Best Vietnamese Restaurant That Doesn’t Serve Pho
Banh Mi Bistro
Don’t go into this bright North Phoenix eatery expecting soup. The focus here is banh mi, Vietnam’s French colonial-influenced sandwich composed of grilled or preserved meats, pickled vegetables, fresh cilantro, fiery chiles and creamy mayo on a crispy baguette with an airy interior. Augment your Viet sub with lotus root salad, a noodle bowl or a rice plate. 2340 W. Bell Rd., Phoenix, 602-843-3637, banhmibistroaz.com
Best Garlic Bread
Forget the long, buttered loaf. The garlic bread at North comes as soft, three-bite planks teetering in a nacho-like heap. Topped with a flurry of Grana Padano cheese and a shower of herbs and scooped into house-made ricotta, the tiered slabs are so decadent that a few could easily make a meal. And that white truffle perfume? Pure manna. Two Valley locations, northitalia.com
Best Bargain chicken dinner!
Mercado Y Carniceria Cuernavaca
Don’t let the idea of chicken on the cheap, cooked in an inconspicuous south Scottsdale bodega fool you – these heavenly hens are freshly seasoned, grilled and packaged to go with a scrumptious side of frijoles charro or refried beans, spicy rice, salsa and warm tortillas. Take your pick: one chicken for $12.49 or two for $18.99. 2931 N. 68th St., Scottsdale
BEST MAC & CHEESE MASH-UP
Balls of Fire from SoSoBa
214 W. Roosevelt St., Phoenix,
- Fried macaroni and cheese balls injected with Sriracha.
- Two for $4.
- Featured on Thrillist’s Eat Seeker.
Mac and Cheese Muffins from The Duce
525 S. Central Ave., Phoenix,
- Muffins baked with cheddar, Gruyère, Parmesan, local goat cheese and macaroni.
- 10 for $10.
- Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
Best New Vegan Restaurant
Husband and wife Kevin and Maria Lebron’s love and gratitude for food – and for each other – is evident in their plant-based mom-and-pop operation, which opened last September. Pachamama translates to “Mother Earth” in the Quechua language – an homage to both the bountiful offerings of the earth and the couple’s Latin American roots. The mostly Mexican menu strays from mock meats, instead using fruits and veggies to develop thoughtful and creative fare like a marinated hibiscus asada and hearts of palm ceviche. 4115 N. 19th Ave., Phoenix, 602-586-3991, pachamamaphx.com
Best Old-School Sandwich
Italian at Arcadia Meat Market
This classic Italian hoagie is a paragon of sophisticated simplicity. Every part is perfect. There is the Noble Bread roll, the finely shredded lettuce, the heap of tangy giardiniera. Most of all, there is the pile of neatly folded meats, including a fat-flecked mortadella that glides down the gullet with supple ease. 3950 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-595-4310, arcadiameatmarket.com
Best Corn Dog
We did not think that anyone could top nature’s most perfect food – the corn dog. Then came Korean corn dogs, featuring over-size dogs stuffed with fillings and sprinkled with toppings that blows our minds, such as the mozzarella-stuffed, sugar-dusted dog at this fusion food counter at the new H-Mart in Mesa. Now that’s Seoul food. 1919 W. Main St., Mesa, 562-219-6582, hmart.com
Best New Mexican
The most-copied restaurant in Phoenix history – well, it’s either Richardson’s or Postino – is still its most virtuoso purveyor of cheesy, smoky, chile-everything New Mexican food, from the classic Chimayo Chicken to the stalwart green chile stew. When you want to coat your insides in pure culinary comfort, this 33-year institution from owner/emeritus-chef Richardson Brown has few equals. 6335 N 16th St, Phoenix, 602-265-5886, richardsonsnm.com
Best Late-Night Dim Sum
Jobot Coffee and Bar
Craving beef and broccoli and a cold brew? Jobot’s your spot. This quirky coffeehouse has long been a vaunted Downtown haunt for coffee and cocktails, but when it closed its Fifth Street location and reopened on the corner of Seventh and Roosevelt streets, it got a major makeover. Jobot’s signature neon sign, red and white umbrellas and coffee menu remained intact, but the food selection and beverage program underwent an overhaul last year thanks to local dining darling Tyka Cheng (formerly of UnderTow and Gallo Blanco). The wild card? Chinese-inspired dishes like shumai and gai lan available from 3 p.m. to midnight. 333 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, 602-567-7848, jobotcoffee.com
Best New-School Pop-Up
Lawrence Smith and Aseret Arroyo riff thoughtfully on Mexican food. Often, they let their imaginations run wild, like with birria ramen. Sometimes, they go more gently, as they did with quesabirria on a tortilla colored black with squid ink. Offerings fully turn over every few weeks, making just about every Chilte meal exhilarating eating. chiltephx.com
Ladera Taverna y Cocina
Scientifically speaking, we aren’t sure how Genuine Concepts culinary director Jeremy Pacheco’s house-made chicharrones can be exhilaratingly crisp one moment and then melt completely on the tongue the next, evaporating into the smoky, porky ether. It’s a chemistry lesson on the transformation of matter that we’re keen on repeating. 8729 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-606-2258, laderaphx.com
Best Venezuelan Cuisine
Arepa Soundtracks Food Truck
Love that small smack of serotonin when your favorite song comes on? Arepa Soundtracks owner Cameron Everett knows the feeling well – and his Venezuelan food truck and catering company boasts food that boosts happiness. He listens to his favorite tunes while preparing the arepas, empanadas, salads and sweet plantains he’s known for – all of which have musical monikers like the Sound Garden salad. We’ve got the vegetarian Domino arepa (Van Morrison’s favorite) on repeat. arepasoundtracks.com
Though that long-planned second location on Seventh Avenue hasn’t quite materialized – originally scheduled for early 2019, it now will open “sometime in the future” says an employee – this Seventh Street restaurant and bar remains the best place in the Valley to verse oneself in the miracle of fusion cooking that is Peruvian food, from creamy, corn-sided ceviche to Chinese-inspired arroz chaufa and all the creamy and fried potato dishes in between. Another great reason to live “between the 7s.” 2605 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, (602) 279-8425, elchullorestaurant.com
Best Off-Label Use of Cauliflower
Venezia’s Cauliflower Pizza Crust
Cauliflower fatigue is real. Whether it’s grilled in chunks or pummeled into “rice,” we are not here for the trendiest of vegetables. Except when it comes to the cauliflower crust at Venezia’s. It’s crisp and tasty, the perfect lower-carb vehicle to get the cheese and sauce from the box to our mouths. Veg out! Multiple Valley locations. venezias.com
Best Mediterranean Food
The falafel is crispy, the shawarma is tasty and the pita is fresh. But for us, the true test of any Mediterranean restaurant is the hummus. Princess more than passes, with a rich, creamy chickpea dip we enjoy with just about every dish that hits the table. Grab some to go, too. 2620 W. Broadway Rd., Mesa, 480-894-1499, princessmarketmesa.com
Best Dinner Series
Passport Series at Match Market & Bar
If a vacation to Greece or Thailand isn’t in the budget this year, fake it ’til you make it with this transportive dinner series held at FOUND:RE Phoenix Hotel’s flagship restaurant. Each event features food and cocktails inspired by a given locale, and attendees get “passports” stamped at each dinner to win prizes. 1100 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-875-8080, matchphx.com