The best restaurants in Phoenix all have one thing in common: passion for quality ingredients and flawless execution. Looking for the best pizza in the country? Some would argue that you'll find it in Phoenix, at Chef Chris Bianco's Pizzeria Bianco, where the lines still form around the corner for the rustic yet impeccably fresh, delicious wood-fired pies. For classic Arizona dining (and some of the best tortilla soup in the city), head to Frank & Albert's, the iconic dining room at the historic Arizona Biltmore Resort. Visitors will want to indulge in a long lunch on the outdoor patio, or enjoy a leisurely dinner in the dining room, where upscale revisions of American classics such as pork chops with caramelized apples are served with grace and flair. Traditional French cuisine is infused with Southwestern flavor at Vincent's on Camelback, another long-standing Phoenix favorite, where luscious lobster is served alongside fresh avocado and corn salsa. Speaking of Southwestern favorites, Gallo Blanco Cafe, tucked away in a corner of the hip Clarendon Hotel, dishes out some of the city's best and most creative Mexican dishes. Try any of the street tacos, stuffed with fresh vegetables and succulent meats and topped with fresh Mexican cheese.
A clean-lined interior of neutral colors and vibrant artwork sets the scene for this bustling hotspot. Created by Chef Mark Tarbell, winner of Iron Chef America, the menu of New American cuisine puts a creative twist on fresh vegetables, chicken, seafood, and beef. Although offerings change monthly, you can be assured of terrific food like grilled salmon, rock shrimp, and an upscale vegetable plate. The wine list has a reputation all its own. A private dining room hosts up to 10 diners, and the bistro happily serves appetizers at the bar for those who just want to enjoy the ambiance. The wine pairings here are famously excellent and the knowledgeable staff is always willing to help. (602-955-8100)
9 Vincent's on Camelback
Vincent on Camelback has been a Valley favorite since the 1980s, when Chef Vincent Guerithault pioneered his unique brand of Southwestern-inflected French cuisine. Chef Vincent boldly marries traditional French techniques with indigenous Southwestern ingredients and flavors, with remarkable and inimitable results. Try the lobster chimichangas, perfectly crisp on the outside and stuffed with succulent lobster in a basil beurre blanc and a side of avocado corn salsa. Other stand-outs include the duck tamale with Anaheim chile and raisins. Vegetarians will love the little turnover of heirloom tomato, egglplant and zucchini with a mild creamy gorgonzola. The wild boar loin with a parsnip puree and habanero sauce. You'll want to save room for dessert, because Vincent on Camelback is home to arguably the city's most decadent crème brulee, with a spectrum of flavors that include vanilla, chocolate, coffee, passion fruit and Grand Marnier. (602-224-0225)
8 Frank & Alberts - The Arizona Biltmore
Frank & Albert's, named after two legendary architects who had a hand in shaping some of the Valley's most iconic landmarks (Frank Lloyd Wright, who built Taliesin West in the Scottsdale desert, and Albert Chase McArthur, designer of Phoenix's renowned Biltmore Resort) offers one of the Valley's most memorable dining rooms. Understated yet elegant, the subtle lighting, rich colors, sleekly modern furnishings and gracious outdoor patio make this a quintessential Phoenix destination. But Frank & Albert's is not just a beautiful place to dine, but also where you'll find some of the city's best regional and iconic dishes. The tortilla soup has been on the menu here since 1949, and much of the menu features locally grown produce. Try the crisp and flavor-rich celery Caesar salad. Other menu stand-outs include the popular three-way pig feast and the classic meatloaf. Come for the ambiance, stay for the regional take on American classics. (602-955-6600x2508)
7 Tuck Shop
The motto at Tuck Shop is "neighborhood comfort shop." Tucked away in a central Phoenix neighborhood, this popular restaurant serves carefully crafted comfort food in a small, intimate dining room. The menu, which changes frequently, features Arizona-inspired cuisine made from high quality local ingredients. For starters, try the duck tostadas, featuring plum roasted au jus, jicama, red cabbage and a big dollop of Mexican crema. If you love chicken and waffles, you have to try Tuck Shop's gourmet version of this comfort food favorite. The white cheddar waffles are made with a citrus brine and served with pineapple succotash. Truly original and delicious. ((602) 354-2980)
Sushi sensibility meets traditional Italian flavors at Crudo, Phoenix's hip Italian cafe specializing in sashimi-style seafood. Fresh, simple and always-intriguing, the Crudo ("raw" in Italian) menu emphasizes seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients and mouth-watering culinary juxtaposition. The menu is cleanly divided into signature sections, including crudo (raw), cotto (cooked), mozza (mozzarella-centered plates), griglia (grilled), and lati (sides). For cold/raw creations, the crudo menu features fresh seafood plates include the albacore (served with apples, truffles, and black garlic) and the ahi tuna (delightful with smoked olives, egg, and lemon). When you're craving something hot, choose from the hot cooked plates from the cotta menu, including gnocchi, dumplings, and mushrooms. Try the uniquely savory risotto, made with squid ink, tuna, chili, and tomato. For a hearty plate, pick from the griglia menu, which includes pork belly, short ribs, and rolled veal breast made with apricots and rosemary and cooked over the restaurants custom-made wood fire grill. Lovers of high quality Italian cheeses will revel in the mozza menu, where plates of mozzarella are served with fresh herbs, oils, meats and vegetables. Diners are invited to sample the menu with a three, four, or five course meal. (4806031011)
5 Nobuo at Teeter House
This Asian-style teahouse was an immediate sensation at its debut back in 2010, famous for the artistic sensibilities of local superstar chef Nobuo Fukuda. The chef-artist is a critical darling for his iconoclastic take on traditional Japanese cuisine. By day, nosh on the elegant small plates and light, impeccably constructed salads, sandwiches and bowls. In the evening, the dinner menu is divided between appetizers, cold dishes and warm dishes, all featuring seasonal ingredients, fresh fish and always-unexpected pairings. The real star of the show at Nobuo is the omakase (chef's choice) menu, extravagant, reservations-only multicourse affairs that take place on the weekends. ((602) 254-0600)
4 Gallo Blanco Cafe
This colorful Mexican cafe, located off the lobby of the Clarendon Hotel in central Phoenix, is a breath of fresh air in a crowded restaurant scene. The fresh, inventive take on traditional Mexican dishes at Gallo Blanco Cafe is based on the best ingredients, many of them sourced locally. For breakfast, try a plate of the traditional Chilaquiles Verdes, and for lunch, grab a couple of the cafe's irresistible Carne Asada Beef tacos. The street tacos and quesadillas are excellent, stuffed with fresh veggies, meats and topped with crumbly Mexican cheese. Mexican-style fruit drinks offer a refreshing respite from the Phoenix heat. ((602) 327-0880)
3 Beckett's Table
Beckett's Table is the brainchild of Chef Justin Beckett, who wanted to create a restaurant that celebrates the values of farm-to-table cuisine in a friendly, communal setting. The interior at Beckett's Table is industrial chic, with concrete floors, exposed block walls, subway tile, and leather-capped stools and cushioned chairs. The two patios have ceiling fans, misters, heaters, and a fireplace that can accommodate 70 guests. But the real star of the show here is the food, which features a menu rich with seasonal vegetables and the highest quality meats. The atmosphere is both sophisticated yet not stuffy. (6023143004)
2 St. Francis
This bustling central Phoenix restaurant offers charm in spades. The stripped-down aesthetic is married with modern loft design, making this one of the more inviting and interesting dining rooms in the city. The food is just as interesting. Exquisite soups, fresh crusty loaves of bread, and wood-fired entrees are just some of the highlights here. Try one of the specialty burgers or seasonal salads. Chef and owner Aaron Chamberlin infuses the menu with seasonal ingredients, lovingly married with expert preparation. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served, as well as popular weekend brunch. The charming outdoor bar makes a great place to relax during the cooler months. (6022008111)
1 Pizzeria Bianco
Chris Bianco's celebrated pizza evokes memories of Naples. A wood-fired brick oven and a passion for quality make Bianco's traditional Neapolitan pizza crust a work of art. The restaurant was famously short-listed by New York critics as one of the best pizza destinations in the country. Each and every one of the masterpieces served is made from scratch with the finest ingredients. The only drawback? You may have to wait for a great pizza, because the place is no secret. Reservations accepted only for parties of six or more. The good news is that Bianco and company recently opened up a second location at the Town & Country Shopping Center. (602-258-8300, 602-528-3699)
About Patricia Escarcega
Patricia Escarcega has lived in the Arizona desert since she was a teenager. She works as a writer and editor in Phoenix with her four dogs and two cats.
She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and is working on a novel about growing up in the 1990s.
Read more about Patricia Escarcega here.