum’s has just about every variety and price range a whiskey lover could ask for. 731 E. Union Hills Dr., Phoenix, 602-493-8977,

The Breadfruit and Rum Bar
This downtown haunt features more than 180 premium rums that range in price from $8 to $2,500 for a shot of Appleton Estate 50-year-old. The restaurant has sold three Appleton shots to date. 108 E. Pierce St., Phoenix, 602-267-1266,


Best Tap Takeovers
Third Thursday at Flanny’s
Craft beer bars frequently host “tap takeovers” – tapping multiple beers from one brewery – but few ever match the monthly showcase at this unassuming south Tempe hangout. Breweries both local and national vie for a date more than a year in advance. The “winner” then provides one of the most extensive one-brewery beer selections – often numbering more than two dozen – you’ll ever find in Arizona. It’s the way the craft-beer gods meant for you to sip. 1805 E. Elliot Rd., Tempe, 480-659-0870,


Hottest Craft Beer Scene in the Valley
The craft beer boom is showing no signs of going flat any time soon, and nowhere in the Valley is it frothing more exuberantly than in Scottsdale. In just 18 months, the city – better known for peddling Pinot Noir and vodka-and-tonics than pale ale – has welcomed four new breweries: Goldwater, Scottsdale, Two Brothers and Fate South. Old Town also boasts several craft-focused restaurants and bars like Craft 64, which devotes all 35 of its taps to Arizona beers.


Best Autumn Craft Brew
Picacho Pecan Pie Brown Ale at Arizona Wilderness Brewing
Pan-roasted pecans, vanilla beans, grade B maple syrup and a handful of homemade pecan pies tossed directly into the mash make this Halloween brew a sellout every year. Not only does the American style nut brown go down smoothly, it tastes and smells like mom’s kitchen at Thanksgiving. Carbonation is low, for easy drinkability, and the flavor is nutty with a deliciously sweet undertone that sneaks up as the brew warms to room temperature. 721 N. Arizona Ave., Gilbert, 480-284-9863,


Best Place to Watch a Monsoon
Second Story Liquor Bar
As good as the show is inside, patrons can catch an even better performance sitting outside on the wraparound outdoor patio during a monsoon. Pull up a chair, order a cocktail and get a front row seat to Mother Nature’s wrath. Added bonus: The restaurant recently introduced its “Whiskey Monsoon – When it Rains, We Pour” program, which gives discounts on whiskey and whiskey cocktails every time it rains in the Valley. 4166 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-945-5555,


Best “Biker” Bar
Spoke & Wheel
Retro cruiser décor, patio “parking” and Southwest-inspired pub fare make S&W a popular pit-stop for two-wheelers cruising the adjacent Arizona Canal path. As a bonus for riding in on pedal power, cyclists score happy hour specials all day, every day. Deals include $5 craft cocktails and tap wines, plus $4 guacamole and discount taco platters ($7.95). 8525 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-870-8843,


Best Cocktail Program
Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour
Scottish-born mixologist Ross Simon churns out more than just variety with his expansive, imaginative cocktail program, chicly advertised in a 24-page booklet. Highlights include a “flawless” martini chilled to 10 degrees Fahrenheit and the crème de banana-infused On Like Donkey Kong. While Simon’s selection of 60-plus hand-me-down recipes, vintage classics and creative sparklers is impressive, it’s his attention to detail – for example, using hand-carved ice balls and house-made syrups – that really makes us tipsy. 1 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix, 602-340-1924,


Best Arizona Wine in a Can
Dos Cabezas Canned Pink
“Pink in a can” developed a cult following in a nanosecond, wiping out the limited supply in a matter of months. Dos Cabezas’ sought-after rosé became even more desirable after Todd and Kelly Bostock put it in aluminum and added bubbles. Inspired by a camping trip, canned Pink – at a whopping 14 percent alcohol content – is 16 ounces and meant for sharing – and, sadly, all gone until next spring, when the couple plans to quadruple production. 3248 Highway 82, Sonoita, 520-455-5141,

Best Neighborhood Sandwich Joint

No matter the day, count on ingredients hailing from local ranchers and farms on the lone lunchtime sandwich, but Wednesdays bring a new, inspired vegetarian number worth the trip. 7125 E. Fifth Ave., Scottsdale, 480-284-4777,

East Valley
With Eliot Wexler’s obsessive passion for flavor, of course the sandwiches are knockouts, but the one getting the most attention is the breakfast pastrami on famed, New York-imported H&H bagels. 777 S. College Ave., Tempe, 480-758-5322,

Noble Eatery
It doesn’t matter which of the three or four daily sandwiches you choose. All are made with baker Jason Raducha’s version of Turkish pide bread and stuffed with chef Claudio Urciuoli’s primo ingredients, like coppa, white cheddar and Anaheim chiles. 2201 E. McDowell Rd., Phoenix, 602-688-2424,

West Valley
JP McGurkee’s Sandwich Shop
It’s the sea of sesame seeds on the sub rolls that keep us coming back. Whether the toasted rolls are stuffed with classic deli meats and cheeses or marinara-coated meatballs, that roll is the bomb. 2822 N. 15th Ave., Phoenix, 602-274-4262



Best Place to Satisfy a Sweet Tooth
Shoes and chocolate may be most women’s Achilles heels, but at Rayner’s, men and women alike go crazy for this west side confectionary’s signature chocolate stilettos. The petite dark and white chocolate shoes melt on the tongue, but English-born pastry chef Tony Rayner’s ultra-flaky French croissants and caramel-glazed sticky buns are the real stars here. 14021 N. 51st Ave., Ste. 106, 
Glendale, 602-374-4107,


Best Pie
Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Crème at The Pie Hole
The creamy, pudding-like goodness of banana cream pie literally pales in comparison to Mamma Toledo’s over-the-top peanut version. It’s the love child of chocolate silk pie and peanut butter and banana sandwiches – rich and sweet, with chunks of fruit and a layer of frothy whipped cream on top. 2329 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602-332-7346,


Best Vegan Pies
Bragg’s Factory Diner
How Dana Stern achieves the tender, flaky – dare we say buttery? – crust for her pies without butter is an open secret: The BFD co-owner and pastry chef uses vegan cookbook author Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s recipe, but with her own spin. What a spin it is. From classic pies like pumpkin and pecan to experimental favorites like watermelon chiffon and green tea-lingonberry, Bragg’s pies are some of the best we’ve had, period. 1301 NW Grand Ave., Phoenix, 602-733-8076,


Best Worst-Named Dessert
Beaver Supreme at Beaver Choice
Like its namesake Swedish-Polish-Canadian restaurant, this signature dessert’s odd moniker certainly doesn’t conjure up appetizing imagery. But just wait until the first time your tongue plunges into the depths of its decadent chocolate-and-walnut meringue, probing the rich house-made whipped cream and nibbling at the juicy pieces of orange. You’ll reach such levels of ecstasy that, in future encounters, you’ll no longer hesitate to dive in. 745 W. Baseline Rd., Mesa, 480-921-3137,


Best Marshmallows
Fluff It Marshmallow Cafe
Say “So long!” to basic s’mores. At Fluff It, marshmallow maven Tricia Medina and her partner Hazel Arce infuse homemade marshmallow “fluffs” with peanut butter, mint, toasted coconut, coffee and more. Stop in at their Gilbert “marshmallow cafe” and splurge on marshmallow pops and a made-to-order s’mores bar with graham-cracker bowls, fruit, cookie crumbs, whipped cream and more. 1034 N. Gilbert Rd., Gilbert, 480-686-9071,



Best Secret Menu Item
Caprino Bruschetta at Vivo!
It’s not on the menu, but ask your server for the Caprino bruschetta appetizer and the kitchen will whip up an order of the crisp-crust Italian bread slathered with creamy goat cheese, studded with ripe figs and drizzled with honey. This sweet sensation tastes more like dessert than a starter, but who says you have to save dessert until the end of the meal? 6560 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-699-9081,


Friendliest Culinary Competition
Chef Off!
Three years ago, chefs Romeo Taus (Romeo’s Euro Cafe), John Wong (sN Asian Kitchen) and Lori Hassler (Radda Caffe-Bar) were brainstorming ways to promote chefs and restaurants in the East Valley. The result was Chef Off!, a series of friendly, one-night competitions between two chefs at one of their restaurants. Diners sample three dishes from each chef and declare a winner, who advances to face the next challenger.


Best Food Festival
Devoured Culinary Classic
Taking place at various venues around town over the course of a week, Devoured is like the epicurean Olympics of Phoenix, with a handful of different events including the Bartending Competition, Palette to Palate (which pairs chefs and painters to interpret each others’ work), and Culinary Classics on Saturday and Sunday (each featuring food from more than 100 local chefs). Feb. 28-March 6, 2016. Various locations,


Best Food Festival: Mobile Division
Street Eats at Salt River Fields
Given the absence of a dedicated food truck hub in the Valley, ardent fans are known to dutifully Twitter-track their favorite meals-on-wheels to stay in the loop. The other solution: Go to the Phoenix New Times-sponsored Street Eats festival, which gathers more than 50 local trucks together into a giant outdoor food court of favorites such as Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers, Hao Bao Asian dumplings and Maine Lobster Lady. What could make it even better: More $2 tasting items, so you don’t have to blow your whole wad on a $20 clam roll. The 2016 festival is slated to take place over two days in early February. 7555 N. Pima Rd., Scottsdale,


Best New Food Truck
Yatai Ramen
Taking its name from the traditional word for a Japanese food cart, Japanese-born noodle guru Mark Kondo’s little red wagon is a treat for miso lovers. Premium ramen features thin-sliced pork, corn and boiled egg in delightfully salty broth, while rotating specials like pork belly fried rice and gyudon (braised beef over rice) satisfy heartier appetites. Yatai suffered a wheel blowout this summer, but Kondo plans to hit the streets again come soup weather.


Best Place to Spot a Chef on a Wednesday Morning
Uptown Farmers Market
Check the shoes. Kitchen clogs are a dead giveaway about who’s cruising the mid-week farmers’ market. You might spot Stephen Jones (DeSoto Central Market), Aaron Chamberlin (St. Francis/Phoenix Public Market Café), Charleen Badman (FnB) and Justin Beckett (Beckett’s Table/Southern Rail). Top toques shop – and talk shop – at McClendon’s Select, Noble Bread, Crow’s Dairy, Homeboy’s Hot Sauce, Abby Lee Farms and Holy Mackerel Fresh Seafood, just to name a few favorite stalls. 5757 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-859-5648,


Most Seamless Chef Transition
Bourbon Steak
Collective moans from stunned foodies reverberated throughout the Valley when celebrity Chef Michael Mina transferred Chris Curtiss to his new outpost in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara in late 2014. Broken hearts mended quickly when Jeremy McMillan picked up the tongs. The Cactus High School graduate’s time on the East Coast at farm-to-table Talula’s Garden and luxe Bedford Post Inn reflect on the plate, showcasing local ingredients with his own heart-fluttering flair. And Mina’s signature lobster pot pie is as mind-blowing as ever. 7575 E. Princess Dr., Scottsdale, 480-585-4848,


Best Museum Chef
Matt Taylor, Gertrude’s
Museum restaurants must cater to all patrons’ tastes, but Chef Matt Taylor slyly expresses his devilishly good Southern sensibilities without ruffling any feathers on the please-all menu. Tucked between the garden greens, the daily soup and the French dip are a rotating, seasonal mix of Dixieland treasures like plump mussels bathed in ham hock broth, Carolina Gold grits with charred tomatoes and a year-round lusty gumbo that would make Chef Paul Prudhomme weep. 1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, 480-719-8600,


Best Unreviewable Restaurant
Counter Intuitive
By the time you read this, the lovely Cuban ceviche and jamón-topped deviled eggs we enjoyed at Peter Kasperski’s elusive Old Town speakeasy will nearly be a thing of the past. Blame it on reinvention junkie Kasperski, who dreamed up the idea to revamp the food and cocktail menus every three months, using exotic fictional backstories, or “chapters,” to guide the mixologists and chefs. So out with the Picasso-in-Cuba theme, in with the new Shanghai-street-food theme, effective mid-October. Adding to the wiliness: CI is open only eight hours a week and doesn’t have a website. Aye, she’s a fickle lover, indeed. 7133 E. Stetson Dr., Ste. 4, Scottsdale


Best Chef Collaborations
Welcome Chicken + Donuts
Chef collaborations are de rigueur these days, but one of the most creative pop-up unions doesn’t have a name – or a regular schedule – and is only announced through social media. Michael Babcock (co-owner of WC + D) calls a chef and says, “Hey, let’s play.” The result is Helen Yung’s (Sweet Republic) red bean-stuffed doughnut with matcha glaze, or Lori Hashimoto’s (Hana Japanese Eatery) umeboshi-glazed wings, or Jeff Kraus’ (Crepe Bar) kimchee peach fritters. Crazy. Good. Stuff. 1535 E. Buckeye Rd., Phoenix, 602-258-1655,


Best Store to Score Local Products
The Bodega at FnB
Outside of weekly farmers’ markets, the best place to snag local products is a tiny storefront attached to FnB. From the beginning, Pavle Milic and Charleen Badman committed to carrying only locally made goods and produce. The Bodega was one of the first to carry Hayden Flour Mills and Noble Bread. Pick up Homeboy’s Hot Sauce, Tracy Dempsey Originals confections, Agritopia dates, Crow’s Dairy goat cheese and whatever vegetables are in season from all the local farms. 7125 E. Fifth Ave., Scottsdale, 480-284-4777,


Best Kid’s Menu for Foodie Parents
St. Francis
While good-food-centric parents dip into baked goat cheese with walnut pesto and dine on wood-roasted salmon paired with quinoa, their adorable tots dip seasonal veggies into buttermilk dressing and snack on chicken with hummus. Parents can linger over after-dinner drinks and dessert while the kiddos rummage through a giant toy box tucked in a corner. The hip eatery isn’t just family-friendly – it’s wallet-friendly, too. Kids under 10 eat free. 111 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-200-8111,


Best Underground Dining
Dinner Lab
Hatched in New Orleans and now operating in 30-plus markets, this subscription-based pop-up supper club splashed onto the Phoenix scene earlier this year. What’s unique isn’t the secretive nature of the unexpected locations – it’s the course-by-course feedback guests leave via a survey after dinner, which is later shared with the chefs, many of whom are either local ringers (Matt Taylor, Gertrude’s) or up-and-comers (Mitch Neely, Frites Street food truck) or out-of-towners (Tan Uckan).


Best Pooch-Friendly Restaurant
The Monastery
With three acres, a sand volleyball court and an outdoor grill, The Monastery is more like a backyard party than a watering hole. Park your pup by the horseshoes and toss a few ringers, or bring a Frisbee and get Fido in on the action. Better yet, spoil Spot with a late-night birthday bash after the kids have been kicked out at 8 p.m. and toss a few charbroiled beef patties his way. 4810 E. McKellips Rd., Mesa, 480-474-4477,


Best Local Wine Club
Red Goat Wine
What does a $19 monthly membership fee get you? Access to smoking hot deals on Old and New World wines personally curated by wine geek Pavle Milic and his staff. Geared toward the daily wine drinker, club members receive a weekly email featuring an average of three under-the-radar wines a week with extensive history and tasting notes at rock-bottom prices. Bonus? A portion of the membership fee goes to Scottsdale charity Concerned Citizens for Community Health. 7125 E. Fifth Ave., Scottsdale, 480-284-4777,


Best Local Drive-Thrus
You’re hungry. You have to be across town in half an hour. Before you resign yourself to McDonald’s, head to these happening little hubs for locavores on the go.

The Stand
Feel better about your next burger binge or taco tornado with fresh, homemade fast-food favorites at this Arcadia institution. 3538 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-314-5259,

Brushfire Tacos y Tapas
Empanadas, croquetas, tacos and papas bravas in mere minutos? Sí, por favor. 8395 W. Thunderbird Rd., Peoria, 623-776-3556,

Salad and Go
Eat clean and fast with this East Valley chain’s cornucopia of salads, wraps, superfood smoothies and grain-based bowls. Check online for locations.

32 Shea
Get the OMG sandwich (prosciutto, mascarpone, figs and honey) and a lavender latte without leaving your car – because fast food needn’t preclude fanciness. 10626 N. 32nd St., Phoenix, 602-867-7432,

Federal Pizza
Gourmet pies are just the tip of the drive-thru iceberg at this CenPho hotspot: You can also get bottles of wine and growlers of beer. 5210 N. Central Ave., 602-795-2520,


Best Neighborhood Seafood
Find the best seafaring fare in your neck of the woods.

The Yacht Club
Chef Aaron May’s newish watery world is a laid-back, sophisticated place for top-notch dishes like miniature lobster rolls, seared scallops with salsa verde, and halibut in a silky, herb-laden broth. 4231 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-368-2088,

James Beard Award-nominated chef Shinji Kurita’s exquisite offerings of whole blue crab, broiled prawns, and wild-caught sushi make this refined spot of Japanese cuisine the kind of place seafood lovers fantasize about. 7001 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-664-0180,

East Valley
High Tide Seafood Bar & Grill
Batches of fish stew, Louisiana gumbo, and spicy seafood pasta are dropped from shiny steaming kettles that line the counter into waiting bowls at this welcoming restaurant-meets-seafood-stand in Gilbert. 2540 S. Val Vista Dr., Gilbert, 480-821-9950,

West Valley
Oscar’s Pier 83
Like most everybody else at this affable, wallet-friendly spot in Glendale, you’ll probably be having the crunchy fish and chips, made with seafood staples likes fried true cod, mahi-mahi, and calamari. 18589 N. 59th Ave., Ste 111, Glendale, 602-843-6820,