PHOENIX — A long time ago, the joke about Phoenix's culinary scene was a bitter "Tacos, steak and one French guy." Things have changed (though the French guy, Vincent Guerithault, still has a great restaurant here) and Phoenix is the home to the kind of places that get featured on Netflix specials and Yelp favorite lists.
They're hard to get into. But sometimes there's a cancellation, sometimes the magic hits just right and you get an open table on a walk-up. Here's our totally subjective list of a few places that food tourists come here for.
Address: 1301 NW Grand Ave., Phoenix
The new darling of the Phoenix food scene with a simple Sonoran menu where everything is well executed. Chef Rene Andrade had Bacanora on the list of Esquire's list of America's 40 best restaurants within a year of it opening. It cemented itself with a James Beard Award finalist slot in 2022.
Address: 4044 S. 16th St., Phoenix
South Phoenix, represent. And in some ways, the Oaxacan-influenced Cocina Madrigal is the most authentically Phoenix of all the restaurants on this list. It's located next to a llantera, a tire shop. Its chef, Leo Madrigal, built corporate menus for the Z'Tejas chain, which dominated the Phoenix anchor center Tex-Mex scene for a decade or so. Now he's built his own place in South Phoenix to rave reviews. The food is rich, not light at all, but service is doting
Address: 5524 N. 7th Ave., Phoenix
Sushi in Phoenix? Yes, in this case. Lori Hashimoto is a rock-star chef who has been perfecting her craft and fastidious presentation quietly for about 15 years. It's a casual dining place that doesn't feel so much like the expense-account places that are over-represented in the Valley dining scene. If you want that vibe for sushi, though, try ShinBay at 3720 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale.
Address: 5532 N. Palo Cristi Rd., Paradise Valley
This is admittedly an "old Valley" favorite. It lacks the glamour and dash of some of the other places on this list but Lon's is the definition of "gracious hospitality." It's in a beautiful space, the menu has never been overly ambitious but has always been well done and it feels like old, nice Arizona before the freeways and the strip malls.
Address: 623 E. Adams, Phoenix
The old darling of the new Phoenix food scene. Yes, this is the one you've seen on Netflix. Chris Bianco helped raise the profile of high-end pizza in America two decades ago and he continues to wow people today. The Adams location is in downtown Phoenix and reputedly has the better ovens, but there's a location at a shopping center in Midtown (4743 N. 20th St., Phoenix) that's just as good, sometimes less crowded and definitely worth the 13-minute drive from the downtown location.
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