The Best Food and Drink in Arizona for 2018 Gallery from The Best Food and Drink in Arizona for 2018 Gallery
The Best Food and Drink in Arizona for 2018 Gallery
The Best Food and Drink in Arizona for 2018 Gallery
Arizona is home to many breathtaking views such as the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, and Saguaro National Park. Visitors come from miles away to experience other natural wonders like Havasu Falls and the Meteor Crater. But this state is home to nearly 7 million people as well, and Arizonans have created a vibrant culinary culture. We have hand-selected 22 of the places in the state most worth visiting to grab a bite in our first-annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
Arizona may be known as “The Copper State,” but its culinary landscape is pure gold. Cities like Phoenix and Tucson house some of the best spots for Mexican food in the country, like Barrio Café, Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca, and Gadzooks Enchiladas & Soup. It’s also home to some killer Italian food, all from the mind of New York native Chris Bianco, who has brought his flavorful Italian pastas, pizzas, and sandwiches to the Southwest.
If you’re an Arizona native and you’re wondering what might be the best hot dog, farmers market, or even the best best dive bar in your state, we’ve got you covered. Through comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs, we’ve been able to make definitive slideshows celebrating the best food and drink in every state.
Best Bar: Kon Tiki Restaurant Lounge, Tucson
For over 50 years now, Kon Tiki Restaurant & Lounge has brought an island vibe to Tucson. The tiki bar looks almost exactly as it did when it first opened — complete with gas-powered tiki torches, the world's largest collection of Milan Guanko tikis, and assorted island curios. With plenty of films being shot in the Tuscon area, the likes of Clint Eastwood, Robert Mitchum, Lee Marvin, and Robert Wagner have stopped in for a drink. Indulge in signature island drinks like the Koko Pino (tropical pineapple and coconut blended with shaved ice and rum) or the Kanaloa (banana, orange, and pineapple mixed with Absolut Mango). Kon Tiki’s frosty drinks also pair nicely with the delicious food offered by the restaurant. Don’t miss the Kon Tiki pupus (appetizers) like Monkeys on a Stick (tender cubes of sirloin skewered, marinated, and charbroiled, and served with a teriyaki glaze) and Birds on a Stick (same idea, but with chicken); Tiki Chips (sugar-coated wonton chips served with teriyaki or sweet and sour sauce); and the Hawaiian barbecue chicken (seasoned, grilled, and finely basted chicken breast with house recipe barbecue sauce, all topped with a pineapple ring).
Courtesy of Arizona Wilderness
Best Beer: Superstition Coffee Stout, Arizona Wilderness Brewing
The Arizona Wilderness brewery in Gilbert uses seven pounds of locally-roasted coffee beans for every batch of its Superstition Coffee Stout. It pours jet black, but don’t be intimated by the color. It’s aged on Madagascar vanilla beans for a week, leading to a sweet aroma and flavor.
Facebook/ Lo Lo’s Chicken & Waffles
Best Chicken and Waffles: Lo Lo’s Chicken and Waffles, Multiple Locations
Everything is made from scratch at this Phoenix mainstay, which now has five locations in Arizona, one in Omaha, and others coming to Las Vegas and Southlake, Texas. The seasoning blend on the chicken has been passed down through several generations, and the waffle batter recipe yields a light and fluffy waffle with an almost creamy center.
Best Chinese Restaurant: King Wong, Phoenix
You’ll find well-made versions of classic Chinese-American fare at King Wong. Regulars swear by the egg rolls, spicy orange chicken (made with white meat), fried rice, Mongolian beef, and fresh seafood dishes. Lunch and dinner specials offer a great value as well. Find more details on King Wong here.
Best Cupcakes: Treehouse Bakery, Phoenix
A vegan bakery that makes you forget about the fact that it is vegan is a winner in our book. Its animal-product-free treats are extremely tasty, as are its delicious cupcake flavors like s’mores, churro, and vanilla latte. You have to call ahead or stop by early to catch the cupcake flavors for the day, but we promise the preparation is worth it.
Best Doughnuts: Young Donuts, Tucson
Brother-and-sister team Sophy and Keng Se opened Young Donuts five years ago, next door to a children’s dentist office. If that wasn’t enough of a reason to applaud them, then their doughnuts (and the super-friendly staff) definitely are. Fresh, light, puffy, sweet doughnuts line the shelves, and though there are plenty of choices, we can’t recommend the simple buttermilk glaze highly enough. For more information on Young Donuts, click here.
Facebook/ Prescott Farmers Market
Best Farmers Market: Prescott Farmers Market, Prescott
Since its debut in 1991, the Prescott Farmers Market has expanded from a few farmers to more than 90 vendors selling everything from locally produced food and artisan products to plants and prepared food. They also emphasize educating the community about the importance of local agriculture. The Prescott market is open every Saturday during the summer.
Facebook/ Emerson Fry Bread
Best Food Truck: Emerson Fry Bread, Phoenix
The colorful Emerson Fry Bread truck might very well be the best food truck in the country that specializes in Native American cuisine — one of the most underrated cuisines of the world — with a Mexican twist. Customers pick a protein and a wrap style, such as “Jazzy” (Indian-style with beans, carne asada, cheese, and pico de gallo), “Mi Bandera Linda” (with handmade red and green chile sauces), or “Bolli” (served in a taco bowl), and wash it all down with a fan-favorite 32-ounce prickly-pear-based juice. Emerson is a testament to the creativity needed to run a successful food truck.
Best Fried Chicken: Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles, Multiple Locations
It’s no surprise that the restaurant with the best chicken and waffles in Arizona would also have the best fried chicken! The same unforgettable seasoning blend that pairs perfectly with waffles stands up just as well on its own.
Sprouts Farmers Market/Yelp
Best Grocery Store: Sprouts Market
The very first Sprouts Market opened in Arizona circa 2002, and today there are 36 stores throughout the state. The chain markets its own brand label, and according to the Sprouts website, it is committed to making healthy eating more affordable.
Best Hot Dog: El Güero Canelo, Tucson
This hot dog is completely unlike any other in the country: the Sonoran Dog, a shining example of international cooperation. John T. Edge first brought this hot dog into the spotlight in 2009, and even though it’s been around for more than 40 years, the Sonoran is having quite a moment in the sun. Here’s how it works: A hot dog is wrapped in bacon (good place to start), griddled until crispy, stuffed into a split-top bun that you won’t find outside of the region, and topped with any of a slew of condiments that usually involve beans, diced tomatoes, mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise. There are stands all over Tucson selling Sonorans, but the most shining example is sold in the humble, ragtag El Güero Canelo, which got its start as a tiny cart run by Daniel and Blanca Contreras in 1993 and now has three locations that host a massive array of toppings and an ever-present jovial vibe. Find more details on El Güero Canelo here.
Best Italian Restaurant: Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix
"There’s no mystery to my pizza," Bronx native Chris Bianco was quoted as saying in The New York Times. "Sicilian oregano, organic flour, San Marzano tomatoes, purified water, mozzarella I learned to make at Mike's Deli in the Bronx, sea salt, fresh yeast cake and a little bit of yesterday's dough. In the end great pizza, like anything else, is all about balance. It's that simple.''
Try telling that to the legions of pizza pilgrims who have visited the storied Phoenix pizza spot he opened more than 20 years ago. The restaurant serves not only addictive thin-crust pizzas but also fantastic antipasto (involving wood-oven-roasted vegetables), perfect salads, and homemade country bread. The wait, once routinely noted as one of the worst for some of the best food in the country, has been improved by Pizzeria Bianco starting to serve lunch and the opening of three additional Phoenix locations (along with one that’s coming to Los Angeles).
Best Mexican Restaurant: Barrio Café, Phoenix
Barrio Café chef Silvana Salcido Esparza pours more than 250 of Mexico’s top-shelf tequilas, but she certainly doesn’t need them to convince customers to frequent her three colorful dining rooms. From queso fundido to pozole verde, shrimp quesadillas to slow-roasted Mayan-style achiote-spiced cochinita pibil tortas, Barrio Café offers authentic Mexican food that has enthralled Arizonans since 2002.
Courtesy of Bourbon Steak
Most Expensive Restaurant: Bourbon Steak, Scottsdale
A visit to Scottsdale’s popular outpost of the high-end Bourbon Steak from chef Michael Mina will definitely cost you a pretty penny. Chilled seafood appetizers start at $26 for tuna tartare and go all the way to $90 for a shellfish tasting; entrees range from $42 for grilled prawns to $89 for Maine lobster pot pie; and steaks start at $49 for an 8-ounce filet and go all the way to $295 for a trio of Wagyu cuts. If you’re eyeing an 18-ounce prime bone-in strip loin for your birthday dinner, you’d better save up $75 for it.
Best Pasta Dish: Pappardelle Bolognese at Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix
Chris Bianco may be best known for his amazing pizza skills, but his pasta chops are also seriously on point. You’ll find pasta on the menu only at Pizzeria Bianco’s newer second location, and there are only two options: spaghetti with tomato sauce, and pappardelle with grass-fed beef bolognese and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Opt for the second; the pasta is house-made and perfectly cooked, and the sauce is simple and flawless. Find more details on Pizzeria Bianco here.
Best Pizza: Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix
Astute readers will notice Chris Bianco popping up all over this list, and even though Bianco no longer personally makes every pie that Pizzeria Bianco turns out (a bout of “baker’s lung” nearly killed him), the pizzas at this restaurant gave the chef his initial claim to fame. This is another case where any pie will likely be better than most you’ve had in your life (that rosa with red onions and pistachios!), but the signature Margherita will recalibrate your pizza baseline forever: tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil.
Best Sandwich: Housemade Mozzarella at Pane Bianco, Phoenix
The owner of Pane Bianco, Chris Bianco, originally opened a small pizzeria in 1988, simply called Pizzeria Bianco. In 2005, Bianco opened up this restaurant, which quickly became one of the premier sandwich shops in the Southwest. The shop was originally takeout only, but upgraded to a full-service restaurant in 2012.
Pane Bianco is known for its split focaccia sandwiches. The bread, made to order in a wood-fired oven, is thin, crackery, and crispy, and the real star of the show. The best way to enjoy it is with some thinly sliced house-made fresh mozzarella tucked into it along with some basil and olive oil; rotating add-ins include fresh tomatoes, wood-roasted peppers, and prosciutto.
Best Soup: Gadzooks Enchiladas & Soup, Phoenix
Gadzooks founder Aaron Pool has become renowned for his enchiladas, which are made with handmade tortillas, slow-braised meats, and fresh-grated Mexican cheese, and he gives his soups just as much attention as his enchiladas. His restaurant takes a DIY, fast-casual approach, which means that your (already stellar) homemade tortilla soup of spicy potato corn chowder can be kicked up with an endless variety of meats, sautéed vegetables, sauces, cheeses, and other Mexican-inspired toppings.
Best Steakhouse: The Stockyards, Phoenix
The Wild West is still alive and well at this 69-year-old gem, established to feed all the cattlemen in the then-nearby packing houses and still going strong in a slightly out-of-the-way corner of the city. An old-time saloon and murals of the Old West greet diners, but this place is no gimmick, being painstakingly restored in 2004. Huge corn-fed steaks are grilled over an open flame, with bestsellers including a 20-ounce buffalo rib-eye and an 18-ounce prime rib. Other options include three sizes of rib-eye, two sizes of New York strip, and three sizes of fillet. Find more details on The Stockyards here.
Yelp/ Roka Akor
Best Sushi Bar: Roka Akor, Scottsdale
Roka Akor may be a huge restaurant, specializing in sushi as well as steak (with three additional locations and a fourth in the works), but it’s legendary for a reason: It’s really, really good, and the quality of the sushi alone makes it one of America’s best restaurants for sushi, hands down. Fish is flown in fresh daily, and you can sample it à la carte, in a flight of bluefin tuna, in a chef’s selection of five or seven pieces, or as part of a $128 omakase. Should you opt for the omakase, expect to get your money’s worth: Chef Jason Alford only serves the rarest and highest-quality ingredients that come through his kitchen, so don’t be surprised if you’re served wagyu steak, black cod, lobster tempura, uni, a lavish platter of at least 10 varieties of sashimi, tableside-shaved black truffles, and several varieties of dessert. You might want to skip lunch that day.
Best Taco: Fish Tacos at Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca, Phoenix
Formerly known as Tacos Atoyac, this beloved Phoenix taquería closed down with no notice a couple years back and reopened nearly a month later with a new name, and, thankfully, the same menu. Though the standard lineup of meats are all spectacular (and even the tripas, or intestines, are good), the fish taco is the way to go. Flaky white fish is fried until golden brown and crispy and then topped with shredded cabbage and a flavorful chipotle sauce. Roasted onions and jalapeños are offered for free on the side; you’re going to want to say yes to those. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2018.