from left: Salted crab papaya salad from Glai Baan; roasted octopus with fennel and grapefruit tapas from Pa’La; ghee-fried egg bagel from New Wave Market; farro and hazelnut cookies from Pa’La; Photos from left: David B. Moore; Carl Schultz; Mirelle Inglefield; David B. Moore

Where To Eat 2018

Written by Nikki Buchanan, Marilyn Hawkes, M.V. Moorhead & Craig Outhier Category: Food Reviews Issue: January 2018
Group Free

Another year, another glorious eruption of must-try restaurants, visionary chefs, hot food trends and celebrity recommendations. Find them all here, in our top o’ the year salute to Valley dining.

Photography by Rob Ballard, Blake Bonillas, Bree Hamilton, Mirelle Inglefield, David B. Moore, Sam Nalven, Carl Schultz & Michael Woodall

The State of Valley Dining

Gilbert: Dining Mecca?
You could say that. The Valley continued to add restaurants at an impressive post-recessionary clip in 2017, with former dining deserts like Uptown Phoenix, Arcadia Lite and, yes, downtown Gilbert in particular bulking up on new eateries. But the collective Valley community also enters 2018 in a position of uncertainty. Along with the windfall of new restaurants came a spate of high-profile restaurant closings, leading some food journalists and dining insiders to speculate that the Valley had reached a tipping point and was primed for contraction. Keep an eye specifically on the hot Seventh Street food corridor – by some estimates, the proverbial canary in the dining industry’s collective coal mine.


3 Best New Chefs
This trio of toque-wearing tyros impressed PHOENIX dining critic Nikki Buchanan the most in 2017.

Tandy Peteron; Photo by David B. MooreTandy Peterson, Mowry & Cotton: She’s got Binkley’s on her résumé, and she’s staged at widely acclaimed Asador Etxebarri. The girl is sassy, and her playful, experimental side serves her well at Mowry & Cotton, where she’s chef de cuisine.

Cat Bunnag, Glai Baan: The Thailand native (by way of Florida and Maine) came out of nowhere to flip Thai dining in the Valley on its ear, with unadulterated street classics like salted crab papaya salad, and jaew pork with sticky rice. Glai Baan translates to “far from home,” but Bunnag has found hers.

Alfred B. Muro, Hearth ’61: This chef de cuisine is all about refinement, finesse and sweating the details, and after five years at Binkley’s, his skill set is pretty impressive. His background is evident in the elevated amuse-bouches and beautiful presentations.


Save the Date
Some calendar-sensitive food events to keep in mind.

Strong Beer Festival (Feb. 10): Arizona Beer Week culminates with the state’s premier beer event, featuring illustrious brewery brands both national (Dogfish Head, Almanac) and local (Borderlands, Historic).

Devour the World (March 1): PHOENIX partners with Local First Arizona to bring you a selection of the most exciting global eats featured in our magazine, from the Indonesian food-truck fare of Satay Hut to the Baltic bites of Sonata’s Restaurant.

Scottsdale Culinary Festival (April 14-15): With a tighter, more chef-centric culinary focus to go along with its famous vodka tent and popular lawn concert, the seminal Valley food event is poised to capture foodie hearts this year. Look for PHOENIX ‘s Liquid Arizona craft beverage experience.


Ethnic Drinks

photo courtesy Adobe StockBoba is having a moment. The Asian beverage, known for its telltale tapioca pellets, has its own menu at Crazy Mike’s chicken wing shop ( and stars in a cocktail at Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails ( Other global beverage sightings: horchata slushes, ube milkshakes and Thai milk tea at Zero Degrees (; and the lavish aguas frescas bar at Ranch Markets.



Hot & Not - A brief look at which foodstuffs are flourishing – and fizzling – in  Valley restaurants. 

Hot & Not
A brief look at which foodstuffs are flourishing – and fizzling – in Valley restaurants.


These respected and/or promising Valley restaurants left us in 2017.

Alice Coopers’town: After a nearly two-decade run, the rock-god-owned sports bar finally calls it quits. We’ll miss the barbecue pulled pork.

Okra: Cullen Campbell’s genre-bending Southern eatery folded in October. Possible culprits: no curb appeal, saturated Seventh Street scene.

The Herb Box: Another Seventh Street casualty. Both the Scottsdale Waterfront and original Market Street locations remain open.

Barrio Urbano: Aaaaand yet another corpse on Seventh Street. Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza’s all-day cantina concept just didn’t stick.

Ticoz Latin Kitchen: After an 11-year run, the uptown Mexican fusion restaurant says no más.

Alma WXSW: A PHOENIX Best New Restaurant honorable mention in 2016, the breakfast-focused diner closed in September.

Posh: Josh Hebert’s “improvisational cuisine” concept recharged chef-driven dining in the Valley when it opened in 2009.

Panzon y Frida: Our dining critic called it: rowdy Scottsdale entertainment district a poor fit for ambitious global menu.  

Stella: An indecisive, underwhelming menu and poor word of mouth sinks this once-promising pan-Euro bistro on Camelback.

Tom’s Tavern: Having opened in 1929, this classic CenPho eatery died of “natural causes,” one might say.


Which new restaurants did PHOENIX dining critic Nikki Buchanan hold in highest esteem in 2017? Find her picks right here.
2017 Best New Restaurants: Restaurant of the Year

Left to right: Salami- wrapped olives; crispy serrano ham and aged Gouda; lamb bacon slider; candied pork belly; foie gras-stuffed date; Photo by Blake BonillasBinkley’s  
Opened: December 2016
2320 E. Osborn Rd., Phoenix

Kevin and Amy Binkley’s now-defunct restaurant in Cave Creek and their charming year-old venue in midtown Phoenix may share the same name, the same dedication to excellence and the same food-obsessed geek-chef at the helm, but that’s where the similarities end. With its progressive, dining-as-theater approach and its 20- to 28-course tasting menu – rife with the usual exotica and labor-intensive preparations for which Binkley is famous – the new Binkley’s is original enough to qualify as “new”: more focused, more polished, more grounded and more fun than its predecessor. No wonder it so handily earned our top spot for best new restaurant of 2017. Admittedly, you will pay dearly for the indulgence (around $800 for two if you opt for the wine pairing and other upgrades), but rest assured you’re getting a palate-altering dining experience in return. Binkley’s Redux adroitly balances refinement and rusticity, formality and mi casa es su casa friendliness. This is what happens when the best gets even better.

Flavored Whiskey
Flavored WhiskeyMaybe Fireball was good for something besides cleaning your radiator and spiking your glycemic panels, after all. The popular (and reviled) cinnamon-flavored whiskey paved the way for a rising generation of flavored craft whiskeys, including the intriguingly named “Dick” from Valley drinksmiths O.H.S.O. – a peach-flavored hooch tailor-made for Manhattans... sensitive Manhattans.

Grant Crone2018 Foodie Resolution
Grant Crone Principal, MMPR Marketing
Eating at Claudio Urciuoli’s new Italian-Peruvian seafood grill, Pa’La, is high on the publicity pro’s list: “I haven’t heard anything about it, other than he’s involved, which is plenty.” Crone also sings the praises of a client, Arizona Cocktail Week, which for the first time will be staged Downtown (February 17-19).

2017 Best New Restaurants: No. 2

Ricotta and mascarpone gnudi; Photo by Sam NalvenMora
Opened: February 2017
5651 N. Seventh St., Phoenix

Was I starstruck by nationally acclaimed chef-owner Scott Conant when I gave Mora – his modern-day osteria and first foray into the Phoenix market – an enthusiastic thumbs-up in its stumbling infancy? How about simply delighted to see a local Italian restaurant offering something – anything – besides the same old lasagna, linguini with clam sauce and veal piccata we’ve all been subjected to for the past 30 years? Chic but casual Mora may not be perfect, but it’s fresh and fun. Look no further than the huge center-stage bar, the lush covered patio and the dining room itself, awash in color, for the visual proof. Although the bread cart and terrific house-made pastas are knockouts, I’d probably bestow the No. 2 ranking on Mora for the focaccia di recco – a sort of inside-out cheese crisp in which mild, creamy stracchino cheese is held together by papery sheaves of lightly salted focaccia – alone. Consistency has improved over the months now that super-talented Matt Taylor has been bumped up from chef de cuisine to executive chef, and presentations are discernibly more elegant. Try new menu items like burrata with concentrated tomato and pickled eggplant or yellowtail crudo with blood orange, ginger and Calabrian chile and tell me high-volume Mora isn’t kicking butt.

Root-to-Stem Cooking

Root-to-Stem cooking

You’ve heard of snout to tail? It’s like that, but for vegetarians. Liberated by the principles of sustainability – and by the evolving popular palate, which increasingly favors bitter, complex foods – chefs are using beet greens, broccoli spears, fennel fronds and other formerly throw-away vegetable extremities in their cooking. Example: the pea shoots in Charleen Badman’s long bean app at FnB.


2017 Best New Restaurants: No. 3

Apple crumble; Photo by David B. MooreMowry & Cotton
Opened: October 2017  
The Phoenician, 6000 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale, 480-423-2530,

Locals have been trained not to expect much from second-tier resort restaurants – the casual, affordable, but ultimately banal eateries every big resort feels obliged to provide for its captive audience – because they’re seldom destination-worthy or even remotely memorable. However, Mowry & Cotton at The Phoenician is the delicious exception to the rule, a first-rate sidekick (to The Phoenician’s more lavish J&G Steakhouse) offering a crowd-pleasing menu that deftly sidesteps cliché. Although flatbreads, meatballs and spareribs may sound pedestrian, they’re anything but in the hands of chef de cuisine Tandy Peterson, a Binkley’s alum who has learned a thing or two about arresting presentations and the element of surprise. Who puts dainty edible flowers on smoked, honey-chipotle-glazed spareribs? Peterson does, adding inspired, sometimes playful touches that make the ordinary damned close to extraordinary. Take the shiny-topped buttermilk buns, sided with spreads of citrus-sea salt butter and duck fat fig butter. Should something so simple even be this good? Also elevating the space are small but important touches such as engraved water glasses and tooled leather coasters that create an aura of old-fashioned Western hospitality. Make no mistake: This particular sidekick is a star.


2017 Best New Restaurants: No. 4

Lamb sparerib; photo by Rob BallardJ’s Kaiyo
Opened: March 2017
4412 N. Miller Rd., Scottsdale

Since when does a neighborhood sushi bar, housed in a former Arby’s, offer the sort of sophisticated, wildly creative dishes most commonly associated with trendy, over-priced contemporary American eateries housed in remodeled mid-century banks? Since Jason McGrath arrived on the scene. Bravely thumbing his nose at convention, the son of local dining legend Robert McGrath offers affordable Asian fusion small plates with so many global ingredients that dinner becomes a dizzying culinary world tour – aromatic, Middle Eastern-inspired lamb ribs with cucumber-shiso yogurt one minute, exotic chile-cured duck breast with bok choy and berry marmalade the next. Meanwhile, sushi chef Todd Register creates exotic futomaki (cut rolls) without resorting to cream cheese or other stupid gaijin ingredients to please neophytes. Wine wonk Robert Morris put together a credible, affordable wine list, while Casey Wallin of spirits distributor Young’s Market Co. dreamed up a list of classy cocktails. Inside J’s Kaiyo waits a warm, wonderful little world of great food and drink. All you have to do is get past the fast-food exterior to experience the full measure of this under-the-radar newcomer’s brilliance.

All-Star Collaborations

photo courtesy Nadia Holguin/Tacos ChiwasBowie and Jagger. Oppenheimer and Fermi. Kurita and Lee? “Pooling talent” will be the operative phrase for several food and beverage projects in 2018, with several marquee names joining forces, including Roland’s (pizza superstar Chris Bianco and Armando Hernandez and Nadia Holguin of Taco Chiwas, pictured), Pa’La (Noble Eatery vet Claudio Urciuoli and Omar Alvarez of Tortas Paquime) and the ShinBay reboot (Shinji Kurita and Hyunwook Lee of Sizzle).

Shelby Moore

2018 Foodie Resolution
Shelby Moore
Food Writer, PHOENIX magazine
Our go-to cocktail hound also has a nose for indigenous Arizona crops and ingredients, and as such plans to dine liberally at Helio Basin Brewing Co., where chef Tamara Stanger is known to work magic with tepary beans and mesquite. “Cuisine in Phoenix [often lacks] an identity that sets it apart from other cities in the Southwest, so the more chefs explore [heritage crops], the more they’ll thrive.”

Natalie MorrisNatalie Morris
Director of Food Initiatives, Devour
The Devour Classic festival food programmer plans to hit a couple of hot adaptive reuse projects in the city core: Doug Robson’s Gallo Blanco at the old American Way Market and Chris Bianco’s collaborative effort with the Tacos Chiwas team at the Roland’s building in South Phoenix. “These chefs and others are hitting the underground hotspots around town and celebrating our food culture, and there’s so much to be said for that.”

2017 Best New Restaurants: No. 5

Pattaya Beach grilled chicken; Photo by David B. MooreGlai Baan
Opened: September 2017
2333 E. Osborn Rd., Phoenix, 602-595-5881

Phoenix has never lacked for Thai restaurants, but exceptional Thai food? That’s another story, one eloquently but only recently told by chef and co-owner Pornsupak “Cat” Bunnag, who offers authentic Thai street food and the specialties of the northeastern Thailand region of Isan at her small, utterly charming bungalow across the street from Binkley’s. Here, you’ll find Thai food that seems complexly seasoned but proves lighter, brighter and more straightforward than any soggy dish of lard na you’ve eaten before (unless you’ve been to Thailand or a town more food-centric than this one). There are no long-simmered curries or in-your-face tom kha tureens here, just simple, powerful food that tastes like somebody’s Thai grandmother might be conjuring it all in the kitchen. Friendly servers help diners navigate the unfamiliar dishes, pairing smoky grilled chicken with chile- and tamarind-spiked jaew sauce, sided with sweet sticky rice and a crisp papaya salad; or steering them to knockout nightly specials like mackerel fried rice. And if you want to stick with what you know, there’s no better pad Thai in town. It’s exotic soul food, in short – subtle, satisfying and excitingly alien.

2017 Best New Restaurants: No. 6

Country Velador with a ghee-fried egg bagel; photo by Carl SchultzNew Wave Market
Opened: July 2017
7120 E. Sixth Ave., Scottsdale

How do I love thee, New Wave? Let me count the ways: your slowly fermented bagels, your ghee-fried egg, your chewy ciabatta, that crazy-good ham and cheese sandwich. And what about that ridiculous chicken salad, topped with chicken skin cracklings and served on toasted, schmaltz-bathed bread? Your Italian sodas are the elixir of life, and I’m getting a little thirsty thinking about them. Have I mentioned your phenomenal French toast, made with house-baked Hawaiian bread and topped with blueberry-balsamic jam, mascarpone, toasted almonds and brown sugar streusel – seriously craved by me, a person who doesn’t even like French toast? I blame my infatuation on chef-owners Country and Sergio Velador, who opened their bakery, Super Chunk Sweets & Treats, three years ago before expanding to include a new market and café this past summer. Naturally, the cookies, brownies and other sweet treats that made the Veladors famous are also available, including house-made honeycomb ice cream so luscious it’ll curl your toes. New Wave, you may rank in the middle of my list, but I love you like no other.


Christina Barrueta2018 Foodie Resolution
Christina Barrueta Food Writer, Write on Rubee
“In 2018, I’d like to visit Kai more often,” the award-winning blogger says. “It deserves our support, but I feel like (diners) neglect it.” She also plans to visit iconic steakhouse Cartwright’s in Cave Creek, recently purchased by longtime chef Brett Vibber and retooled with a modern menu. “He has stuff like crudo... should be fun.”

Fewer Restaurants?
After exuberant growth post-recession, is the Valley dining scene ready to cut some dead weight? That’s the narrative pushed by some chefs, restaurateurs and journalists after a spate of closures last fall, including Alma SxSW (that’s their barbacoa bowl pictured below). “I suspect it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Arizona Republic food critic Dominic Armato wrote on Facebook after Okra closed in October.

2017 Best New Restaurants: No. 7

Chula sashimi platter; Photo by Carl SchultzChula Seafood Market
Opened: October 2016
8015 E. Roosevelt St., Scottsdale, 480-621-5121,

Seafood markets have come and gone over the years, but squeaky-clean
Chula, a market and mini-restaurant in a run-down strip mall, survives and thrives despite its non-prime location. How have lifelong friends and partners Jon Heflin and Hogan Jamison managed to succeed when others couldn’t? For starters, any fish you purchase is caught no more than two days prior in the ocean waters off Southern California, delivered to the shore on the Heflin family fishing boat and trucked twice a week to Phoenix. Jamison and executive chef Juan Zamora turn fresh catches of tuna, grouper, seabass and swordfish into bowls, sandwiches and platters of piscine deliciousness, offering a Hawaiian-style poke bowl that’s off the hook. Although raw fish remains the rock star on the ever-expanding chalkboard menu, Jamison and Zamora continue to add cooked dishes, which often show up as daily specials, to reach a larger audience. Try Wednesday’s tuna melt with green chile and chimichurri dipping sauce; Thursday’s smoked salmon pastrami; one of the new smoked fish platters; or Chula’s take on Vietnamese bánh mì made with cured and smoked swordfish loin. If there was a boat-to-table category, Chula would rank No. 1.

2017 Best New Restaurants: No. 8

Morraccan spiced rack of lamb; photo by David B. MooreHearth ’61 at Mountain Shadows
Opened: April 2017
5445 E. Lincoln Dr., Paradise Valley

Named both for the huge wood-burning oven in its kitchen and for the year Paradise Valley was incorporated, handsome Hearth ’61 is Mountains Shadows resort’s one and only restaurant, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner plus weekend brunch, all the while exuding the sort of gracious vibe that warrants spiffing up for dinner. In other words, it’s an all-day restaurant that does a terrific job all day – whether the dish is breakfast-y banana-ricotta pancakes, a lunch-time burger on sea salt brioche with bacon-onion jam or short rib agnolotti for dinner. Executive Chef Chuck Wiley puts his signature healthy spin on many of the dishes here, just as chef de cuisine (and Binkley’s alum) Alfred B. Muro leaves his own grace notes, either by way of dainty amuse-bouches or drop-dead gorgeous presentations. With its stunning views and gracious service, Hearth ’61 also retains a bit of old Arizona that’s been forgotten.

Wood-Fired Ovens
The biggest trend  in Valley dining, circa January 2018, is manifestly wood-fired-oven cooking. In the spring, Joe’s Midnight Run kicked it up a level by opening with an all-wood, no-range kitchen. In the fall, Lincoln steakhouse at the Camelback Inn kicked it further still by offering guests meet-and-greets with its 1,200-degree Josper charcoal-burning monster. Ovens – they’re people, too!

2017 Best New Restaurants: No. 9

Chef Hyunwook Lee of Sizzle Korean Barbecue; photo by Carl SchultzSizzle Korean Barbecue
Opened: November 2016
21001 N. Tatum Blvd., Phoenix, 480-265-9406,

Korea is having a moment. Kim Jong Un is in the news, teenyboppers are plugged in to K-pop, chefs of all traditions use gochujang fermented chile paste with abandon, and here in Phoenix at least, Korean barbecue is a red-hot trend – with at least three Korean barbecue joints opening this year alone. The best of the lot is Sizzle, a cramped little outpost in Desert Ridge Marketplace that gets jam-packed on the weekends for one simple reason: They’ve got the meat. The menu offers nearly two dozen cuts of top-quality beef and pork, including prime rib-eye, prime Wagyu beef belly, prime beef tongue, soy-marinated pork short rib (galbi), pork butt, Berkshire black pork belly, spicy premium pork jowl… you get the picture. It’s a fun place to come with a group and try a little bit of everything, kicking back with a beer while your server gets the meat sizzling on a tabletop grill in front of you. Granted, some of the banchan (Korean side dishes) are a bit lackluster, but for meat freaks who crave something more exciting than an American steak, Sizzle is your onomatopoetic go-to.


Erik Merkow2018 Foodie Resolution
Erik MerkoW
Founder, AZ Food and Wine
Like a lot of obsessive Valley eaters, the food-event producer was crestfallen when Shinji Kurita’s ShinBay closed in 2016. But he was elated when restaurateur Hyunwook Lee announced he would partner with Kurita to reopen ShinBay in Old Town. “I love what Lee did with Sizzle and Nori Sushi. It’s exciting.”

2017 Best New Restaurant: No. 10

Chicken and dumplings at Restaurant Progress; photo by Rob BallardRestaurant Progress
Opened: February 2017
702 W. Montecito Ave., Phoenix, 602-441-0553

T.J. Culp’s small, intimate restaurant, housed on the east end of the Melrose Pharmacy building, has created a lot of buzz this year. Some people love it; others dismiss it vigorously, complaining about the seasoning, the portion-to-price ratio, the cocktails, you name it. It’s probably safe to say the still-green chef-owner (a Sam Fox alum) has some consistency issues to work out, but his seasonal, frequently tweaked menu reads well, and the modern American food he turns out is tasty and fun. What’s not to like about velvety butternut squash soup, tender beef cheeks or a diminutive raspberry pavlova? Meanwhile, the space – a cool convergence of rough-hewn brick, shiny subway tiles and glass block – exudes a vintage vibe that perfectly suits the funky Melrose neighborhood in which it sits. We’re giving Culp and his work-in-progress the benefit of the doubt, because how many people go balls-to-the-wall at the ripe old age of 25?

BYOF Restaurants
Swiping a page from the Mother Road Brewing playbook up in Flagstaff, LDV Winery ( in Old Town Scottsdale invites guests to walk across the street and grab some British vittles at Cornish Pasty Co., or a wood-fired pizza from nearby Craft 64, and bring it back to the tasting room. Meanwhile, BYOB restaurants remain elusive gems: Aioli Gourmet Burgers, Hana Japanese Eatery, Atlas Bistro.

2017 Best New Restaurants: Honorable Mentions
Original Cuisine
Opened: March 2017
Some like it hot, and they’re clearly the audience for this exceptional Sichuan restaurant, where most menu selections pack a characteristic ma la punch of spicy chiles and tongue-numbing Sichuan pepper.
Dinner here can feel a bit one-note as a result, so order a mild (or mild-ish) dish or two – pan-fried rice balls, mapo tofu or tomato-egg noodle soup – to douse the flames.
1853 W. Broadway Rd., Mesa 480-255-7810

Hot Noodles Cold Sake
Opened: October 2016
Josh Hebert keeps it simple at his tidy ramen shop in North Scottsdale, offering five delicious, affordable noodle bowls, plus yummy extras such as pork cracklings and luscious onsen tamago (slow cooked eggs). The
kiosk ordering system is a chore, but the food is absolutely solid, as is the sake list, which includes Arizona Sake from Winslow.
15689 N. Hayden Rd., Scottsdale

Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen
Opened: December 2016
A thorough makeover of the former Cottonwoods Resort has rendered the new Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa absolutely stunning. The Mid-Century Modern restaurant at its heart is pretty gorgeous, too, and two visits since our mostly negative review in July, we can honestly say executive chef Adam Sheff is doing a great job of interpreting Southwestern cuisine with Sonoran influences. 6114 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-214-4622,


Best New Restaurants Extras
Best Import

Tonkotsu ramen; photo by Bree HamiltonObon Sushi + Bar + Ramen
Opened: August 2017
Poke, bao, ramen, modern nigiri, crudo, tonkatsu, bibimbap – if it’s a beloved and slightly trendy pan-Asian staple, you will find it as this offshoot of the original Obon in Tucson. Love the great lighting and intimate spaces, and the food is remarkably good, too. 15037 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 602-491-2796,

Fast-Casual Ethnic
think of Poke as the first shot across the bow in mass-market dining’s latest upheaval. The ubiquitous fish-bowl eateries have paved the way for other fast-casual, scale-ready, assembly-line ethnic restaurants. Example: Twisted Curry at the Scottsdale 101, which one could accurately describe as an “Indian Chipotle.”  


Justin Beckett2018 Foodie Resolution
Justin Beckett
Chef, Beckett’s Table & Southern Rail
Top local chef Beckett says he’s looking forward to cooking - and eating – at the Devour Culinary Classic, which for the first time will be staged at Desert Botanical Garden. “I think that’s going to be a lot of fun checking out the new digs, and it’s a great time for us chefs to get together and see each other.”


M.V.’s Top 5 Restaurants
Eat Beat reviewer M.V. Moorhead – whose yen for greasy spoons and indie ethnic fare is reflected in his monthly Four Corners column – offers his own Top 5.  
M.V.’s Top 5  

Casa de Falafel
These pita slingers deserve kudos if only for serving the best falafel in the Valley out of a Shell station. Hey, context matters. 6730 W. Cactus Rd., Peoria

Taj Mahal
This Old Town outpost of a longtime Prescott favorite instantly achieved best-in-show status upon opening in late 2016. 4225 N. Craftsman Ct., Scottsdale

Aishiteru Asian Bistro
This affordable, unpretentious Asian-fusion neighborhood joint offers everything from panang to poke, and the best orange chicken in town.
 2017 E. Cactus Rd., Phoenix, 602-992-0920,

Undoubtedly the Valley’s best (only?) new purveyor of Italian-Spanish-South-American cuisine. The luscious tagliatelle alla Bolognese and octopus arm are winners. 720 E. Main St., Scottsdale 480-663-3296,

Guedo’s Taco Shop
Don’t miss the stuffed shrimp cheese crisp at this fun and inexpensive revival of a one-time Chandler favorite.
3107 S. Gilbert Rd., Gilbert, 480-621-8280,
The AZ Fry Guy (Avondale), Sushi Sen (Scottsdale), High Tide (Gilbert), Crêpe Club (Phoenix), Chick-In (Tempe) and Yaki Ramen (Phoenix), if only for their anime wall.

Best Reboot

Ceviche pescado; Photo by David B. MooreGallo Blanco
Opened: July 2017
Doug Robson’s modern take on traditional Mexican food is always fantastic, and now the Gallo experience is even better, thanks to new Downtown digs and a cocktail list that may make your head spin – literally. Oldies but goodies (tacos, tortas, chicken) share menu space with new faves such as envuelto, huaraches and ceviche de pescado. 928 E. Pierce St., Phoenix, 602-327-0880,

Downtown BreweriesTrending
Downtown Breweries
A Quick Perusal of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild website ( reveals a modest surge of breweries slated to open in the beer-neglected Downtown core. Mario Rana of State 48 Brewery (pictured) plans to open a satellite location of his West Valley-based taproom in the first quarter of the year, joined by Grand Avenue Brewing Co. in the arts district. Also hot: Gilbert, where Flying Basset Brewing and Desert Members Brewing Co. are also scheduled to open.

Josh Hebert2018 Foodie Resolution
Josh Hebert
Chef, Hot Noodles Cold Sake
“What I’m looking forward to: LESS RESTAURANTS,” the veteran food-smith semi-jokes. He also wants to try “some of the cool new Korean stuff in the pipeline,” e.g. Sizzle in North Scottsdale and Seoul PHX off the 1-17. And furthermore: “I wanna drink great white Burgundy... without pretense.”


2018 Sneak Peeks
These in-the-works eateries have Valley food fans licking their chops.

Arcadia Meat Market
A modern take on the classic corner butcher shop, with locally raised meats, prepared goods and grab-and-go items. 3950 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix. (January 2018)

Arrive Phoenix
Boutique hospitality brand Arrive Hotels and Restaurants will include a yet-to-be named poolside taco bar at its adaptive reuse hotel in Uptown Phoenix at Camelback Road and Fourth Avenue. (October 2018)

Casa Amigos and SkylanesCasa Amigos and Skylanes
Evening Entertainment Group (Casa Añejo, Stock & Stable) is revamping the former Livewire space in Scottsdale’s entertainment district into a modern Mexican restaurant and patio with a boutique bowling alley. 7320 E. Indian Plaza, Scottsdale, (January 2018)

James Beard Award-winning chef Christopher Gross will shutter his eponymous Biltmore Fashion Park eatery in favor of a new spot at nearby Wrigley Mansion. Restaurant name to be determined. 2501 E. Telawa Trail, Phoenix (February 2018)

Little Miss BBQ
Scott Holmes’ wildly popular Texas-style barbecue joint will open a new location in Sunnyslope on Seventh Street just south of Dunlap Avenue. (Early 2018)

Luci’s at the Grove
From Luci’s Urban Concepts (Luci’s Healthy Marketplace, Pomelo) comes an all-day dining destination with craft cocktails and wine at The Grove development at Hayden Road and McCormick Parkway in Scottsdale. (October 2018)

Needle Rock Kitchen & Tap
New foodie spot at Trilogy at Verde River (east of North Scottsdale) featuring shareable plates and wood-fired pizzas. (January 2018)

Ocean 44
The Mastro family’s seafood-focused bookend to the outlandishly popular Steak 44 will be located across from the new luxury wing of Scottsdale Fashion Square. (Mid- to late 2018)

Journeyman chef Claudio Urciuoli (Noca, Noble Eatery) gets back in the game with his own Italian wood-fired grill concept near the Miracle Mile in Phoenix. 2107 N. 24th St., Phoenix, 602-795-9500, (Opened November 2017)

Armando Hernandez and Nadia Holguin of Tacos Chiwas team up with pizza maven Chris Bianco in Roland’s Market, a refurbished 1920s market in the Garfield District. We’re guessing: Italian/Mexican fusion cuisine? (Opening TBD)

Sizzle Korean Barbecue/ShinBay
Culinary luminaries Hyunwook Lee and Shinji Kurita will bring a Korean barbecue/omakase (sushi chef’s choice) mashup to Scottsdale Road and Second Street in Old Town. (Early 2018)

The House of Egg Roll brain trust will open a flagship restaurant near Mekong Plaza in Mesa specializing in the Shaanxi regional cuisine that won them local acclaim. (Early 2018)

Starlite BBQ
Walter Sterling, Sacha Levine and Alex Levine of Ocotillo shift gears and try their collective hand at barbecued meats smoked over pecan and mesquite. 7620 E. Indian School Rd., Scottsdale, (Late 2017/early 2018)

Taco Chelo
For his first foray into Mexican cuisine, culinary impresario Aaron Chamberlin hands the reins to chef Suny Santana, who worked under him at St. Francis. 501 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, (Late December 2017/early January 2018)

Tempe Public Market Café
And for his next trick: Chamberlin’s long-awaited south Tempe imprint of his wildly popular Phoenix Public Market Café – health-focused breakfast, lunch and dinner fare, along with a full bar – is finally expected to make landfall. 8749 S. Rural Rd., Tempe, (Early 2018)

the larder + the delta
Chef Stephen Jones has plans to open a sit-down version of his now-shuttered Southern-inspired DeSoto Central Market stall somewhere in Downtown Phoenix. A crowd-funding effort is ongoing. (Late 2018)

The Tamale Store
Cave Creek Road and Greenway Parkway will serve as the first brick-and-mortar restaurant (they previously operated a to-go-only counter) for the Castillo/Pimienta family, supplier of tamales to numerous Valley grocery stores and farmers’ markets. (January 2018)

Welcome DinerWelcome Diner
Michael Babcock and crew will open a second community-focused Welcome Diner at 10th and Pierce streets in Phoenix just down the road from the original 1940s Valentine diner. (Opening TBD)
— Marilyn Hawkes


Deluxe Bread CartsTrending
Deluxe Bread Carts
ONce you Lay eyes on the bread cart at 2017 Best New Restaurant honoree Mora – a salutatory bonanza of chewy focaccias and tangy ciabattas, with spreads like mascarpone butter and eggplant caponata – well, let’s just say a mere dinner roll won’t do it for you anymore. Other new restaurants have kicked up their bread programs, too. Mowry & Cotton at The Phoenician features buttermilk buns with citrus sea salt butter and duck fat fig butter and two other kinds of breads; and Stock & Stable offers Parker House rolls with sea salt and maple-bourbon butter.


Beau Macmillan2018 Foodie Resolution
Beau MacMillan
Chef, Elements
The legendary Valley chef and Food Network star helped launch the Nirvana culinary festival at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa last April and is excited for this year’s encore. “Our Valley has a passion for food and drink, and Nirvana really feeds that hunger by showcasing the talents of premier chefs and winemakers from around the globe.”