The 20 best restaurants in Phoenix

Desert eating is no longer what it used to be. Visit the best restaurants in Phoenix to figure that out for yourself.
Although it is one of the largest cities in the U.S., the mere mention of Phoenix usually conjures images of a dusty desert and a scarce list of things to do. But all it takes is one visit to the city to put that erroneous perception to rest. Phoenix has come a long way, baby. Boasting a restaurant scene that is loaded with diversity, offering a broad mix of hole-in-the-wall family joints, modern hotspots, ethnic treasures, fancy hotel eateries and James Beard award-winning spots, the city is overflowing with dining destinations. Desert dining is no longer what it used to be and a visit to any one of the best restaurants in Phoenix will prove just that.
1
Pizzeria Bianco
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Veronica P.
Pizzeria Bianco
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What is it: This toasty and long-running popular downtown destination for addictive, savory pies is made extra cozy by the combo of a dimly-lit room and a blazing wood fired oven. Signature pies can be spiced up with a wide range of toppings, including the house smoked mozzarella and locally sourced pistachios.
Why go:
Celebs from Oprah to Martha Stewart have publicly raved about the food made by this joint’s main man, Chris Bianco. He has a slew of awards under his belt, including a much-coveted one from the James Beard Foundation. Plus, this is legit pizza heaven.
Price:
Average
2
Hana Japanese Eatery
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/
Hana Japanese Eatery
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What is it: An intimate and casual setting is what you get at Hana, letting you focus on satisfying your appetite. Some sweet, glazed eel nigiri can lead the way to specialties like the Hana mint leaf, where uni or tuna is wrapped in shiso leaves before getting battered and fried.
Why go:
Ask any Phoenix foodie about great sushi in town and Hana will often, if not always, be at the top of the list. It also consistently hovers in the top slots of the annual “best of” lists compiled by local media. Count on insanely fresh, artfully presented dishes every time.
Price:
Pricey
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3
The Stand
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Justin J.
The Stand
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What is it: Not your Mickey D’s drive-through, you might have a few extra minutes to scroll through your phone at this burger joint in Phoenix’s Arcadia ‘hood. The wait? Worth it. The menu is uncomplicated here: it’s just burgers, fries and shakes.
Why go:
A blend of beef gets ground on site each day to produce thick, tender and juicy burgers that you can get slathered in cheese or not. Topping options include buttery onions and sautéed jalapenos, for an extra kick. You don’t have to be vanilla about your shake order; banana or the salted dulce de leche are tasty adventures.
Price:
Bargain
4
Green New American Vegetarian
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Tigra C.
Green New American Vegetarian
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What is it: This 100% vegan eatery offers comfort food minus the meat and dairy. Yep, that’s totally possible. It’s a relaxed spot with a street-side patio that’s perfect for outdoor dining when temperatures are below blazing. This central Phoenix location is also next door to sister spot, Nami, which offers vegan pastries.
Why go:
Lifelong carnivores have had their perceptions about vegan eats shattered by just one bite of sammies like the Big Wac, a whopping two-patty burger reminiscent of the one popularized by the spot with the golden arches. Saucy “wings” and chili-“cheese” fries are other easy lures.
Price:
Average
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5
Durant’s
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Alexander C.
Durant’s
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What is it: Smack dab in the center of town, this old-school steakhouse has anchored the city’s dining scene for nearly 70 years. Thick steaks and classic dishes like sautéed chicken livers and double cut lamb chops make it a meat lover’s paradise.
Why go:
The plump steaks, of course, but also a fun fact: you enter the restaurant from the kitchen. It’s fun to see what’s going on behind the scenes as you stroll to your lounge-y red vinyl booth. The martinis are stiff and the stories about the place’s colorful founder Jack Durant are aplenty. Do you really need any more convincing?
Price:
Blowout
6
Roland’s Café Market Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/JD M.
Roland’s Café Market Bar
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What is it: This new addition to Phoenix’s dining scene is the love child of the folks behind Pizzeria Bianco and Tacos Chiwas. Spacious and casual, the old building has been repurposed thoughtfully, showcasing its history and beauty.
Why go:
These restaurateurs have created a place that highlights and sometimes fuses elements of their respective talents. Take the mortadella quesadilla, for example. The open face, thin and crispy tortilla is topped with Mexican cheese, avocado and chunks of the Italian lunch meat. All tortillas are made in house, of course.
Price:
Average
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7
Little Miss BBQ
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Little Miss BBQ
Little Miss BBQ
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What is it: This place for Texas-style smoked and saucy meats opened in 2014 and no one has stopped yapping about it since. A beacon in a mostly industrial neighborhood, you’ll recognize it by both the retro-style sign and the long line. There are some picnic tables outside for on-the-spot dining near the smokers where the magic happens.
Why go:
Ribs that effortlessly fall off the bone and tender brisket are worth the trip alone. No offense to the delish sides like cheesy grits, but the meat here is the star. The line is usually long but seek comfort in the slice of brisket that is served to those waiting to ease—or intensify—your salivation.
Price:
Average
8
Otro Café
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Royce K.
Otro Café
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What is it: The hotspot in north central Phoenix is a sister to Gallo Blanco, located downtown. Here, contemporary Mexican food is served in a bright, airy restaurant loaded with cool art on the walls. The food is as good as the flair, with modern takes on classic dishes stealing the scene.
Why go:
Breakfast dishes served all day are one reason to hit up Otro. Huevos rancheros find eggs cooked to order on top of two quesadillas with red or green sauce to suit the heat level you can best handle. Menu options like tangy ceviche and chunky guacamole alongside signature cocktails with fresh herbs don’t hurt, either.
Price: Average
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9
Rito’s Mexican Food
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Nina N.
Rito’s Mexican Food
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What is it: Rito’s is a family-owned shop that specializes in the kind of Mexican fare that highlights plump burritos, chimichangas and enchiladas. While you’re waiting for your grub in the take-out hub, ogle at all the “best burrito” plaques that line the walls. They’re there for a reason.
Why go:
Burritos here aren’t just mammoth in size, they’re so tasty. The green chile burrito is a great way to try the family recipes passed down by Rosemary and Jose Salinas, who started the place in the 1970s. Get it enchilada style, which weighs it down even further with melty cheese and sauce.
Price:
Bargain
10
Clever Koi
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Clever Koi
Clever Koi
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What is it: Asian-inspired fare at this centrally located restaurant includes steaming bowls of ramen made in an open kitchen, viewable by all seats in the house. A minimal amount of bar seats gets you a really up-close-and-personal look at the hustle happening behind the scenes.
Why go:
The cocktail menu, alone, is worth a visit. The Sloe Burn takes bourbon and sloe gin and mixes them with lemon, chili honey and fresh Thai basil for a concoction that urges you to get woozy. The vegetarian ramen is a treat for non-meat-eaters, with its smoked tomato broth. But it is not all about the soup: a plethora of steamed buns, apps and meaty entrées round out the menu.  
Price:
Pricey
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11
Lolo’s Chicken and Waffles
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Michelle L.
Lolo’s Chicken and Waffles
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What is it: This has been a standout local institution, easily spotted from miles away due to the usually long lines wrapping around the corner, for many years. Crispy, crunchy, ask-for-extra-napkins fried chicken, fish and scrumptious sides will have you sliding into a food coma.
Why go:
When you need to sink your teeth into Sheedah’s special—a breast, wing and waffle—Lolo’s is there for you. If that waffle syrup leaks onto the chicken, even better. Make it extra zesty with some shakes of hot sauce for a sweet and savory feast.
Price:
Average
12
Matt’s Big Breakfast
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Andrea W.
Matt’s Big Breakfast
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What is it: Matt’s classic diner look and feel, mixed with good eats, have made this a popular destination for more than a decade. The space is always bustling and brimming with chatter.
Why go:
Don’t let the name fool you: the restaurant also serves lunch. If you can see your way past the crispiest hash browns around to get to the smothered Reuben sandwich or fat burger, go for it. The salami scramble is a savory, morning delight but beware that it will be hard for you to pass up on the thick waffle topped by crispy bacon.
Price:
Average
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13
Yasu Sushi Bistro
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Lakota M.
Yasu Sushi Bistro
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What is it: Blink and you might miss this intimate spot nestled at the end of one of northeast Phoenix’s strip malls. Its innate warmth comes from both its mild lighting and fiery grill. Use your candle to look through the specials of the day.
Why go:
The restaurant doesn’t have an official website or social media profiles. Sushi fans know and love it based on chef Yasu Hashino’s excellent offerings. From juicy tomatoes to chunky scallops, the food cooked Japanese-style on the binchotan grill (charcoal infused with oak) are heady. The raw options are thoughtfully crafted and delectable.
Price:
Pricey
14
Pizza a Metro
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Laura A.
Pizza a Metro
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What is it: This place rose above the constrictions of a mediocre location—a small strip mall next to a Circle K and right by a freeway entrance—thanks to its outstanding Italian dishes. There aren’t more than ten tables on premise (which is fine—there isn’t a ton of parking space) so take-out is a very enticing option.
Why go:
The name means “pizza by the meter.” Not into pizza (who are you?)? Opt for some fine, hearty Italian dishes that make you want to pop multiple corks and feast all night. The spaghetti dish covered in thick, rich Bolognese sauce is as hearty as the linguine with white wine and mussels.
Price:
Average
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15
Carolina’s Mexican Food
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Thomas L.
Carolina’s Mexican Food
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What is it: The south Phoenix staple is the go-to spot for those craving authentic, homestyle Mexican food. The extremely casual, family-owned shop has been open since the 1950s and, judging by the daily crowd, there’s no closing date in sight.
Why go:
The handmade tortillas—available for purchase in bulk for you to take home—are worth the trip alone, even if you pass up on goodies like crunchy tacos and rich tamales.
Price:
Bargain
16
Welcome Chicken + Donuts
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jennifer S.
Welcome Chicken + Donuts
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What is it: The name indicates what you’re getting but it’s all about how you want the foods to be prepared that will put your taste to the test. The plastic boots and doughnut counter make it look like an unremarkable joint but falser words have never been spoken: both the texture and flavor of the food here is otherworldly.
Why go:
Pick the part of the chicken you like and have them douse it with the sauce of your choice (Korean chili, Japanese barbecue and Vietnamese herb are your options). Order the combo for an additional hot cake doughnut—which can range from a classic apple fritter to a rosemary cacao version.
Price:
Average
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17
Red Thai
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Indra C.
Red Thai
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What is it: Those who know chef and owner Johnny Chu from his previous restaurants know that, along with quality food, he’s going to create a multisensory environment. Beat-driven tunes non-invasively pump out of the speakers, while giant projections of anime cartoons fill one wall.
Why go:
Modern southeastern Thai dishes include sumptuous curries, from spicy red to thick, coconutty yellow. Where else can you get a chicken lollipop? Red Thai’s are crispy chicken wings marinated in a black pepper mint sauce that provokes intense finger licking.
Price:
Average
18
Grand Avenue Pizza Company
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Brent C.
Grand Avenue Pizza Company
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What is it: Part of the Grand Avenue arts district, this corner spot is especially wonderful for two reasons: it stays open until 4am (offering delivery service that lasts almost that long) and it serves delicious slices.

Why go:
The signature pies boast some interesting combinations. You’d expect a pizza named after Diana Ross to be good, right? Theirs doesn’t let you down, with pepperoni, sausage, kalamata olives, red onions, button mushrooms and bell peppers all mingling amidst some extra mozzarella. Yum.

Price:
Average
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19
Chino Bandido
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Mark R.
Chino Bandido
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What is it: This family-friendly, no frills place on Phoenix’s west side is the go-to spot for Chinese Mexican fusion food. They offer a variety of ethnic favorites from both worlds, cooked and presented in interesting ways.
Why go:
There aren’t too many places to have your chile relleno in a bowl, teamed up with steamed white rice, or your sweet and sour chicken as a burrito or quesadilla. It’s fun to mix and match.
Price:
Bargain
20
Texaz Grill
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Texaz Grill
Texaz Grill
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What is it: When you want to cheat on your diet or are just hungry for good, old-fashioned southern cooking (think food smothered in white gravy), go to Texaz Grill. The experience is as friendly as the fare. It’s a kitschy joint loaded with memorabilia, so you can get up to speed on some history of the P-H-X while you dine.
Why go:
Order one chicken fried steak and you’ll find two on your plate. Just go for it. Oh, while you’re at it, get the mashed potatoes as well. The whole thing floats in a pool of gravy. And don’t worry, it is all accompanied by a flaky biscuit for proper sopping.
Price:
Average
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