Phoenix may be a sprawling city, but with nearly 325 days of sunshine each year, it is also a haven for travelers seeking well-being and relaxation. In recent years, the city’s been ramping up efforts to attract all visitors, with a cool arts scene, a fascinating architectural landscape, and bold Southwest and Mexican cuisine. So once you’ve seen the Desert Botanical Garden (which gives out hot spiced cider and churros over the holidays), climbed Camelback Mountain, peaked into the Mesa Arts Center, and relaxed at Elizabeth Arden’s spa, here are the five best bites to try.
Breakfast: Stop by La Grand Orange Grocery, a cool neighborhood hangout, for a big breakfast that’s farmers market-fresh and delicious. Their English muffins are oversized and a signature of LGO Grocery, as are their French pancakes, and you can’t go wrong with their eggs rancheros. There’s a pizzeria next door, too, if you’re hankering for lunch, and they have a gourmet grocery filled with ready-made items you can take to go.
Lunch: It’s been famous for more than 15 years and even counts Mario Batali as a fan, so you’re going to have to wait for a table at Pizzeria Bianco. They serve some of the most beloved pies in the country, as well as a beefsteak tomato caprese, Gaeta olives on the side, Sicilian anchovies, and Fontina cheese wrapped in prosciutto. But, of course, the pizzas are what you wait for — all six of them. Hey, quantity does not equal quality. Choose from margherita, marinara, rosa (red onion, Parmesan, rosemary, pistachios), Sonny Boy (mozzarella, salami, olives), Biancoverde (mozzarella, Paremsan, ricotta, arugula), and the Wiseguy (wood-roasted onion, smoked mozzarella, and fennel sausage). (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Gelatobaby)
Dinner: The highly acclaimed FnB is a colorful, modern eatery with an open kitchen, Mondrian-esque floors, and white exposed brick walls. The menu is constantly changing and seasonal, with ingredients sourced from local farmers that become eclectic and mouthwatering meals. They also stay local with their wine list, featuring Arizona wineries paired with lip-smacking dishes like fried green tomatoes with green goddess dressing, Jidori chicken with spaetzle and pan jus, and lamb tenderloin with cauliflower and dried fig.
Drinks: Dark and speakeasy-style, MercBar is a local favorite in Phoenix. With black leather bar stools and oversized chairs, wooden mirrors on the wall, and little-to-no signage outside, MercBar appeals to the cool, low-key side of things. Their drinks are mixologist-made and they serve small bites for hungry imbibers.
Afternoon Snack: Make your way through the big grocery store aisles at the Phoenix Ranch Market and peruse the enormous stock of Latin ingredients. Find fresh fruits and vegetables, of course, but your first stop should be the “tortilleria,” where you can watch fresh tortillas being made and sample them. Next, head to the bakery, where you’ll want to taste the sweet empanadas and tres leches cakes.
Sleep: Book a room at the stylishly Technicolor and desert-cool Saguaro Hotel. The neon-yellow slatted entry overhang and clean pink, orange, yellow, and white lobby are a feast for the eyes, and no detail has been left out. The hotel boasts two pools surrounded by cabanas, and a modern Mexican eatery, Distrito, within.