The Best Restaurants In Phoenix guide image

PHXGuide

The Best Restaurants In Phoenix

Where to find classic taquerias, fry bread, barbecue, and more.

To the uninitiated, Phoenix may seem like a sun-drenched desert pit-stop between Austin and Los Angeles that’s full of resorts, golf courses, and retirement communities. But we're here to enlighten you: Phoenix is just as cool (and diverse!) as our neighbors, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the food. 

Phoenix’s food scene has a little bit of everything: takes on soul food that shake the status quo, Texas-style barbecue, comfy French food, and vegan and vegetarian restaurants that are doing things with vegetables you didn’t know were possible. And of course, we've got the classic taquerias, that one pizza spot everyone’s always talking about, and the house that fry bread built. It’s an exciting time to dine in Phoenix, and this guide breaks down where to start.


THE CLASSICS


Little Miss BBQ

$$$$

4301 E University Dr, Phoenix
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Head to the original University location of this Texas-style barbecue spot for some of the best pork ribs, sausage links, and brisket in Phoenix. Sure, you’ll likely have to stand in line before calling dibs on one of the outdoor picnic tables, but that’ll give you some time to sort out your game plan: sandwich or a plate? Pulled pork or ribs? When they’re on the menu, get the oversized beef ribs and try the pastrami brisket. And whatever you do, don’t skip the sides—we love the jalapeño cheddar grits, red potato salad, and ranch style beans.


This Phoenix spot is a long-time Arizona favorite, and for good reason: the fry bread. Native American fry bread is a pillowy, frisbee-sized fried dough that serves as a vessel for honey and jam or filling toppings like beans, vegetables, and meats and cheeses. Cecelia Miller of the Tohono O'odham Nation opened The Fry Bread House in the early 1990s, and it remains owned and managed by the family today. The location has jumped around over the years, but the menu still features the original family recipes from the restaurant’s early days.


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photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Pizzeria Bianco Downtown review image

Pizzeria Bianco Downtown

The pies at Pizzeria Bianco have launched Phoenix’s food scene into the orbit of national conversation. Seriously, these pizzas are so famous they moved to Downtown Los Angeles, where a new Bianco’s debuted in 2022. Head to the original Heritage Square spot for pies like the Biancoverde, with mozzarella, parmigiano reggiano, ricotta, and arugula, before a Diamondbacks game, or a weekday lunch when there’s less of a wait. Go with a group and order family-style so you can try as much as you can.


Don’t confuse this spot for the chain of similar-named restaurants—there’s only one Barrio Café. Since opening in the early 2000s, the Calle 16 original has become a fixture in Phoenix for regional Mexican favorites. There are two main reasons why: the tableside guacamole—which is great, by the way—and chef Silvana Salcido Esparza’s community involvement and civil rights activism. When the pandemic hit and the restaurant was closed, she provided free food to the neighborhood from the empty parking lot, which is pretty much back to its normal state nowadays: full.


Kai

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For an unforgettable meal that’s just outside of city limits, head to Kai. Yes, it’s a hotel restaurant, but it’s not just any hotel restaurant. Dining here is a truly immersive experience, where every detail of every dish is explained in a way that tells a story of the land and people of the Maricopa tribes. By the end of your meal, you’ll know the backstory behind the cholla buds on your plate and be on a first-name basis with your server, who will probably wax poetic about the saguaro blossom syrup. Kai has built up plenty of buzz for its elevated service and fine dining interpretations of tribal foods, which include Arizona-grown ingredients and items sourced from a partnership with a non-profit that preserves ancient lines of heirloom seeds.


BUZZY & NEW-ISH


Valentine knows the way to our hearts: pastries, pasta, natural wine, and late-night cocktails. The atmosphere here feels familiar—think more living room than dining room, with retro modern furniture and soft lighting. The Melrose spot puts Arizona ingredients at the center of every dish, and we particularly love the brunch spread: the avocado squash toast and the churro waffles with dulce de leche are some of our favorites.


You’ll find this Grand Avenue spot inside the restored Bragg’s Pie Factory building, but with the exception of the dessert menu, you won’t find many sugary treats. Instead, you’ll get a solid introduction to the different cuisines of the Mexican state of Sonora, which on any given day, might include a list of specials like the lime-cured halibut aguachile or bone-in ribeyes. Reservations open at the start of each month, but you can try your luck at the bar where you might find an empty seat next to an Arizona Cardinals starter.


At Belly Kitchen & Bar, a popular two-story restaurant in Central Phoenix’s Melrose area, you’ll encounter fusion takes on Asian cuisines, like Vietnamese pizza and heaps of jackfruit with fermented mustard green fried rice. Order one of the normal-size cocktails while you wait for your Hinge date. If it’s going well, upgrade to the giant Belly of the Beast and split it with two straws.


SnapBack Pizzeria started as a mobile pop-up and catering operation under a different alias, but has since found a more permanent residence in the old Grand Avenue Pizza Company spot. This casual slice shop makes pies that any pizza purist will appreciate, but that’s not to say there aren’t surprises. Keep an eye out for the chef’s Mystery Pie, with a description that reads: “no mods, no complaints.” We like eating on the back patio here, but it’s also great for takeout or delivery when you don’t feel like changing out of sweatpants.


Sin Muerte comes from the team behind Welcome Diner and Belly. This spot draws inspiration from regions and cuisines found throughout the 33rd parallel, and it’s not uncommon to find the influence of the Sonoran Desert, Israel, Morocco, or coastal Italy on the same plate. For example, there’s hummus with pico de gallo, corn pasta with creamy cashew sauce, plus brined lychee ceviche topped with chili oil—an unlikely combo, but surprisingly perfect together, like whale noises and a good night’s sleep.


This Downtown Phoenix spot shines a light on the supporting characters of Southern cooking: the vegetables. Starters like the fried cauliflower florets pop with smoked blue cheese, celery, and local hot sauce, and the trumpet mushrooms al pastor give soul food a Southwestern spin with punchy blood orange citrus. Mains like organic grilled chicken and blackened salmon play their part on the restaurant’s regularly-changing menu. Don’t skip the Hoppin’ John, a hearty heap of beans, Carolina Gold rice, and greens, and the charred hay-cooked parsnips.


FANCY SPOTS


Eating at this anything-but-stuffy French restaurant feels a bit like getting a big bear hug from a friend who’s wearing a very soft cashmere sweater. There’s a lot to love about this charming arts district hideaway, like the orange wine, the low ABV cocktails, and the unpretentious takes on classic French dishes. Start with the baked brie, caper-topped tartare, or the french onion soup before moving on to the steamed mussels bathed in a chorizo and tomato stew. We like cozying up on the front porch for date night and ending on a sweet note with the chocolate tart, a rich and fabulous dessert that’ll make you feel both rich and fabulous too.


Wren & Wolf is a certified sexy restaurant. Its dark, moody vibe sets the scene for cocktails, caviar bumps, and A+ people-watching. Start your meal with the bread service (delivered to the table in gilded chalices alongside whipped truffle butter) and follow it with the oversized bone marrow starter that could intimidate even the biggest appetites. The Alaskan king crab legs and the Japanese A5 wagyu, prepared tableside, hibachi-style, hit just right when it’s late.


In its early days, The Stockyards was a watering hole for cattlemen, cowboys, politicians, and bankers. (Rumor has it that John Wayne was a regular—you can reserve his favorite table, booth 26, for yourself.) Today, 75 years later, the spirit of the Old West is still very much alive here, though the restaurant has been resorted with oversized leather booths and twinkly crystal chandeliers. The facade may have changed, but the old-timey charm and menu, which is heavy on hand-cut aged steaks, wild game, and baking soda biscuits, remain pretty much the same.


GOOD FOR GROUPS


With more than 300 days of sun a year, it’s always patio season in Phoenix. Camp out under an umbrella of flowering trees at Ocotillo and order the smoked beets with local pecans flecked in Arizona honey, the citrusy mesquite-grilled chicken, or the wood-fired beef ribs that come slathered in a mole espresso barbecue sauce. If you’re celebrating something, this is where to do it.


The move at Taco Chelo is to go with a bunch of people and order practically one of everything. Start with the crispy rolled tacos and snappy chicharrones before going all-in on the beef barbacoa tacos or beer-battered fish tacos. Add a round of house margaritas for the table and relish those Happy Hour prices ($5 cocktails and $15 buckets of beer) while watching the art walk crowds buzz by on their way to First Friday from the relaxed corner patio.  


When we're entertaining out-of-towners, they'll often say things like “we've got an appetite as big as the Grand Canyon.” That's when we know to take them to Gallo Blanco for big plates of eggy chilaquiles and elote. Known for its Oaxacan-inspired Mexican food, the Garfield spot brings the heat with tacos and burritos, plenty of sides to share, spicy ceviches, grilled tortas, and enchiladas drenched in red and green sauce. Save room for the sugar-dusted churros and tres leches—and, yes, just like the Grand Canyon, these desserts are something everyone should experience at least once.


Ginza may be halfway around the world, but you can get a little taste of Tokyo at Sake Haus, a small sushi bar in the heart of Downtown Phoenix’s most popular arts district. Here, cocktails and sake are served under the dim glow of illuminated paper lanterns that dangle from the ceiling. For the best seats in the house, slide up to the sushi counter, start with the wagyu pork gyoza or sashimi salad, and watch the chefs go to work as they effortlessly slice through yellowtail.


The game is always on and the beer is always cold at Culinary Dropout, a spacious indoor-outdoor gastropub that has a solid weekday Happy Hour. Come for the soft pretzels and provolone fondue (you’ll want to dunk them like Deandre Ayton when he’s actually playing in the post), and stay for the live music and yard-style games like ping-pong, cornhole, and foosball. Loser gets the next round.


SOMETHING CASUAL


In Phoenix, you’re never far from a good taco—and they’re more than good at Tacos Chiwas. Chiwas draws on an archive of family recipes, including beef lingua and beef tripe, two things you won’t find at just any ordinary walk-in taqueria. Other notable menu items include the pillowy gorditas, cheesy quesadillas, and hefty burritos.


Phoenix isn’t exactly the most walkable city, but we’re working on it. One silver lining to the city’s car culture is The Stand Burger Shoppe, a drive-thru-only mom-and-pop burger stand. The busy streetside hamburger spot keeps it simple with a lineup of ground beef burgers and salty hand-cut fries. Pick from a list of milkshakes and lemonades to wash it all down—the chocolate chile is our shake of choice.


This buzzy taqueria turns out excellent Mexican dishes from its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it flagship location on the corner of Roosevelt and 7th. Go for anything on their shortlist of tacos al carbon, but the loaded burritos, gooey quesadillas, and crackly vampiros are also worth ordering. Take your time and savor everything with an ice-cold Michelada, agua fresca, or house horchata before cleaning your styrofoam plate.


BREAKFAST & BRUNCH


Matt’s Big Breakfast isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel, but this consistently humming breakfast spot has perfected it. They serve plates like hearty scrambles, piled-high sandwiches, griddle cakes, and thick-cut bacon all day to a walk-in-only crowd that’s mostly made up of people who get up early to shop for produce at the Downtown Phoenix Farmers Market around the corner.


This vibrant cafe is among the palm trees and bungalows in, yes, Phoenix’s Coronado neighborhood, and sells plant-based treats that are anything but boring. A roster of baked goods like rose cookie sandwiches and mesquite snickerdoodles pack the pastry case, and are the warm-up to bigger plates like short stack buttermilk pancakes dripping with maple syrup. We obsess over the savory fried potato tacos and almost always grab a lavender chocolate chip cookie on our way out.


Located inside The Churchill, this casual spot deals bagels, bagel sandwiches, burgers, coffee, and sometimes burritos to crowds of college students and cool moms from its compact side-order window. Stoop Kid’s bagels are sourced locally from a small batch bakery (go early, before they sell out) headed by a Brooklyn-born chef, a fact bagel purists can feel good about.


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