From tortas to some of the best pizza in America, there are a lot of good things to eat in Phoenix and Scottsdale. Sure, there are the expected Southwest diners, but Phoenix’s restaurants can surprise you too with their unexpected details (like a cocktail bar that’s also a 90-minute train simulation or creepy dolls sitting in the basement). Whether you’re in the mood for barbacoa or house-made pasta, we’ve organized this guide by meal so you’ll always know where to eat next in Phoenix and Scottsdale.
Lux does a little bit of everything - they’re the kind of place that could probably assemble Ikea furniture without having an existential crisis. Part cafe, part bar, and part restaurant, this Central Avenue spot works whether you want coffee and a pastry, a cocktail, or some of the best mac and cheese in the city. Keep it in mind for breakfast before visiting The Heard Museum or Phoenix Art Museum nearby. Lux Central opens at 6am daily.
Don’t expect tumbleweeds and swinging saloon doors when you come to Phoenix. Instead, you’ll find places like Ocotillo - a cool spot with an outdoor patio/beer garden that’s great for groups. Come for the fantastic brunch, which has everything from a skillet pancake with roasted bananas to brie-stuffed French toast. Ocotillo is also a great option for lunch or dinner. They have an American menu with Southwestern twists, like beef ribs with a mole espresso barbeque sauce and the crispy eggplant “meatballs” over parmesan polenta.
Maybe you have an affinity for minimalist design, or you just don’t feel like waiting in line to eat at a breakfast spot Guy Fieri has called “gangster.” Futuro is a very white and bright cafe inside a hair salon that serves excellent Mexican coffee drinks (try the Cajeta, made with goat-milk caramel and sea salt) as well as pastries. Between October and May only, Futuro serves brunch on the weekends. If you’re here when they have brunch, order anything with barbacoa in it.
Perfect for Lunch
If you’re in Phoenix for just one day, you need to eat at Pizzeria Bianco. Home to some of the best pizza in the country, the downtown location is the original. Start with the spiedini (fontina wrapped in prosciutto) and follow it with the Rosa pizza, which is topped with pistachios and rosemary. Pizzeria Bianco’s Town & Country location has a more extensive menu and accepts reservations, so save that one for dinner.
Tacos are the unofficial love language of Phoenix, and they end up on the majority of restaurant menus - Mexican or not. While the number of places with overpriced chicken tacos and a Dia de los Muertos theme continues to grow in the Valley, you’ll find us at Tacos Chiwas. Here, the meats are super flavorful, the tortillas are soft (but not so soft they fall apart), and we’d like to install their salsa bar in our own kitchens. Try the classics like carne asada and al pastor, but don’t skip out on the lengua or chiwas (beef, ham, jalapeno, Anaheim chiles, asadero cheese). It’s a small space with only a few tables, but it’s perfect for two or three people who want a quick taco lunch.
When you want to spend a day with friends eating and drinking without wasting time traveling from neighborhood to neighborhood, Central Ave has you covered. Start your own bar/restaurant crawl at Windsor, an American spot with great bar food, before grabbing a Grid Bike (Phoenix’s bike-share system) and riding along the tree-lined Bridle Path. Then head to Postino for wine, Federal for wood-fired pizza, and Joyride for tacos. Drinks are $5 until 5pm at all of these spots, even on the weekends.
This open-air food court is about a 12-minute walk from the Phoenix Convention Center, so make a stop here after a day filled with networking, seminars, and conversations about the dry heat. It’s a courtyard surrounded by repurposed shipping containers out of which local vendors sell burgers, tacos, pizza, and drinks.
Our favorite tortas (Mexican sandwiches) in the city are at Los Reyes de la Torta. The bread is soft, the fillings are delicious, and it’ll be so large you’ll wonder how you ever spent $10 on anything else. The most popular torta - and our favorite - is the Norteña with chipotle-marinated chicken or steak with caramelized jalapeños, onions, melted mozzarella, and a smear of refried beans. Pair it with one of their many shareable frescas (freshly squeezed juices) or even better, BYOB. Los Reyes is a larger space than Tacos Chiwas, but still super casual.
Located in South Scottsdale, Fellow Osteria serves the best, and most-reasonably priced lunch in the area. There are house-made pastas and wood-fired pizzas as well as a great lunch special (half pizza and small salad for $10, and deals on drinks). Have a long lunch here then spend the rest of the afternoon in the Desert Botanical Gardens (about a five-minute drive away) ranking your top 10 favorite species of cacti.
When you land in Phoenix craving something other than airplane food, head to Ingo’s in Arcadia. Choose from a menu of fried chicken sandwiches and gourmet burgers, order cocktails by the carafe, and replenish your vitamin D supply out on the patio.
The Best Restaurants for Dinner
Trying to convince someone in Phoenix that your favorite Mexican restaurant is better than theirs is like trying to convince another dog owner that yours is cuter. But we’re big on bold statements so we’ll tell you that the best Mexican food in Phoenix is at Barrio Café Gran Reserva, on the outskirts of downtown. They serve food from different regions of Mexico, setting it apart from the Sonoran-style of Mexican food you’ll find all over the city. Barrio Café Gran Reserva is well-known for its mole (it’s even used in a few of the cocktails), so be sure to center your order around trying multiple types. If no one in your group volunteers as team orderer, try the $50 six-course tasting menu for dinner.
The second location of this pizzeria in the Town & Country Center is more of a dinner play. There’s an expanded menu (that still includes the famous pizza) and later weekend hours, and they take reservations. The space is still rustic, but this one looks more like the country home of an eccentric aunt with the mismatched chandeliers and thrift store art all over the walls.
Founded by the same guy as Pizzeria Bianco, Tratto is a pasta-focused restaurant right next to Bianco’s location in the Town & Country Center. Tratto is best when you share a few things from their regularly-changing menu that has included dishes like cavatelli with duck and prosciutto ragu. There’s an off-menu cacio e pepe that’s phenomenal here too. Try to get a reservation ahead of time, otherwise you can try your luck at the first-come-first-serve bar.
Dino’s Napoletana is one of our favorite late-night food options in Phoenix, and it’s located in the back of Thunderbird Lounge, a ’70s-inspired bar. The menu is small (just a margarita, a salami, and a green pie with zucchini, ricotta, pistachio, and mint), the hours are short and late (Tues-Thurs 8pm-12am, Fri-Sat 8pm-2am), and there’s only outdoor seating. But don’t let any of that stop you. The pizza here is some of the best you can eat in the city.
Glai Baan is a lively Thai restaurant perfect for a night out with friends. It’s located in a converted bungalow in Midtown and serves shareable street food-inspired Thai dishes that are all under $20 - like salted crab papaya salad and pork skewers. Seating is limited and wait times can run high, but it’ll be worth it once you’re eating panang curry with braised beef and nua num tok under a string of twinkling lights.
Coming to Restaurant Progress is like upgrading to an exit row seat - sure, it costs extra but you’ll be happy you spent the money. This place feels casual and unpretentious, but serves the kind of food you’d expect to find somewhere more upscale - with staples like foie gras with lentils, dates, and brown butter walnuts and an octopus dish with melted tomato and garlic confit. If you’re tired of having to make daily life choices on what to wear, eat, watch, and do - then let the chef decide your meal for you here with the $75 five-course set menu.
We have a theory that all vacation home purchases in Phoenix were decided after eating at Lon’s. Located at The Hermosa Inn in Paradise Valley - a small area near Scottsdale - Lon’s is fine dining with beautiful views and the best patio in the area. Order The Stetson (a mezcal, prickly-pear cocktail) and choose from dishes like lobster tempura, steaks, and scallops. Definitely make a reservation to sit on the patio and time it up with the sunset.
Old Town Scottsdale is kind of like a diet Vegas - it’s the best place to go when you’re planning to get rowdy. Start your night by having dinner at The Canal Club. The theme here is 1930s Havana, and the Cuban-inspired menu has dishes like fried plantains with smoked black bean puree, pan-roasted scallops with creamed masa and chorizo, and a gaucho steak with masa potato cakes. Check ahead for Canal Club’s events. There is always something happening here, from game nights every Wednesday to Friday night movies with cocktails and complimentary Mexican street popcorn.
Welcome Diner isn’t exactly downtown, it’s slightly east in the Garfield neighborhood. But because it’s open late (until 2am every night) and serves exactly the type of food you want after a long night at the downtown bars, you’ll want it on your list. The Southern menu here includes things like the Big Jim (a fried chicken biscuit sandwich with sausage gravy), Andouille corn dogs, and mac and cheese.
Where to Grab a Drink
Located in a 1940s department store, Hanny’s looks pretty average on the surface. But grab a $7 martini and take the glass-bottomed elevator downstairs where you’ll find old porcelain dolls sitting in a row behind a chain-link fence, and old dressing rooms repurposed into some very neon bathrooms. You may have come here for drinks and some hot honey pepperoni pizza, but you’ll stay to see if the rumor about the dolls inexplicably disappearing and reappearing is true. It’s as much a bar as it is an experience - just check your bag before you leave to make sure one of these creepy dolls hasn’t hitched a ride home.
Picking a spot inside the Century Grand building is like deciding on your Mario Kart player - you can’t go wrong but everyone has a favorite. There’s a bar called Century Grand with an extensive cocktail and wine list, and dim sum-style carts that bring around throwback dishes like fried oyster Rockefeller and steak tartare with a cured egg yolk. There’s Platform 18, a cocktail bar that’s also a 90-minute train simulation. And there’s the Grey Hen, a bottle shop and whiskey bar with rare spirits. Regardless of where you end up, you’ll spend some money - nowhere this cool is cheap - but you’ll have found a new favorite drink or dish.
If you’re the type of person to check the FBI’s most wanted list on your morning commute while listening to the latest episode of Crime Junkie, you should have a drink at Valley Bar. It’s inspired by Phoenix murderer Winnie Ruth Judd and there’s a shadow art installation with hanging figurines that depicts scenes from her infamous trial. Valley Bar doubles as a venue for weekly events that include everything from comedy shows to concerts to film screenings, so come for a game of pool, a performance, or to drink cocktails while learning a little local history.
Exposed industrial piping, large picnic tables, and bearded guys trying to explain what beer is to the bartender must all be part of some brewery handbook. Wren House is a welcome change from that standard. In the Green Gables neighborhood in Midtown, the taproom was once a 1920s bungalow and is a perfect place to stop by for one beer and then forget what time it is four hours later. Their beer is exceptional, and they’re constantly incorporating local flavors, like Sinagua malt, Arizona wheat, and local citrus. Some nights you’ll find local food trucks out front, or you can head over to Pa’la just down the street for wood-fired Mediterranean food.
Camelback Mountain separates Phoenix and Scottsdale, and has two of Phoenix’s most popular hiking trails: Cholla and Echo Canyon. The Attic Ale House, an eight-minute drive from the trailhead, is the best spot in the area for that beer and burger you’ve been imagining since about 10 minutes into your hike. There’s a long list of beer and wine options to drink alongside the Ivan burger (our favorite) with a view of the mountain, while debating whether the person who was hiking in jeans and flip flops ever made it to the top.
When tequila shots and a techno version of “Don’t Stop Believing“ aren’t in the cards for the night, Second Story Liquor Bar is an excellent choice for drinks in Old Town Scottsdale. This is a place you come to sit in a comfy leather chair and go through a long list of whiskey and scotch-focused cocktails. Although drinks might be your priority here, they have a small-but-solid menu of snacks like falafel with whipped feta and pork belly lettuce wraps.