Phoenix: Best Restaurants and Other Places to Eat

Clockwise from top left: Lux Coffeebar, Barrio Cafe, Pizzeria Bianco, Pane Bianco, Arlecchino Gelateria, and La Piñata.

"Why are you going to Phoenix?"

"To eat stuff!"

Actually, the main reason I visited Phoenix this past August was to visit friends, but it turned out that Phoenix was also a haven of delicious food. Sadly, after spending one week in Phoenix I only managed to make a tiny dent in the local food scene. I asked my food loving friends Charlie and Lee Anne for recommendations should I ever go back to Phoenix. After reading their suggestions and wiping the drool off my face I decided that I so have to go back.

Following the jump are the recommended Phoenix-area eats with comments from Charlie, Lee Anne and myself. If you never thought of visiting Phoenix before, I hope you will after reading the list.

Best Places to Eat Around Phoenix

Arlecchino Gelateria


Address: 4410 N 40th St # 4, Phoenix, AZ 85018
Phone: (602) 955-2448

There's a reason the pistachio gelato costs most than any other flavor; it's freakin' awesome. Rarely does pistachio gelato taste so warm, buttery and smooth. They also offer creative mixed flavors such as Valentino, a combination of pomegranate, rose petals, lavender and dry berries.

Barrio Cafe


Address: 2814 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006
Phone: (602) 636-0240
Mexican; brunch, lunch, dinner

Lee Anne describes this restaurant as the place to go for "hip and upscale Mexican food." Don't be fooled by the run-down surroundings. I ordered slow roasted pork tacos for my main dish (you can't go wrong with pork), but the tortilla chips, which tasted more like deep fried corn saucers than regular chips, are what I most fondly remember. The crunching seriously rattled my brain. They went great with the accompanying chunky guacamole.

Bunna Coffee Tea & Market

Address: 7520 S Rural Rd # A12, Tempe, AZ 85283
Phone: (480) 377-2886
Coffeehouse, baked goods

Bunna is an independent coffee house that offers fair trade/organic coffee and tea, live music, and free wifi! They also sell items made by artists from around the world.

Cafe Lalibela

Address: 623 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004
Phone: (602) 258-8300
Ethiopian, vegetarian; lunch, dinner

It's one of the best Ethiopian restaurants in the area and a place even a vegetarian could love. Considering having a birthday party there; Charlie did and they baked him two entire cakes.

Coup des Tartes

Address: 4626 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016
Phone: (602) 212-1082
French; dinner

"It's a tiny little restaurant that feels like you are eating in someone's house," says Charlie about Coup des Tartes, which specializes in French-style cuisine and a dessert menu of seasonal tarts. Charlie recommends getting the braised lamb shank over cous cous and taking advantage of the BYOB policy by bringing your own wine.

Cowboy Ciao

Address: 7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Phone: (480) 946-3111
American, Italian/Southwest fusion; lunch, dinner

Charlie came up with the "Italian/Southwest fusion" label. He recommends the Stetson Chopped Salad, a combination of "arugula, corn, smoked salmon, couscous, tomatoes, pine nuts, and chicken with a buttermilk pesto ranch dressing" and the Pig 'n Puddin', "BBQ pulled pork over creamy polenta covered with queso fresco and dried cranberries that is the best thing ever—it's like meat pudding!" They also have a frighteningly extensive wine list with more than 3000 selections from the neighboring Kasimierz Wine Bar.

La Grande Orange


Address: 4410 N 40th St, Phoenix, AZ 85018
Phone: (602) 840-7777
American, Italian, pizza, wine bar, grocery store; breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner

This isn't one restaurant but a whole complex of deliciousness. Go to La Grand Orange Grocery for a morning pastry, freshly made sandwich, hard-to-find candy bar or even a hip greeting card (they have an interesting mix of items). Their pizzeria next door makes unique pies, such as The Padre topped with Prosciutto di San Danielle, fig, arugula and mozzarella. For non-pizza Italian fare there's Radio Milano and Positino Winecafe. Burgers, sandwiches and salads can be found at Chelsea's Kitchen. Don't forget about gelato from Arlecchino Gelateria.

La Piñata


Address: 3330 N 19th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85015
Phone: (602) 279-1763
Mexican; lunch, dinner

This is Lee Anne's classic comfort Mexican restaurant of choice, a place her family has been going to for more than 10 years. Between me and Lee Anne's four family members we shared two orders of chicken fajitas and still had leftovers, not because we didn't love the food but because they give you a lot of it. I still long for those moist, tender chicken strips smooshed with grilled onions and peppers smothered in guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, rice and cheesy beans. (And now you see why we couldn't finish our order; our stomachs would've exploded.)

Lons at the Hermosa Inn

Address: 5532 N Palo Cristi Rd, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253
Phone: (602) 955-7878
Southwest; brunch, lunch, dinner

Charlie recommends this restaurant to people who want a nice meal that feels very Arizona/Southwest. If you sit on the patio you can basked in the idyllic scene of the sun setting by Camelback Mountain.

Lux Coffee Bar

Address: 4404 N Central Ave # 1, Phoenix, AZ 85012
Phone: (602) 266-6469
Coffeehouse, baked goods

Lots of coffee, lots of baked goods, and lots of art all packed into a hip space that feels like a cozy gallery.

Pane Bianco


Address: 4404 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85012
Phone: (602) 234-2100
Sandwiches; lunch

Before heading to his pizzeria for dinner, Chris Bianco puts together some of the most soul wrenchingly delicious sandwiches you will ever eat at Pane Bianco. Check out my review from August for associated food porn. If you happen to visit when they have a sandwich with lamb, you must get it.

Pizzeria Bianco


Address: 623 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004
Phone: (602) 258-8300
Pizza; dinner

Some refer to Pizzeria Bianco as the best pizzeria in the country. What's it doing in Phoenix? Who cares—just go there and stuff yourself silly. Just make sure you get there as soon as it opens (5 PM) or else you'll have to wait forever under the unforgiving Phoenix sun. Chris Bianco, the man behind the puffy-crusted awesomeness, handles his pizza with utmost care, attention, and maybe some magic. Read my review on Slice.


Address: 6106 S 32nd St, Phoenix, AZ 85042
Phone: (602) 276-0601
American; dinner

Quiessence is the upscale dining choice at The Farm at South Mountain, an old pecan farm that grows their own organic produce. Charlie says it's his favorite place in Phoenix, "pretty much the Phoenix version of Blue Hill's Stone Barns complex" and "a Slow Foods paradise." If you want to see how serious the restaurant is about using local and seasonable ingredients, read their philosophy, which outlines where they get their food from.


Address: 907 N 14th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006
Phone: (602) 262-9842
Mexican; lunch

I love that out of the two places that Chris Bianco enthusiastically recommended I eat at in Phoenix one was the Japanese tapas-style Sea Saw and the other was Rito's, a no frills hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint that's only open for lunch and doesn't even have a sign. Then again, it doesn't need one if there's a long line of people waiting out the front. Chris recommends getting the fried burro or the green chili burro.

Sea Saw

Address: 7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Phone: (480) 481-9463
Japanese; dinner

Sea Saw is the kind of Japanese restaurant you would expect to find in NYC, not in Scottsdale. James Beard award-winning chef Nobuo Fukuda serves innovative small dishes, à la carte or omakase—don't go there expecting something you can get at your local sushi bar. This is one of the restaurants Chris Bianco eagerly talked about when I asked him for restaurant recommendations. Charlie says, "The best way to describe it is basically like Masa-lite. Not quite as transcendent, but it also doesn't take itself quite so seriously and is less than half the price for his most extravagant omakase."

Sugar Bowl

Address: 4005 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Phone: (480) 946-0051
Ice cream, America; lunch, dinner

This old-fashioned ice cream parlor has been open for nearly 50 years and was repeatedly featured in Family Circus, presumably because it's awesome. Fill up on ice cream floats, shakes, sundaes, banana splits and parfaits. I feel a brain freeze/diabetes coming on just by reading the menu. Sweeeet.

Swaddee Thai

Address: 8989 E Via Linda # 101, Scottsdale, AZ 85258 5055 W Ray Rd # 8, Chandler, AZ 85226
Phone: Scottsdale: (480) 391-8900 Chandler: (480) 785-1640
Thai, vegetarian; lunch, dinner

"This Thai place has pretty much the best Tom Kha soup I have ever had in my life," says Charlie. He wasn't very into the curries, but also recommends the pad thai.

Three Roots Cafe

Address: 849 W University Dr, Tempe, AZ 85281
Phone: (480) 829-1939
American, coffeehouse, vegetarian; lunch, dinner

"They have amaaaazing vegetarian dishes, and you always get more than your money's worth," says Lee Anne. You might not want to go there If you have an aversion towards college students (it's right by ASU), but then you'd be missing out on a cozy spot to drink great coffee, eat a grilled cheese sandwich, listen to live music and view local art.

Super Mercado / Phoenix Farms


Address: 3353 N 19th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85015
Mexican, grocery store

Warm stacks of corn tortillas. Mountains of golden tortilla chips. Giant vats filled with juices and horchata. Stacks of fat buns and cookies. If any of these things appeal to you, make sure you check out this supermarket, which also has a hot bar of prepared foods. Also, you might score a few free tortillas if you start longingly at the woman manning the tortilla machine—it worked for Lee Anne and me!

Sweet Pea

Address: 209 W Jackson St, Phoenix, AZ 85003
Phone: (602) 296-4042

They have macarons. Good ones, according to Charlie. He adds that they also have "these really intense cupcakes (with as much frosting as cupcake) that, at least on the day we were there, were designed to taste like sodas (root beer and Sprite)." Macarons and cupcakes? Count me in.

Tammie Coe


Address: 610 E Roosevelt St # 145 Phoenix, AZ 85004, 4410 N 40th St Phoenix, AZ 85018
Phone: (602) 253-0829, (602) 840-3644

Never before have I seen cakes like those from Tammie Coe, covered with a layer of striped fondant rippled to look like a draped piece of fabric. Besides their six signature cakes, they also make cookies, cupcakes and pies. If you can't make it to their bakery, their cakes are also available at La Grand Orange Grocery.

The Green House

Address: 15024 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85254
Phone: (480) 889-9494
American; lunch, dinner

The California-inspired restaurant focuses on using local and seasonal ingredients for their dishes and sources all their wine from California. Charlie adds that during the summer The Green House and Bloom have one night during the week where they offer half-priced bottles of wine. "I have had the best wines I have ever had, except maybe Per Se, at these dinners."


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