Central Phoenix Dining is Ground Zero for Culinary Craft

Editorial StaffNovember 4, 2022
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About this guide
The restaurants listed are noteworthy and randomly selected from our rotating master list. We suggest you confirm information, and we solicit your help in correcting any errors in the guide. Price categories reflect average dinner entrée prices; drinks, tax and tip are extra.

  • $=under $10
  • $$=$11-$15
  • $$$=$16-$25
  • $$$$=$26 and over

Bacanora. Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Bacanora. Photo by Mirelle Inglefield

1301 N.W. Grand Ave. 602-612-4018, bacanoraphx.com
Rene Andrade, formerly of Ghost Ranch, does for Sonoran cuisine what Chris Bianco did for Neapolitan-style pizza at this classic, flatiron-shaped dining space on Grand Avenue, stripping away culinary pretense and revealing breathtaking essence. His pollo asado is the Valley’s best chicken. $$

Artizen at The Camby Hotel
2401 E. Camelback Rd. 602-522-6655, thecamby.com
The kitchen’s expertise is illustrated by its succulent flat iron steak. Fun Saturday boozy tea party, too. $$-$$$

Alexi’s Grill
3550 N. Central Ave. 602-279-0982, alexisgrillphx.com
At noon, Alexi’s is filled with businesspeople who appreciate dependable, reasonably priced food and speedy service. Evening draws an older crowd that comes for the duck à l’orange, tasty pastas and seafood entrees. $$

2728 E. Thomas Rd. 602-956-0900, avanti-az.com
This Italian stalwart retains a loyal following that loves the house-made pastas, pappardelle with oxtail sauce and jumbo shrimp stuffed with king crab in lobster-vodka sauce. $$-$$$

The Arrogant Butcher
2 E. Jefferson St. (CityScape) 602-324-8502, foxrc.com
This Fox Restaurant Concept delivers a laid-back approach to upscale comfort food. Meat lovers will delight in much of the menu, which features barbecue pork loin sandwiches and beef short rib stew. $-$$

2320 E. Osborn Rd. 602-388-4874, binkleysrestaurant.com
Offering just one seating a night, perennial James Beard Award nominee Kevin Binkley takes diners on a multi-course magic carpet ride that ranks with the country’s finest dining experiences. It’s adult Disneyland. $$$$

Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails
2 E. Jefferson St. (Hotel Palomar) 602-258-0231, bluehoundkitchen.com
Now that Brian Peterson helms the kitchen, the once-trendy Blue Hound has got its mojo back, offering great views, edgy cocktails and a menu that includes playful starters (try the elegant riff on Buffalo wings) and pricy, luxurious entrees such as Ibérico Secreto. $$-$$$$

Belly Kitchen & Bar
Southeast Asian
4971 N. Seventh Ave. 602-296-4452, bellyphx.com
Known for adventurous cocktails and edgy riffs on Asian classics: crispy crab bánh xèo; PEI mussels, afloat in a fragrant broth of coconut milk and lemongrass; salty king mushrooms, zapped with Sichuan peppercorns; and crispy fried chicken shellacked in a fish-sauce-based glaze. $$

Buck &Rider
4225 E. Camelback Rd. 602-346-0110, buckandrider.com
From La Grande Orange founder Bob Lynn comes this upscale seafood joint. Crab and fish dominate the menu with options including blue crabcakes and shrimp-studded pasta. Lunch and dinner daily, brunch on weekends. $$-$$$

Butler’s Easy
Cocktail lounge
8375 N. Seventh St. 602-314-4484, butlerseasy.com
Housemade infusions, interesting tequilas and mezcals, and a beefy craft beer list set this speakeasy-ish Sunnyslope neighborhood bar apart from the pack. Regular wine and spirit tastings and tap takeovers add to the community feel. $-$$

Casa Corazon
2637 N. 16th St. 602-334-1917, casacorazonrestaurant.com
With its vaulted ceilings, pretty tiled floors and frescos, this classy Mexican restaurant transcends its “barrio” neighborhood, offering Mexican classics as well as specialties of Southern Mexico. Everything drinkable – from margaritas to aguas frescas – is first-rate, as are the ceviche, guacamole, tacos al vapor, cochinita pibil and steak Mexicano. $-$$

Century Grand
Cocktail lounge
3626 E. Indian School Rd. 602-739-1388, centurygrandphx.com
From mixology star Jason Asher comes this three-headed cocktail playground: a tiki-themed pirate ship, a New Orleans whisky bar and a Prohibition-era train car, all under one roof. Great fun. $$-$$$

Modern Mexican
1051 E. Camelback Rd. 602-699-3015, chanticophx.com
The huge menu wanders from affordable Tex-Mex to pricy fusion fare, but when it’s good (e.g. crispy duck leg with mole negro) it’s very good, indeed. $$-$$$

Mesquite-grilled achiote chicken at Chantico. Photo by Kyle Ledeboer.
Mesquite-grilled achiote chicken at Chantico. Photo by Kyle Ledeboer.

Charlie’s Tacos
Mexican food truck
727 W. Camelback Rd. 480-911-6333, charliestacotruck.com
This mobile taco kitchen has a permanent setup outside Charlie’s, a popular gay bar on the edge of the Melrose District. Open until 4 a.m. (!) on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 a.m. on Thursdays and Sundays. $

Chelsea’s Kitchen
5040 N. 40th St. 602-957-2555, chelseaskitchenaz.com
With a lovely patio overlooking the Arizona Canal, Chelsea’s is a hip yet casual neighborhood restaurant, with stylish renditions of ceviche, fried chicken and duck tacos. The storied brunch features bottomless mimosas. Lunch and dinner daily. $$-$$$

Cherryblossom Cafe
914 E. Camelback Rd. cherryblossom-az.com
Operated by the folks at nearby Tokyo Express, this venerable Italian-Japanese noodle house makes an ika mentai (chile squid) pasta that will change your life. Also great: the udon selections and the coffee jelly (a Jell-O-like dessert). $

Christopher’s at Wrigley Mansion
2501 E. Telawa Trail 602-522-2344, wrigleymansion.com
Revered Valley chef Christopher Gross takes it to the next level at his newest and best restaurant, perched on a hill next to the Wrigley Mansion. The décor, views, multi-course French-inspired menu ($250 per person) and service are all spectacular, so cough up that $500-plus and fasten your seatbelt. $$$$

603 N. Fifth Ave. 602-441-2697, cibophoenix.com
A charming, wood-floored house (circa 1913) is home to this bustling Downtown pizzeria beloved for its thin, crisp and slightly chewy wood-fired pies. One of the earliest standouts in the Valley’s Neapolitan-style pizza scene, and still one of the best. $-$$

Clever Koi
Asian fusion
Two Valley locations, thecleverkoi.com
Creative, non-traditional takes on Asian-inspired fare in a contemporary, energetic atmosphere. Come for barman Joshua James’ thoughtful cocktails, crafted with house-made ingredients and South Pacific flair; stay for the wood-grilled octopus in a hot and sour broth, spicy kimchi fried rice, Peking duck steamed buns, or big bowls of ramen. $-$$

Cocina Madrigal
4044 S. 16th St. 602-243-9000, cocinamadrigal.com
Chef Leo Madrigal toiled in the kitchens of Z’Tejas for 20 years, honing the fine art of gringo-pleasing Mex-fusion cuisine. The queso fundido/guacamole/salsa trio starter is great. $$

Copper Blues
Contemporary American
50 W. Jefferson St. (CityScape) 480-719-5005, copperblueslive.com
This “rock pub and kitchen” serves heavy mettle dishes like pizzas from a stone hearth oven, lamb meatballs, jumbo chipotle shrimp and a half-pound of bacon with Vermont maple syrup, with a meaty live music menu on the side. Wash your burger or sandwich down with a libation from their extensive wine and beer lists, which includes their exclusive Copper Blues Bru. $-$$

CRUjiente Tacos
Modern tacos
3961 E. Camelback Rd. 602-687-7777, crutacos.com
If you’re willing to plunk down a few extra bucks for high-quality taco fixings, head to this Camelback taqueria. Be forewarned: These aren’t traditional street tacos. Think culinary works of art. Winners include seared shrimp with Thai coconut green curry sauce and pork belly with house-pickled kimchi. A little pricey, but worth the splurge. $-$$

Duck & Decanter
1651 E. Camelback Rd. 602-274-5429, duckanddecanter.com
Back in the ’70s, this crowded gourmet shop turned the brown-bag lunch into something special. People are still lining up for that same little sack, offered with a pickle and a piece of hard candy. $-$$

El Chullo
2605 N. Seventh St. 602-225-2925, elchulloperu.com
Chef Omar Velarde takes pride in his Peruvian heritage. Tangy lomo saltado, papas a la huancaína and Peruvian fish and chips go down as easy as the educational tidbits provided with each meal. $$

Farish House
816 N. Third St. 602-281-6659, farishhouse.com
Looking for a quiet, romantic restaurant before hitting a Downtown show? Here’s your sweet spot, a refurbished 120-year-old house, brimming with antiques. Check out the excellent wine list and plan to nibble on charcuterie $$

Federal Pizza
5210 N. Central Ave. 602-795-2520, federalpizzaphx.com
The food is good, the drinks are better and we dig the vibe of the redeveloped circa 1969 building designed by modernist architect Alfred Beadle. The porchetta sandwich is a knockout, with roasted pork loin and belly tucked into crusty bread, and pizzas hit the spot without draining the wallet. $$

New American
105 W. Portland St.
 602-287-8700, fezoncentral.com
With its mid-century decor and far-fetched drink concoctions, Mediterranean-inspired Fez appeals to a young, hip crowd. Top picks: the Fez burger, the insane mac and cheese, and the bruschetta. $$

FLINT by Baltaire
2425 E. Camelback Rd. 602-812-4818, flintbybaltaire.com
Finally, a worthy successor has landed in the Biltmore-area culinary space once occupied by Houston’s. This gorgeous L.A. import is all about wood and smoke — turning out wood-grilled or wood oven-roasted dishes such as steak, seafood and chicken, all given a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean accent. Graze on hummus and feel good about it or settle for an outstanding wood-fired pizza. $$

Gallo Blanco
928 E. Pierce St. 602-327-0880, galloblancocafe.com
Gallo Blanco mourners, rejoice – the former Clarendon Hotel Mexican joint is back and better than ever. The titular gallo blanco, or white guy, Doug Robson is rolling out delicious new creations – like the chicharron de queso, griddled cheese rolled into a crip cone with garlic dipping sauce – and old standbys, like his beloved grilled chicken, tortas and orange-inflected guacamole. $-$$

The Gladly
New American
2201 E. Camelback Rd. 602-759-8132, thegladly.com
A more global, slightly more urbane answer to sister gastropub Citizen Public House in Scottsdale. The Gladly’s inspired pub fare, crazy-good revivalist cocktails and stylish period digs encourage lingering. Nibble on the burrata caprese, adorned with seasonal fruit, veggies and herbs, or go for the gusto with the Wagyu burger, Pigstrami sandwich and coffee-charred short ribs. $$-$$$$

Glai Baan
Thai street food
2333 E. Osborn Rd. 602-595-5881, glaibaanaz.com
Pornsupak “Cat” Bunnag offers a small menu of small plates meant to be shared, like out-of-this-world crispy chicken wings with garlic chips, and unusual daily specials like mackerel fried rice. $$

The Henry
4455 E. Camelback Rd. 480-429-8020, thehenryrestaurant.com
This restaurant is the kind of well-engineered hotspot that keeps loyal diners in orbit. Every ‘hood should have one. Stop by for kale and apple salad, braised short rib or Mediterranean branzino. $-$$

Highball Cocktail Bar
Cocktail lounge
1514 N. Seventh Ave. 602-675-4244, highballphx.com
Dimly lit and replete with chandeliers, leather couches, brick walls and a beautiful wooden bar, Highball whisks patrons away to a Prohibition-era speakeasy with a modern slant. Must-try: the earthy Shogun Powder, a twist on the Peruvian pisco sour made with matcha. $-$$

2650 E. Camelback Rd. 602-957-9700, hillstone.com
A stone’s throw from the former Houston’s at the Esplanade, with many of the same mouthwatering menu items. Don’t miss the Osaka-style pressed sushi, Chicago-style spinach dip and the fried chicken sandwich. $$

Ingo’s Tasty Food
Two Valley locations, ingostastyfood.com
This casual eatery features a wrap-around patio with a front row seat to some of the best people-watching in Phoenix. Ingo’s mainstay is burgers, but the crispy chicken sandwich and fresh shattered potato chips are top-notch. $

La Grande Orange Grocery
4410 N. 40th St. 602-840-7777, lagrandeorangegrocery.com
This upscale market and deli serves a few simple but elegant breakfast selections, awesome green chile burgers and fanciful desserts baked in-house. $-$$

the larder + the delta
200 W. Portland Ave. 480-409-8520, thelarderandthedelta.com
At his expanded reboot, chef-owner Stephen Jones creates his own elegant version of Southern Cuisine, featuring iconic dishes such as hoe cakes and low country perlou, as well as envelope-pushing comfort foods such as crispy pig ears dusted with Cheetos. $$-$$$

LON’s at the Hermosa Inn
5532 N. Palo Cristi Rd. 602-955-7878, hermosainn.com
LON’s is a romantic favorite that oozes Old Arizona charm. The chefs source locally for their Southwestern-inflected menu, from the Crow’s Dairy goat cheese in his Hermosa salad to the Sonoran wheat berries served alongside roasted steelhead trout. $$$

Los Dos Molinos
Two Valley locations, losdosmolinosphoenix.com
Some like it hot. But for those who like it hellish, there’s Los Dos, a beloved New Mexico-style restaurant located in cowboy star Tom Mix’s old house. Try the house-special carne adovada: braised pork ribs in a molten red chile sauce. $$

Mariscos Playa Hermosa
Mexican Seafood
1605 E. Garfield St. 602-462-1563, mariscosplayahermosa.com
It’s the Valley’s best Mexican seafood joint. Try anything with shrimp, including botana de camarón and camarónes fantasia, or the Veracruzian classic huanchinango: red snapper smothered in papaya sauce. $-$$$

Matt’s Big Breakfast
825 N. First St. 602-254-1074, mattsbigbreakfast.com
The famed breakfast haunt is as clean and cheerful as Mom’s kitchen – with better food. Five Valley locations, including Sky Harbor Airport. $

Noble Eatery
4525 N. 24th St. 602-688-2424, nobleeatery.com
This renowned, relaxed restaurant showcases organic legumes, artisanal meats and local produce in rotating daily sandwiches with seasonal ingredients and milky mozzarella. $

Neighborly Public House
Modern American
5538 N. Seventh St. 602-675-1852, neighborlypublichouse.com
This Uptown eatery may be serial restaurateur Chris Collins’s best restaurant so far, a casual but sophisticated spot for happy hour, weeknight dinner or date night, offering inspired takes on standbys such as Brussels sprouts, oysters Rockefeller, tuna poke, crab cakes and rotisserie chicken. $-$$$

3243 N. Third St. 602-687-9080, ocotillophx.com
Chef Walter Sterling delivers well-executed global eats in a contemporary, neighborhood dining compound that includes a beer garden, coffee bar and outdoor lounge. Careful attention is paid to seasonal sides and starters such as roasted cauliflower and ricotta with sun-dried strawberries. $$

4900 E. Indian School Rd. 602-955-0358, ohsobrewery.com
With 36 microbrews on tap and an American-Mexican-Italian-Venezuelan-influenced menu – not to mention a canal-adjacent, dog-friendly outdoor dining area that routinely wins our Best of the Valley award for Best Patio – this Arcadia nanobrewery is hopping. Try the addictive green chile dip or hit their popular beer brunch. $

Otro Café
6035 N. Seventh St. 602-266-0831, otrocafe.com
Standouts at Chef Doug Robson’s Central Mexican-inspired eatery include silky serrano ham with avocado and green olives, and a refreshing mint-kissed quinoa salad. Robson also makes a mean, Mexican paella. $$

Global Tapas/Small Plates
Two locations, palakitchen.com
Only foodies need apply for supremely simple Spanish tapas and South American-Italian dishes at this minimalist but charming bungalow, presided over by Italian chef and co-owner Claudio Urciuoli. Now with a white-hot Downtown location. $$-$$$

New American
4700 N. Central Ave. 602-935-2932, persepshenarizona.com
From their cool rustic-industrial space in Uptown Phoenix, Jason and Katherine Dwight (butcher and baker, respectively) make everything from scratch: house-cured meats, bread, pickles, wood-fired veggies, a life-altering burger and some of the best desserts in town. $$-$$$

5555 N. Seventh St. 602-264-5411
Go for the jukebox, pool tables and fun dive-bar vibe, stay for the legendary patty melt – formed and seasoned to order, deglazed with a “good God”-size splash of wine, and served on griddled rye, until midnight or later, depending on the whims of the bar staff. $

Modern American
702 W. Montecito Ave. 602-441-0553, progressphx.com
Culinary wunderkind TJ Culp is behind this charming restaurant in Melrose, where the short seasonal menu changes every four to six weeks, but you might find comfort food mind-blowers like airy ricotta gnocchi with moist bits of chicken thigh and fresh peas, all bathed in a rich buttery sauce deepened with chicken liver and buckwheat froth. $-$$$

Reathrey Sekong
1312 E. Indian School Rd. 480-238-0238, sekongbynight.com
Introducing Phoenicians to the fresh flavors of Cambodia, this eatery serves up dishes like a spice-layered chicken curry and Amok fish, steamed in a banana leaf package and smeared with kaffir coconut cream. $-$$

Restaurant Atoyac
1830 W. Glendale Ave. 602-864-2746
Get a taste of Oaxacan cuisine at this unpretentious roadside diner with superlative fish tacos served with smoky grilled onions and jalapeños. Desserts include dreamy fruit paletas. $

Rice Paper
2221 N. Seventh St. 602-252-3326, ricepapereatery.com
This bright, modern space makes a wider assortment of Vietnamese food accessible with an array of imaginative rolls, including soft-shell crab with mango and avocado. $$

Rough Rider
1001 N. Central Ave. 602-675-0439, roughrideraz.com
From the Victorian décor to the lithographed drink menu featuring cobblers, punches and other old-timey cocktails, this basement speakeasy is ticklishly, tirelessly on point. Expect a surprisingly well-muscled menu of yesteryear-inspired small plates, raw-bar goodies and entrées from chef Jose Morales. The tempura cauliflower with blistered shishitos gives a fresh look to two now-familiar gastropub standards $$-$$$

Pomo Pizzeria. Photo by Angela Adams
Pomo Pizzeria. Photo by Angela Adams

Three Valley locations, pomopizzeria.com
Cooked in a 6,000-pound wood-burning oven from Italy, Pomo’s pizzas received a stamp of approval from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, an organization that enforces pizza standards in Naples. The fabulous 12-inch pies can be paired with wines from the Italian wine list. $-$$

Southern Rail
300 W. Camelback Rd. 602-200-0085, southernrailaz.com
Indulge in cleverly named cocktails, pickled fried green tomatoes, smoked chicken gumbo and otherworldly bread pudding at this uptown offering from chef Justin Beckett. $$-$$$

1025 N. Second St. 602-254-6378, sottisephx.com
Sit on the porch and sip a carefully curated wine at this charming French bistro. The grazing menu, which offers a few entrees, runs to classic French – escargots, baked Camembert, pâté and salmon rillettes, all of it outstanding. $$-$$$

Taco Chelo
501 E. Roosevelt St. 602-368-5316, tacochelo.com
Quick, cheap and delicious: All accurate descriptors for the home-style Mexican food from this great-looking beautiful Roosevelt Row space, designed by artist Gennaro Garcia and co-owned by restaurant empire builder Aaron Chamberlin. $

Tacos Chiwas
Three Valley locations, tacoschiwas.com
At first glance, this Midtown taqueria may appear to be a bare-bones operation in modest surroundings – but this James Beard nominee is hardly just another mom-and-pop taco joint. From the slow-roasted meats to the tripe tacos, Tacos Chiwas screams authenticity. $

Tacos Huicho
1941 E. Oak St. 480-398-6766, tacoshuichoaz.com
It’s the al pastor that clinches our enduring loyalty to this Midtown taqueria: sweet, smoky and shaved right off the trompo, i.e. the vertical, shawarma-style spit that distinguishes all true al pastor from the candied, pan-fried stuff you usually find. $

New American
3213 E. Camelback Rd. 602-955-8100, tarbells.com
This restaurant remains a hotspot for a host of reasons, namely its American comfort food menu, great wine list, clientele of local movers and shakers and its affable host, Mark Tarbell. Try the wood-fired pizzas, the organic veggie plate or the spaghetti and meatballs, saving room for perfect chocolate mousse. $$$

Photo courtesy T. Cook's
Photo courtesy T. Cook's

T. Cook’s
5200 E. Camelback Rd. (Royal Palms Resort & Spa) 602-808-0766, royalpalmshotel.com
The Valley’s most beloved resort restaurant welcomed back an old friend recently, as longtime chef Lee Hillson returned to helm the kitchen. Dishes run the gamut from an exquisite whole roasted sea bream to Maine lobster carbonara. $$$-$$$$

Thai E-San
616 W. Indian School Rd. 602-297-8888, thaiesanphx.com
Located in an unassuming building off of Seventh Avenue, Thai E-San specializes in delicious delicacies from the Isan region of Thailand. Hand-picked produce and natural palm sugar and spices imported from co-owner Rodger Pongtratic’s hometown of Phetchaburi are used to ensure authenticity, quality and taste. $-$$

New American
4130 N. Seventh Ave. 602-277-5561, valentinephx.com
This midcentury-modern bar and eatery in Melrose has become the city’s hippest hangout for its classic but twisty cocktails and out-of-the-box cooking – e.g. quark-dappled blue oyster mushrooms, so mind-blowing they give new meaning to the words “Blue Oyster Cult.” $$-$$$

Latin-inspired Modern American
3433 N. 56th St. 602-675-2000, vecinaphx.com
James Fox and Eric Stone get everything right at this small neighborhood hangout, offering great cocktails, cool Latin pop and a view of Camelback Mountain, not to mention terrific Latin-inspired dishes such as ceviche, barbacoa tostadas with blue cheese-infused mashed potatoes, pork belly tacos and a carne asada rib eye nonpareil. $$

Vincent on Camelback
3930 E. Camelback Rd. 602-224-0225, vincentsoncamelback.com
Famed for his French-inspired Southwestern Cuisine, Vincent Guerithault keeps classic favorites such as duck tamales and smoked-salmon quesadillas on the menu, while offering a taste of Provence with wild mushroom and asparagus tart and duck confit with green olive sauce. $$$

1515 N. Seventh Ave. 602-252-2541, vovomeena.com
Come to this Roosevelt-area breakfast favorite, and blow your daily sugar quota on fantastic banana bread pudding turned into French toast served with whiskey-kissed caramel sauce. $$

Welcome Diner
929 E. Pierce St. 602-495-1111, welcomediner.net
This Garfield neighborhood diner, beloved for its Southern-inflected comfort food served late, puts hip, impressionistic spins on classics like the fried green tomato sandwich and gooey mac and cheese. Save room for old-fashioned pie. $$

Wild Thaiger
2631 N. Central Ave. 602-241-8995, wildthaiger.com
Drop by this pretty restaurant for lunch and you’ll find fresh, simple Thai dishes. The dinner menu, which offers tamarind shrimp and beef filet with papaya salad, is far more fun. For dessert, don’t miss fresh mango with sticky rice. $$

The Womack
Cocktail lounge
5749 N. Seventh St. 602-283-5232, thewomack.us
One upon a time, a muggy, dimly lit juke joint called Chez Nous was the place to be for Downtown dance-floor habituées. Ultimately razed to make way for a Fresh & Easy, it was resurrected years later in the form of this dance club on the Seventh Street dining drag. Our favorite spot to cut a rug. $$

2502 E. Camelback Rd. (Biltmore Fashion Park) 602-424-9500, zinburgeraz.com
Relaxed and cheeky, Zinburger pioneered the Valley’s upscale-burger scene. Enjoy a deliciously stacked Zinburger, with manchego cheese and zinfandel-braised onions, while sitting opposite a giant mural of ruminating cows. Turkey burgers, veggie patties and delicious salads are also on the menu. For dessert, splurge on a Black Lager Float, a grown-up root beer float made with lager beer and vanilla ice cream. Lunch and dinner daily. $$