Phoenix has recently emerged as one of the best cities for pizza in America. They also have restaurants that do a great job making use of local ingredients and southwestern flavors.
Here’s our favorites:
1. Barrio Cafe
Barrio Cafe serves authentic southern Mexico cuisine using local and fresh ingredients in a funky and unpretentious place. In the bar, there’s an extensive selection of tequilas. Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza oversees the whole operation and created the menu based on her grandmother’s recipes in Mexico. Their signature Lowrider Margarita comes with Don Julio Blanco Tequila, Fresh Lime Juice and Cointeau, and the award-winning Guacamole is prepared fresh table-side. The popular Sunday brunch features live music – read more here (Photo by Ms. Phoenix)
2. Pizzeria Bianco
Pizzeria Bianco has been rated as the best pizza in the United States at various times by Bon Appétit, Vogue, and Rachel Ray. Bronx native Chris Bianco opened the restaurant in 1987 in a grocery store in central Phoenix before moving to the current location downtown’s Heritage Square in 1996. Chris says that there is no mystery to making pizza and credits his success mostly to using the best ingredients, but two of the keys to their exquisite pizza could be the wood burning oven and their homemade mozzarella cheese. The menu is short and features two appetizers, three salads, and six pizzas. There are currently 2 locations in Phoenix and a new location in Tucson. The main location of Pizzeria Bianco can be found in a beautiful, old brick building, and there’s a wine bar next door – read more here (Photo by ICMA Photos)
3. Lux Central
Lux is a combination coffeehouse, bar, bakery and restaurant – and they manage to do it all very well all day long. The pastries are fresh and the coffee is wonderful. For later in the day, the cocktails are expertly prepared.
• Aunt Gladys’ Homemade Salsa over Four Strips of Tender Belly Bacon with Three Scrambled Egg Whites, Cheddar and Hash.
• Chickpea Curry with Roasted Tomato, Spinach, Mushroom, Onion, Yoghurt, and Cilantro over Basmati Rice.
• Green Chili Burger on English Muffin with Bacon, Cheddar, Greens, Tomato, and Garlic Fingerling Potatoes.
4. Citizen Public House
Citizen Public House is a dimly-lit, contemporary gastropub in Old Town Scottsdale featuring honest, New American cuisine with Eastern European accents, plus craft beers and expertly-made cocktails. Go for the salads, the pastrami, and the seafood. Chef Bernie Kantak opened the restaurant and bar in 2011 and quickly gained a loyal clientele. Before that, he worked at Cowboy Ciao and was the mastermind behind their famous Original Chopped Salad, which is served at Citizen and has earned its own Facebook page. The leather booths, white tablecloths, and stainless steel bar make for a slightly upscale feel, making Citizen perfect for a casual date. Service is excellent. Head to the stairway out back to visit Citizen R&D, the “secret” speakeasy counterpart to Citizen Public House – read more here (Photo by star5112)
Binkley’s Chef Kevin Binkley honed his skills at French Laundry in Napa and the Inn at Little Washington in Virginia before opening his namesake restaurant. The eatery is comfortable and unpretentious, yet can hold it’s own against the big boys.
• The Chef’s Tasting Menu is recommended for the full Binkley’s experience.
• Two Wash Ranch Chicken Cordon Bleu with Poached Pullet Egg, Iberico Ham, Gruyere, Broccoli, Balsamic Glazed Salsify.
• Crispy Seared Foie Gras with Pineapple, Maple Roasted Onion, Macadamia Nuts, Wild Rice, Baby Shiso.
• Filet Mignon with Smashed Fingerling Potatoes, Baby Bok Choy, Mexican Bulb Onion, Horseradish, Balsamic Reduction.
Kevin Binkley also runs Bink’s restaurants in Midtown Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Carefree – read more here
6. Olive & Ivy
Olive & Ivy melds European cuisine with contemporary California fare for wonderful and healthy dishes. Sit on their patio under the shade trees and enjoy the fresh while sampling from their huge selection of wines by the glass. Olive & Ivy does many thing well, and it is hard to go wrong with a one of their sandwiches, salads, baked goods, gelato, beer, or coffee.
• Bacon-wrapped Dates with Italian Sausage and Piquillo Pepper.
• Flatbread with Prosciutto, Rosemary Potato and Egg.
• Pacific Sea Bass with Caramelized Cauliflower, Snap Peas and Preserved Grapefruit.
7. Four Peaks Brewing Company
Four Peaks Brewing Company is festive brewery and restaurant located in Tempe near the campus of Arizona State University. The brewery was founded in 1996 and brews a few favorites, a selection of seasonal beers, and a rotating selection of cask-conditioned ales, but the brewery is most famous for its Kilt Lifter Scottish style ale, which is a four-time award winner at the Great American Beer Festival. In addition to the very worthy beers, there’s great pub food and a fun crowd. The brewery is located on 8th Street in a historic Mission Revival brick building that dates back to 1892, and there’s indoor seating – right next to the stainless steel brewing tanks, and outdoor seating on the patio – read more here (Photo by Jon)
Green is a 100% vegan-vegetarian restaurant specializing in New American cuisine that first opened in Tempe in 2006. The restaurant was designed to be eco-friendly and low carbon, and Chef Damon Brasch goes all-out on the vegan/vegetarian front, but that doesn’t mean the food cannot be awesome. The ingredients are fresh, seasonal, and organic whenever possible, and the menu incorporates influences from many different cultures. Vegan versions of things like buffalo wings and crab puffs are truly delicious, and Green’s big WAC vegan burger garnered 2nd place in Buzzfeed’s list of the 21 Juicy Burgers That Will Ruin You For All Other Burgers. Green’s does serve alcohol and has a patio out front for outdoor dining. Save room for dessert – Green’s vegan soft serve ice cream has achieved celebrity status among regulars – read more here (Photo by Mike Linksvayer)
9. Pane Bianco
Pane Bianco is run by Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco fame. Pane Bianco features a more casual space and a simple menu of gourmet sandwiches, soups, and salads, along with a few pizza choices.
• Anitpasto Plate – Market-roasted Vegetables, Cured Meat, Bite of Cheese.
• Spiedini – Italian Fontina wrapped in Prosciutto.
• Sopressata Sandwich with Aged Provolone, Wood-fired Caramelized Onions.
• House-made Mozzarella Sandwich with Local Tomato and Basil.
• Margherita Pizza with Bianco Tomato Sauce, House Mozzarella, and Basil.
10. Little Miss BBQ
Little Miss BBQ specializes in central Texas style barbecue, which means succulent smoked beef brisket is the star of the menu, but there’s also great pulled pork and smoked sausage. The setting is a no-frills, one room affair with most of the seating outdoors at picnic tables under tents. Like many barbecue restaurants, Little Miss BBQ can trace its origins to a couple of people entering a team in a weekend barbecue competition. In this case, it was Scott and Bekke Holmes. Bekke is from Austin, so many research trips to place while they honed their barbecue skills. The meat comes from a custom-made 14-foot smoker. After being chopped, it’s served by weight on butcher paper with pickles, onions and white bread. The sides are not an afterthought, and the Jalapeño Cheddar Grits gets rave reviews. Be sure to save room for one of the pies-in-a-jar desserts – read more here (Photo by Kent Wang)
Cibo serves Neapolitan pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven and other Italian specialties in a restored, circa-1913 downtown Phoenix bungalow with beautiful hardwood floors and exposed brick. The place is authentically Italian. Cibo (pronounced CHEE-boh) was opened in 2005 by Tony and Karen Martingilio and their son, Michael. Their wood-burning oven was imported from Italy, and their first pizzaiolo, Guido Saccone, grew up in Caserta, Italy. Everything tastes fresh and homemade, and the wine list veers heavily toward Italian vintages. Start with a burrata and prosciutto plate, and finish up with a Nutella mascarpone crepe. The lunch menu features a huge selection of Italian sandwiches on fresh-baked saltimbocca bread. Inside, the place has the feel of a small Italian place on the East Coast. Outside is where many diners prefer to sit – the large outdoor patio features a water fountain, grape lights strung through the trees, and there is live entertainment at times – read more here (Photo by stu_spivack)
12. St. Francis Restaurant
At the family-owned St. Francis Restaurant, haute cuisine meets rustic southwestern fare in an architecturally compelling space. The space features brick walls, high ceilings, an exposed-beam ceiling, with an onyx bar and a welcoming patio. The cuisine at the St. Francis Restaurant makes liberal use of local ingredients, and many of the dishes are cooked in a wood-fired oven.
• Baked Goat Cheese with Herb Pesto, Tomato, Crostini.
• Pig Dip Sandwich – Wood-roasted Pork Loin, Prosciutto, Bacon, Caramelized Onion, and Gruyère on House Baguette.
• Prime Hanger Steak with Shallot Confit, Mixed Greens, Heirloom Tomatoes.
13. Chelsea’s Kitchen
Chelsea’s Kitchen is a modern bistro serving fresh, New American comfort food with a Southwestern twist from a sleek adobe building with a zinc roof. Chef Paul Lindsay incorporates sustainable and local ingredients into his creative dishes. The inside features brick walls and an exposed, slightly industrial ceiling, and an open kitchen fronts a dining room with deep, comfortable booths and a bustling bar. The outdoor patio overlooks the canal and features a separate bar, tables under light-strewn trees, an outdoor fireplace, and excellent views of the Phoenix sunset – read more here
14. Bobby Q
Bobby Q is not a typical barbecue joint – it’s more like a nice barbecue restaurant. In addition to the standard barbecued meats – which are awesome, of course – Bobby Q’s also has a large wine list, good salads, grilled vegetables, and wood-fired steaks. The space is well designed, with exposed brick walls, warm woods, a high ceilings, and comfortable seating. Owner Bob Sikora is a legendary Phoenix restaurateur who got an auspicious start in the restaurant industry when he dropped out of school at the age of 15 to become a fry cook at the first McDonald’s franchise in Phoenix. By the time he was twenty he had opened his first restaurant, Bobby’s Pancake Stand. He developed a love for barbecue while traveling the country scouting locations for his Bobby McGee’s restaurant chain, and he opened Bobby Q’s in 2005 – read more here
15. La Grande Orange Grocery and Pizzeria
La Grande Orange Grocery and Pizzeria is an upscale market and deli that serves a top-notch breakfast (along with coffee and pastries), great deli sandwiches and salads for lunch, and has gourmet artisan pizzas for dinner. For beer enthusiasts, La Grande Orange has a tasting room, and they are equipped to fill growlers.
• French Pancakes with Honey, Fresh Fruit and Creme Fraiche.
• Evil Princess Thai Chicken Salad with Fresh Greens, Minced White Meat Chicken, Lemon Grass, Peanuts, Red Onions.
• Rocketman Pizza with Spicy Red Fresno Chiles, Broccolini, Roasted Peppers, Roasted Garlic and Sun-Dried Tomatoes.
• Roasted Corn Pizza with Laura Chenel Goat Cheese, Corn, Roasted Tomatoes, and Basil.
• Rotisserie Chicken and French Fries.
Owner Bob Lynn also runs The Misfit Restaurant + Bar and Ingo’s Tasty Food in Phoenix – read more here
Kai is consistently rated as one of the best dining experiences in the Phoenix area. “Kai” means “Seed” in the Pima language, and many of the ingredients used in the dishes are sourced locally by Native Americans.
• Pima Bear Cocktail – Don Julio Anejo Tequila, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Fresh Lime Juice, and Pink Peppercorn Syrup, Rimmed with Crushed Peppercorn and Maldon Sea Salt.
• Grilled Tenderloin of Tribal Buffalo with Smoked Corn Puree, Cholla Buds, Merquez Sausage and Scarlet Runner Bean Chili, Saguaro Blossom Syrup.
• Seared Black Cod, Mojama Di Tonno & Cuitlacoche Soot – with Pickled Cholla Buds, Finger Lime, Edamame, Tobiko Caviar and Whipped Horseradish Potato Mousse.
• Mexican Chocolate Soufflé scented with Sweetened Dry Mole Spices and Wattleseed Anglaise.
17. True Food Kitchen
True Food Kitchen is part of the same restaurant group that owns Olive & Ivy and is part of a burgeoning chain. The focus at TFK is on flavorful cuisine using healthy and fresh ingredients with a menu based on Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet. That said, True Food Kitchen is a great place for vegan and vegetarians, but also for anyone who wants a fresh, healthy meal.
• Cucumber Martini with Skyy Vodka, St. Germain, Cucumber, and Pineapple.
• Tuscan Kale Salad with Lemon, Parmesan, and Bread Crumb.
• Red Chili shrimp with Sesame Noodle, Gai Lan, Spinach, and Shiitake Mushroom.
18. Cornish Pasty Company
Cornish Pasty Company brings delicious British pasties (pronounced “pass-tees”) and other British pub fare and Europeans beers to a few Phoenix locations. Pasties originated in the 19th century in Cornwall on the Southwest tip of England. They are hand-held pastry pouches traditionally filled with beef and vegetables, and they were prepared by miners’ wife for their husbands to take to work. Cornwall native Dean Thomas brought the dish to Phoenix in 2005 when he opened the Cornish Pasty Company in Tempe. In addition to serving the traditional pasties filled with meats and vegetables, he Americanized and internationalized the dish a bit by creating versions such as lamb vindaloo and carne asada. There are currently three locations of the Cornish Pasty Company, and each has a British pub feel. The service is friendly, and each location has a bar and a patio. There are enough varieties of pasty to please everyone, including vegans and vegetarians – read more here (Photo by alison fayre)
19. Postino Wine Cafe
Postino Wine Cafe offers warm, friendly ambiance in an old post office. The wine list is long and intriguing, there’s small plates for sampling, and the beer list is long and eclectic. On Sundays, Postino has a brunch with live music.
• Bruschetta with Prosciutto, Figs and Mascarpone.
• Italian Picnic Salad with Fresh Greens tossed with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese, Bacon and Walnuts and topped with Crisped Root Vegetables in Herb Vinaigrette.
• Autostrada Panini: Sopresatta, Italian ham, Cappicola, Mortadella, Provolone, Arugula and Tomatoes with Spicy Pepper Relish.
• Nine Iron Panini – Hickory-smoked Bacon layered with Grilled Chicken, Fresh Burrata Mozzarella, Lettuce, Beefsteak Tomato and Dijonnaise.
There are 3 Postino locations in Phoenix and one in Gilbert – see their web site for details. Upward Projects, the company that owns Postino, also runs Churn Ice Cream, Federal Pizza, Windsor Bar, and Joyride Taco House – read more here (Photo by Chad Swaney)
20. The Parlor
The Parlor makes pizza in a serious pizza town. The local competitions includes heavy hitters like Pizzeria Bianco, Cibo, and Grimaldi’s. Admirably, The Parlor has won it’s fair share of pizza awards, and it was named “Best Pizza in AZ” by the Food Network. The Parlor is located in a modern, retrofitted block building full of warm woods, big windows and muted colors. Outside is a patio, fireplace, and vegetable and herb garden.
• Cauliflower Gratinata – Roasted Cauliflower and Aged White Cheddar Breadcrumbs.
• Roasted Beet Salad with Organic Beets, Walnut Crusted Goat Cheese, Arugula, Fennel, Avocado, Gastrique Onion, White Balsamic Vinaigrette.
• Manzo Pizza – Smoked Beef Brisket, Red Barn Cheddar, House Made Giardineira, Oregano.
• Pesto Pizza with House Made Mozzarella, Roasted Tomato, Basil Pesto, Pine Nuts.
• Duck Club Sandwich – Roasted Duck, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Red Wine Tomato Jam, and Roasted Garlic Aioli.
21. Roaring Fork
Roaring Fork serves wood-fired, southwestern-style, cowboy cuisine in a rustic lodge setting with lots of wood beams, fireplaces, and antlers on the wall. The restaurant was opened in 1997 by James Beard Award winning chef Robert McGrath. The cuisine is New American with lots of local influences, and their famous “Big Ass” Burgers definitely live up to, or exceed, expectations. Also, the happy hour at Roaring Fork is very popular.
• Huckleberry Margarita.
• Kettle of Green Chili Pork with Hot, Buttered Flour Tortillas.
• Pork Wings with Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce, Hominy, Pickled Vegetables, Cotijio Cheese.
• “Big Ass” Burger with Poblano Pepper, Cheddar, Smoked Pepper Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Onions, Pickles, and French Fries.
• Spit-Roasted Half Chicken with Green Beans, Corn Bread Stuffing, Roasted Garlic Jus.
22. Matt’s Big Breakfast
Matt’s Big Breakfast offers “Scratch Cooking and Friendly Service.” They use cage-free eggs from humanely raised chickens, grain-fed natural Iowa pork and all-natural beef, and local organic produce when possible. Matt’s started out in a small space, but after being featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives the restaurant became very popular, so they recently moved to a larger space to better accommodate the crowds.
• Salami Scramble – Three Eggs Scrambled with Molinari Sopressata Salami.
• Buttery Hash Browns with fresh Rosemary.
• Big Butter Burger – Hand-pressed Niman Ranch Ground Chuck grilled in Butter, topped with American Cheese.
Delux is a sleek burger bar with an expansive menu where everything’s good. Everyone raves about the burgers, but some people come in for the beer or for the salads – some even come for the sushi. The sleek setting features lots of stainless steel and blue lighting, and there’s indoor and outdoor seating.
• Delux Chinese Chicken Salad – Marinated Chicken is grilled and chopped and tossed with Red Bell Peppers, Romaine, Cilantro, Honey-Lime Vinaigrette and Spicy Peanut Sauce.
• Delux Burger – Fresh Ground, All-natural, Grain-fed, Niman Ranch Certified Premium Beef garnished with an infusion of Caramelized Onions, Applewood Smoked Bacon, and Gruyere and Maytag Bleu Cheeses, topped with Baby Arugula, and served on a Handcrafted Demi-Baguette.
• Mahi Mahi Sandwich – Grilled Mahi on a Toasted Bun with Red Leaf Lettuce, Locally-grown Tomatoes and Red Onions with sides of Tartar Sauce and a Cucumber-Pear Medley.
• Sweet Potato Fries.
• San Mai Roll – 2 Shrimp Tempura, Cucumber, Rice, Seaweed, and Seeds topped with Spicy Shrimp, Avocado, Spicy Mayo, and Sriracha.
FnB stands for “food and beverage,” and the name is very apropos, as chef Charleen Badman presents farm-to-table dishes using local organic produce accompanied by a wine list spotlighting Arizona wines. The vibe is rustic, cozy, and bustling. The Braised Leeks with Mozzarella & a Fried Egg were named one of the “10 Best Restaurant Dishes of 2010” by Food & Wine.
• Grilled Asparagus, Crispy Polenta, Parmesan, Chiltepin, Fried Egg.
• Lamb Riblets with Sherry Vinegar, Honey, Aleppo, and Coriander.
• Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Green Beans, Fresnos, Green Garlic, and Frico.
• Grouper with Cous Cous, Quinoa, Hearts of Palm, and Tomatillo Relish.
• California Halibut, Colombian Rice, Poblano-Spring Onion Relish.
FnB is a great place for a late-night meal, or stop by their Bodega Market or AZ Wine Merchants store next door. The restaurant is located in Old Town Scottsdale in a beautiful building that was originally built in 1955 to house art studios and galleries – read more here (Photo by peanitian)