For decades, steakhouses and mom-and-pop Mexican restaurants dominated the Phoenix food scene. Not anymore. Today’s chefs bring globally-inspired flavors to their menus and serious culinary skills. But navigating the fifth largest city’s food scene can be a little tricky with as many options as there are now. From resort restaurants to casual favorites, here are the restaurants to try when you visit.
Local is the driving force behind everything Chef Charleen Badman does at FnB in nearby Scottsdale. The “veggie whisperer” uses locally-sourced produce and meat from Arizona’s top ranches, to create dishes like the nationally-acclaimed braised leeks topped with mozzarella, mustard, breadcrumbs and an egg, sunny side up. On the wine list, Badman's business partner, Pavle Milic, showcases the state’s outstanding vintages. In 2017, FnB received a James Beard nomination for Outstanding Beverage Program, and in 2019, after six nominations, Badman was named Best Chef of the Southwest.
You won’t find burritos drenched in red sauce and cheese at Barrio Café. Instead, James Beard-nominated chef Silvana Salcido Esparza puts a creative spin on family recipes and dishes she sampled traveling south of the border. Order her signature chiles en nogada, a roasted poblano stuffed with apples, pears, raisins, pomegranate seeds, and chicken. Or, sample the conchinita pibil, pork marinated in achiote and sour orange juice, wrapped in a banana leaf and roasted overnight. Barrio Café doesn’t accept reservations, so expect a wait. (It’s worth it!)
Red-flocked wallpaper, leather booths, and bow-tied wait staff harken back to the '50s and '60s when state politicians negotiated deals over three-martini lunches at this Valley icon. While the legislative wheeling and dealing are mostly a thing of the past, you can still order one of the best martinis in Phoenix here along with thick-cut steaks, slow-roasted prime rib, and classics like sauteed calf’s liver. You may spot a celebrity while you dine; over the years, Durant’s has welcomed everyone from Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne to Muhammed Ali and Adam Sandler.
Little Miss BBQ
Arizona may not be the first state that comes to mind when it comes to barbecue, but the former competitive barbecue team behind Little Miss BBQ smokes some of the best brisket, pork butt, ribs and turkey in the nation. Don’t be surprised if the original University Drive location runs out of some menu items (if not all of them) before you make it to the front of the line for lunch. Diners at the second location, a sit-down restaurant in the Sunnyslope neighborhood, usually fare better.
Dining at Binkley’s is an experience. Only 20 guests can reserve spots for a single nightly seating offered Wednesday through Saturday. During 3.5-hour dinner you'll sample at least 18 different courses that can be paired with wines. Expect to pay $200 per person plus $150 for wine pairings; It’s a hefty price tag, but for the quality of ingredients and the creative execution of the ever-changing menu, its worth every penny.
Pizzeria Bianco serves the best pizza in Arizona and arguably the best pizza in America, according to The New York Times. The wood-fired pies credited with starting the artisanal pizza movement come topped with fresh, simple ingredients like housemade mozzarella, freshly-picked basil, and uncooked tomato sauce while rosemary, pistachios, and roasted mushrooms are available for more inventive creations. The original downtown location usually has a minimum 45-minute wait, though you can also sample the pies at the Town & Country location.
Whether you enjoy them from a table on the patio or through floor-to-ceiling windows inside, Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa’s signature restaurant has some of the best views in the Valley. It also has some of the area’s best food. Food Network star and celebrity chef Beau MacMillan helms the kitchen, plating dishes like ahi tartare made with cucumber, toasted pine nuts, and green onion. Other popular offerings include Asian oysters Rockefeller, Korean short ribs, and miso-glazed salmon.
The Asian-inspired kitchen at Clever Koi turns out some of Phoenix’s best and most creative ramens, including a cashew vegan ramen, and a tasty line-up of dumplings filled with pork cheek, short ribs, and roasted corn. Steamed buns, wok dishes, and several varieties of fried rice are also on offer. Pair your entree with one of the bars celebrated cocktails for an unforgettable meal.
Best Resort Dining: Talavera
The Valley boasts some of the nation’s top resorts, each with exceptional restaurants and dining experiences. But, Talavera at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North stands out. Chef Samantha Sanz, nominated as a James Beard Rising Star, focuses on Latin American flavors in preparing paella, dry-aged steak, fresh seafood, and tapas. Compliment your meal with a selection from the more than 500 offerings on the wine list or cocktails featuring Spanish gin, sherry, or vermouth. The view from the foothills of North Scottsdale is pretty amazing, too, especially at sunset.
A mix of communal dining, individual tables, and a laidback vibe make Beckett’s Table in the Arcadia neighborhood the ideal place to meet with friends and family. Try Chef Justin Beckett’s perfectly executed pork Osso Buco confit with roasted poblano spaetzle or the signature short ribs with a red onion demi-glace. Pair either with a glass of wine from a list that has won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence six years running, but save room for dessert. The award-winning fig and pecan pie comes topped with a scoop of citrus zest cream cheese ice cream.
Matt’s Big Breakfast
When it comes to breakfast, Matt’s Big Breakfast tops the list of Phoenix eateries. Chef Matt Pool’s signature Chop & Chick—a giant, grain-fed Iowa pork chop marinated in a zesty pesto and served with two cage-free eggs—has been featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives” and “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” You can also get fluffy griddlecakes with maple syrup, eggs scrambled with sopressata salmi, and a breakfast burrito filled with locally-made chorizo sausage.
The only AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star award-winning restaurant in the state of Arizona, the flagship restaurant at Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass has also been named one of Open Table’s 10 Best Restaurants in America. Showcasing locally-sourced produce from the Gila River Indian Community, the menu focuses on Native American ingredients, such as blue corn, venison, and runner beans. Your best option is one of the tasting menus, the 7-course Short Story or the 13-course Journey. Both include the popular grilled tribal buffalo tenderloin served with smoked corn puree and cholla buds.
Best for Families: Rustler’s Rooste
Overlooking the Valley from a butte that once served as a hideout for cattle rustlers, this legendary establishment entertains all ages. Kids love seeing the real bull near the entrance, sliding into the dining room (grownups can take the stairs), and listening to live music. Everyone appreciates the great food, city views, and free cotton candy. Start with the fried rattlesnake appetizer, then dig into aged steaks, chicken, or seafood.
Lon’s at The Hermosa Inn
Shaded by large trees during the day and illuminated by hanging lights at night, Lon’s patio offers unobstructed views of Camelback Mountain from tables draped in white and surrounded by grassy spaces and flowerbeds. Diners enjoy sophisticated entrees like seared scallops with asparagus risotto for dinner and short rib hash for brunch as they soak in the ambiance at The Hermosa Inn. Inside, artwork by Western artist Lon Megragee, the property’s former owner, hangs on the wall and the underground wine cellar can accommodate up to 12 guests.
FLINT by Baltaire
Open for lunch and dinner, this newcomer to the Phoenix dining scene specializes in wood-fired dishes like lamb chops, salmon, and bone-in ribeye with a Mediterranean touch. Lebanese tomato salad and hummus accompany the lamb chops, quinoa tabbouleh is paired with the roasted chicken, and harissa flavors the scallops. Don’t miss the Moroccan fried chicken, Spanish octopus, or the Margherita pizza with hand-pulled mozzarella. For small plates and a cocktail, try Upstairs at FLINT instead, the restaurant’s rooftop bar with amazing sunset views of the city and surrounding mountains.