When Phoenix began popping up on recent lists of the hottest new food cities, it came as a surprise to many, but not to the energetic chefs, mixologists, bakers and confectioners responsible for the turnaround. They’ve been working for more than a decade to introduce this sprawling southwestern city—once known primarily as a testing ground for chain restaurants—to the joys of artisanal bread, international cuisine and food fresh from the farm, or rancho. Even better, they’re introducing visitors to the rich and robust flavours of regional Southwestern cooking in all its Spanish and south-of-the-border variations.
For beer: Mother Bunch Brewing
It’s not easy to pick between the Udder Mother Milk Stout or the Absolute Truth Apricot Sour IPA at this popular microbrewery just south of Roosevelt. Don’t worry: if neither tempts, there are many more locally brewed beers to choose from.
For cocktails: Bitter & Twisted
This downtown cocktail parlour is located inside the former Arizona Prohibition Headquarters. Try creative concoctions like the RUM DMC made with house limoncello or The Green Chapulín, which comes with a side of grasshoppers sauteed with chili, chocolate and spices.
For wine: Postino
This popular laid-back wine bar has two Phoenix locations and its specialty is wine and big, beautiful boards of bruschetta. Grab a seat on the patio during happy hour for a class of $5 vino paired with warm artichoke bruschetta.
The cowboy steak house experience is so quintessentially Arizonan, you might be tempted to dismiss it as cliché—and that would be a big mistake. East Phoenix’s Stockyards Restaurant, now on the historic register, is justly famous for its prime rib but also offers more adventurous fare like wild boar and venison sausage.
Set in the elegant Biltmore neighbourhood, this restaurant and whiskey bar showcases chef Bernie Kantak’s quirky version of comfort food; think duck meat loaf and scallops over grits.
They sell out early at this highly praised “Q” joint, so hustle it southeast to University Drive for its Texas-style brisket, ribs and house-made sausage.
Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza takes Mexican cuisine to new, chile-infused heights at Barrio Café. Try her cochinita pibil.
Come to this South Phoenix spot for the key lime-filled doughnut with graham cracker topping, but you just might stay for Michael Babcock’s melt-in-your-mouth fried chicken, which first appeared on the menu of sister restaurant, Welcome Diner.
Locals debate whether the North 16th Street or Scottsdale location of Sweet Republic has the best selection of ice cream flavours (try the black sesame or almond buttercrunch), but it’s the shop’s design-your-own ice cream sandwiches that you’ll come back for more than once.
Head to Scottsdale for a tasting tour of this chocolatier, where Jim and Maureen Elitzak spend two weeks making each batch of single-source organic chocolate from cacao beans they roast themselves.
[This story was originally published in the September 2016 issue of WestJet Magazine and has since been updated.]
Arizona’s Best Wine Regions (and Where to Sip)
Rocky soil, intensely flavoured fruit and rich wines make Arizona's Verde Valley and Willcox regions worth exploring on a wine country escape. Discover wineries along the Verde Valley Wine Trail or sip inside tasting rooms at Flying Leap Vineyards and Coronado Vineyards in Willcox.