It’s that time of year again. Our Super Bowl of the savory. Our Emmys of the edible. Our roundup of the year’s elite new purveyors of Valley food-craft.
Warning: Perusing this article may be dangerous for your waistline.
How we picked them: Each of our PHOENIX magazine food writers compiled a Top 10 list of their favorite new restaurants in the Valley. We tallied the scores and used a weighted scale to favor the restaurants that appeared most often – and disadvantage those our writers visited, but left off their lists.
#1 PHOENIX Magazine Restaurant of the Year
Little Miss BBQ
4301 E. University Dr., Phoenix
OPENED: May 2014
CUISINE: Texas-Style Barbecue
HOURS: 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. Tu-Sa
Is Little Miss BBQ the great equalizer of the social classes? Because on most afternoons, when it can seem that half of South Phoenix is packed into the long line winding around the black steel smoker and leading up to its door, you’ll find Porsches parked alongside pickups, and folks in business suits queued up with men in coveralls. And for what? To grab a plate of the best Texas-style barbecue in town. And it’s worth the wait for Scott and Bekke Holmes’ dripping, tender slices of long-smoked brisket, thick and crusty beef ribs, moist pulled pork, smoky pastrami and coarse sausages with a crackly crust. For sides, there are thick, peppery beans loaded with meat fat and creamy jalapeño cheddar grits. With its communal picnic tables, handwritten cardboard menu, and mounds of meat heaped high onto paper-lined trays (with the sauce decidedly on the side), Little Miss BBQ feels like a barbecue bash in a Texas backyard. And when the food runs out, which it often does, your only regret may be that you didn’t get an extra pound of brisket for the road. For indecisive barbecue fans, Holmes can create a sampler tray on which you can get a taste of almost everything.
BNR Extra: The Holmeses were arse-kicking barbecue cook-off ringers in the Valley before hanging their own shingle, entering up to 15 contests per year.
#2 Steak 44
5101 N. 44th St., Phoenix
602-271-4400 , steak44.com
OPENED: April 2014
HOURS: 5 p.m.-midnight daily; bar 4 p.m.-2 a.m. daily
Just when we thought white-linen dining had gone the way of landlines and drive-ins, Jeffrey Mastro, Michael Mastro, Dennis Mastro and Scott Troilo of Dominick’s fame swooped in with this swanky Arcadia steakhouse. The 8,421-square-foot space is carved into intimate dining areas, each with its own designer touches: a 3,000-bottle decorative wine display, stone facades, leather chairs and a wall of rectangular knives that’s a subtle nod to former occupant Cork ‘N Cleaver.
Executive Chef Geoff Baumberger’s menu indulges a few modern mainstays such as buttery braised pork belly, salted brussels sprouts with bacon and upscale meatloaf, but never strays too far from the seafood- and steak-heavy DNA of Dominick’s menu. Steaks range from 8 oz. to a meaty 22 oz. rib-eye, wet-aged for nearly a month and topped with blue cheese, truffle butter, egg or crab cakes for an extra fee. Albacore and stone crab are flown in daily to the raw bar, while tiger prawn scampi and wine-soaked Chilean sea bass are among the more popular cooked seafood entrées. With juicy, well-prepared steaks and comforting desserts that tickle your childhood fancies – think root beer floats, banana splits and Baumberger’s favorite, s’mores in a jar – Steak 44 guarantees a delighted palate and a full stomach.
BNR Extra: Steak 44’s sexy U-shaped bar was crafted from a single walnut claro tree, a popular fruit tree rootstock that has more bark than bite.
#3 Sumo Maya
6560 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale
CUISINE: Latin-Asian Fusion
HOURS: Dinner 5 p.m.-11 p.m. M-Th; 5 p.m.-12 a.m. F-Sa, 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Su; happy hour 3 p.m.-6 p.m. daily; lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. M-Su; brunch 9 a.m.-3p.m. Sa-Su
Sumo Maya is a splashy ambassador of fusion food, an amalgam of polished Latin and Asian cuisine housed in a setting of feng shui chic. The Scottsdale eatery is the latest concept from German Osio, a restaurateur with a knack for pleasing big spenders in their own backyards. Like Osio’s other two restaurants, Local Bistro in North Scottsdale and Central Bistro in the Biltmore area, Sumo Maya has a sophisticated, casual ambiance, but with the added thrills of mile-high ceilings, bright pink paint and a 24-foot tall tree at its center.
Melding the restaurant’s cuisine styles is Matt Zdeb (formerly of Sushi Roku), who puts the tapas-style dishes together with seemingly incongruous flavors and chef-ly finesse. There is duck breast, crisp at its crust and impossibly silky everywhere else, grilled with a soy and sansho pepper vinaigrette. The miso eggplant has a kind of exquisite creaminess. And the outstanding Chinese-style chile-crab garlic noodles, flecked with shiitake mushrooms, green onions and tatsoi, and with a pleasant but determined spiciness, is easily one of the best things on the menu. Superb cocktails, like a mojito made with horchata and coconut purée from Phoenix drink master Bill DeGroot, ensure your fusion has friends.
BNR Extra: Looking forward to meeting founding chef Herb Wilson? Keep looking. Wilson decamped for Florida less than two months after the restaurant’s opening. “It was part of the plan all along,” according to a Sumo spokesperson.
#4 Ingo’s Tasty Food
4502 N. 40th St., Phoenix
OPENED: November 2013
HOURS: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. M-F; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sa; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Su
When LGO Hospitality opened Ingo’s Tasty Food late last year, the menu featured designer burgers, a couple of sandwiches and a shredded kale salad. Though the self-described “gourmet food stand” later added weekend brunch, with selections including crispy chicken and buckwheat waffle, house-cured salmon and eggs and a sweet brown rice breakfast bowl, the menu is tidy in the extreme – and as well-executed as any in the Valley. The restaurant boasts “an honest approach to fresh, quality food with no hidden ingredients” and serves Strauss Free Raised grass-fed beef, organic chicken and cage-free organic eggs. Located on the corner of 40th Street and Campbell Avenue in Arcadia, Ingo’s also sports one of the Valley’s niftiest dining spaces, including a shaded picnic area, a wine and beer garden, and indoor counter seating with a view of the griddle. True to its food-stand roots, Ingo’s shines in the burger and sandwich arena. Any discussion of the Valley’s most addictive bites must include the intoxicatingly tangy Ingo’s cheeseburger, made with freshly ground and cooked-to-order beef, a slab of Black Creek cheddar and a house-made pickle on a fresh poppy seed bun slathered with mayonnaise. Finally, the LGO folks also provide the Valley’s best culinary parting gift:complimentary, self-serve cookies under glass. We are, in a word, hooked.
BNR Extra: Ingo’s distinctive cylindrical building was designed by local architect Will Bruder, who designed the Burton Barr Central Library and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.
#5 Urban Vine
2201 N. Seventh St., Phoenix
OPENED: May 2014
HOURS: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. M-Su; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tu-Th; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. F-Sa; happy hour 3 p.m.-sunset daily
In 2013, former Kai chef Michael O’Dowd opened Renegade by MOD, a sprawling restaurant in North Scottsdale that received acclaim for its adventurous food and culinary risk-taking. Sadly, it didn’t last. This year, he opened Urban Vine in Central Phoenix, a small, laid-back venue where he simplifies his cooking while keeping the intensity of his flavors intact.
There is an elegant display of scallop ceviche served in a martini glass, its microgreens and tiny strands of carrot as astonishingly fresh as the seafood. Bright strawberries, accenting thick wedges of chunky and chocolatey Snickers bread pudding, are macerated with sugar, mint and brandy. And the 24-hour pork belly, redolent with the stuff of mole – chocolate, cinnamon, chile peppers – and perched atop an orange slick of ginger-peach chutney, is a kind of meaty, spicy and sweet main-course masterpiece – one that’s best dredged repeatedly with a perfect slice of grilled bread. The restaurant, a 1920s home with tiny candlelit rooms, creaky floors and walls swathed in earthy tones, is devoid of any contrivance. O’Dowd’s cooking feels the same: an honest interpretation of what was already perfect to begin with.
BNR Extra: Check out co-owner and sommelier John Rothstein’s small but thoughtful wine selection.
#6 Forno Fabbri
8977 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale
480-907-5202 , fornofabbri.com
OPENED: December 2013
HOURS: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. M-Th; 8 a.m.-10 p.m. F-Sa
Pinch yourself. Eating at Stefano Fabbri’s delightfully inexpensive, modern bakery, café and market – be it breakfast, lunch or dinner – is as close as you can get to Italy without getting on a plane. Contiguous to Fabbri’s POMO Pizzeria Napoletana, the chic interior sports a butcher-block counter with bright orange stools overlooking the mozzarella and salumi bar. Start the morning with a ricotta-stuffed sfogliatella and a latte macchiato for less than $10. Stay for lunch and the Roman-style pizza – thick and fluffy, cut into rectangles. Try the tomato-based Calabrese, topped with spicy salami and black olives. Small but filling plates make up the dinner offerings, from huge arancini (fried risotto balls) to lusty polpette (Sicilian-style meatballs) to the incredibly simple but deeply flavored stewed peperonatas with eggplant, red peppers and onions, swimming in a tangy tomato sauce. Pair it with crusty loaf bread or focaccia, both baked daily. Maybe stop by for a mozzarella sampling (there are four styles) or a cheese and salumi board, paired with a boutique Italian wine. Or, grab essentials to make your own spread at home, including imported olives, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Do not skip dessert, especially the creamy fig and almond semifreddo and the lemon-kissed torta della nonna (Grandmother’s cake) that’s more pie than cake.
BNR Extra: Chef Francesca Ciro moved directly from Sicily to Scottsdale around nine months ago to lead the kitchen.
#7 The Henry
4455 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
OPENED: December 2013
CUISINE: Modern American
HOURS: 11a.m.-10 p.m. M -Th; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. F; 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Sa; 8 a.m.- 9 p.m. Su; happy hour 4-6 p.m. M-F
The fifteenth Sam Fox restaurant concept to open in as many years, The Henry is clearly one of Fox’s favorite “children” – perhaps because it’s located at FRC headquarters. Executive Chef Chris Wolven, who trained under M Catering mastermind Michael DeMaria, presents a stellar menu of tweaked comfort classics, from Argentine-grilled pork chops to braised short ribs and crisp, decadent white truffle parmesan fries. Heirloom quinoa tacos and a smoky Skuna Bay salmon salad with onion vinaigrette satisfy lighter appetites, while the chef’s buttermilk fried chicken sammy and gemelli pasta with house-made bacon are some of the best heavy-hitters around. The innovative cocktail program appeals to gentlemen with a Scotch and bourbon “browns” focus, while ladies who lunch can’t get enough of the whimsical customize-your-own Bloody Mary cart (weekends only). Wake up with a hit from the adjacent caffeine station XV, accompanied by carrot cake pancakes with cream cheese butter that rival the dessert menu’s peanut butter banana cake in sweetness. Offering three square meals with a variety of healthful and rich options, The Henry has become a go-to neighborhood staple for Arcadia diners.
BNR Extra: “Homestyle” isn’t just a superfluous adjective here. Nana Stoll’s Coffee Cake, available at XV, is made from a family recipe passed down by Fox CFO Brian Stoll’s mother.
8777 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale
OPENED: December 2013
CUISINE: Italian Seafood
HOURS: 3 p.m.-10 p.m. daily; happy hour 3 p.m.-7 p.m. daily
The centerpiece at this swanky oasis in the desert is a curved oyster bar with Vespa scooters (complete with working taillights) as barstools – but it’s no gimmick. This white and turquoise-splashed modern Italian seafood restaurant is from Joey Maggiore, son of Valley restaurant titan Tomaso Maggiore. As a partner in the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, Cuttlefish is committed to purchasing only environmentally responsible seafood. It’s hard to go wrong with anything from the pristine raw bar – think ice-cold oysters or Middleneck clams, served with blood orange mignonette and fiery horseradish, colossal shrimp cocktail, and albacore tartare with pear and jalapeño. Nibble through the savory appetizer section featuring the namesake cephalopod cut into strips, battered with chickpea flour and fried, served with charred tomato sauce. Don’t miss the orecchiette mac and cheese crowned with lump crab meat. Although ocean fare dominates the entrées (hello, exquisitely seared scallops), meat lovers shouldn’t fret. Cuttlefish serves a lush beef ragù pappardelle scented with truffle, to-die-for wine-braised short ribs, and a veal chop with Marsala mushroom sauce that rivals steakhouse fare. Combined with smooth, polished service and a smartly curated wine list heavy on Italian grapes, Cuttlefish is a mighty fine catch.
BNR Extra: Regulars know that Wednesday’s happy hour (3 p.m-7 p.m.) means half-price oysters and Champagne.
#9 The Gladly
2201 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
OPENED: August 2013
CUISINE: Contemporary American
HOURS: Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. M-F; dinner 3 p.m-10 p.m. M-Th, 3 p.m.-11 p.m. F-Sa; brunch 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Su; happy hour 3 p.m.-6 p.m. daily
Let’s get one thing straight: The Gladly – the sleek sophomore effort from chef Bernie Kantak (pictured) and front-of-the-house guy Andrew Fitz – is not a carbon copy of their Citizen Public House, one of Scottsdale’s best-loved neighborhood joints. Sure, this Camelback Corridor haunt appeals to CPH denizens, but it has its own legion of fans. Like CPH, the cocktail program is topnotch, pouring its own proprietary tipples, like Negroni on tap and Thai-flavored margaritas. Then there is the whiskey and Scotch list to consider, upwards of 200 bottles. Yeah, the grub is signature Kantak – jacked-up comfort food – but with more global accents from flavor missiles like tangy tamarind, earthy cumin and hot Calabrian chiles.
A couple of favorites from CPH made their way across town, including the original chopped salad, but The Gladly, which recently underwent a minor nip and tuck to brighten up the neutral décor, stands on its own with boldly flavored appetizers and big plates. Lush pistachio-chicken liver pâté sets the tone while Nutella-braised short ribs and pork confit with popcorn grits seal the deal. Did we mention s’mores bread pudding? Like CPH, The Gladly entertains the late-night weekend crowds into the wee hours of the morning with cocktail specials and discounted eats, but unlike CPH, The Gladly is open for lunch.
BNR Extra: Three words: pickled pork temples. Kantak turns a rarely – if ever – used cut into a tasty swine snack.
#10 Southern Rail
300 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
OPENED: May 2014
CUISINE: New Southern
HOURS: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. M-F; 5-10 p.m. M-Su; social hour 3-6 p.m. M-F
Chef Justin Beckett opened Southern Rail, his unabashed, grits-and-all ode to the glory of Southern cuisine, at the end of May – just in time for our beloved triple-digit summer heat. Truth be known, it wasn’t the most opportune moment to unveil the restaurant, with its perspiration-inducing menu and exquisite street-side patio that no one in their right mind would even think of using until October. Still, it was obvious Beckett – he of comfort-food palace Beckett's Table – knew what he was doing. Smoking his meats and fish in-house, the chef pays righteous homage to the Carolinas, New Orleans and Texas backwoods pit-barbecue, whipping up Southern favorites like he was born to do them.
Fried green tomatoes – meaty rounds covered in cornmeal batter and fried – are led deliciously left-of-field with a slather of spicy pimento cheese spread; tender smoked pork ribs bathed in a peppery sauce fall off the bone without any help; and peel-and-eat head-on barbecued shrimp thrive in a sea of butter-finished broth accompanied by crusty French bread to sop up every drop. Dessert seekers can satisfy their sweet tooth with a Southern-inspired red velvet cake wrapped in smooth cream cheese frosting or a couple of deep-fried beignets dusted with powdered sugar; or just stick with the toothsome cocktails, including Medlock by Moonlight, an invigorating blend of Ambler Rye Whiskey, honey and maple syrup, lemon juice, AZ Bitters Labs Figgy Pudding Bitters and a splash of ginger ale. By the way, that patio: It’s now the coolest spot in town.
BNR Extra: Southern Rail inhabits the old bones of bygone Valley steak joint Beef Eaters, which was ultimately converted into the much-ballyhooed Newton development, named after Jay Newton, who opened Beef Eaters in 1961.
Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour
1 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix
OPENED: May 2014
CUISINE: Global Small Plates
HOURS: 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Tu-Sa; happy hour 4-7 p.m. Tu-Sa
Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour may already be the perfect Downtown Phoenix watering hole – impeccable drinks, ambitious food, and the kind of big-city feel that’s equal parts cool, comfortable and unpretentious. It’s the brainchild of Arizona Cocktail Week co-founder Ross Simon, whose literal book of cocktails spans a whopping 24 pages but thankfully provides overwhelmed tipplers an easy-to-follow, color-coded map. The difference in the drinking experience here is in the details: premium spirits, house-made syrups and fresh-squeezed juices. Even the ice is harder and colder than your standard bar’s. The food is just as spot-on – a tight selection of bar bites gone global from chef-partner Bob Tam. There are nuggets of crunchy fried chicken atop lively watermelon kimchi; bulbous charred cuttlefish poking out from glass noodles bathed in a chile-lime sauce; and a ramen burger whose near-perfect soy-drenched patty transcends the novelty of its crisp ramen “bun.” Located, coincidentally, in the historic building that once housed the Prohibition Department, the spacious room, outfitted with curvy leather booths and towering curtained windows, seems to beckon: sip, eat, relax, repeat.
BNR Extra: Thoughtful non-alcoholic drinks like Bermuda-style ginger beer and cucumber spritzers make a refreshing case for being on the wagon.
4236 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
OPENED: November 2013
CUISINE: Modern Pan-Asian
HOURS: 4 p.m.-10 p.m. M-Th; 4 p.m.-midnight F-Sa; happy hour 4-7 p.m. M-Sa
Owned by The Parlor pizzeria’s erstwhile “fab four” – chefs Jared Porter and Joseph Absolor, GM Nicholas Campisano and beverage guru Joshua James – Clever Koi is a fun, eclectic American-Asian eatery boating a simple menu of seasonally rotating steamed buns, noodles and rice dishes. The digs (part of an adaptive reuse project from Stark James Architects) are suitably chic, with lots of glass and an open-air kitchen and wok station dominating the long, narrow space. Expect unexpected combos, whether it’s chicken and waffles bao with kimchi batter, smoked salmon Rangoon or summer corn ramen with asparagus and miso (available gluten-free with konnyaku noodles). And while staples like Mongolian beef and Thai massaman curry are found here, Porter and Absolor put their stamp on them by incorporating bonito flakes and cashews or duck breast. James is no slouch in the creativity department either – simply call out, “Hey, bartender!” and he’ll whip up a custom drink suited to your taste preferences. Fear the unknown? Stop by any given month for an ever-changing selection of vintage drinks, house-made shrubs and signature cocktails such as the Donny Wang Fizz with spiced rum, pineapple and Boston bitters. From noodle soup to Thai peanuts, Koi’s quartet always has something clever and new – but rarely coy – up their collective sleeve.
BNR Extra: Executive chef and Phoenix native Jared Porter was a culinary prodigy, enrolling in the East Valley Institute of Technology’s cooking program at age 15 and finishing his education on a full scholarship.
2605 N. Seventh St., Phoenix
OPENED: January 2014
HOURS: 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tu; 11:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. W-Th; 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. F; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sa; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Su
When Esperanza Luzcando and Jose Ramirez opened their shoebox restaurant with their children, they hoped to ride some of the momentum of the 7th Street culinary corridor. Turns out, they’re the ones creating the momentum. Thanks to attentive service and delectable Peruvian fare prepared under the direction of son and culinary school graduate Omar Velarde, El Chullo is one of the hottest restos in CenPho. The restaurant’s name is a nod to a traditional woolen hat worn by Andean men – several of which are displayed in the small dining room.
The Peruvian diet is heavy in potatoes, corn and chiles, all of which are staples of El Chullo’s menu. Look for starchy cassava frites, yuca frites, boiled potatoes in spicy cheese and papa rellena stuffed with olives and egg. Complimentary maiz chulpe, a Peruvian take on popcorn, starts every meal, and tart purple corn drink chicha morada is an excellent accompaniment for El Chullo’s red-meat-heavy main dishes. Carnivore fare is done exceptionally well, from easily digestible sauced beef strips to anticucho, skewered cow hearts pungent and flavorful enough to tenderize any offal-hater.
BNR Extra: Helado de lucuma, a toffee-flavored custard, is made from a fruit native only to the Andean valleys of Peru. It was so beloved in ancient times that the indigenous tribes of the area painted images of lucuma on their pottery.
603 W. University Dr., Tempe
OPENED: July 2014
HOURS: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. M-Th; 11 a.m.-midnight F; 5 p.m.-midnight Sa
The Revival is more than just a name for chef Kelly Fletcher’s new venture. It’s a statement, one that could easily refer to the popular Tempe chef’s career, his hopes for a stretch of road known mostly for cheap college-student fare and chain restaurants, or the future of the moribund Mexican eatery whose space he took over.
After spending about 10 years as chef at Tempe’s well-loved House of Tricks, Fletcher branched out on his own earlier this summer, moving into the former Mucho Gusto just over a half-mile down University Drive from his former employer. Fletcher’s handling of upscale American cuisine in a casual setting is a breath of fresh air in this area of Tempe. His duck confit, served with a creamy corn polenta, sautéed bitter greens, candied Fresno chiles and a drizzling of date-maple syrup, sets the tone with its distinct fusion of flavors and flawless execution. Tender braised short rib atop smooth potato purée is amped up with Calabrian chile and plump golden raisins. And deep-fried slices of avocado provide an unusual foil for two perfectly seared scallops surrounded by a sweet pool of Gran Marnier syrup. Fletcher and partner Chad Withycombe complement the menu with an impressive selection of wine by the glass and bottle, local craft brews on draft, and an array of reasonably priced cocktails, including the Skinny Ginny, made with Arizona-distilled gin, apricot jam, lemon juice, peach bitters, stone fruit and soda.
BNR Extra: Fletcher makes a different bread pudding for dessert every week.
Second Story Liquor Bar
4166 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale
OPENED: March 2014
CUISINE: Modern American
HOURS: 4 p.m.-11 p.m. W-Th and Su; 4 p.m.-midnight F-Sa; happy hour 4-6 p.m. W-Su
It took owner Tommy Plato three years to get his modern-day speakeasy off the ground, and his attention to detail shows. Walk up a dark, narrow staircase to a candlelit lounge, and you find tufted black leather booths, crystal chandeliers and a somber, high-style sensuality that’s as far removed from downstairs’ cheerful, family-friendly Gelato Spot as you can get. John Christie’s cocktail program is as strong and sophisticated as Bogie, venturing back to basics with classic drinks such as the gin fizz and Philly Fish House Punch with Appleton rum, brandy, lemon and tea; and the 20-year bar veteran is also a whiz at modern mixology – rare is the patron who can name-check a lesser-known libation that Christie can’t whip up on the fly. Mustachioed executive chef Josh Bracher, formerly of Posh and Capital Grille, oversees an evolving “episodic” menu that tells a story with fresh, high-quality ingredients. Tangy braised short ribs, duck confit and Niman Ranch lamb chops were among Bracher’s early crowd-pleasers, while September’s Episode 4 menu continues the global trend with delectable sweetbreads schnitzel and tandoori chicken.
BNR Extra: Philadelphia Fish House Punch is one of the earliest known American cocktails; Second Story’s version is based on a recipe from a Schuylkill River sportsman’s club founded in 1732.
Extras, Almosts and Maybe-Next-Years
Chef James Porter’s beloved Old Town bistro underwent a cap-à-pie makeover last winter, recasting its classic French menu as a global exploration with stops in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Different, but just as delicious. Find our review on page 161. 7216 E. Shoeman Ln., Scottsdale, 480-991-6887, petitemaisonaz.com
Best Near Carbon-Copy
Was Kevin Binkley’s new Scottsdale outpost one of the 15 best restaurants to open in Greater Phoenix in 2014? Undoubtedly. Is it essentially a dish-for-dish remake of Bink’s Midtown, our 2013 Restaurant of the Year, down to the last julienned snap pea? Also affirmative. So that’s why Bink’s Scottsdale didn’t make the list. Our effusive praise must end somewhere. 6107 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-664-9238, binksscottsdale.com
Best Place to Go if Tarbell’s is Booked
Duh, right? Owned by Valley culinary legend Mark Tarbell and located next door to his larger, older, more fancy-shmancy eponymous restaurant, this unpretentious Camelback hangout has a tidy, affordable beer and wine list, along with some of the best bar nibbles in the Valley. We love the easy-serve oyster pedestal behind the bar, and Tarbell’s selection of Catalonian “bikinis” (small, crispy sandwiches) – including one charmer with serrano ham and manchego – makes for top-flight noshing. 3213 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-955-8100, tarbellstavern.com
The One That Got Away
The early returns on this Downtown fine-dining concept from chef Chris McKinley, whose previous work we seriously enjoyed at BYOB hotspot Atlas: great-looking presentations, disappointing taste design and flavor execution. Recent visits have been much more fruitful, however. Stay tuned. 1011 N. Third St., Phoenix, 602-441-4333, iamthelocal.com
Chain Chain Chain
Though not Valley-based, these nifty dining concepts won over local food fans.
1. Hot N Juicy Crawfish: “A perfect third-date restaurant,” our critic wrote of this messy-good Las Vegas import. 740 S. Mill Ave., Tempe, 480-634-6285, hotnjuicycrawfish.com
2. Hopdoddy: Conjured by Larry Foles and Guy Villavaso – the Texas-based duo that brought you Roaring Fork, Eddie Vs and Salty Sow – this Scottsdale burger-and-shake eatery is manna for classic-diner nuts. 11055 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-348-2337, hopdoddy.com
3. Paul Martin's American Grill: Carnivores rejoiced when P.F. Chang's creator Paul Fleming returned to the Valley with this spot-on iteration of his thriving California steakhouse chain. 6186 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-991-9342, paulmartinsamericangrill.com
Early 2015 Candidates
We didn’t have a chance to visit these recently-opened Valley eateries before our deadline, but will give them due consideration next November.
1. Earnest: From the high-toned ashes of Cork in Chandler rises this more down-to-earth comfort-food haunt. The scallop-tuna casserole has our attention. 4991 S. Alma School Rd., Chandler, 480-883-3773, earnestrestaurant.com
2. Ten: Chef Jeff Hostenske’s Esplanade eatery combines Midwestern American with soul food. Intriguing concept. It’s a search-engine headache, however. 2501 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-374-2611, tenfareandspirits.com
3. The Beverly: Fancy small-plate bar fare – deviled egg alert! – and haute cocktails now reign at the former Mabel’s on Main. From the dudes who brought you The Vig. 7018 E. Main St., Scottsdale, 480-889-5580
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