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Where to Eat 2017

Written by Nikki Buchanan, Erika Ayn Finch, Wynter Holden, Edie Jarolim, Shelby Moore Category: Food Reviews Issue: January 2017
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5 Best Places to Eat Right Now

They’re not necessarily the newest or most talked-about, but these five restaurants offer the surest path to culinary gratification in the year 2017.

Crudo
Cullen Campbell’s Italian-inspired restaurant may be famous for its crispy pig ears, but his new winter menu is rife with edgy dishes that are just as likely to set a food fanatic’s heart aflutter: risotto with sea urchin, lamb belly with milk gravy and fennel pollen... and you’ll want it all. 3603 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-358-8666, crudoaz.com

FnB
Charleen “Veggie” Badman has a knack for transforming humble vegetables into dishes so exotic and soul-satisfying you could easily forget to order meat. And her seasonal menu changes so often you could eat here every week without getting bored. This winter, I’ll come for the roasted Brussels sprouts with walnuts and red grapes or rutabaga with ginger crème fraîche. That said, need I even mention the butterscotch pudding? 7125 E. Fifth Ave., Scottsdale, 480-284-4777, fnbrestaurant.com

Ocotillo
With its vast patio and outdoor sprawl, Walter Sterling and Sacha Levine’s Ocotillo has something for everybody – be they beer drinkers, coffee sippers, bar snackers or weekend brunchers. Relish the cool weather outside, or settle in for a memorable dinner from a brand new seasonal menu that’s cutting edge but utterly grounded. Thai-inflected crispy chicken meatballs with shishito peppers, ginger and green curry sauce are just one of many yummy reasons to hit this one sooner than later. 3243 N. Third St., Phoenix, 602-687-9080, ocotillophx.com

Rancho Pinot
Forget “right now.” Chrysa Robertson makes the sort of simple, sophisticated food I want to eat all the time. Her salads are the best in town, her quail with polenta appetizer is a beloved standby, and her seasonal desserts are always off the hook. 6208 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-367-8030, ranchopinot.com

Tratto
The city’s best restaurant right now for a slew of reasons, but if I must name a few: Tony Andiario’s exquisite pastas and cured meats, Marco Bianco’s beautiful bread and the staff’s relaxed, on-point service, all of it wrapped up in Chris Bianco’s singular vision of what a great restaurant can and should be. 4743 N. 20th St., Phoenix, 602-296-7761, trattophx.com

– Nikki Buchanan

Chef Watch

Though not household names yet, these rising chefs are poised to make their mark on the Valley’s collective culinary
conscience.

• Pastry chef Audrey Enriquez – an Elements and Kai alum – loves the freedom she’s given to be creative at Match Cuisine & Cocktails in the just-opened FOUND:RE Hotel, where her photo-ready desserts reflect the hotel’s focus on local art.

• Former Virtù chef de cuisine
Samantha Sanz now holds the same position at Talavera, proudly claiming that the new fall/winter menu is “95 percent” hers in the wake of chef Mel Mecinas’ departure from the restaurant.

• Stationed on the raw bar at The Gladly, Donald Hawk can do – and has done – just about everything in the kitchen, but his latest interest is temporary “pop-up” restaurants with Brent Kille from Crudo.

 

• Five years ago, Suny Martinez-Santana persisted in asking Aaron Chamberlin for a job at St. Francis; now he’s the restaurant’s chef de cuisine, and Chamberlin can’t say enough good things about his work ethic, natural leadership and creativity.

•  Executive Chef Jason McGrath – who, as Robert McGrath’s son, surely has the restaurant biz in his DNA – moved to Second Story Liquor Bar from Ocotillo this past September, bringing an interest in regional dishes and locally driven ingredients with him.

•  And, finally, a chef who is a household name: Described as a “tortured-artist type” by one Valley food professional, Aaron Chamberlin has led the farm-to-table charge at Phoenix Public Market Café and St. Francis, and is primed and ready to spread his philosophy to the East Valley with a new concept, Tempe Market, this spring.

– Nikki Buchanan

 

Strange Eats, Here We Come

Odd and interesting ingredients you might see on Valley menus in 2017.

Chicken hearts
Long a favorite of Brazilian all-you-can-eat churrascarias, the mussel-size offal meats – which taste a little like overcooked cocktail wieners – have migrated onto fine dining menus.

Beet greens
The next kale? With “conservation dining” a buzzword on the coasts, chefs are raising former throwaway roughage – e.g. broccoli stems, squash peels – to featured status. Like nose-to-tail, but for produce.

Sunchokes
Taste-wise, the buttery tubers – also known as Jerusalem artichokes – suggest the offspring of a potato and a quahog clam. At Fat Ox, Chef Matt Carter pairs them with chanterelles to give his beef filet a touch of funk.

Pig intestines
With the regional Chinese cuisines of Shaanxi and Dongbei finding new converts in the Valley – via House of Egg Rolls and Chou’s Kitchen, specifically – the likelihood of a confrontation with exotic offals rises proportionally.

 

10 Valley Food Trends

Our dining writer holds forth on 10 exciting food trends in 2017 – and where you can FIND them.     

by Nikki Buchanan

1. Poke

THE japanese-influenced dish, which in its simplest form is nothing more than cubed raw fish and soy sauce, can be found on every street corner in Hawaii. But this past year, it’s become near-ubiquitous in Phoenix, too. And it’s not hard to figure out why. Poke (pronounced poh-KEH) is basically everything we like about sushi and/or sashimi: raw fish + some other cool, usually healthy ingredients + (if it’s a poke bowl) sushi rice.

Roy’s
Poke has been available at the upscale Hawaiian chain (with locations in Chandler and North Phoenix) for over a decade, in the form of a classic rice-and-fish poke bowl. Roy’s extravagant version features ahi poke, lomi lomi salmon and yellowtail tartare topped with crispy onions and a lightly pickled carrot-daikon salad. It’s an elegant but affordable treat at $16.90. Two Valley locations.
roysrestaurant.com

Dominick’s Steakhouse
Meanwhile, steak-centric Dominick’s deliciously proves they can dish out surf as well as turf, offering a sublimely simple, slightly spicy rendition of straight-up poke, combining cubed ahi or salmon with cucumber, Thai chili and togarashi sauce ($28). Expensive, but completely worth it. 15169 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-272-7271, dominickssteakhouse.com

Chula Seafood
This neat-as-a-pin new shop sells pole-caught, sustainable seafood, including a Hawaiian-style poke bowl: rice topped with a strikingly colorful arrangement of yellowfin tuna, cucumber, watermelon radish, mango, edamame, onion, macadamia nut, soy, sesame, ginger and garlic. It’s so ultra-fresh and clean-tasting you’ll swear it’s poke manna from heaven ($14). 8015 E. Roosevelt St., Scottsdale, 480-621-5121, chulaseafood.com

AhiPoki Bowl
If the previous options seem a tad too hoity-toity, consider this fast-casual California import, where you can build your own bowl from dozens of options for $10, give or take. And by the time you read this, Ocean Poke should be open at Indian School and 36th Street, another affordable option bringing poke to the people. ahipokibowl.com

 

 

2. Smoke

Man probably started smoking meat about 10 minutes after he discovered fire, but the restaurant trend in recent years has been smoking everything but meat, and the results are invariably wonderful – lending woodsy, elemental depth to seafood, vegetables and even cocktails.

Crudo
Chef-owner Cullen Campbell infuses buttery Castelvetrano olives with mesquite smoke for about 45 minutes, then covers them in fresh, cold-pressed olive oil and serves them as a happy hour snack or appetizer ($5). You’ll get eight but want 80. 3603 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-358-8666, crudoaz.com

Gertrude’s at Desert Botanical Garden
Talk about addictive. Chef Matt Taylor smokes and fries morsels of tofu into crunchy, burnished cubes, plated piping hot with a dusting of curry salt and a side bowl of kasundi, India’s chunky, exotically spiced version of ketchup. Even the tofu-averse will be won over by this heady combo ($10). 1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, 480-719-8600,
gertrudesrestaurant.net

Ocotillo
Chefs/co-owners Sacha Levine and Walter Sterling apply smoke to naturally sweet beets, adding them to a salad of arugula, ricotta, pistachios and lemon-black pepper vinaigrette. One bite and you’ve got a sweet-sour-bitter-smoky-crunchy-creamy thing going. It’s a little mouth-party, with everyone playing quite nicely ($9). 3243 N. Third St., Phoenix, 602-687-9080, ocotillophx.com

Kai
Smoked guacamole may be the least intuitive of our selections, but the results speak for themselves at five-star, Native American-inflected Kai, where butter-poached Nova Scotia lobster, accompanied by airy fry bread called Wamichtha, is served three ways: cold lobster knuckle with shaved fennel and endive salad, lobster bisque with ancho corn flan and brioche brown butter crumbs, and a warm, butter-soaked lobster tail, presented with a creamy smear of guacamole smoked over mesquite for five minutes. It’s a brilliant example of smoking something inherently mild to add complexity ($28). Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, 5594 Wild Horse Pass Blvd., Chandler, 602-385-5726,
wildhorsepassresort.com

Yasu Sushi Bistro
Although you’ve no doubt had canned smoked oysters before, those rubbery nuggets are light-years from the fresh smoked version served by chef/owner Yasu Hashino, who smokes plump Kumamoto or Pacific oysters over hay, imbuing them with a grassy sweetness that evokes farm and sea at once. 4316 E. Cactus Rd., Phoenix, 602-787-9181

VirtÙ
Chef Gio Osso lets the fresh rosemary with which he tops his outrageous porchetta catch fire in the wood-burning oven, adding a subtle smokiness to the meat and the cassoulet it’s used in, composed of cannellini beans and charred, preserved lemon salsa verde ($29). Osso says it’s just enough smoke to make you wonder: “What is that taste I’m getting?” 3701 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale, 480-946-3477, virtuscottsdale.com

Undertow
There’s nothing subtle about The Smoking Cannon cocktail at UnderTow, arguably the hottest bar in the Valley this winter. Jason Asher and co. strain Buffalo Trace bourbon, Plantation five-year rum, Bigallet China-China Amer (a citrus-accented liqueur), W&H Amontillado sherry, pineapple syrup and Mi Casa bitters (imbued with trade route herbs and spices) into a crystal decanter and add cinnamon smoke. It’s a big, bold bad boy with notes of tropical fruit and spice – perfect for a chilly evening ($11). 3620 E.
Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-753-6504

 
 

 

3. Beyond the (Chicken) Breast

We like big breasts and we cannot lie – chicken breasts, that is, those plump, virtually fat-free monoliths of barnyard poultry that nine out of 10 finicky, sinew-phobic Americans prefer. But the times, they must be a-changin’ because somebody is eating the assemblage of offal bits, skins and assorted dark meat oddities showing up on menus all over town. Breast in peace, clucker.

Grilled Chicken Hearts at Crudo
Chef Cullen Campbell offers an edgy chicken option at Crudo – two skewers of six strawberry-size nubbins of grilled chicken hearts served with arugula, pickled rhubarb, Maldon sea salt and olive oil ($10). Simple, but so delicious. 3603 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-358-8666, crudoaz.com

Chicken Liver Mousse at Tratto and Quiessence
Both restaurants are famous for their dreamy versions of this nouvelle favorite. While it comes and goes on Tratto’s changing menu, it’s always available on Quiessence’s charcuterie board. Chef Dustin Cristofolo enriches his with eggs and cream, adding ruby port for sweetness. Served with pickled local grapes and lavosh, it’s the poor man’s foie gras ($12 per person). Tratto: Town & Country, 4743 N. 20th St., Phoenix, 602-296-7761, trattophx.com; Quiessence: 6106 S. 32nd St., Phoenix, 602-276-0601, qatthefarm.com

Various Chicken Parts at The Larder + the Delta
Chef Stephen Jones removes the fat from his skins and brines them overnight in buttermilk before frying for an ultra-crispy texture, then sticks them between two soft, sweet King’s Hawaiian buns smeared with Crystal Hot Sauce aioli. Jones adds the sharp bite of vinegar-based, apple-jalapeño coleslaw to make a playful po’ boy so delicious you’ll want another one before you’ve finished the first ($8). And honey, you haven’t lived until you’ve tried Jones’ Nashville-style hot chicken, a crisp-fried half-bird, bathed in a hot-sweet sauce that will give your mouth a happy glow ($14). Don’t freak out over the still-attached chicken foot; you’re not required to eat it.
915 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-633-2465

Fried Chicken Skins at Okra
At his Southern-inflected sister restaurant to Crudo, Chef Campbell turns out fried chicken skins (arguably the best reason to eat fried chicken) sans flesh. Braised in buttermilk and hot sauce, the skins are fried to a mahogany crunch, then drizzled with a sweet-hot mixture of Homeboy’s Habanero Hot Sauce and honey, which makes them sticky, messy and so very satisfying ($7). 5813 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602-296-4147, okraaz.com

Barbecued Chicken Thighs at Danky’s
One in a recent swarm of competition-style barbecue joints to open in the Valley, this North Phoenix smokehouse one-ups rivals by offering smoked chicken thighs – the rarest of the “competition meats,” due to its labor-intensiveness. Served bone-in with a crispy, ocherous skin, the thighs require an elaborate ritual of brining and surgical fat removal, leaving the all-precious skin intact, before meeting the smoker. So much fuss, but so good, with a heady one-two punch of crunch and succulent dark meat. 4727 E. Bell Rd., Phoenix, 602-996-2016, dankysbbq.com

 
 

 

4. Heirloom Grains

Remember when carbs were the devil? Thank God that’s over. These days we embrace grains – admittedly, local grains, nutrient-rich grains, non-GMO grains, but grains all the same – with the same gusto we once denounced them. Atkins, you’re dead to us. Grains are now good for us, the local-er the better. Amen.

Noble Eatery
You won’t find a better place to experience the glory of grains than Noble Eatery, where Hayden Flour Mill grains are used in Noble’s breads and its Noble Grain Salad, a menu staple. Although the salad changes from day-to-day or week-to-week, depending on what’s in season, it always includes wheat berries as well as another grain such as quinoa or millet. The generous bowl also contains seasonal veggies – roasted peppers, corn and purple yams – and a sprinkle of toasted seeds ($9). Eating healthy has never been so easy. 2201 E. McDowell Rd., Phoenix, 602-688-2424, noblebread.com

The Henry
Using quinoa for a salad or side dish has become de rigueur, but quinoa in a taco? Only at The Henry, where three soft tacos bulge with heirloom quinoa, smoked corn, smashed avocado, pickled onion and queso fresco, a healthy vegetarian dish sided with black beans ($11). 4455 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-429-8020, foxrc.com

The Gladly
Chef Bernie Kantak uses millet in such a sophisticated way that the gluten-free crop transcends its bland, wholesome origins. Scenting it with rosemary, he serves the millet alongside duck meatloaf with smoked cherry demi-glace (see Smoke, pg. 85), foie gras mousseline and asparagus, creating an edible oxymoron of edginess and comfort ($29). 2201 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-759-8132, thegladly.com

Lon’s at the Hermosa
Chef Jeremy Pacheco makes rich, earthy saffron risotto – chewier and more interesting than rice – to accompany seabass with Kauai shrimp, chorizo, charred I’itoi onions and shishito peppers ($38), proving that healthy grains can still exude sex appeal. 5532 N. Palo Cristi Rd., Phoenix, 602-955-7878, hermosainn.com

 
 

 

5. Middle Eastern Spices  

2017 is going to be another bullish year for exotic international flavors. You can’t swing a cat without finding something Indian, Korean or Chengduese on the menu. But Middle Eastern food and other dishes originating on the southern shores of the Mediterranean may be riding the biggest wave, both here at home and across the U.S.

Rancho Pinot
Even Chrysa Robertson’s Italian-inflected menu takes the occasional Middle Eastern turn. In one exceptional instance, she makes her own dukka (an aromatic Egyptian spice blend), adding lime vinaigrette and a creamy puddle of tahini sauce to faintly nutty kabocha squash (roasted until its insides are fluffy, its edges lightly crisped) for a tart-sweet-savory combo that seems familiar yet wonderfully exotic. 6208 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-367-8030, ranchopinot.com

FnB
Chef Charleen Badman of FnB has been weaving Mediterranean/Middle Eastern flavors into her menus for years, making strange dishes with funny names accessible. Although her seasonal menu changes constantly, you’ll find two or three dishes with Middle Eastern accents at any given moment: maybe sumac-roasted tomatoes with crême-like quark, dukka and grilled bread ($10) or lamb manti (luscious meat-filled Turkish dumplings) with urfa butter, cilantro, mint, pomegranate, yogurt and pine nuts ($17). Don’t be shy about asking questions. Most of us had never eaten socca or manti or a half dozen other yummy oddities until we had them at FnB. 7125 E. Fifth Ave., Scottsdale, 480-284-4777, fnbrestaurant.com

Lon’s at the Hermosa
The way it reads on the menu, Jeremy Pacheco’s Colorado lamb duo sounds more Mediterranean than Middle Eastern, but it’s no less delicious for being somewhat familiar. Imagine lamb two ways – grilled rack and braised neck – served with chickpea purée (basically hummus), olives, fennel and faintly sweet date-lamb jus ($52). Who doesn’t want that? 5532 N. Palo Cristi Rd., Paradise Valley, 602-955-7878, hermosainn.com

 

 

6. ’80s Cocktails Redux

Ah, the 80s: the tremendously tacky decade that brought us Flashdance and leg warmers, hair bands and spandex, parachute pants, Boy George, perms, blackened everything and the ever-elegant Fuzzy Navel – a cloying cocktail involving peach schnapps and orange juice, which was modestly named for its time. (Remember Sex on the Beach? Or the Slippery Nipple?) Like the little girl in Poltergeist famously said, “They’re baaack.” Only this time, bartenders are re-making these kitschy emblems of the past with far better ingredients.

Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour
Using The Mudslide for inspiration, mixologist Ross Simon created the decadent, dessert-like Strawberry Sundae ($11). The recipe calls for Zubrowka vodka, Dorda double-chocolate liqueur, vanilla liqueur, crème de banana, strawberry purée, half and half, and simple syrup. Garnished with vanilla whipped cream, mint and strawberry, it looks and tastes like an ice cream sundae sans ice cream. 1 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix, 602-340-1924, bitterandtwistedaz.com

Joe’s Midnight Run
The Long Island Iced Tea – famous for getting you hammered in short order while looking and tasting like an Arnold Palmer – has morphed into the Sunnyslope Iced Tea, created by consulting bartender Travis Nass ($8). Made with vodka, gin, rum, tequila, orange liqueur, lemon juice, pineapple juice and curaçao (the bright blue liqueur found in dozens of ’70s and ’80s drinks) it’s deliciously slurpable weird science. 6101 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 480-459-4467, joesmidnightrun.com

The Womack
In the bad old days, the Amaretto Sour was nothing more than amaretto and sweet and sour from a mix. How perfect, then, that owner Tucker Woodbury (The Vig) resurrects the cocktail at The Womack, his booth-by-booth tribute to erstwhile Phoenix R&B bar Chez Nous. The Sour takes a stylish turn thanks to Old Forester Signature 100 Proof bourbon, Lazzaroni amaretto, lemon, simple syrup and egg white ($10). Far more sophisticated than a syrupy sorority girl drink. 5749 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602-283-5232, thewomack.us

 
 
 

 

7. Bowls

Bowls are big this year – in both the literal and figurative sense – and we love them for so many reasonable reasons. Combining meat, veg, starch or some combination thereof, they provide a satisfying meal-in-one that’s quick, affordable, humble and often healthful.

St. Francis
Aaron Chamberlin was way ahead of the curve on this one, putting the Forbidden Rice Bowl on his menu when he opened St. Francis in 2009. It’s been a best seller ever since, combining forbidden rice – the nutty-tasting black rice once reserved for China’s elite – with a rotating selection of seasonal vegetables, which are often wood-roasted. Moistened with sweet-spicy vinaigrette and strewn with raw veggies, the FRB feels more timeless than trendy ($15 + $5 to add chicken). 111 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-200-8111, stfrancisaz.com

True Food Kitchen
“Trending” is certainly the watchword at Sam Fox’s healthy-eats chain, where the Ancient Grains Bowl flaunts three or four trends all at once. Composed of brown rice, quinoa, farro, miso-glazed sweet potato, charred onion, snow peas, grilled portobello and avocado, the assemblage is seasoned with turmeric, lemongrass, ginger and garlic ($14). Speaking of Fox, it’s Bowls-R-Us at Flower Child, where five bowls and a half dozen more salads (in bowls, natch) are featured. Multiple Valley locations. truefoodkitchen.com, iamaflowerchild.com

Phoenix Public Market CafÉ
You can even get breakfast in a bowl at Aaron Chamberlin’s Phoenix Public Market Café, which combines quinoa (part of the grain trend) with seasonal veggies, poached eggs and pesto for a light, protein-packed wake-up call ($10.25). 14 E. Pierce St., Phoenix, 602-253-2700, phxpublicmarket.com

Hot Noodles Cold Sake
Bowls are obviously the favored vessel at Josh Hebert’s new ramen hotspot, a tiny North Scottsdale storefront featuring just five versions of the beloved Japanese noodle dish ($9 at lunch, $13 at dinner). The most popular bowl is the Goma House Specialty, brimming with char-siu pork, bok choy and shishito peppers in a pork broth with a touch of sesame paste for a creamy mouthfeel. 15689 N. Hayden Rd., Ste. 127, Scottsdale, 480-432-9898, hotnoodlescoldsake.com

Hana Japanese Eatery
When it’s cold outside, nothing warms the heart like a steaming bowl of curried udon at Lori Hashimoto’s uptown sushi bistro. Fat, slippery udon noodles float in a deep, rich curry broth with chicken or beef (vegetarian is a third option), cabbage, carrots, snow peas, onion and red ginger ($15). It’s the heartiest and best bowl in town. 5524 N. Seventh Ave., Phoenix, 602-973-1238, hanajapaneseeatery.com

 

 

8. Going Paleo

Paleo purists believe that if we eat as our distant ancestors did, eschewing dairy, grains, legumes, sugar, alcohol and coffee, we’ll live longer. My question is, why would we want to? But never mind self-indulgent me. The Paleo Diet, going strong for three or four years now, has moved from the realm of home cooks to restaurants. With a prehistoric vengeance.

Blooming Beets
Billing itself as the Valley’s first “100% gluten-free and Paleo restaurant,” this Colorado import opened in Chandler this past December. The extensive and upscale menu is founded upon grain-free, gluten-free, grass-fed, wild-caught and pastured ingredients. Additionally, most items are dairy-free, GMO-free and pesticide/growth hormone-free. More importantly, there’s nothing about these dishes – organized by different diets, including vegetarian and auto-immune protocol – that seems boring or apologetic. Imagine cashew butter-stuffed dates, wild-caught salmon on celery root purée, roasted beets with green onion aioli, or raw-smoked, peppered elk carpaccio with parsley and avocado oil. Doesn’t sound like suffering to me. 7131 W. Ray Rd., Ste. 34, Chandler, 480-699-7639, bloomingbeets.com

Nourish123
This Gilbert eatery doesn’t cater strictly to Paleo peeps, but rather to anyone avoiding gluten, dairy, soy, corn and peanuts – all of which are Paleo taboos – as well as GMOs and preservatives. The menu offers all-day breakfast, salads, sandwiches, wraps, bowls and dessert, each item followed by colored icons to indicate whether it’s corn-free, egg-free, nut-free, vegetarian, vegan, raw or Paleo. It’s another appealing option for people who struggle with sticking to their diet when going out to eat. 1495 S. Higley Rd., Gilbert, 480-525-1345, nourish123.com

Caveman Burgers
Although soft drinks, french fries, onion rings and hamburger buns – including an excellent, locally baked pretzel bun – are available for non-believers, Paleo proponents can follow their own health plan at this recently opened fast-casual burger joint with roots in the Paleo movement. You’ll find plenty of ethically sourced, locally made ingredients, including Arizona grass-fed beef, cage-free turkey and wild caught salmon — with big crispy lettuce leaves pinch-hitting for hamburger buns. Sure, it’s more expensive than fast food, but it’s tastier, and considerably healthier. Where else will you find organic ketchup for your crispy, hand-cut fries — just like our cave-people ancestors used to eat around the fire? 430 E. Bell Rd., Ste. 103, Phoenix, 602-358-7130, cavemanburgers.com

 
 

 

9. Cool Custom Lighting Concepts

Restaurant food isn’t the only aspect of the restaurant business that follows trends. Restaurant design is hugely susceptible to the “what’s hot, what’s not” question. If that weren’t so, restaurants would still look a lot like ’50s diners. Although so-called Edison bulbs – modern reproductions of the wound filament bulbs made popular by Thomas Edison at the turn of the 20th century – are still wildly popular for a look that says “vintage” and “industrial” in the same breath, restaurant owners have begun to realize that custom lighting is yet another memorable way of branding their restaurants.

TapHouse Kitchen
The dining room of this Scottsdale gastropub features four black metal chandeliers – each composed of three concentric circles containing prongs to hold upended wine and liquor bottles. Besides being cool and one of a kind, the chandeliers reinforce the TapHouse ethos, which focuses on craft beer, custom cocktails, affordable wines and both beer and wine pairings with each menu item. Hilton Village, 6137 N. Scottsdale Rd., Ste. 108, Scottsdale, 480-656-0012, taphousekitchen.com

Bourbon & Bones
In Old Town’s newest chophouse, metal-framed Edison bulbs, suspended on a row of meat hooks, illuminate the gorgeous bar. The industrial look is awesome, but I wouldn’t think too long about the apparatus of the abattoir or you’ll be ruined for dinner. 4200 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-629-4922, bourbonandbonesaz.com

Postino Highland
I’m not sure what Sputnik has to do with wine (it puts you in orbit?), but there’s no denying the $6,500 chandelier at the new Postino is jaw-dropping. Deep purple murano glass circles are incorporated into a vintage Sputnik brass chandelier to create a look that’s out of this world. Co-owner Lauren Bailey found it on her favorite online marketplace, but the fixture actually came from Galerie Glustin in Paris. 4821 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 602-428-4444, postinowinecafe.com

 

 

 

 

10. Puerto Rican & Dominican Cuisine

mediterranean and Middle Eastern ingredients and preparations may be showing up on upscale menus around town, but Latin-Caribbean restaurants – charming family-run establishments that typically smell as ambrosial as Grandma’s kitchen – are gaining traction here in the Valley as well. Singled out as a rising international style by The Food People dining blog, island food is popular with expats and open-minded diners who love the thrill of tracking down a good hole-in-the-wall serving authentic eats at dirt-cheap prices.

Kool Jerk
Ladies love bad boys. And we love this Jamaican food dive in Phoenix, which employs its spicy jerk chicken every way: wings, salad, pasta, sandwiches, tacos, wraps, burritos and quesadillas. 5642 N. 27th Ave., Phoenix, 602-824-8944, kooljerkphoenix.com

Millie’s Café
The longtime Mesa favorite moved to bigger digs last October. It’s a good place to find the Puerto Rican jibarito, a sandwich of slow-roasted pork and cheese in which fried plantains serve as bread. Genius! 1916 W. Baseline Rd., Mesa, 480-223-8217

De Mi Tierra
This sparkling hybrid restaurant offering Ecuadorian, Peruvian, Puerto Rican and Dominican specialties opened last May in South Scottsdale, serving garlicky, rib-sticking mofongo, the roasted pork dish known as pernil and pollo guisado, a one-pot chicken stew — three soulful dishes that cross all Caribbean borders. 1617 N. Granite Reef Rd., Scottsdale, 602-670-1552

FrinGo’s Kitchen
You can find these same specialties, as well as maduros, tostones, relleno de papa and Puerto Rican alcapurria (crispy fritters considered beach food) at FrinGo’s Kitchen, a homey mom-and-pop that opened a little over a year ago in Chandler. 2160 N. Alma School Rd., Ste. 116, Chandler, 480-821-3012, fringoskitchen.com

 

Where to Eat 2017: Coming Soon

What are the Valley’s most hotly anticipated new restaurants in 2017? Find them on this culinary heat map.
by Shelby Moore

HALAL GUYS
1015 S. Rural Rd., Tempe, thehalalguys.com
Projected Opening: January
Whether it’s NYU students or a sleepless bar crowd, New Yorkers aren’t scared of a late night... as long as it ends with Halal Guys. The chain’s revered rice platters, topped with chicken, gyro or falafel, get drizzled in the guys’ world-famous mayo-based “white sauce” and a soberingly spicy hot sauce. Tapping into the Valley’s late-night munchy needs, the Halal Guys’ first Arizona outpost is wisely triangulated between ASU, Sun Devil Stadium and Mill Avenue in a high-traffic spot near campus.

DOUGHBIRD
4333 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, foxrc.com
Projected Opening: Spring
Recently preoccupied with exporting his beloved restaurant brands across state lines, Sam Fox will turn his attention back to the Valley in 2017 with a fresh new concept, Doughbird, in the hotter-than-hot neighborhood of Arcadia. As the name suggests, the kitchen will focus on wood-fired pizzas and whole rotisserie chickens.

 

TACOS TEQUILA WHISKEY
3050 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, tacostequilawhiskey.com
Projected Opening: March
This lively, Denver-based taco pub landed on Bon Appétit’s famed 50 Best New Restaurants list back in 2012, the kind of high praise that all but ensures an expansion effort. With the Bon Appétit award and numerous plaudits from Mile High press in hand, TTW opened a second Denver location in 2013 and will boldly break into the coveted Arcadia market this spring.

FAT OX
6316 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, ilovefatox.com
Projected Opening:
Opened November 2016
Chef Matt Carter (pictured) is the man around Scottsdale, a culinary polymath known for executing French cuisine at Zinc Bistro, Mexican at The Mission and New American at The House Brasserie. With Fat Ox, Carter and his business partners are setting their eyes squarely on Italian cuisine – shareable protein dishes and loads of pasta and vegetable plate-ups.

MORA ITALIAN
5651 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, moraitalian.com
Projected Opening: February
Restaurateur and celebrity chef Scott Conant of TV’s Chopped will team up with Pomo Pizzeria owner Stefano Fabri to open Mora in Uptown Phoenix, serving ricotta fritters and rolled, filled pastas, among other Italian dishes. Conant will be no absentee owner – he’s made the Valley his family’s new home.

PA’LA
2101 N. 21st St., Phoenix
Projected Opening: January
At Noble Eatery, Chef Claudio Urciuoli gave us fastidious, farm-oriented sandwiches and masterfully curated vegetables and grain bowls at fair prices – all in a funky, fast-casual Downtown setting. Expect a similar setup at Pa’La, but with an even heavier focus on vegetables, and seafood dishes reflecting the chef’s coastal Italian roots, cooked over a custom wood-fire grill.

GALLO BLANCO
928 E. Pierce St., Phoenix, galloblancocafe.com
Projected Opening: Spring
Fans of Doug Robson’s Gallo Blanco never stopped mourning its demise after the chef shuttered the original location in Downtown’s mid-century-chic Clarendon Hotel. After a two-year hiatus, their wails of nouveau-Latin lamentation may finally end – Robson is opening a new Gallo location in the historic Garfield Neighborhood, next to an in-the-works Welcome Diner expansion.

OBON
15059 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, obonsushi.com
Projected Opening: February
This Downtown Tucson champion of sushi, ramen and craft cocktails couldn’t arrive soon enough at the Scottsdale Quarter, which lost TK’s Tavern, C3 Kitchen and Stingray Sushi in quick succession and seems in need of a culinary facelift. Obon should provide it. The dishes – think Roka Akor meets SoSoBa – are compelling, and the beverages, under the guidance of star Tucson mixologist Matt Martinez, are as creative as they come.

BINKLEY’S AT MIDTOWN
2320 E. Osborn Rd., Phoenix, binkleysrestaurant.com
Projected Opening:
Opened December 2016
Molecular madman Kevin Binkley closed his legendary, game-changing digs in Cave Creek to focus on the Midtown location, originally a casual restaurant that Binkley is transforming into his most elevated concept yet. (One rumor: an on-your-feet prix fixe tasting odyssey.)
The face of Phoenix fine dining may yet score that elusive James Beard Award.

CHICO MALO
50 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix, chicomalo.com
Projected Opening: Late January
Chris McKinley’s fun run at Downtown’s The Local was over before it picked up any real momentum. The chef is hitting the reset button, this time down the street at CityScape, helming a menu inspired by Mexican street food and pan-Latin cuisine. Expect braised chicken thigh and mole tacos, Baja shrimp ceviche and a Tijuana Caesar, with blue corn croutons and grilled romaine hearts.

TERRA FARM + MANOR
TBD, Prescott
Projected Opening: April
Wrap your head around, if you will, a destination restaurant pulling double-duty as a self-improvement retreat where one is immersed in a self-contained, farm-to-table cooking school and inn – all set in a remote Prescott countryside. It’s the brainchild of respected Petite Maison chef James Porter, and the dream is real.

GINO’S EAST
3626 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, ginoseast.com
Projected Opening: January
Gino’s East has precedent on its side. The beloved Chicago pizzeria joins two other Windy City-based deep-dish institutions – Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s – in opening Arizona outposts. But Gino’s sets itself apart with its cornbread crust and punk rock stylings, which inspire rabid cult devotion. Chicago was saving the best for last for its hordes of AZ expats.

RESTAURANT PROGRESS
702 W. Montecito Ave., Phoenix
Projected Opening: January
Twentysomething chef TJ Culp isn’t a household name – yet. But he could be after opening the doors to his first restaurant, a 37-seater with a tight, seasonal list of dishes, craft cocktails and late-night fare. Oh, and it’ll be located in the eclectic Melrose District north of Downtown, where more established chefs have yet to dip their spoons.

TEMPE MARKET
8749 S. Rural Rd., Tempe
Projected Opening: Summer
Restaurateur and chef Aaron Chamberlin has his sights set on the up-and-coming southeast neighborhoods of Tempe. Expect something reminiscent of Chamberlin’s Phoenix Public Market Café – i.e. Southwestern and New American cuisine in a casual setting, starring rotisserie meats and local vegetables across breakfast, lunch and dinner. With a little Tempe (um, potato skins?) thrown in for good measure.

UNNAMED BARTER & SHAKE CONCEPT
TBD, Old Town Scottsdale
Projected Opening: First Quarter
Rich Furnari and Jason Asher – the cocktail craftsmen who jointly compose Barter & Shake – previously brought you Counter Intuitive in Old Town Scottsdale and UnderTow, the subterranean craft tiki bar in Arcadia. They have a yet-to-be-named newbie up their sleeves. Expect a group-friendly cocktail concept, involving large-format, shareable cocktails and a sophisticated food program.

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