10 Best Restaurants in Phoenix: Foodie Havens Worth Discovering
By Patricia Escarcega
Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tucson Local Expert
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.
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)
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)
Il Terrazzo at The Phoenician Resort
Il Terrazzo is the fine dining centerpiece of The Phoenician Resort, and a good bet if you're looking for upscale Italian fare. The restaurant offers a traditional fine dining experience with a few unexpected twists. The Sunday brunch, for example, is styled in the manner of a fresh, fun and relaxed Italian market. The ambiance encourages tasting, nibbling and conviviality, while the food menu features a range of fresh-made sausages, pastas, cheeses and classic breakfast fare. It's a nice alternative to heavier brunches around town. The dinner menu offers hand-made artisan bread and pasta; fresh salmon, scallops and other seafood dishes; and classic mains like beef tenderloin and pork bistecca. ((480) 423-2530)
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)
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)
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)
Quiessence at The Farm at South Mountain
Quiessence at The Farm at South Mountain offers a unique fine dining experience in a bucolic slice of South Phoenix. The restaurant, located inside a historic home at the end of a pecan tree-line path at The Farm, features excellent farm-to-table fare in a relaxed yet lovely dining room. Many of the dishes feature ingredients hand-picked steps away from the kitchen at Maya's Garden. The menu is constantly changing, but expect seasonal New American fare tinged with exotic ingredients and unexpected flavor pairings. One of the best ways to experience Quiessence is by enjoying Chef Dustin Christofolo's six-course tasting menu. ((602) 276-0601)
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)
A Different Pointe of View
A Different Pointe of View stands out as one of the most distinctive Phoenix fine dining destinations. The restaurant is situated atop a mountain in north central Phoenix and offers incredible city and desert views. Diners sit nestled around floor-to-ceiling windows, where at night, city lights twinkle below. Thankfully, the menu lives up to the ambiance. For starters, the risotto is excellent. The savory and slightly soupy rice features slices of perigord truffles, fresh-made Hollandaise, a poached farm fresh egg and a drizzle of watercress puree. Entrees include a savory and rich lemon butter poached Maine lobster. Another stand-out is the grilled piquillo pesto-scented shrimp. ((602) 866-6350)
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)
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.