The 101 Best Dishes in the Valley

Editorial StaffJanuary 6, 2022
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Historic ramen. Legendary brisket. Paradigm-shifting pizza.

Fill your 2022 dining bingo card with our sumptuous showcase of the Valley’s most crave-able restaurant dishes. Bring your napkin – it’s gonna get messy!

By
Christina Barrueta, Nikki Buchanan, Jess Harter, Marilyn Hawkes,
Leah LeMoine, M.V. Moorhead, Craig Outhier, Madison Rutherford & Amy Silverman

Original photography by
Angelina Aragon, Eric Cox, Mirelle Inglefield, Melissa Valladares & Debby Wolvos

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101 Dishes HACK

Want to try a whole slew of these indispensable culinary wonders in one fell swoop? Get your tickets today for PHOENIX magazine food festival coming this February. 

101 Dishes: How Did We Select Them?

 -> Iconic standing

We asked ourselves: “Has the dish achieved celebrity status? Do we regularly meet random people who have tried and loved it?” If so, it probably made our list.

-> Inventiveness & daring

Our writers and editors love old-school cooking as much as the next food-crazed American. But we also like artful transgression, and when it works, we tried to reward it.

-> Best in class

The juiciest roast chicken. The tastiest Brussels. The most miraculous mac and cheese. You’ll find them all over the next 34 pages.

-> Availability

Can you walk up to a counter or sit down at a table and simply order it? That was a requirement… which is why elite, multi-course restaurants with mercurial menus like Binkley’s, ShinBay and Kai (all of them consensus Top 10 restaurants in the state) are not represented here.

-> Egalitarianism

Look, we know this list is hardly scientific. It’s simply based on what nine people with computer keyboards happen to love. But to spread the coverage as fairly and usefully as possible, we generally limited it to one dish per given restaurant.

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The Top 5 

When our nine writers sat down to formulate our 101 list, these five beloved Valley dishes were mentioned with uncanny regularity. So they get to bat lead-off.

No. 1

Brown-Butter Hiramasa Crudo 

Valentine
Conceived and delivered at The Gladly, chef Donald Hawk’s cult favorite now resides at his new Melrose all-day diner, Valentine. A uniquely harmonious mélange of ingredients – satiny slices of hiramasa (yellowtail) graced with artfully toasted butter, raisins, tomatillo-and-fish-sauce vinaigrette and Sonoran Desert I’itoi onions – create an ethereal dish light in texture but rich in flavor, and absolutely irresistible. Little wonder we’re seeing similar dishes pop up around the Valley. valentinephx.com 

No. 2

Pollo Asado

Bacanora
Every dish on chef/co-owner Rene Andrade’s menu is a love letter home to Sonora – particularly his bewitching pollo asado, simply salted and cooked over mesquite, pecan and almond on a Santa Maria grill. The meat is impossibly moist and juicy, full of smoke and char, and made even more delicious by accompaniments of frijoles, potatoes and home-made flour tortillas. This is one of those ceiling-shattering dishes that appears simple from afar, but ultimately makes you realize that everybody else has been doing it wrong. bacanoraphx.com

Pollo asado; Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
brown-butter hiramasa crudo; Photo by Mirelle Inglefield

No. 3

Sliced Brisket

Little Miss BBQ
The best brisket in Arizona and probably all five of her neighboring states can be found at Scott Holmes’ Little Miss. It’s a laborious process involving careful sourcing, a perfect trim, a minimalist rub, offset smokers, various woods and low-and-slow smoking, but the results – crusty, peppery bark and melt-in-your-mouth beef – are dependably spectacular, whether you order it at the original location near Sky Harbor or Holmes’ newer digs in Sunnyslope. littlemissbbq.com

sliced brisket; Photo by Debby Wolvos

No. 4

Mackerel Fried Rice

Glai Baan
Though initially relegated to the specials board, this comfort dish quickly became the star of Cat Bunnag’s always-packed Thai street food restaurant in Midtown after she opened it four years ago. In the midst of toasty rice grains flecked with egg and onions, Bunnag embeds morsels of Ducktrap smoked wild mackerel, a nod to her time spent in Maine. Served with cucumber, cilantro, lime and prik nam pla, the dish is tangy, spicy, smoky and rich with umami depth. glaibaanaz.com

Mackerel fried rice (inset); chef James Fox with hiramasa ceviche; Photos courtesy Glai Baan; by Mirelle inglefield

No. 5

Hiramasa Ceviche

Vecina
At Latin-inflected Vecina, chefs/co-owners James Fox and Eric Stone would have a riot on their hands if they took their splendid Peruvian-style ceviche off the menu. Chula Seafood’s hiramasa (sashimi-grade amberjack) is cured in the spicy, citrusy marinade called leche de tigre, then served with grilled pineapple, cilantro, jalapeño, Aleppo pepper and crunchy choclo, Peruvian corn. It was an instant Valley classic the moment it first hit the public’s collective taste buds two years ago. vecinaphx.com

Time Machine: 

2016

How our Top 5 looked the last time we ranked Valley dishes, six years ago.

1. Grilled octopus at Virtù. “Try it. You will be transformed into a cephalopodophile,” we wrote.

2. Sliced brisket at Little Miss BBQ. Same as it ever was.

3. Stetson Chopped Salad at Cowboy Ciao. Now appears as The Original Chopped Salad at The Gladly.

4. Cochinita pibil at Barrio Café. We prefer Silvana’s chiles en nogada in 2022.

5. Pappardelle Bolognese at  Pizzeria Bianco. Were we high? It’s gotta be Bianco’s Rosa.

West Valley

Cha ca Hanoi

Little Saigon
Vietnamese food fans in the know have long admired this family-run bistro, from its days at the Christown Mall to its current incarnation in Glendale. The bún bowls (rice vermicelli with fresh vegetables and proteins, doused in sweet fish sauce) and hot pots are among the Valley’s best, but for a bucket-list experience, splurge on this for-two hot plate salmagundi of Hanoi catfish and pork belly in a sizzling black pepper sauce with cooling sides of veggies, noodles and sesame fish sauce. facebook.com/littlesaigonaz

Chicken Tikka Masala Wrap

Wraps N Curry
Supposedly invented in Britain so weak-tummied Anglos could enjoy Indian food without suffering the dread “Delhi belly,” mild, tomato-based tikka masala gets an Americanizing twist at this West Phoenix lunch counter: It comes as a wrap, with starchy crinkle-cut fries on the side. Multiculturalism at its most delicious. wraps-n-curry.business.site

Drunken Catfish

Flavors of Louisiana
No one has done more to educate Phoenicians in the delights of Creole cuisine than owner-chef Jennifer Landry Goff, and this bayou classic is her master class: deep-fried catfish smothered in a creamy, stew-like crawfish étouffée, revved up with red bell peppers and a corpse-reviving dose of cayenne. Just pure, decadent delight. flavorsoflouisianacajun.com

drunken catish; Photo courtesy Flavors of Louisiana
elote wings; Photo by Eric Cox

Elote Wings

Booty’s Wings
Owner-chef Andy LiButti took two Arizona favorites – chicken wings and elote (street corn) – and combined them to create one of the Valley’s best bar noshes. But don’t take our word for it: The crunchy, savory and tangy wings took second place for Best in Show at the 2021 National Buffalo Wing Festival in Buffalo, New York. bootyswings.com

Falafel

Casa de Falafel
The fried chickpeas at this casa, which once occupied the west end of a Shell gas station in Peoria, have been rated among the best both locally and nationally, scoring the No. 2 spot in a national Yelp ranking in 2019. Point in fact: We were fans of owner Fahad Shakir’s flawless, not-too-moist, not-too-dry medallions before they were cool, reviewing the place in 2017. Now that Shakir has moved to more traditional restaurant digs in Glendale, we imagine the word will only continue to spread. cdfalafel.com

falafel; Photo courtesy Casa de Falafel

Phad Thai

Siam Thai
What makes it the best phad Thai in the Valley? (And we’ve had it everywhere, believe-you-us.) Flawless noodles, for starters. Not sticky, not oily, just right. Then fresh sprigs of herbs and never-dry chicken, and just a hint of tamarind tang, which less confident Thai-American restaurants dispense with altogether. Unlike lesser, fry-it-all-up phads, all the elements are distinct and harmonious. It’s a Euclidean aesthetics seminar in noodle form. siamthaicuisine.com

porchetta; Photo by By Mirelle Inglefield

Porchetta 

Fabio on Fire
Chef Fabio Ceschetti’s porchetta – first served at his restaurant in Domodossola in northern Italy – begins life as a pork loin wrapped in pork belly and marinated with garlic, sage and rosemary. Two-and-a-half hours after the porcine pinwheel enters Ceschetti’s wood-fired oven, you’re rewarded with heavenly slices of culinary perfection served with chickpea purée and warm wedges of rosemary focaccia. fabioonfire.com

Quesabirria Tacos

Analilia’s Riquezas
Tijuana cooks may have invented the quesabirria taco, but Peoria restaurateur Analilia Rodriguez – originally from Guerrero, Mexico – is the one who perfected it, tucking juicy, deeply flavorful shredded beef and cheese into consommé-dipped corn tortillas and griddling them until they’re crisp, slightly blackened and oozy with cheese. Add fresh lime, onion and cilantro, then dunk those babies in more of that ambrosial consommé before digging in. It’s the Valley’s best quesabirria. Trust us. We put in the research. Instagram: @analiliasriquezas

Roman-style pizza; Photo courtesy La Piazza Al Fornor

Roman-style Pepperoni Pizza

La Piazza al Forno
As the West Valley’s most accomplished practitioner of thin-crust, wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pizza, Justin Piazza didn’t need to pioneer Arizona’s most exciting new pizza style two years ago, but that’s just the way he, ahem, rolls. Topped with fresh mozzarella and a variety of Italian deli meats, his high-hydration, Roman-style crust is springy, focaccia-like and completely irresistible. lapiazzafamiglia.com

Sonoran Hot Dog

El Caprichoso
This sprawling, tented stand has been cranking out Best in Show dogs for more than 30 years – juicy, bacon-wrapped wieners nestled in fluffy, griddle-browned buns, then topped with whole beans, grilled onions, chunky guacamole and tomato, judicious squiggles of ketchup, mustard and mayo, a dusting of cotija cheese and a jolt of jalapeño salsa. In a town teeming with Sonoran dogs, this one stands tall. elcaprichosohotdogs.com

East Valley

Aji Pizza

Craft 64
Most of the accolades amassed by owner James Swann at his two brewpub locations – one in Old Town Scottsdale, one in Chandler – are predictably focused on his peerless selection of Arizona beers. But don’t sleep on the food, including this offering from his wood-fired stove. House-smoked fennel sausage and sautéed onions are nicely balanced with house-made mozzarella, ricotta and fresh organic spinach from McClendon Farms, but it’s the spicy jalapeño-based Peruvian green sauce that makes this wood-fired pie a one-of-a-kind experience in the Valley. craft64.com 

Blue Crabs

Chesapeake Bay Bistro
In less than 24 hours, a cerulean-clawed crustacean snatched from the waters off Maryland will be on your plate at this family-run Ahwatukee eatery. It’s freshness you can literally taste. CBB serves the whole crab steamed with traditional Old Bay seasoning, or shelled and fried Virginia-style during a season that runs May to October. chesapeakebaybistro.com 

Chicken Shawarma

Princess Market
The Valley has no shortage of Mediterranean market/restaurant combos, but Princess Market stands out with crispy falafel and extra creamy hummus. It’s the chicken shawarma that really earns the crown. This dish is flavorful and juicy, the perfect complement to a warm pita or saffron rice. princessmarket.com

Cream of Leek, Potato & Stilton soup

Cornish Pasty Co.
Naturally, you go to Cornish Pasty for the wildly imaginative pasties, but don’t overlook this voluptuous vegetarian soup. Leeks and potatoes are natural soulmates, and Stilton, England’s famously mild blue cheese, adds richness and depth to this earthy mélange. Served with warm, house-baked bread, it’s bliss in a bowl, and our pick for the Valley’s best soup. cornishpastyco.com

chicken shawarma; photo by Melissa Vallares

Cumin Lamb

Chou’s Kitchen
In a city filled with Sichuan cuisine, it’s nice to mix it up – and Chou’s complies with culinary offerings from northeastern China’s Dongbei region. A favorite is cumin lamb, featuring strips of lamb with just enough grease and heat to satisfy and make you feel like you need to hit the gym. It’s worth it. chouskitchen.com

Farmers Cheese and Chive Pierogi

All Pierogi
Eight decades’ worth of Ukrainian family recipes populate the menu at this Eastern European haven. All 17 varieties of its hand-rolled pierogi are delicious, but the farmers cheese and chive version gets our vote for its rootedness in tradition. The mild, fresh white cheese has a pleasant tang that plays well with the bracing allium bite of chives. allpierogi.com

Fig’s Pig

Surf City Sandwich
When Paul “Fig” Figliomeni launched his artisan sandwicherie in Gilbert in 2020, one of his goals was to re-create a memorable sandwich he enjoyed while following the Grateful Dead on tour through Ohio in 1990. With pulled pork, stout barbecue sauce, caramelized onions and pineapple coleslaw, it’s a chart-topper. surfcitysandwich.com

Fosolia

Café Lalibela
“Eat your beans!” The command which made many of us miserable as kids becomes a joy at this time-honored Ethiopian diner in Tempe. It’s basically Ethiopia’s version of green beans, served in a savory, tomato-y stew with carrots, and snarfed with injera, the spongy bread that doubles as a utensil. Of all the heavenly dishes at Lalibela, it’s the most so. cafelalibela.com

Fig’s Pig; Courtesy Surf City Sandwich
Fig’s Pig; Courtesy Surf City Sandwich
blue crabs; courtesy Chesapeake Bay Bistro
blue crabs; courtesy Chesapeake Bay Bistro
aji pizza; Courtesy Craft 64
aji pizza; Courtesy Craft 64
No More Mr. Rice Guy; by Eric Cox
No More Mr. Rice Guy; by Eric Cox

House Special Spicy Dry Pot 

Old Town Taste
For a crash course in the spicy, garlicky, pungent deights of Sichuan cooking, look no further than this riotous medley of shrimp, squid, quail egg, pinwheel-shaped lotus root and tender medallions of potato, luxuriating in a sweet slick of chile oil and peppercorn, with soft ribbons of tripe connecting it all together. Not a tripe fan? Don’t worry – it’s benign and highly edible here, more like pasta. oldtowntaste.com

No More Mr. Rice Guy

The Hudson Eatery & Bar
Is it a protein bowl? A vegan entrée? A side dish? This versatile and delicious concoction of Mediterranean pico (tomatoes, chickpeas, cucumbers, green onions and parsley), hot sauce and ranch over saffron rice, with an option to add steak or chicken, can check whatever box you desire. hudsontempe.com 

Paitan Ramen

Origami
Chef-owner Yusuke Kuroda learned from world-class culinarians at Nobu, so he settled in Ahwatukee, naturally, offering some of the Valley’s best Japanese cuisine upon opening in 2020. His flagship dish: the Origami ramen bowl served paitan-style with chicken broth. Enriched with egg yolk, it offers much richer, mouth-filling experience than typical tonkotsu ramens, with breast meat so mysteriously supple and tender, you’ll want to die. origamiramenbar.com

Patacón

Que Chevere
The Venezuelan patacón is a gloriously sloppy monster of a sandwich in which unripe plantains – smashed and twice-fried until they’re ultra-crispy – make bread-like bookends for heaps of supple shredded beef and chicken. At Que Chevere in Mesa, melted cheddar and lettuce are also added, the whole thing dripping with a mayo-ketchup combo called “fry sauce.” Ay dios mío. quechevereaz.com

Pork Belly Tacos

Hidden House
Chef Aaron Rickel’s sweet hoisin-glazed pork belly takes three days to prepare, including 16 hours of brining in cilantro, ginger, orange and garlic. After another six hours of braising and roasting, it’s finally ready to be dressed with kimchee coleslaw and cilantro-lime crema on a trio of gently toasted flour tortillas. When you taste it, you know where all those labor hours went. hiddenhouseaz.com

the Super Munch; Courtesy Munch A Lunch
the Super Munch; Courtesy Munch A Lunch
Wine Not burger; courtesy BlackSheep WIne Bar & Merchant
Wine Not burger; courtesy BlackSheep WIne Bar & Merchant
pork belly tacos; courtesy Hidden House
pork belly tacos; courtesy Hidden House
steamed Chile rellenos; by Eric Cox
steamed Chile rellenos; by Eric Cox

Pulled Pork

Caldwell County BBQ
Clay Caldwell knows smoked pork. He grew up working on his family’s pig farm near Snowflake and owned popular Waldo’s BBQ in Mesa for 21 years. He tried retirement, but a pilgrimage to legendary Texas smokehouse Franklin Barbecue inspired him to fire up his mesquite smokers in 2018. His brisket was a Best of the Valley winner in 2021, but the pork is incredibly nuanced and easily the East Valley’s best. caldwellcountybbq.com

Sloppy Lobsta Roll

Tempura Takeover
Originally located in a Mobile gas station, TT has since moved on to classier digs. What hasn’t changed: the singular lobster rolls. Dipped in tempura batter, chunks of cold-water lobster meat come out of the fryer light, crispy and never pancake-y, served on a toasted King’s Hawaiian bun with butter, fresh herbs and a house-made lemon-garlic sauce to satisfy both sweet and savory cravings. tempuratakeover.com 

Steamed Chile Rellenos

Ghost Ranch
Employing an unusual twist he discovered a decade ago in Santa Fe, executive chef David Mora eschews tradition with his interpretation of the classic Mexican dish, stuffing Anaheim chiles with a tastebuds-arousing medley of mushroom duxelles, New Mexican Chimayó chiles and Crow’s Dairy goat cheese. And then tops the thing with a crunchy leek salad. Steamy! ghostranchaz.com

Sloppy lobsta roll; photo by Debby Wolvos

Super Munch

Munch a Lunch
The signature sandwich at this pleasant Tempe breakfast and lunch eatery is the quintessential American sammie: a symphonic stack of turkey, ham, roast beef, salami and cheeses with an Italian-dressing tinge on crustless, pillowy ciabatta. On a list filled with foie terrines and international exotica, it’s our down-home deli pick. munchalunchtempeaz.com

Wine Not Burger

BlackSheep Wine Bar & Merchant
Why settle for an old-fashioned slice of cheese when you can smother your Angus beef patty – marinated in BlackSheep’s house red wine – with a tableside ramekin of smoked Gouda fondue? An exotic-looking black bun will add to the burger’s mystique sometime in early 2022. blacksheep.wine

Central Phoenix/Paradise Valley

ABC Terrine 

Christopher’s at The Wrigley Mansion
Chef Christopher Gross named his iconic starter after the A, B and C grades of foie gras used in the three most common preparations of the fine-dining staple, and each is represented here: pâté-like terrine, seared medallions and luscious mousse, one layered over the other and delineated by dehydrated mushroom powder for a decadently artful presentation. The dish debuted in the ’90s at Gross’ longtime Biltmore location and now sits on the Classics menu at his new hilltop dining palace. That’s three decades of enthralled diners – one for each layer. wrigleymansion.com

Al Pastor Taco

Tacos Huicho
Admittedly, we’re generally a gabacho crowd at PHOENIX, but we know enough about traditional Mexican cooking to pay this Midtown taqueria the credit it deserves. Roasting her al pastor tacos in 80-pound batches on a vertical spit known as a trompo, instead of the chopped-fried-meat tactic employed by more labor-averse taco restaurants, owner Maria Torres has been making this sweet and succulent Valley classic going on 20 years. tacoshuicho.com

Baby Ray

Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles
It beggars belief that the Lo-Lo’s soul food empire was once fully contained in its original, hovel-like abode in South Phoenix. That’s where you went for hands-down the best morning-after food in the universe, including this mind-scrambling classic of fried chicken and waffles smothered in onions and a sweet, peppery gravy. You can find it thoughout the Valley now, and no hangover is safe from it. loloschickenandwaffles.com

BrÛlÉe Burger

Paradise Valley Burger Co.
Now this is the kind of fusion cuisine we can get behind. A quarter-pound beef patty topped with Havarti cheese, pickled onion, Thousand Island dressing, lettuce and a fried egg, wedged between – wait for it – a caramelized-sugar bun. In other words, brûléed. It’s high-brow, it’s low-brow. It’s just gosh-darn good. pvburgercompany.com

Brussels Sprouts Salad

Postino WineCafe
We have since-departed Postino culinary director Chris Newstrom to thank for this stroke of gustatory genius, its success so sweeping that it survived the local chain’s major menu overhaul in 2021. Newstrom wanted a heavy veg salad that had equal parts spice, crunch, sweet and salt. With kale, Brussels sprouts, Manchego, spicy Marcona almonds, bacon, dried cherries and a lemon-Manchego dressing, it’s the gold standard when it comes to sweet and savory salads in the Valley. postinowinecafe.com

Carne Asada Taco

Tacos Chiwas
From humble beginnings in an old Dairy Queen to locations across the Valley, Chiwas is the go-to spot for local taco aficionados. The perfectly seasoned, tender carne asada, topped with pickled onion and cilantro, served on a tiny homemade corn tortilla, is just about the best couple of bites you’ll ever put in your mouth. tacoschiwas.com

Carne Adovada

Richardson’s Cuisine of New Mexico
It’s been a signature Valley dish since the moment owner Richardson Browne unleashed his wily culinary sensibilities on the public in 1988 — smoked pork roast, simmered to melting tenderness in a thick, rich red chile sauce that packs heat without blowing the top of your head off. Phoenicians like to say it’s better than any version you’ll find in New Mexico, and they might be right. richardsonsnm.com

ABC terrine; by Eric Cox
ABC terrine; by Eric Cox
al pastor taco; Courtesy Tacos Chiwas
al pastor taco; Courtesy Tacos Chiwas
Baby Ray; by Debby WOlvos
Baby Ray; by Debby WOlvos
Brussels sprouts salad; Courtesy Postino WineCafe
Brussels sprouts salad; Courtesy Postino WineCafe
Brûlée Burger; by Mirelle Inglefield
Brûlée Burger; by Mirelle Inglefield

Ceviche de Pescado

El Chullo
Peruvian ceviche is a bit different – and, let’s face it, a bit more awesome – than the Mexican version to which most Phoenicians are accustomed, larded with al dente potatoes for depth and a kind of seared, crunchy corn called canchita for texture. At least, that’s how this CenPho standby does it, and the tangy, salty, senses-awakening results – anchored with tender white fish – speak for themselves. elchullorestaurant.com

Cheesy Chicken Spinach Dip 

Persepshen
Do you think chicken and spinach dip sounds like a yawn? Try this version from chef-owner Jason Dwight, and get back to us. Dwight combines local chicken with caramelized onions, garlic, spinach, Parm and Dubliner cheese, tops the mixture with breadcrumbs and fires it in a wood-burning oven until it’s crunchy-topped and bubbling. Served with superlative house-made lavosh, it’s a sophisticated, stone-cold crowd-pleaser. persepshenarizona.com

Chef’s Spread 

Quiessence
Chef-owner Dustin Christofolo’s exquisite meat and cheese board is available only on his five-course tasting menu, but it’s an ever-changing edible work of art you shouldn’t miss. Imagine guinea hen mousse, pancetta,’nduja, cured goose eggs, rarified cheeses, Aleppo-dusted pineapple chips and golden raisin mostarda. It’s a feast you’ll devour with your eyes first, and the zenith of Valley charcuterie boards. qatthefarm.com

chiles en nogada; by Angelina Aragon
chiles en nogada; by Angelina Aragon
chilaquiles; courtesy Otra Café
chilaquiles; courtesy Otra Café
Chef’s Spread; courtesy Quiessence
Chef’s Spread; courtesy Quiessence

Chicken Livers

Tratto
The first dish Cassie Shortino created as the new chef at Tratto back in 2017 was an instant hit: butter-sautéed chicken livers, caramelized at the edges, piled on grilled house-made sourdough, topped with dollops of seasonal jam and a fried sage leaf. Shortino is gone, but her simple, sublime classic remains. trattophx.com/restaurant

Chilaquiles

Otro Café
Most chilaquiles involve fried corn tortillas quickly sautéed in red or green salsa. Chef-owner Doug Robson layers his crispy tortillas with Oaxaca cheese, chicken or vegetables, and red or green sauce and bakes them for a stacked enchilada vibe. Two eggs any style and a sprinkle of pico de gallo complete this banner brunch dish. otrocafe.com

Chiles en Nogada

Barrio Café
Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza veers masterfully from the traditional Mexican chiles en nogada preparation (meat-stuffed poblano chiles topped with walnut cream sauce) by filling her charred pepper with tender bites of chicken blanketed with a silky almond sauce studded with dried fruits. Traditional or not, Esparza’s playful take on this dish invented to celebrate Mexican Independence Day stands alone. barriocafe.com

Coffee Salmon Nigiri

Across the Pond
Clever Koi capos Joshua James and Nick Campisano opened their sleek Japanese gastro-lounge in 2019, and its first contribution to the greater Valley sushi culture was profound: salmon fillet cured in a moisture-leaching, sweetness-condensing coffee rub, then served as two firm nigiri morsels with shiso salt and a dollop of cashew cream. Little pieces of art, they are, and addictive. acrossthepondphx.com

Crispy Chicken Sammy with Fresh Shattered Potato Chips

Ingo’s Tasty Food
We’re cheating a bit with this twofer, but you can’t order the Valley’s best chicken sandwich – juicy breast with crackly crust crowned with dill pickles, green apple shavings and spicy aioli – without a side of the best homemade chips in town. Served with creamy lebni and punchy lacto-fermented hot sauce for dipping, they reside (deliciously) in a textural realm between potato chips and fries. ingostastyfood.com

coffee salmon nigiri; photo by Mirele Inglefield

Dark Chocolate Pudding

Flower Child
This spoon-friendly dessert may look like any other pudding, but after tasting Flower Child’s chocolate masterpiece, you’ll kick all others to the curb. Savor each intoxicating bite of rich dark chocolate blended with smooth coconut cream and sweetened with organic cane sugar. The gluten-free and vegan pudding is topped with sprouted almonds and toasted coconut for a crunchy finish. Worth it. iamaflowerchild.com 

Dole Whip

Lylo Swim Club
Wait, what? Dole Whip in Central Phoenix? There’s no Tiki Room, but the pool at Rise Uptown Hotel has its own delights, with a well-oiled crowd, sushi and pitch-perfect Japanese fried chicken, and a full bar. You can get a classic Dole Whip straight up or with dark rum. We say it’s the best pool drink in the Valley. Best of all? No silly amusement park lines. riseuptownhotel.com

Eggplant with Burrata and Calabrian Chile Marmalade

Restaurant Progress
Chef-owner TJ Culp tweaks his seasonal menu often, but keep an eye out for this modern iteration of Italian-ish eggplant, breaded and fried to a deep golden-brown, then topped with burrata, Calabrian chile marmalade and fresh mint — four ingredients that create a crunchy, creamy, sticky, spicy, sweet sensation in your mouth. restaurantprogress.com

fried green tomato sandwich; photo by Debby Wolvos
fried green tomato sandwich; photo by Debby Wolvos
dark chocolate pudding; Courtesy Fox Restaurant Concepts
dark chocolate pudding; Courtesy Fox Restaurant Concepts
Dole Whip; photo by Alcott Creative
Dole Whip; photo by Alcott Creative
crispy chicken sammy with shattered potato chips; Courtesy LGO Hospitality
crispy chicken sammy with shattered potato chips; Courtesy LGO Hospitality

Fried Green Tomato Sandwich

Welcome Diner
The beauty of this dish comes from the harmony of its components. By design, it’s uncomplicated – just green tomato, arugula, corn relish and chipotle ranch, layered between two slices of Noble sourdough – which allows for masterful balance of salt, fat, acid and heat. Developed by the diner’s original chef, Michael Babcock, the fried green tomato sandwich talks with a Southern accent and walks with a Southwestern swagger. welcomediner.net

Garlic Pork Roast

Los Dos Molinos
Los Dos is a Valley dining institution famed for brutalizing your soft tissues with fiery adovadas and sinus-clearing salsas, but it’s most brilliant dish is more or less capsaicin-free: this long-time favorite from the “specials” board that presents fork-tender pork roast in a meltingly hot mantle of cheese, potato and garlic. It’s a comfort bomb. losdosmolinosphoenix.com 

Goth Waffles 

Verdura
Activated charcoal has a glut of health benefits, from improving kidney function to lowering cholesterol levels. It’s also what gives this dish its inky hue and unusual moniker. Coal-colored Japanese-style bubble waffles are the main character here, while raspberry sorbet, berry compote, fresh seasonal fruit and shaved coconut have delicious supporting roles. Vegan and gluten-free, too. verduraphx.com

Honeymoon Shooter

Hana Japanese Eatery
Oyster shooters, invented in San Francisco during the Gold Rush, often contain vodka. But chef/co-owner Lori Hashimoto keeps her honeymoon shooter – a blissful marriage of uni and oyster – non-alcoholic and Japanese in spirit, adding quail egg, ponzu, tobiko, green onion and garlic-laced Sriracha for a bracing blast of umami downed all in one go. Of the dozens of deserving dishes in Hashimoto’s arsenal – including her brilliant curry udon and elemental grilled squid (maruyaki) – it might be the most beloved. hanajapaneseeatery.com

Jonny Cakes

Aimee’s Swine House
Hoe cakes, Johnny cakes, jonnycake – they’re all regional names for the same delectable dish, pancakes made with cornmeal. Chef-owner Jonathan Allen amps up a traditional East Coast recipe with a secret “specific flour product” and luscious bacon fat. It provides a salty counter-melody to the symphony of sweetness that sways between cornbread and yellow cake. No syrup needed. aimeesswinehouse.com

Kale Caesar

Windsor
Sometimes the simplest things make the most impact. This is certainly the case with Windsor’s kale Caesar, which consists of romaine and kale, house-made cheddar biscuit croutons, generous chunks of avocado and celery, and crispy capers. The backstory: Back in 2009, on the eve of the restaurant’s opening, Upward Projects co-founder and CEO Lauren Bailey found herself with a batch of leftover cheddar biscuits and came up with a salad that’s still a force nearly 13 years later. windsoraz.com

Korean Fried Chicken Tacos

CRUjiente Tacos
The Valley’s best taco? This best-seller at everyone’s favorite Camelback-area gourmet taco pub surely belongs in the conversation. The star of the dish is a succulent knot of thigh meat, brined and double-fried by chef Richard Hinojosa, then draped in a spicy glaze of gochujang (Korean chile paste) accented with ginger and honey. “Each [taco] is a composed plate,” says Hinojosa, who enhances the crispy, juicy chicken with shredded compressed cabbage and dollops of jalapeño-green onion mojo. Never leave us, Korean fried chicken taco. crutacos.com

Korean fried chicken tacos; Courtesy CruJiente Tacos
Korean fried chicken tacos; Courtesy CruJiente Tacos
Goth Wafles; photo by Melissa Valladares
Goth Wafles; photo by Melissa Valladares
honeymoon shooter; by Eric Cox
honeymoon shooter; by Eric Cox
jonny cakes; By Melissa Valladares
jonny cakes; By Melissa Valladares

Kung Pao Brussels

Oak on Camelback
Brussels sprouts are manifestly healthful, which is why we love it when chefs adulterate the vitamin-K-packed vegetable with sugar, salt, bacon grease, et al. Chef Robert Bogart’s magnificent Chinese-influenced starter stands tall in this crowd: tangy, sticky and spicy, with hints of ginger and soy glazed over the bitter, broiled greens. Everyone does Brussels in the Valley, but no one does it better. oakoncamelback.com

Lemon Meringue Pie

Buck &Rider
A sweet and salty graham cracker crust anchors this seafood spot’s trademark dessert, produced by sister property LGO Bake Shop. Puckery lemon custard deftly straddles the line between sweet and sour, and a torched, marshmallow-y meringue topping reaches for the heavens like one of Dolly Parton’s wigs. buckandrider.com

Lobster Bisque

Different Pointe of View
You’ll find lobster bisque on virtually every resort menu in America – but you’ll find none better than departing chef Anthony DeMuro’s  version at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs. To conjure its rich complexity, DeMuro employs a six-hour simmer, vermouth and sherry reductions and lashings of cream and butter. The resultant indulgence suffused with sweet lobster flavor is then finished with a swirl of aged sherry syrup. “It’s amazing how popular it is,” DeMuro says, “even in the summertime.” tapatiocliffshilton.com

Lobster Roll

Nelson’s Meat + Fish
The lobster rolls of Maine have got nothing on owner Chris Nelson’s superlative model. A split-top bun from Noble Bread is slathered with butter and toasted to a crunch, then stuffed with ultra-fresh lobster salad, composed of Maine lobster meat, chives, celery, mayo and Old Bay. Blessedly simple, yes, but hardly Maine-stream. Available Wednesdays only. meat.fish

Loco Moco

HULA’s Modern Tiki
Anchored by sticky white rice, topped with a hamburger patty smothered in brown mushroom gravy and crowned by two fried eggs, HULA’s robust loco moco is a delightful scrum of flavors and textures. Shiitake mushrooms and a smidge of Maui onion in the gravy makes this dish sing. Loco moco may be a Hawaiian comfort food favorite, but HULA’s has transformed this dish into an Arizona rock star. hulasmoderntiki.com

Mac and Cheese 

Lux
Known as a trendy, energetic coffee shop, Lux also has an underrated savory food menu, including this hearty serving of baked macaroni and cheese gilded with gooey cheddar and laced with jalapeños or bacon. And, because Lux never strays too far from its roots, it’s always served in a large coffee mug. luxcoffee.com

Lobster roll; photos Courtesy Diana Brandt/Courtesy Nelson’s Meat + Fish
Lobster roll; photos Courtesy Diana Brandt/Courtesy Nelson’s Meat + Fish
lemon meringue pie; photos Courtesy Buck & Rider
lemon meringue pie; photos Courtesy Buck & Rider
Mac and Cheese; photo by Melissa Valladares
Mac and Cheese; photo by Melissa Valladares

Mary’s Organic Chicken

Chelsea’s Kitchen
A paprika-rich Spanish spice rub and a low-and-slow spin on this Arcadia institution’s smoke-yard rotisserie yields a succulent, smoky bird. Pair it with the colcannon potatoes (mashed spuds with ribbons of kale) to soak up the savory chicken juices, a product of leisurely rendered fat. chelseaskitchenaz.com

Mesquite-Grilled Chicken

Ocotillo
If you’re going to dare to put a namesake dish on the menu, it better be good. This crispy-skinned, tender half-chicken at chef Walter Sterling’s Midtown eating-drinking playground lives up to the name – mesquite-roasted with citrus, chiles, honey and pecans, served alongside date-packed potato salad. It’s so big you’ll have leftovers. ocotillophx.com

Mole Poblano

Casa Corazón
The worst iterations of mole, a signature dish of the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Puebla, are chalky, grainy or so chocolatey they read as dessert instead of dinner. Casa Corazón’s version is the very best: poblano chiles, nuts, spices and Mexican chocolate roasted, toasted, stewed and blended into a complex, satiny, deeply savory sauce for chicken and tortillas. casacorazonrestaurant.com

Mozzarella Sandwich

Pane Bianco
Just about everything that comes out of James Beard Award winner Chris Bianco’s kitchen is first rate – and that includes his iconic mozzarella sandwich on crusty, wood-fired focaccia. Split in half and stuffed with milky house-made mozzarella, luscious Arizona tomatoes and fresh basil, this handheld delight will ruin your desire for any other sandwich. Pure gold. pizzeriabianco.com

Mussels

Pa’La Downtown
Chef Jason Alford is known to dabble skillfully in Asian traditions at the swankier Downtown location of seafood favorite Pa’La, but this comforting dish of Saltspring Island mussels, spicy Italian sausage and wood-fired tomato is clearly an homage to co-owner Claudio Urcuoli’s Campanian roots. Use the spongy focaccia for dunking, then pick up the bowl and drink that ambrosial broth. palakitchen.com

Mozzarella sandwich; photo by Debby Wolvos
Mozzarella sandwich; photo by Debby Wolvos
mesquite-grilled chicken;  by Diana Brandt/Courtesy Ocotillo
mesquite-grilled chicken; by Diana Brandt/Courtesy Ocotillo
Mussels; photo by Debby Wolvos
Mussels; photo by Debby Wolvos

Nashville Hot Chicken

the larder + the delta
To make his signature smokin’ hot chicken, chef-owner Stephen Jones takes his time, using three different brines over three days and dredging each organic bird in flour for 24 hours before frying it to ensure maximum crunch. Faintly sweet but spicy enough to leave your mouth aglow, this once-a-week miracle is sold in two bucket sizes with sides on Thursdays. thelarderandthedelta.com

The Original Chopped Salad

The Gladly
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Bernie Kantak has been flattered hundreds of times over. When the chef created the then-Stetson Salad for the late Cowboy Ciao, he must have realized his textural masterpiece would inspire copycats. Tidy rows of smoked salmon, pearl couscous, arugula, pepitas, asiago, currants, dried corn and tomatoes keep to themselves until mixed with buttermilk-herb dressing. thegladly.com

Pork Belly Pastrami

Citizen Public House
This luscious, comfort-food starter, the brainchild of chef/co-owner Bernie Kantak, has been on the meat-centric menu since the restaurant’s inception in 2011, and for good reason. It’s a deconstructed pastrami sandwich in which unctuous pastrami-brined pork belly is set atop a creamy, crunchy bed of rye spaetzle alongside Brussels sprouts “kraut” amped up with mustard jus. citizenpublichouse.com

Pork Dumplings (Kanob Jeeb)

Glai Baan
China’s dim sum pork dumplings (siu mai) are Thailand’s kanob jeeb, a popular street food deliciously replicated at Glai Baan. Chef/co-owner Cat Bunnag makes them fresh every day with local pork, offering a soy-based, ginger-scented sauce, tangy with vinegar, for dipping. The important takeaway? They spurt meaty juices at first bite. You know you love it. glaibaanaz.com

Ribeye and Shrimp Cocktail

Steak 44
Like our sammy-and-chips pick on page 120, we’re stealing a twofer here. The justification: It would be masochism to dine on the Mastro family’s miraculously supple giant shrimp – flash-poached in a briny boil then whisked to ice to arrest the cook – without one of their humbling bone-in ribeyes. It’s a surf-and-turf journey so multi-sensory it borders on hallucinatory. steak44.com 

Rosa Pizza

Pizzeria Bianco
In 1988, long before the Valley’s artisanal pizza explosion, Chris Bianco was slinging wood-fired pies in the corner of a local AJ’s Euro-Market and Deli. He later gained international fame making those same flame-kissed, Neapolitan-style pizzas, and none is better than the Rosa, a simple combo of Parmigiano cheese, red onion slivers, fresh rosemary and chopped raw pistachios on lightly charred, chewy crust. You won’t find better execution of the form anywhere. Full stop. pizzeriabianco.com

Shrimp ’n’ Creamy Grits

Southern Rail
Chef Justin Beckett’s version of this south-of-the Mason-Dixon-line classic marries crustaceans and hominy with the Cajun “holy trinity” – celery, onion and bell pepper – accented with purgatorial hot sauce. The results are a spiritual experience. southernrailaz.com

Rosa pizza; photo by Debby Wolvos
Rosa pizza; photo by Debby Wolvos
shrimp ’n’ creamy grits; Courtesy Southern Rail
shrimp ’n’ creamy grits; Courtesy Southern Rail
pork belly pastrami; courtesy In Good Spirits
pork belly pastrami; courtesy In Good Spirits
Nashville hot chicken; photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Nashville hot chicken; photo by Mirelle Inglefield
the Original Chopped Salad; Courtesy In Good Spirits
the Original Chopped Salad; Courtesy In Good Spirits

Sizzling Bacon

LON’s at The Hermosa Inn
Made in house from fresh Duroc pork bellies, LON’s bacon is cured for three days, smoked for four hours and then sliced into slabs as thick as pancakes. The server presents the bacon in a red-hot cast-iron skillet and pours maple syrup mixed with aged sherry vinegar over the top, creating a sizzling tableside show. Served with mini waffles for the win. hermosainn.com

Spicy Short Rib Hummus

FLINT by Baltaire
You’ll find hummus on countless menus, but FLINT’s earthy short rib hummus has no peer. Paired with Greek yogurt-infused pita and topped with fiery harissa made from wood-broiled jalapeños and red bell peppers, the Israeli-style chickpea hummus is heavy on tahini and brightened with lemon juice. The finishing touch: blissfully tender slivers of red wine-soaked pulled short rib. flintbybaltaire.com

Southwest Impossible Burger 

Little Rituals
Little Rituals chef Jeremiah Wilhelms always liked the idea of meat alternatives, but felt they often came up short in taste and texture. His solution: seasoning Impossible “meat” with garlic, salt, pepper and onion, hand-forming it into thin patties and searing it to golden brown perfection. He then loads up a locally made vegan bun with melted plant-based cheese, roasted garlic, spicy ketchup, flame-broiled green chile and more. Enjoying this meat-free masterpiece is a “ritual” we’ve come to love. littleritualsbar.com

Sticky Buns

El Chorro
Upon taking your seat at El Chorro, you’ll be treated to a bountiful basket of cinnamon- and caramel-laden sticky buns that – like an offer of protection from the local mob heavy – are impossible to refuse. Reviving the original recipe from the restaurant’s opening in 1937, head baker Juan Saenz has brought the sweet, buttery buns back to the forefront of the Valley’s pastry scene. El Chorro’s staff makes about 260 dozen sticky buns each week. Bet you can’t eat just one. elchorro.com

Stuffed Cabbage

Edelweiss Biergarten
Like many Valley restaurants, this indispensible German-Hungarian hybrid in North Phoenix has struggled with staffing and supply issues of late. Some of our favorite dishes are gone (RIP rinderroulanden) but not our favorite-ist: this Uralic classic of pickled cabbage stuffed with seasoned meat and rice, then slow-roasted with smoked sausages. Topped with a dreamy dollop of sour cream, it’s a survivor. edelweissbiergarten.com

Wood-Fired Olives

Nook Kitchen
In the right hands – specifically, the hands of whoever happens to be cooking at Nook – the humble olive can assuredly take center stage. First, buttery Cerignola and Castelvetrano olives get a 24-hour bath in olive oil, chile flakes, garlic, fresh herbs and chunks of spicy soppressata. Next, they spend a few transformative moments in Nook’s wood-fired oven to soak up some smoky char before the chef showers them with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil for a snack that’s simply habit-forming. nookkitchen.com

Southwest Impossible Burger; photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Southwest Impossible Burger; photo by Mirelle Inglefield
sizzling bacon; courtesy Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn
sizzling bacon; courtesy Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn
wood-fired olives; by Mirelle Inglefield
wood-fired olives; by Mirelle Inglefield
spicy short rib hummus; photo courtesy Filint by Baltaire
spicy short rib hummus; photo courtesy Filint by Baltaire
sticky buns; photo by Debby Wolvos
sticky buns; photo by Debby Wolvos

Scottsdale/North Valley

Agnolotti del Plin 

The Americano
Food Network star Scott Conant is world-famous for his pasta al pomodoro (a favorite of Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s, NBD), but for over-the-top sumptuousness, you can’t beat his agnolotti del plin. His spin on the classic Piedmont stuffed pasta – “plin” means “pinched” – is a voluptuous pillow of braised duck, foie gras emulsion and Port. theamericanorestaurant.com

Almejas Al Vapor

The Mission
Inspired by a Peruvian dish, chef Matt Carter’s riff is uniquely his own, employing traditional French bouillabaisse techniques and adding Spanish and South American touches with chorizo and aji amarillo. What results is a glorious, golden-hued, creamy seafood soup studded with shrimp, clams, grilled corn and potatoes garnished with a drizzle of smoky chorizo oil. themissionaz.com

coal-fired Artichokes

Pitch
By our reckoning, the king of the thistle species doesn’t get enough attention in Valley restaurants, but Scottsdale pizza pub Pitch does right by them, imparting a delicious char on the long-stemed lovelies and plating them with hummus, cherry tomatoes, and Parmesan. Enjoy them with a side of the restaurant’s righteously rich mac and cheese, made with nutty, supple Comté (a French cow’s milk cheese) for a prodigious one-two culinary punch. pitchpizzeria.com

Eggplant Parmesan 

Fellow Osteria & Pizzeria
With the possible exception of okra, eggplant is the most difficult vegetable to prepare. The good news for nightshade fans: Fellow, brought to us by the same chaps behind Clever Koi, is a sweet little Italian spot with the best eggplant Parmigiana we’ve ever had. Roasted tomatoes, provolone and Pomodoro sauce sit atop perfectly fried slices of eggplant. Pro tip: Don’t share. fellowosteria.com

Fegato alla Veneziana

Veneto Trattoria
Long regarded as an unhappy childhood memory or as fixed-income-diner comfort food, liver and onions gets an elegant makeover at this Scottsdale Venetian ristorante. Under savory sauce and lacy onions, with polenta, it’s among the best protein presentations in town. And our favorite liver this side of the chicken ones at Tratto.
venetotrattoria.com

Fesenjan

AZ Kabob House
Kabobs and tahdig are having their moments, but ask any Persian to name their favorite comfort dishes and fesenjan will come up. Chef Aref Alina’s version of this thick, tangy, rust-colored stew – redolent with pomegranate molasses and ground walnuts – is full of moist, shreddy chicken. For vegetarians, he offers an eggplant version. az-kabob-house.square.site

Fegato alla Veneziana;  by Debby Wolvos
Fegato alla Veneziana; by Debby Wolvos
almejas al vapor; by Joanie Simon/Phoenix Cooks: Recipes from the City’s Finest Chefs
almejas al vapor; by Joanie Simon/Phoenix Cooks: Recipes from the City’s Finest Chefs
eggplant Parmesan; courtesy Fellow Osteria & Pizzeria
eggplant Parmesan; courtesy Fellow Osteria & Pizzeria
coal-fired artichokes; by Mirelle Inglefield
coal-fired artichokes; by Mirelle Inglefield
agnolotti del plin; courtesy The Americano
agnolotti del plin; courtesy The Americano

Gnocchi alla Romana

Andreoli Italian Grocer
Forget the fluffy potato dumplings you know. Rome’s elegant take on gnocchi looks like a firm, flat biscuit made with the semolina flour used for pasta and cut with Parmesan. Master chef Giovanni Scorzo – the Valley’s genial dean of Italian cooking – then smooths the crisp-topped finished product with Parmesan sauce and sprinkles it with more Parmesan for a rich, buttery dish to make you swoon. andreoli-grocer.com

Green Chile Tuna Melt

Chula Seafood
Chula elevates the lowly tuna melt to Grecian urn status by slipping moist confit albacore tuna, spiced Oaxaca cheese and Hatch green chiles between Noble bread slices, then griddle-pressing the sandwich until the outside is crunchy and the inside is a melty mess of wildly flavorful goodness. Herbal chimichurri gilds the lily. chulaseafood.com

Italian Beef Sandwich

Hush Public House
Inspired by his first cooking job at Taste of Chicago in Midtown Phoenix, chef-owner Dom Ruggiero transforms the iconic Italian beef sandwich into an exalted knife-and-fork version, swapping out roast beef for juicy braised oxtail and subbing buns for thickly sliced Noble brioche, topped with melty smoked provolone. Fresno chile-spiked house-made giardiniera is the final grace note. hushpublichouse.com

John & Yoko

Super Chunk Sweets & Treats
Pastry chef Country Velador’s signature dessert was named in honor of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s last album, Milk and Honey. It’s a fitting moniker for this heavenly petite honey cake, which is given the tres leches (“three milks”) treatment and then layered with mascarpone whipped cream and house-made honeycomb candy. superchunk.me

Lamb Manti

FnB
Chef/co-owner Charleen Badman is beloved for making little-known global dishes and spices accessible, and her modern spin on Turkish manti is a perfect example. Pan-fried dumplings are stuffed with ground lamb, onion and pine nuts, drizzled with Urfa butter, topped with lemon-sparked yogurt and seasonal fruits (pomegranate arils this winter), then strewn with cilantro and mint. Every bite is a brilliant earthy/ethereal paradox. fnbrestaurant.com

Mediterranean Branzino

Francine
Enveloped in sea salt and baked in a special oven dedicated to the 12 orders offered nightly, chef Brian Archibald’s whole sea bass is dinner and a show. The crust is split tableside and the fish, perfumed with lemon, dill and tarragon, is deftly deboned into delicate fillets served with panisse, sauce vierge and ratatouille. Très magnifique! francinerestaurant.com

Gnocchi alla Romana; by Mirelle Inglefield
Gnocchi alla Romana; by Mirelle Inglefield
Mediterranean branzino; courtesy Francine
Mediterranean branzino; courtesy Francine
Italian beef sandwich; by Mirelle Inglefield
Italian beef sandwich; by Mirelle Inglefield
lamb manti; photo by Jill Richards
lamb manti; photo by Jill Richards
green chile tuna melt; courtesy Chula Seafood
green chile tuna melt; courtesy Chula Seafood

Pasta Erbe Aromatiche

Franco’s Italian Caffe
Franco Fazzuoli’s secret recipe ensures that this one-of-a-kind dish can only be enjoyed by those who dine at his beloved restaurant. Tender twists of hand-rolled strozzapreti pasta are coated in a creamy sauce flecked with aromatic herbs and enlivened by bits of salty-sweet prosciutto. It’s at once both sophisticated and as comforting as a nonna’s hug. francosscottsdale.com

Polpo

Virtù Honest Craft
Grilled octopus is everywhere these days, but it wasn’t five years ago when chef-owner Gio Osso unveiled his seminal version of the dish, inspiring scores of imitators. (It also earned him the No. 1 spot on our 2017 best dishes list.) To this day, no one prepares grilled octopus as beautifully as Osso, who learned at his grandmother’s knee. His technique? Simmering the mollusk to fork-tenderness, marinating it, then charring it on the grill and plating it with Calabrian chile butter, lemony chickpeas and arugula salad, a gorgeous balance of salt, smoke, sweetness, spice and acidity. It’s a top-dish mainstay. virtuhonestcraft.com

Rosso Creste di Gallo

Fat Ox
Inspired by traditional orecchiette with rapini and sausage, the pasta in this inventive iteration from chef Matt Carter is so named due to its resemblance to a rooster’s cockscomb. Imbued with red wine, it’s tossed with juicy nuggets of fennel-spiced duck sausage and bitter dandelion greens offset with sweet huckleberries for a superb modern-day classic. ilovefatox.com

Schmaltz Chicken Sandwich

New Wave Market
We have Ashkenazi Jewish culinary traditions to thank for this souped-up chicken salad sandwich, which includes two hallmark ingredients: house-made schmaltz (clarified chicken fat) and gribenes (crispy chicken skins, flecked throughout like bacon bits). Chef Country Velador piles these on house-made bread with slivers of Granny Smith apple, white cheddar and a pile of peppery arugula. newwavemarket.com

Seasonal Vegetable  Soup

Sel
Chef Branden Levine is a regular on Food Network competition shows, and we get why: His ever-changing cuisine always reigns supreme. A sleeper hit on his menu? Seasonal vegetable soup, which might be made with romanesco, Jerusalem artichoke, kabocha squash or whatever he fancies at the market. It’s always intensely creamy and intensely flavorful. He’s our velvety soup victor. selrestaurant.com

Show Stopper Shake

ZuZu at Hotel Valley Ho
Every month, ZuZu’s pastry team charms guests with an original over-the-top Show Stopper Shake. Past creations include the Pumpkin Spice Delight festooned with a mini pumpkin pie and apple cider doughnuts; and the Birthday Cake Shake topped with a slab of confetti cake dripping with vanilla crème anglaise and garnished with animal crackers. Show Stopper? You betcha. hotelvalleyho.com

Wagyu Beef Cheek

Confluence
Chef-owner Brandon Gauthier tweaks his menu constantly, but for now, his Wagyu beef cheeks are Asian-inspired, braised in miso and served with crunchy forbidden rice, house-made kimchee, feather-light lotus and garlic chips, pickled ginger and a silky miso emulsion you’ll want to bathe in. No better dish in town for the price. restaurantconfluence.com

pasta erbe aromatiche; photo by Mirelle Inglefield
pasta erbe aromatiche; photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Wagyu beef cheek; by Mirelle Inglefield
Wagyu beef cheek; by Mirelle Inglefield
rosso creste di gallo; courtesy Fat Ox
rosso creste di gallo; courtesy Fat Ox
Show Stopper Shake; courtesy Hotel Valley Ho
Show Stopper Shake; courtesy Hotel Valley Ho

Welcome to Dish Fest

Did the preceding collection of unabashed food worship make you hungry? Do something about it! Benefiting Valley charity and nonprofit restaurant The Joy Bus Diner, Dish Fest will feature many of the succulent bites profiled in this issue, plus Best of the Valley winners, scads of beer and wine tastings, and more!

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Eat

Graze on cuisine from the Valley’s most respected restaurants, including Pa’La, Christopher’s at Wrigley Mansion, Valentine, Chula Seafood and more than 20 others. Our special outdoor motor court will be ground zero for Aioli Burger bites and other food truck legends.

Drink

Beer, wine and spirit samples will be included with your ticket, including craft beer from Fate Brewing, Arizona vino tastings and Joy Bus’ proprietary IPA from Four Peaks Brewing.

Learn 

Offset your impending food coma by ingesting a how-to cooking session with Joy Bus founder, director and professional chef Jennifer Caraway.

The Venue

Spacious, indoor-outdoor Scottsdale event space The Clayton House will host Dish Fest. Located steps from Old Town and Scottsdale Municipal Stadium (spring training home of the San Francisco Giants), it’s the perfect spot for a sun-drenched February food festival.

Also featuring select BOV Winners

larb at OBON Sushi Bar Ramen; courtesy Obon Sushi Bar Ramen
Aioli Burger; courtesy Aioli Burger

Let’s Dish!

When: Sunday, February 27 from 1-5 p.m.
Where: The Clayton House, 3719 N. 75th St., Scottsdale
Cost: $90 GA/$150 VIP
Visit phoenixmag.com/dishfest to get tickets today! 

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About The Joy Bus

One of the Valley’s most beloved charities, The Joy Bus was founded in 2011 by award-winning Valley chef and restaurateur Jennifer Caraway as a meal-delivery service for cancer patients – an effort she launched as her own friend was fighting the disease. The Joy Bus has since expanded to include The Joy Bus Diner (a 100-percent nonprofit restaurant) and several community kitchens tasked with creating meals for patients in need, delivered by volunteers who are often cancer survivors themselves.

photo by Sarah Hoag Photography/Courtesy The Joy Bus
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For more than 50 years, PHOENIX magazine's experienced writers, editors, and designers have captured all sides of the Valley with award-winning and insightful writing, and groundbreaking report and design. Our expository features, narratives, profiles, and investigative features keep our 385,000 readers in touch with the Valley's latest trends, events, personalities and places.