Friends or family coming to visit? Camelback Mountain and Taliesin West are on the itinerary (duh!), but where should you take out-of-towners to eat? The mandate is simple: You want to wow them with food and views while showing them the tasty standouts Phoenix is known for — namely swanky steakhouses, Sonoran hot dogs, unmatched Mexican, and the best pizza in the country. No problem. Here’s where you need to take them.
1201 North Galvin Parkway
When you want to impress with food and setting, there’s no place like Gertrude’s Restaurant. Situated inside the Desert Botanical Garden, a must-see desert haven of winding paths, thousands of species of cactus, and postcard vistas from every vantage point, this gives it an unrivaled view and sense of place. So, no there’s not a bad seat in the house, but it’s also a culinary delight in its own right that pairs elote fritters and fried cauliflower alongside duck enchiladas and braised beef. Be sure to make a reservation.
Pizzeria Bianco is a bucket-list stop.
David B. Moore
623 East Adams Street
Your foodie friends that brag about their restaurant bucket lists will insist on Pizzeria Bianco — and rightfully so. The wood-fired pies from OG pizzaiola Chris Bianco have earned nationwide props from the James Beard folks, Jimmy Kimmel, Oprah, and many more. Whether you go Margherita (saucy tomato sauce, hunky housemade mozzarella, fresh basil), Rosa (earthy Arizona pistachios, rosemary, red onion, Parmigiano), or Wiseguy (smoked mozzarella, wood-fired onions, fennel sausage), one bite and you’ll taste what all the hype is about.
FnB takes heirloom carrots to new heights.
7125 East Fifth Avenue, Scottsdale
FnB is truly a triumph of all things Arizona. Chef-owner and Best Chef Southwest winner Charleen Badman sources local produce, serves Noble Bread to start, loads the menu with beers by Wren House and wines from Willcox and the Verde Valley, and finishes with desserts by local pastry chef Tracey Dempsey. The always-changing seasonal menu is a stunner of some of the finest farm-to-table dining in the city, like shaved asparagus, arugula, and ricotta salad topped with saffron, dill, walnuts, and Parmesan, and mains like Arizona-raised beef brisket with sweet potato and spring carrots. Dining on the white tablecloth patio in Old Town Scottsdale only adds to the appeal.
Hot dog, El Caprichoso serves up a good dog!
2826 North 35th Avenue
Let’s be frank: Grabbing a late-night hot dog under a parking lot tent might not seem very touristy, but El Caprichoso’s iconic Sonoran hotdogs are one of the hottest food tickets in town. There’s the dog itself: a bacon-wrapped virtuoso grilled with a kiss of charred crunch in a split-top bun. By itself it’s great, but add the fixings — grilled onion, diced tomatoes, seasoned beans, guacamole, jalapeño hot sauce, ketchup, mustard, mayo, and cotija cheese, all in perfect potion — plus a Mexican soda and side of potato chips, and you’ll know you’re in Phoenix.
Entrance to Barrio Cafe in Phoenix.
2814 North 16th Street
Barrio Café, run by chef-owner (and James Beard Award nominee) Silvana Salcido Esparza, elevates the Mexican restaurant to an art form. Here, tequila isn’t one-size-fits-all: there are hundreds of varieties to choose from. Poblanos, enchiladas, and even avocados transform into bold, unexpected eats, bathed in ingredients like almond crema and garnished with pecans and pomegranate seeds. Just one dish, like Barrio’s famed chiles en nogada or cochinita pibil, can forever change the way you think of Mexican food.
Walking into a picnic-scape at The Farm Kitchen.
The Farm Kitchen
6106 South 32nd Street
For guests who think Phoenix is only desert, take them to The Farm Kitchen at The Farm at South Mountain. The menu of seasonal salads, stacked sandwiches, and made-from-scratch baked goods matches the backdrop, a bucolic playground blissed out with a citrus orchard, pecan trees, and an organic garden at the base of scenic South Mountain. The Perfect Picnic for Two Basket package serves a cheese and fruit board, pecan chicken salad sandwich, farm garden salad, sweet potato salad, and chef’s choice farm dessert for two — blanket included — for arguably the best farm-to-table setting in Arizona.
You’ll find Handlebar Diner in the Eastmark Community in southeast Mesa.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
5149 Inspirian Parkway, Mesa
For something nostalgic, novel, and knock-your-sandals-off fun all in one, there’s Handlebar Diner in Mesa. Housed in a refurbished midcentury Valentine Diner, a candy-striped 10-seater parked on a patio with plenty of picnic tables and twinkle lights, the menu packs in plenty of greasy spoon faves: monstrous beer-battered onion rights, beefy burgers that require a two-handed grip, piled-high nachos. Service comes with a friendly smile, and possibly, depending on the night, chef-owner Adam Allison’s big personality, which shines through in everything from the braised short rib mac and cheese spiked with chimichurri to the brined and double-fried wings with tangy Alabama white barbecue sauce, and you get an unforgettable meal to match the experience.
The Phoenix-famous interior of Durant’s steakhouse.
2611 North Central Avenue
Ask any longtime local their top place to take guests and Durant’s is bound to come up. It’s the place to go for Oysters Rockefeller, a perfectly cooked filet mignon, Chicken Oscar, or a 48-ounce porterhouse — and not much has changed since it first opened in 1950. The suave steakhouse is Rat Pack-era cool with plush red wallpaper, vintage banquette booths, bow-tied servers, and moody lighting. Start with a stiff drink — the mood calls for a classic gin martini — and savor the storied ambiance. Insider tip: Enter from the back door, through the kitchen.
The Gladly’s Original Chopped Salad is all that.
2201 East Camelback Road
There are salads and then there are salads. The Gladly boasts the latter. The Original Chopped Salad is a must-order, a colorful combo of smoked salmon, arugula, couscous, pepitas, asiago cheese, currants, sweet corn, marinated tomatoes, and buttermilk herb dressing that looks like a work of art and tastes like a salty-sweet-crunch-creamy masterpiece. No wonder it’s been dubbed Arizona’s state salad. The Gladly isn’t a “just a salad” type of restaurant, though. Other menu standouts include the coffee-charred short ribs, pan-seared scallops, and raw bar. Thirsty? It also offers over 250 varieties of whiskey from around the world.
Carolina’s Mexican Food is a Phoenix must-stop.
Carolina’s Mexican Food
202 East Mohave Street
The original Carolina’s Mexican Food has all the signs of hole-in-the-wall greatness. It’s off the beaten path (the northeast corner of 12th and Mohave streets to be exact), far from anything resembling a dining district. Opened by Carolina Valenzuela in 1986, it’s still going strong. The counter-service décor is bare-bones, from the scuffed walls to the cafeteria-style seating, and prices match the dive vibe. Most of all, it’s stocked with regulars who line up morning to night for red chili burros, machaca tacos, homemade tamales, fresh hot flour tortillas, and menudo on Saturdays. Out-of-towners should be so lucky.
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