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Essential Phoenix Dining: 10 Phoenix Restaurants You Shouldn't Miss



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 pizza aficionados from around the world come to commune with Bianco's winning roster of James Beard Award-winning, wood-fired pies.

For classic Arizona dining, check out Durant's near downtown Phoenix, perhaps the city's most storied and beloved steakhouse. 

For refined riffs on Mexican cooking, make a date with Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva, one of the latest efforts from James Beard Award-nominated chef Silvana Salcido Esparza. 

Speaking of James Beard nominees, if you love creative tasting menus, you'll definitely want to plan ahead and reserve a spot at Binkley's Restaurant in midtown Phoenix. Perennial James Beard Award nominee Kevin Binkley brings his flair for modernist technique and creative comfort food to his new flagship restaurant, where the average multi-course dinner can stretch upwards of three hours. 

For another excellent Phoenix fine dining destination, you should not miss Kai Restaurant, located just south of Phoenix at the Wild Horse Pass Resort. The menu offers creative and refined takes on Native American-inspired fare, with hard-to-find native ingredients that are often harvested locally. 

Keep reading to find more of the best in Phoenix dining. 


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Durant's


Durant's has been a staple on Central Avenue for decades. The secret of its success is simple enough: perfect martinis, fantastic steaks, and incomparable service have made this steakhouse a popular local haunt. Dark wood, leather booths, and flocked wallpaper hark back to earlier days, but the 48-oz. mesquite-broiled porterhouse and the 20-oz. Delmonico are absolutely fresh. Prime rib, crab cakes, broiled scallops, calf's liver, and lamb chops also give diners delicious pause. Great wines and pungent garlic bread are a way of life here, and if you park in back, don't hesitate to come in through the kitchen, like everyone else does. Bustling after-work bar scene too.


Bar Pesce (formerly Crudo)


Sushi sensibility meets traditional Italian flavors at Crudo, a restaurant and bar that often riffs on the concept of 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.




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.


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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.


From acclaimed Phoenix chef Silvana Salcido Esparza, Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva is like the smaller yet ultra-sophisticated sister of the original Barrio Cafe on Calle 16 in Central Phoenix. Gran Reserva is an art-filled Mexican restaurant located in the scrappy, colorful Grand Avenue Arts District, in the former home of the Bragg Pie Factory. The vintage setting, mural-embellished walls, friendly service and views of the downtown Phoenix skyline set the mood for a quiet and refined evening. The highlight of Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva is the tasting menu, which features the chef's highly personal, elevated riffs on regional Mexican cooking. Check out the drink list, too, which features a strong roster of Mezcal and Mexican wines.


Little Miss BBQ isn't located in one of Phoenix's hottest dining districts " the barbecue destination is located on an industrial stretch of University Drive on the Phoenix-Tempe border. But just because it's not in a trendy dining corridor doesn't mean that it's a hidden gem. Plenty of people have discovered the pleasures of Little Miss BBQ, particularly the pleasures of the excellent, Central Texas-style barbecue, which is cooked using Arizona oak and pecan wood. Don't miss the beef brisket, although the ribs, turkey, pulled pork and sausage are all pretty great, too. Whatever you do, though, come prepared to stand in line. It's all part of the experience of eating at Little Miss BBQ.


Nobuo at Teeter House


This Japanese-inspired restaurant was an immediate sensation at its debut back in 2010, famous for the artistic sensibilities of local James Beard Award-winning 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 multi-course affairs that take place on the weekends.


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.




Fine dining in Phoenix doesn't get much more interesting, creative and unforgettable than a night at Binkley's Restaurant, the latest endeavor from James Beard Award-nominated chef Kevin Binkley. The restaurant is located in a charming historic home in midtown Phoenix (in the former home of Bink's Midtown), offering a menu format focused exclusively on an always-changing multi-course tasting menu. Set aside at least three hours for a night at Binkley's, where you are treated to more than 20 courses. Diner starts on the patio, and then moves into the bar area, finishing up the in hospitable, quietly refined dining room, which offers full views of the open kitchen. Diners can watch Binkley and his stuff work their magic with a modern, seasonal American menu rooted in French technique and tradition.


Kai


Kai is noteworthy on so many levels that it's difficult to know where to start when describing it. The esteemed crew includes Consulting Chef Janos Wilder, Executive Chef Michael O'Dowd, and Chef de Cuisine Jack Strong. They have devised a menu of incredible food using ingredients grown on local tribal farms in dishes with a definite Native American slant, such as seared prairie squab and oxtail-merguez sausage frittata with cuitlacoche sauce and charred tomato crema, and grilled buffalo tenderloin with smoked corn puree, scarlet runner beans, saguaro blossom syrup and cholla buds. A tasting menu is also available, with or without wine pairings. The ideal spot to enjoy such earthy-yet-ethereal food is Kai's patio, with a view out over the Estrella Mountains. With a prickly pear margarita in hand.


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Meet Patricia Escarcega

Patricia Escarcega works as a writer and editor in Phoenix.

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