10 Best Lunch Spots in Phoenix for a Midday Feast

By Patricia Escarcega, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tucson Local Expert

Lunch is one of the best times of day to sample the best of the modern Phoenix food scene. It's usually easier to score a table at last minute, lunch specials abound, and you don't have to worry about making it to the restaurant before closing time (Phoenix is still a little hard-up on late-evening dining options). 

For an Arizona-centric lunch option with a sprawling menu of small plates, vegetable dishes, hand-made pasta, and even a sandwich or two, check out Ocotillo in midtown Phoenix. This is one of the liveliest lunch spots in midtown, the place to go to catch a glimpse of the downtown crowd doing business, or to simply enjoy the gourmet (but never pretentious) comestibles of co-chefs Walter Sterling and Sacha Levine.

For a cool downtown spot where you can also grab a gourmet tea, cocktail or pretty much anything else on your to-eat list, head to The Larder + The Delta, a Southern-inflected food counter located inside the DeSoto Central Market in Phoenix. The menu changes often, but the food is grounded in Southern cooking, where plates are dressed up and mashed up with the various whims and inspirations on chef Stephen Jones' culinary palette. 

In the mood for pizza? Check out Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana in downtown Pizza, where you can savor excellent pizza made in the traditional style of Napoli. 

10. Cibo
Photo courtesy of Cibo

This Central Phoenix urban pizzeria is situated in a restored 1913 bungalow, making it the perfect backdrop for a leisurely lunch or romantic dinner. Exposed brick, hardwood floors, authentic stained glass windows and a working fireplace means that you'll have much to admire while you nosh on your salad, antipasti, made-from-scratch pasta or artisanal pizza. Each pizza is made-to-order and hand-tossed by Chef Guido Saccone, native of Sicily, and then topped with a delicious drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Don't miss the new "stuzzichini" happy hour menu, served Mondays through Fridays from 3 to 6 pm. It features small bite specialties like arancini, Arborio rice deep-fried with a center of mozzarella.

9. The Dressing Room
Photo courtesy of The Dressing Room

The Living Room is a relatively new addition to downtown Phoenix's Roosevelt Row food scene, but don't be fooled by its limited square footage. This "micro-restaurant" features a small but satisfying menu that's described as "food from streets, beaches, carts, and trucks." This translates to casual and creative globally inspired fare that includes burgers, tacos, and salads. The house RoRo Burger, a saucy, well-cooked burger squeezed into an English muffin, is deliciously dressed in a sweet-spicy Russian sauce. The Peruvian ceviche salad, meanwhile, is texture-rich and delicious. Don't leave without trying the restaurant's signature dessert, a churro ice cream sandwich featuring vanilla ice cream cemented between two freshly fried churros.

8. Zookz Sandwiches
Photo courtesy of Zookz Sandwiches

Zookz Sandwiches is the brainchild of chef Carole Meyer, who spent 18 months experimenting with a patent-pending sandwich press designed to create delicious, wholesome "sandwiches with an edge." The disc-shaped grilled sandwiches at Zookz are crispy on the outside and deliciously gooey on the inside, made from scratch with freshly baked French, white or whole wheat bread. The bread is stuffed with your choice of thinly sliced meats, cheeses and other fillings and then sealed using Meyer's unique press.The fresh sandwich creations at Zookz promise to deliver exceptional quality while also delivering convenience to foodies on-the-go.

7. Short Leash Hot Dogs
Photo courtesy of Short Leash Hot Dogs

Once a humble downtown Phoenix food truck, Short Leash Hot Dogs is now one of downtown Phoenix's most-loved local eateries. The restaurant specializes in gourmet hot dogs - but these are not your typical ballpark hot dogs. They come wrapped in toasty, pillowy naan bread and topped with an assortment of unique, fresh ingredients. For example, there's the currywurst, a knockwurst sausage slow-cooked in a tomato and onion curry broth and then topped with crunchy onions. The results are playful and delicious. New hot dog specials grace the menu regularly. Don't miss the "Rollover" menu, featuring a delightful mix of gourmet donuts, including the infamous "The Bear" doughnut, a smoked gouda and bacon donut filled with peanut butter custard and topped with cracker jacks. The flavors are initially confusing, but ultimate a palate-pleaser.

6. Pane Bianco
Photo courtesy of Pane Bianco

Chris Bianco, the well-known chef and restaurateur, started Pane Bianco as an offshoot of Pizzeria Bianco, the award-winning Phoenix pizzeria that gained him national attention. Pane Bianco is a tiny sandwich shop with an even smaller menu. The menu consists of a few sandwiches and salads, but the results are extraordinary. All the breads are baked on site in the cafe's wood-fired oven, and the mozzarella could only be fresher if you made it yourself. (The mozzarella is in fact made in the restaurant). The focaccia and caprese salad are both outstanding. This is a popular take-out lunch spot, and it's easy to see why.

5. Nook
Photo courtesy of Nook

Nook evokes images of a cozy place to sit back and relax with a hearty plate of comfort food. Fortunately, that's exactly what you'll find at this Arcadia eatery, tucked away in the Gas Light shopping center. The menu has everything from light cafe fare to hearty Mediterranean dinners. For starters, try the excellent poutine house fries, served with beef gravy and mozzarella curd. The restaurant also serves a variety of unique bruschettas, including a short rib variety featuring a mushroom duxelle and port demi reduction. Dinner entrees include a savory filet, savory halibut tacos, and a creamy pasta crepe. Gourmet pizzas, excellent desserts, and a winning wine menu make this a strong destination for a special occasion dinner or date night.

4. Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana - Downtown Phoenix
Photo courtesy of Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana

You would think that finding authentic Neapolitan-style pizza would be a challenge in the Arizona desert. If traveling to southern Italy in search of great pizza isn't feasible right now, you can satiate your appetite for great pizza with a visit to Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana. The pizzeria features thin-crust pizzas made according to the ancient pizza-making traditions of Napoli, in an oven imported from Italy. The expansive menu runs the gamut from the classic margherita to savory specialties like the quattro stagioni (four seasons), which is loaded with sausage, mushrooms and salami. The menu also features antipasti, pasta dishes, and salads.

3. Comedor Guadalajara

Comedor Guadalajara, situated on a quiet stretch of Central Avenue, has been catering to South Phoenix Mexican food-lovers for more than 40 years. The Sonoran-style menu is straightforward but consistently delicious. Tamales, burros, flautas, and chiles rellenos all make an appearance here, but the specialty at Comedor Guadalajara are their parrilladas--large, sizzling platters of grilled meats and seafood served with vegetables and special garnishing. This is a popular place to grab lunch, but it's also a family-friendly restaurant with a large and lively dining room. The kids menu features small burritos, chicken nuggets, and even small portions of menudo on the weekend.

2. Barrio Cafe
Photo courtesy of Barrio Cafe

Since it opened, folks have been clamoring to this hopping, no-reservations-accepted restaurant for its inventive southern Mexican and Southwestern cuisine. Abandoned are bland burritos and tacos in favor of lush, richly layered flavors achieved with zesty chiles, authentic cheeses, and complex moles. Start with guacamole prepared tableside (peppered with fresh pomegranate fruit) and then consider cochinita pibil, a delectable slow-roasted pork dish. Grilled steaks, seared duck breast, and seafood enchiladas are also much-requested. Plus, there's no better dessert than deep-fried fritters with goats' milk caramel - ask anyone. The restaurant also delivers a winning margarita, perfect for a long, leisurely afternoon with friends.

1. Ocotillo
Photo courtesy of Patricia Escarcega

Ocotillo is a bonafide food and drink compound in central Phoenix, with a sprawling, ambitious menu of New American eats. Here, "New American" means everything from big plates of gorgeously burnished roasted chicken, enormous falafel burgers, or perhaps a small plate of roasted cauliflower that's almost as appetizing and richly flavored as a slab of steak. For dinner, the menu offers a selection of vegetable and meat small plates, house-made pasta dishes, and entrees. For lunch, feast on big, fresh gourmet salads, sandwiches, roasted chicken dishes, pasta, or put together your dream meal with various small plates. The restaurant is also home to an outdoor beer garden, a swanky indoor bar, an extensive wine list, an on-site gourmet coffee bar ("O-To-Go"), and a popular weekend brunch.