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Oct 26, 2010 02:13 PM

One week in Phoenix...what to eat?

We're going to be in PHX for a week at the start of December. Probably staying somewhere around the convention center, but will have a rental car.

We eat just about anything and at any price point. Where would you recommend?

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  1. what won't you eat? are there things you want to eat? this is incredibly broad and difficult to answer without at least SOME guidance.

    6 Replies
    1. re: azhotdish

      For lack of specific parameters, I'll just ramble on, and come up with a few ideas.

      A couple of random places on my calendar in the coming week are Noca and Gallo Blanco.

      I can think of a handful of places downtown: Local Breeze, Matt's Big Breakfast, Carly's Bistro, Los Dos Molinos (multiple locations). I have only had breakfast or lunch at these places. I can't remember having dinner downtown, except Pizzeria Bianco, which I recommend researching.

      There isn't much drawing me toward downtown for dinner. Nobuo At Teeter House is the most interesting thing off the top of my head. I'm sure there are other good choices, just none that really compete for my interest versus options in the surrounding neighborhoods and suburbs.

      I eat more meals at Dick's Hideaway than anywhere else, but, that's mostly breakfast and an occasional lunch. I prefer Phoenix City Grille for dinner. Those are my neighborhood standbys.

      If I was visiting in downtown, I'd give serious consideration to a light rail tour. I would stop in downtown Tempe and take a walk up Mill Ave. There's nothing particularly expensive, maybe House of Tricks is on the high end. Caffe Boa is a nice moderately priced option. I like Restaurant Mexico, but, opinions vary on that one. Driving to Tempe is just as easy. There is a lot of parking available, provided you choose a day when there is not an event, like an ASU football game.

      Phoenix City Grille
      5816 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016

      House of Tricks
      114 E 7th St, Tempe, AZ 85281

      Pizzeria Bianco
      623 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

      Caffe Boa
      398 S. Mill Avenue, Tempe, AZ 85281

      Dick's Hideaway
      6008 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016

      Carly's Bistro
      128 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

      3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

      Gallo Blanco Cafe
      401 W Clarendon Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85013

      Restaurant Mexico
      423 S Mill Ave # A, Tempe, AZ 85281

      Matt's Big Breakfast
      801 N 1st Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85003

      1. re: azhotdish

        What won't we eat??? Well..hardcore vegetarian is probably out. Otherwise, nothing is off the table. Tex-Mex, Mex-Mex, Chinese, Italian, Steak, Seafood, continental...etc, all good.

        Diners, Pubs, casual places, white table cloths... all equally welcomed. We'll have a car and a GPS so getting out of the downtown area isn't a concern.

        I have no idea what the culinary universe in Phoenix is? Anyone doing anything unique food wise in the area? I'm assuming that there would be a strong Mexican food presence, but I have no idea if some interesting fusions exist?

        I would like to hope that in a week of having to eat in restaurants 2/3 times a day, I can say that I have hit some of the good "locals only" type places; that I've got a feel for what makes Phoenix from a foodie perspective.

        As an aside... any good brew-pubs or local beers? One of the biggest challenges in visiting somewhere for the first time is finding a decent beer (my preference being brown ales..); I'm not particularly enamored with mass produced American beers (sorry...we're Canadians...different beer thing entirely than Miller Lite...).

        1. re: tex_in_yyc

          "Anyone doing anything unique food wise in the area?"

          Couple of our favorites for 'different' would be Binkley's in Cave Creek (north) and Kai at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort (south). Kai would be easier to get to (not far off a freeway).

          Binkley's is sort of 'molecular gastronomy' but not quite (the chef trained at The French Laundry while Grant Achatz was there and also did a stage at Achatz' restaurant Alinea in Chicago ... similar influences but not quite Alinea excellent) and gets good ratings from foodies and especially the best-known local food critic. The 5 or 6 course tasting menus are what we typically order there.

          Kai is on the Gila River Indian reservation and the cuisine is influenced by Native American dishes and tastes. Mobil/Forbes has awarded 21 USA restaurants 5 stars in 2010 and Kai is the only Arizona restaurant ranked with 5 (Binkley's is rated 3 stars but partly because it's in a strip mall with Enterprise Rental car and the atmosphere is more like a bistro than a 'fancy restaurant', I think).

          Dined at Kai recently and would recommend the crab app, lobster or goat meat torta for 2nd course (both are special), buffalo or veal or lamb for the main course. Most of the desserts are really good too.


          You might also be interested in the OpenTable ratings for the Phoenix area. In case you're not familiar with it, OT books reservations for participating restaurants and after you eat you can rate the restaurant on-line. They only use the past 3 months worth of reviews so what you get is relatively fresh.

          Here's a link to a recent OT rating of the "Best Overall" restos in Arizona ... Kai and Binkley's are 1 & 2, as often happens. Click on one of the other links (Best Food, Best Service, Ambiance, etc) depending on what you are looking for in a restaurant.

          Just glancing at the 'ratings & reviews' tab on OT I see Kai has 59 diners giving 5*, 6 giving 4* and one whiner with 1*, which is the best score in Arizona. Binkley's score is 56 5*, 21 4*, 3 giving 3*. Pretty good scores.

          6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

          Cave Creek Cafe
          15202 N 19th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85023

          1. re: willyum

            Dang, I omitted the link to the Open Table "Best of Arizona" page ... here it is ...


            1. re: willyum

              I would also add Restaurant NOCA to that list. The food is unique, and the service is excellent. I love their wine list. Though it is not as deep, as some others', it pairs well with the fare, is very interesting, and worth the $.

              Since the CH links never seem to pick up NOCA, here is the link:

              Note: if dining on Sunday PM, the menu is limited to "Simple Sunday," and I really like the full menu, but that is just me.

              Now, the other two are great choices, and if I only had three meals in Phoenix, Binkley's, NOCA and KAI would be those three choices.



              6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

          2. Lots of great places have already been mentioned. Maybe you'll have time to try Los Reyes de la Torta. It's one of my current Phoenix Phaves. Another on the lower end of the fancy spectrum is Lo Lo's Chicken and Waffles.

            We recently had a fun time trying all the tacos and salsas at La Condesa. And how about Mi Comida for some delicious comfort food? The only place I've had local beer is Four Peaks brewery and they have pretty good bar food, too. I hope someone will mention a great brew bar in this thread because we haven't found one here yet!

            Just want to make sure you have plenty of options that will be easy to associate with Phoenix! Have a great trip.

            Lo Lo's Chicken & Waffles
            10 W Yuma St, Phoenix, AZ 85003

            Mi Comida Restaurante Latino
            4221 W Bell Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85053

            Los Reyes de la Torta
            9230 N 7th St Ste E, Phoenix, AZ 85020

            La Condesa Gourmet Taco Shop
            1919 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

            1. Four Peaks in the downtown Tempe area is a good local brewery; they also have good bar food (pizza, sandwiches, etc), and a good Sunday brunch. For just beer, Papago Brewery in southern Scottsdale is great for both local beers and a huge selection of unusual bottles. (I'm not a huge fan of their food, though.) Other places to try if you happen to be nearby include Taste of Top's (not a brewery, but lots of interesting selections), SunUp Brewing, Sonoran Brewing Co, Sleepy Dog (usually quiet with a loungey feel) and Rock Bottom (a mini-chain); some of these have food, but they're not really dining destinations.

              1 Reply
              1. re: bortukan

                Yardhouse has tons of draft beers, but their food is pretty poor, papago is a dive / hole in the wall, awesome selection of beers, Delux if you want burgers and good beer selection (around 30) and they do have alot of the 4 peaks beers on draft - and 4 peaks itself

                3146 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

              2. Warning: I have a LOT to say here. I eat out an astonishing number of days per year and know the restaurant scene here pretty well. Not that I'm saying my choices will necessarily be your favorites, but friends tell me I usually steer them right.

                As mentioned here, Binkley's and Kai are the two best restaurants in the area; hands-down. However, both require a bit of a drive and a huge time commitment (and lots of $$$). I would pick at least one, though, if you're seriously into food, in order to see the best of what Phoenix has to offer.

                Quiessence is another local gem where I love to take visitors, and it's not far from downtown. It sits adjacent to a working farm (Maya's Garden) and has these lovely fire pits out front and a charming little building for inside seating. Chef Greg LaPrad makes good charcuterie and apps (if you just want a light snack) in addition to full entrees and a chef's menu that changes daily. At least go for a drink; they have barrel-aged Manhattans and other handcrafted cocktails.

                For downtown Tempe, I also highly recommend Caffe Boa and House of Tricks. Both have talented chefs, good ambience and excellent drinks and wine lists.

                Downtown Scottsdale is a big dining destination with lots of possibilities, but FnB is one of our new standouts. Chef Charleen Badman does inspiring things with all ingredients (I even loved the chicken here, and that is saying something), and you will be pampered by host Pavle Milic. FnB has an all-Arizona wine list and it's chosen carefully, so you won't be disappointed.

                Often overlooked and under-appreciated is the cute, historic downtown Chandler area, which is less than 30 min. from downtown in the East Valley and is also something of a dining hub. Its buildings date from the turn of the 20th century. My favorites there include Latitude 8 for Thai, Urban Tea Loft for salads (they do full entrees as well), El Zocalo for standard Sonoran Mexican (ask to sit in the awesome courtyard out back) and Sushi Eye conveyor belt sushi. There's also a brewpub there called SanTan Brewing Company, which is fun, but I don't think the food is any great shakes. Four Peaks is far superior in that respect.

                I like Los Dos Molinos, too. It's not fancy, but gives a good Southwestern feel. It's some of the best and most fiery New Mexican in town. Go to the one on Central south of Baseline for the best ambience, but get there early - it's small and fills up fast. Nothing new or exciting here, though -- just lots of heat.

                For a higher-end interpretation of Mexican, you might enjoy Barrio Cafe. It's won numerous "best of" awards in the local press but is still a locals type of place.

                Comfort food is big right now everywhere and especially here; Cafe ZuZu in Scottsdale does a great job. I also love love love the pot roast and the mac n cheese at Bliss, a new place in downtown Phoenix with lots of character (and characters). Great service, too.

                Downtown Gilbert also has Joe's Real BBQ and Liberty Market (same owner; lighter fare and hipper feel than Joe's) along with Romeo's Euro Cafe (BIG portions; Mediterranean-inspired). All local favorites.

                Downtown Glendale is worth a look if you like Polish and Eastern European food. A Touch of European Cafe is very authentic, and the owners are just as sweet as can be. I love that it's a BYOB, too (not many of these in AZ due to an arcane law). Their hours vary day to day, so call ahead to verify.

                For Italian, Veneto in Scottsdale ranks high on my list. It's northern Italian, so don't expect pastas. Lots of local VIPs eat here. For Asian, I'm partial to Tottie's Asian Fusion (2 locations; the one on Scottsdale Rd. and Lincoln is newer and a bit prettier). She serves Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese. Her curries rock. Good drinks, too.

                For breakfast, Over Easy on Indian School Road, with its pseudo-retro look and hearty plates, is fun and filling. For Mediterranean, I urge a trip to Spices in Chandler. It's in a strip mall and has almost no ambience, but if you want to eat like locals do, this will do it. His kebabs plates are stupid good.

                These are a ton of "locals" places in addition to these, so depending on which area of town you're in, you'll find something appropriate. We have a wealth of local, independent, chef-run places, as you can see; you just have to know where to look. And it appears that's exactly what you are out to do, so kudos to you.

                House of Tricks
                114 E 7th St, Tempe, AZ 85281

                6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

                Caffe Boa
                5063 E Elliot Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85044

                Over Easy
                4730 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85018

                6106 S 32nd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85042

                Liberty Market
                230 N Gilbert Rd, Gilbert, AZ

                Sushi Eye
                Chandler, AZ, Chandler, AZ

                Urban Tea Loft
                11 W Boston St # 2, Chandler, AZ

                A Touch of European Cafe
                7146 N 57th Dr Ste C, Glendale, AZ 85301

                Tottie's Asian Fusion
                7901 E Thomas Rd Ste 108, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

                7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

                2 Replies
                1. re: 1wino

                  I cannot speak for the newer Totties but i would avoid the one on thomas and hayden, have been there several times and have not had alot of luck there, perhaps the other location is better, however i prefer my asian cuisine very authentic and tottie's is americanized up IMO

                  1. re: Dapuma

                    I think it depends on what you order, but, I'm no authority on what is authentic. I like the Thai curries. Obviously, the place is trying to cater to a variety of tastes. Unless something has changed in the past few months, I would say that Tottie is clearly in charge of both locations, and I'd be surprised if there was a significant difference in the locations, except the Hayden location offers more options due to a larger kitchen.

                2. Thanks for all the suggestions. Lots of interesting options. Nice job of keeping your tags and map up to date as well. Very, very helpful.