Best of Our Valley 2018: Food & Restaurants

by Melissa Larsen  

Best Sunday Brunch: The Hash Kitchen

With two more Hash Kitchen locations on deck for 2018 (Chandler and Arcadia), digging into the Scottsdale restaurant’s over-the-top morning treats, cereal cocktails and build-your-own Bloody Mary bar will be easier than ever. Some fresh dishes to check out during your next brunch sesh: cinnamon roll pancakes and French toast bread pudding. Also a 2017 Winner!

Best Barbeque: Honey Bear’s BBQ

Thirty-one years ago, business partners Mark Smith and Gary Clark opened their first brick and mortar Honey Bear’s BBQ on East Van Buren Street, with the second location coming about in 1998 on Central Avenue. The laidback restaurant’s most popular dish is pulled pork, paired with Cowbro’ beans and mac and cheese, while this year welcomed meaty mac and loaded fries to the menu.

AFM Fave! Best Chicago Deep Dish Pizza: Lou Malnati’s

The popular Chicago-based Lou Malnati’s now has soon-to-be three Valley locations (Arcadia, Phoenix and Scottsdale is on the way) where deep-dish fiends can get their fix. The pizzas are handmade from scratch, using fresh mozzarella, California vine-ripened tomatoes and a flaky, buttery crust recipe that has been passed down for generations.

Best Baked Goods or Sweets: Classic Cakes & Confections Cookies

Lemon bars, cheesecakes, brownies, macarons—you name the pastry, and Classic Cakes & Confections has mastered it. Sweettoothed visitors can pop in the adorable Scottsdale bakery for the aforementioned pastries and more. And don’t forget to check out the bakery’s wedding cake gallery if you’re making the walk down the aisle anytime soon. Also a 2017 Winner!

Best Teppanyaki: Sapporo

One of the area’s sleekest spots for sushi, teppanyaki and Pacific Rim delicacies, Sapporo in Scottsdale recently launched lunch hours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For those who can’t make it out of the office, stop by for happy hour to enjoy the likes of crab puffs, lobster potstickers, sushi rolls, cocktails and much more at wallet-friendly prices. Craving a real show-stopping experience? Settle in at a teppanyaki table to see the Sapporo chefs work their magic in front of your eyes. Also a 2017 Winner! 

AFM Fave! Best Gluten-Free Menu: Farm & Craft

In order to provide diners with a Wellness Menu that features four paths to optimal health (like increasing probiotic levels and maintaining high levels of antioxidants), Farm & Craft focuses on providing local, sustainable, gluten-free, organic and hormone-free ingredients. Fave dishes include the salmon poke and Cali chicken bowls. P.S.: Farm & Craft’s newest location just opened at The Colony in Phoenix.

Best Fondue: Culinary Dropout at Farmer Arts District

Fondue has a pretty fancy reputation, but at Culinary Dropout the beloved dish is super laidback, casual and, yes, cheesy. Sided with soft pretzels, the provolone fondue is golden and velvety—and no one will blame you if you keep this shareable appetizer all to yourself.

Best Breakfast: US Egg Breakfast & Lunch

This month, family-owned and -operated US Egg celebrates its 32nd anniversary. Regulars stop in for the protein pancake, the most popular dish, and to stock up on homemade granola and locally roasted coffee beans, which are sold retail. Plus, US Egg boasts the largest gluten-free breakfast menu in the state.

Best Burger: Rehab Burger Therapy

At its two Valley locations, Rehab Burger Therapy dishes out hearty—and unique—eats. Daring diners pop in for the PBJ & Bacon Burger and the Ghost Burger, which is topped with ghost pepper jack cheese. Rehab burgers feature a mouthwatering custom blend of bone-out sirloin, brisket and USDA chuck beef.

Best Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza, Best Pizza and Most Fun Lunch Spot: Barro’s Pizza

At its many Valley locations, the family-owned and -operated Barro’s Pizza not only dishes up tasty ‘za, but it is a one-stop shop for wings, salads, delistyle sandwiches and pasta, too.

Best Country Club Chef: Lenard Rubin, The Country Club at DC Ranch

As The Country Club at DC Ranch embarks on a large expansion, Executive Chef Lenard Rubin is excited about the new kitchens and facilities that the change will bring. For instance, the new banquet kitchen will give the culinary team the capability to expand catering and member event offerings while the new bakery kitchen will give the opportunity to create and  bake an abundance of their own desserts, breads, ice cream, pastries, cakes, chocolates and much, much more.

Best Farmers’ Market: Phoenix Public Market

On Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., the community gathers downtown year-round to purchase goods from the likes of Abby Lee Farms, Arizona Bread Co., Maya’s Farm, Noble Bread and many other local favorites at Phoenix Public Market. Market-goers can grab a bite to eat at one of the on-site food trucks or savor a quinoa bowl, frittata or house-made pop-tart from the next-door Phoenix Public Market Café.

Best Doughnut: Rainbow Donuts Café & Deli

From cake doughnuts and fluffy raised doughnuts to fancier options like bear claws and tiger tails, Phoenix’s Rainbow Donuts is a local favorite for friendly service and, well, delish doughnuts. The cafe opens bright and early at 5 a.m., so diners can kick off their day in the sweetest way possible.


Best Cupcake: High Spirited Cupcakes

With around 25 inventive flavors, cocktail inspired High Spirited Cupcakes shows that cupcake-ing is serious business. Flavors like the wine-spiked Rosé All Day or the Oaxaca This Way, with mezcal-infused chocolate, tempt all taste buds. Pick ‘em up at Phoenix Public Market, or custom order online.

Best Food Photography: Debby Wolvos

Have you perused a restaurant Web site lately? Perhaps you’ve flipped through a food publication? Chances are, then, that you’ve spied the work of Debby Wolvos, an in-demand commercial food and lifestyle photographer who loves to capture chefs, food and cocktails among the diverse beauty of Arizona.

Best Poke Bowl: Koi Poke

Poke restaurants are popping up frequently around the Valley lately, but that surely doesn’t intimidate Koi Poke which has about 10 more restaurants currently in the works (two are open in DC Ranch and Arcadia). For a healthy, filling lunch option, build a poke bowl brimming with quality seafood, including octopus, lobster, salmon, yellowtail and more.

Best Italian Food: Tomaso’s

A Valley fixture since 1977, Tomaso’s recently debuted a newly remodeled and expanded event space and a popular happy hour menu that includes Italian classics like gnocchi, Amatriciana meatballs and much more. Though its pasta always receives rave reviews, Tomaso’s most popular dish is Paccheri Amalfitani, a specialty of Coastal Naples with prawns and lump crab.

Best Cup of Coffee: Press Coffee

This year, the ever-growing Press Coffee is celebrating its 10-year anniversary and is welcoming a second Scottsdale location in late summer (bringing its total number of locales to eight). Since 2008, Press has provided coffee lovers with the highest quality products, service and knowledge and has partnered with restaurants throughout the Valley (like Over Easy, The Gladly and many others) to expose even more caffeine fiends to its top-notch goods.

Best Outdoor Dining and Most Amazing Restaurant Interior: Bourbon Steak

Whether you choose to dine indoors or out, Bourbon Steak at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is brimming with handsome good looks and fine-dining appeal. From the walls of wine that greet you when you arrive to the fire pits that warm up the patio, the design elements of this superb steakhouse impress as much as its menu (don’t miss the black truffle mac and cheese, by the way).

Best Juice Bar: Juice Core Juice

Core got its start five years ago at Valley farmers’ markets and has since grown into an all-organic vegan restaurant in Old Town. Juice Core specializes in cold-pressed juice and doles out healthy doses of smoothies, acai bowls, salads, avocado toast and other tasty treats.

Best Frozen Treat: Gelato Dolce Vita

A gold medal winner in last year’s Gelato Festival in Scottsdale, Mesa-based Gelato Dolce Vita scoops out some of the Valley’s most decadent gelato. Regulars stick a spoon in flavors like melon and chili, limoncello, salted caramel and many, many more finger-licking good options.

Best Mexican Food: Sandbar Mexican Grill

Can’t make it to the beach this spring? Head to Sandbar instead for ice-cold cervezas, sand between your toes and fresh Mexican cuisine. Menu favorites at its two Valley locations (Chandler and Phoenix) include the house-made guacamole and ancho chile-rubbed mahi tacos.

Best Health Food Store: Sprouts Farmers Market

With two new locations that just opened in Tempe and Scottsdale last month, Sprouts Farmers Market is spreading its specialty for fresh, natural and organic products at wallet-friendly prices throughout even more reaches of the state. Also a 2017 Winner!

Best Macaron: Paris Rendez Vous

Since its opening in 2014 at Desert Ridge Marketplace, Paris Rendez Vous has delighted diners with its selection of French macarons as well as indulgent pastries, fine chocolates and gelato. Plan to stick around a while and sip espresso and nibble macarons on the beautiful patio.

Best Restaurant Group: Riot Hospitality Group

Riot Hospitality Group is responsible for some of the most successful food and beverage concepts in the Valley (and beyond), including El Hefe, Farm & Craft, Hand Cut Burgers & Chophouse and Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row. The group was founded 2010 and has plans for strategic nationwide restaurant expansion over the next few years. Also a 2017 Winner! 

Best Resort Restaurant: Litchfield’s

The Wigwam’s signature restaurant, Litchfield’s is refreshingly casual with serious eats. (The restaurant is named after Paul W. Litchfield, founder of Litchfield Park, where the resort is located.) The restaurant pays tribute to the community with a farm-to-table menu and locally sourced produce. Diners at Litchfield’s can look forward to digging into the likes of branzino, veal osso bucco, diver sea scallops and other decadent dishes.

Best Comfort Food and Best Valley Food Truck: Grubstak/ Grubstak Mobile

Grubstak in Downtown Gilbert doesn’t just offer comfort food—it offers comfort food that is completely customizable. Via its Signature Stak menu, diners can dig into the Notorious R.I.B. with braised beef or Gold Rush with crispy kitchen. If you prefer your Stak on four wheels, Grubstak Mobile just made its debut in the fall and is ready to dish out at public, private and corporate events around the Valley.

AFM Fave! Best Cupcake: Unicorn Cupcake Boutique

Unicorn Cupcake Boutique just opened in Scottsdale early this year, yet the whimsical bakery already impresses with its sweet treats and adorable party-ready presence. Locally owned Big Cupcake Truck is the featured cupcake maker at Unicorn Cupcake Boutique, and the company whips up tasty small-batch gourmet cupcakes, including gluten-free and vegan flavors. For the ultimate sparkle-filled unicorn fest, the boutique’s party area is decked in glitter marquee signs, super-girlie shades and gorgeous chandeliers. Even the toilet at Unicorn is something to behold.

Best Place to Watch the Big Game: RnR

With TV’s throughout the restaurant and a cool indoor/outdoor atmosphere, RnR in Old Town is a favorite spot for catching all the on-screen sports action. Pair the big game with green chile pulled pork tacos and animal fries for an over-the-top game day.

Best Private Dining Room and Best Seafood: Ocean Prime

Seafoodies savor Ocean Prime’s decadent raw bar, sushi options, lobster mashed potatoes and hearty entrees (think swordfish, Chilean sea bass, blackened snapper and much more). For a more intimate dining affair, Ocean Prime offers three beautiful private dining rooms that can accommodate up to 12, 24 and 40 guests, respectively.

Best Date Spot and Best Steakhouse: Bourbon & Bones

Beef buffs head to Old Town’s mighty handsome Bourbon & Bones for top-quality wet- and dryaged steaks and an extensive lineup of high-end bourbons (there are more than 75 to choose from). For a low-key date night, stop by Monday through Friday, from 4 to 6 p.m., for happy hour and enjoy shareable apps and $5 glasses of select wine or go all out on Sundays when Bourbon & Bones dishes up roasted prime rib all day.

Favorite Local Food Blog or Website: Write on Rubee

Christina Barrueta at Write on Rubee is an awardwinning freelance food, beverage and travel writer, and is currently working on her first book. She has been inducted into the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame as Food Writer of the Year, and often serves as a cocktail and culinary judge for various food fests and events around town. Be sure to follow Barrueta’s drool-worthy adventures on Instagram @writeonrubee. Also a 2017 Winner! 

Spiciest Dining: The Breadfruit & Rum Bar

The Breadfruit & Rum Bar, a beloved Phoenix fixture for modern Jamaican cuisine, sets tongues aflame with flavor-packed dishes like pepper shrimp, sautéed in cayenne-habanero sauce. Good thing the menu has a refreshing selection of rum cocktails—like its daily punch bowl special—to extinguish the fire. thebreadfruit.comAlso a 2017 Winner! 

Best New Restaurant and Best Taco: CRUjiente Tacos

When Arcadia welcomed CRUjiente Tacos, a Latininspired modern taqueria, little did the Valley know that one of the most innovative dining concepts had just opened its doors. Executive Chef Richard Hinojosa’s pork belly and kimchi tacos and Korean fried chicken tacos are the most popular orders, though diners should keep an eye on new offerings like the green chile chicken tacos. And, cocktail lovers: CRUjiente is a top spot for creative sips, too.

AFM Fave! Best Mexican: La Hacienda, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

La Hacienda at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess (or “La Ha,” as it is lovingly nicknamed) dishes out impeccable modern Mexican cuisine accented by one of the largest tequila collections in the Valley. The dining room is warm and welcoming with wood-beam ceilings and beehive fireplaces, while the seafood enchiladas and filet a la parilla are out of this world.

Fast Favorites

Best Asian Cuisine and Best Sushi: Blue Wasabi Sushi & Martini Bar,

Best Business Lunch Spot: Adobe Restaurant,

Best Culinary Event: Cooks & Corks,

Best Dining With a View: Quiessence at The Farm at South Mountain,

Best Gluten-Free Menu: Venezia’s Pizzeria,

Best Grocery Store: Fry’s Signature Marketplace,

Best Health Food or Vegetarian Food: Pita Jungle,

Best Locally Owned Drive-Thru: The Stand,

Best Pet-Friendly Restaurant: Bottled Blonde,

Best Sandwich Shop: Worth Takeaway,

Best Sky Harbor Airport Dining: Barrio Café,

Best Spa Cuisine: Aji Spa, Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass,

Best Tea Spot: The Phoenician,

Best Acai Bowl: Kaleidoscope Juice, Also a 2017 winner!

Best Dining with Live Music: Pita Jungle Chandler, pitajungle.comAlso a 2017 winner!

Best Hot Dogs: Portillo’s, portillos.comAlso a 2017 winner!

Best Restaurant to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck: Pita Jungle, Also a 2017 winner!

Old Favorite: Texaz Grill, texazgrill.comAlso a 2017 winner!

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