The Valley is in the midst of a burger boom, grilling the gamut from fast-food favorites to haute hamburgers.
But who’s busting out the best? We graded nine of the city’s favorite meat retreats – rating everything from beef to bun and sides to service – to discover the winner.
Decked in a striking palette of royal blue and black, with dramatic wrought-iron design flourishes and a picture-window-framed desert view, the Scottsdale location of this local mini-chain is one cool burger joint.
Travis Watson has cooked professionally for 25 years, toggling between savory and sweet. In his current job as the executive pastry chef at T. Cook’s at the Royal Palms Resort, he’s firmly back on the sweet side and riffing on old-school desserts.
“I like to do traditional desserts you’ve heard of but just have never seen interpreted like this before,” he says.
Consider his new butterscotch crème caramel ($13). Unlike a traditional French crème caramel, a cousin of Spanish flan, Watson presents it in a tiny Le Creuset pot instead of unmolded on a plate.
A native Arizonan, Debrah Roberti briefly lived in New Mexico, where she fell in love with chiles and heirloom beans and developed an appreciation for the freshly ground spices that define Southwestern cuisine.
Back in Mesa, Roberti started the Arizona Spice Company in 2008 because she couldn’t find salsa and spice mixes that weren’t too salty or loaded with preservatives, or in the case of dry spice mixes, didn’t contain anti-caking additives.
“Other spice companies have called me and asked me what anti-caking ingredient I use, and I say ‘a butter knife,’” she says with a laugh.
Thanks to urban hotspots like Copper Blues and its neighbor, Stand Up Live, Phoenix nightlife is no longer an oxymoron.
Copper Blues’ big-city vibe begins when patrons enter the CityScape venue through a second-story, open-air bar overlooking Downtown. The slick interior is cavernous but not cold, dotted with booths, bar-height tables and a stage where more than 60 beer taps stand proud in the spotlight. As the name of the place suggests, copper pipes siphon beer from the barrel room to the taps, but the music isn’t particularly blues-heavy. Instead, new and old rock hits – played earlier on the sound system and later by cover bands – appeal to a wide age range. Deejays take the helm to spin Top 40 at 11:30 p.m.
The Tran sisters’ take on modern Vietnamese cuisine lends a tangy lift to the emerging Seventh Street dining scene.
I knew I was going to like Rice Paper as soon as I complained that my calamari was too salty.
Yes, even the finest restaurants miss the mark sometimes, which is why I pay close attention to whether waitstaff and owners sincerely try to keep customers happy – especially when a place is brand-new and still working out the kinks.
Chocolate and peanut butter desserts have been on Elements’ menu since the Paradise Valley restaurant opened in 2001. Pastry Chef Samantha Sharrar recently modernized this menu-must, and it’s the bomb. Technically, it’s a bombe – a half-spherical frozen combo of chocolate-covered peanut butter mousse garnished with tuile cookies and chocolate gelato from Arcadia’s The Grateful Spoon.
Sharrar whips the mousse not once, but twice, freezing it in the interim to create a cloud-like, airy texture, then freezing it again in a half-sphere mold. She bakes buttery tuile cookies and makes a dark chocolate glaze by boiling water, cream and sugar, then whisking in dark cocoa powder.
Make yourself at home at this stripped-down Mexican joint, where fresh, unforgettable Oaxacan dishes shine.
I was clearing my table, ready to dump the detritus and exit Tacos Atoyac, when a heavily tattooed gent glided over, smiled and bussed for me. When I thanked him, he responded by saying, “I eat here so often, I’m just part of the team.”
Open less than a year, Tacos Atoyac has clearly become a neighborhood favorite. Located in a drab little shopping strip in west Phoenix, it’s an immaculate white shoebox of an eatery that’s almost conspicuously unfancy. Orders are placed at a rudimentary counter, but for first-timers it pays to first suss out the menu. Dan Maldonado, the genial proprietor who seemingly never leaves his post, will offer help, explaining that this is Oaxacan cuisine. That means the food is less saucy and cheesy and more veggie-intensive than the usual Arizona-Sonoran variety.
Vive les crêpes! Husband-wife restaurateurs bring a taste of Alsace to Scottsdale Road.
La Petite France is a most
apropos name for this charming Scottsdale bistro – it’s truly a miniature piece of French paradise. Owners and recent Arizona transplants Denis and Catherine Michel (yes, it’s a bona fide mom-and-pop shop) doted on us all night and became visibly giddy when we showed sincere appreciation for their wares. I’ve been to France three times – once, just a day trip to Strasbourg, the owners’ hometown – and contrary to popular perception, the people are warm, hospitable and wildly receptive to anyone interested in their food and culture.
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