The Sonoran Desert is a great place to explore — and eat! There are so many types of cuisine in the Valley of the Sun; the sprawling area has an equally wide-ranging restaurant scene, and you don’t have to look hard to find little gastronomic gems. Here are a delicious dozen of our current favorites in Phoenix:
Healthy, comforting, and eclectic describe the eats at The Larry, a daytime den. And its dish that encompasses all of these descriptors is the Bang Bang Broccoli, not just a side, but a Larry signature. You’ll swoon over this one even if you usually have to be bribed to eat your vegetables. A little crunchy, a little tangy… These greens are fried and finished when dipped in Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce.
When a dish is so popular it gets nicknamed the Arizona State Salad, it’s worth a try! Commander Hamburger‘s version isn’t the original, but its so-named Original Chopped Salad (the only non-sandwich option on its menu) lives up to the hype as a state sensation. Served by default with chopped salmon, its also great with chicken or avocado.
Not only does a Sicilian in Strada Charcuterie Board from Sicilian Butcher have all the amazing tastes, but ordering one will get you all of the restaurant’s attention! This 5 foot long artisanal meat and cheese board is a signature staple that comes carrying several menu favorites, like arancini, panelli fritters, cazilli, craft meatballs with creamy polenta, and more.
Pretty meets gritty at The Duce, a warehouse wonderland of eats, treats, games and giddiness. It’s a retro-chic spot for old-school everything — from bars, to boardgames, to boxing matches — that serves up homemade American comfort food. Pick the Pot Pie for a perfect slice of The Duce’s particular brand of specialty nostalgia.
Taco Guild, a gastropub set in an old church, answers our prayers when it comes to delicious tacos. Even if you’re ordering Gringa/Gringo (read: super safe) you’re in for some unforgettable flavors, but its the Chipotle Cherry Steak taco that makes our mouths water.
Everything at the new downtown Phoenix Cambria Hotel’s restaurant, Poppy, has a pop of desert Southwest flair. Those items with some spice are especially nice, like in Chef Cayer’s Habanero Corn Chowder. And you can even order it up on the hotel’s rooftop so you can have your soup with a city-scape sunset view.
Get primed for all of the pours you’ll explore at popular cocktail bar Bitter & Twisted by noshing on some of their irresistible Hurricane Popcorn. Imitations abound for this craveworthy concoction of butter, garlic, furikake, shichimi (asian spice mix) and spicy rice crackers, but this twisted take on a bar bite is one you can’t stop snacking.
Harumi Sushi in downtown Phoenix is on a roll crafting sushi sensations with its black/purple sushi rice, which adds color and flavor without overwhelming the tasty fresh fish. But its most remarkable roll actually happens to be entirely riceless. The Oasis Roll is a combination of tuna, salmon, and avocado wrapped in cucumber.
Postino Arcadia is a hip wine cafe located in an old Post Office, but the place doesn’t mail it in when it comes to its food menu. Bruschetta boards are the top order, with over a dozen different variations of appetizing antipasto to choose between. Our go-to? Burrata, Bacon, Arugula and Tomato.
American classics with a twist are the specialities at Southern Rail. The menu has almost too many Low Country temptations, but a standout is the Fried Green Tomato Eggs Benedict, served on a biscuit with tomato jam and creole hollandaise. This plate gets bonus points for being extra awesome with a little Cutino kick.
Canopies of pecan trees and an organic-style garden await at The Farm at South Mountain. This casual cousin to Quiessence offers delicious sandwiches, fresh soups, seasonal salads and made-from-scratch baked goods, as well as some perfect picnic places to enjoy them. You really can’t go wrong, but we love the Pecan Chicken Salad sandwich, made with pecans and other fresh ingredients from on-property.
And this bonus bite is more kitschy than culinary, but it’s a fun eat to remind yourself that you’re dining in the desert. Rustler’s Rooste, a mountaintop eatery complete with live country western music and a tin slide, serves up steaks and seafood. But you’ll want to order the Fried Rattlesnake, because… Phoenix.
Kate Michael is a Writer, Emcee, On-Camera Host and Fashion/Commercial Model. Follow her at @kstreetkate