Are there really 100 restaurants worth celebrating in Greater Phoenix? To which we say: Uh, yeah. And we could have done 100 more. Spend your 2020 getting acquainted with this crowd-sourced centenary of essential Phoenix eateries.
Chris Bianco’s Camelback trattoria is not merely the sum of its dishes – though the dishes are spectacular feats of rustic craft, from the seasonal roasted chicken (bathed in a roasted-grape jus in the fall, pictured, and lemon in the spring) to the ticklish roster of handmade pastas. More skillfully than any restaurant in the Valley, it dances on that narrow fence between exoticism (Bianco’s devotion to local sourcing is so extreme, it borders on the avant-garde) and sturdy culinary tradition. It’s basically Michelin-level comfort food, and so confidently executed, you just have to sit back and enjoy the pirouettes.
4743 N. 20th St., Phoenix,
Do yourself a favor and fast a bit before indulging in Kevin Binkley’s legendary 20-plus-course prix fixe extravaganza, a sometimes whimsical, always superlative progressive dinner involving luxurious ingredients, splendid wine pairings and a casual kitchen chat with one of the city’s most brilliant chefs as he prepares your next moan-inducing course. Binkley’s is dinner theater in the most pleasing sense, and Arizona’s premier bucket list restaurant.
2320 E. Osborn Rd., Phoenix,
Outed as one of the nation’s most innovative restaurants by The New York Times in 2011, FnB has only grown in esteem over the past decade. Local produce is central to Charleen Badman’s menu, and she treats each item like a precious gem, from roasted butternut squash with Asian pears to a simple green salad highlighted by fennel. Named James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southwest in 2019, Badman lives up to the title.
7125 E. Fifth Ave., Scottsdale,
Barbecue in the top five? You bet your back ribs. Scott Holmes’ two LMB outposts are the Mecca and Medina of smoked meat in the Valley, particularly the universally admired brisket – which Holmes conjures via a rigorous, 14-hour feat of craftsmanship that no one else in the Valley can quite replicate. We dare say it’s the best central-Texas-style ’cue west of… well, Texas.
Two Valley locations, littlemissbbq.com
At his third and best incarnation of ShinBay, sushi maestro Shinji Kurita proves why he’s the itamae (chef) most often name-checked by his admiring peers (Nobuo Fukuda, for one). Kurita’s omakase-only menu is a stunning progression through cold Japanese classics to a 10-round finale of nigiri sushi – simple, yet so sublime it redefines the genre.
3720 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale,
This isn’t your neighborhood Thai joint – unless you live in Bangkok or Isan, the regions that inspire chef/owner Cat Bunnag. Glai Baan blows your average pad Thai peddler out of the water with spicy, snacky street food, from mackerel fried rice to kao soi (curry noodles with pickles).
2333 E. Osborn Rd., Phoenix,
The city’s spendiest seafood restaurants don’t have a thing on this French-inspired, decidedly edgy New American bistro owned by talented Binkley’s alum Brandon Gauthier, who sources fish from all over the world and prepares it in deliciously creative ways. He also bakes his own bread and makes a crazy-good chicken sandwich at lunch – the best in town.
36889 N. Tom Darlington Dr., Carefree,
Under chef de cuisine Ryan Swanson, the Wild Horse Pass Resort flagship restaurant – a consensus Top 10 Arizona restaurant since opening in the mid-2000s – has held serve as the Valley’s most lavish dining experience. The picture-perfect fare – sourced from and a tribute to Native American culture – is exactly what you’d expect at Arizona’s only AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star honoree. The menu reads almost as wonderfully as it tastes, from foie gras with sweet I’itoi onions (foraged in the Tohono O’odham Nation) to cocoa-and-mesquite-cured duck breast.
5594 Wild Horse Pass Blvd., Chandler,
James Beard Award winner Nobuo Fukuda is Phoenix’s Jedi master of Japanese cuisine, a description that becomes even more on point in the midst of a mind-bending omakase dinner. Seated at a small private bar (weekends only), you’ll be treated to plate after plate of Fukuda perfection – maybe shimmering sashimi, gold leaf-flecked chawanmushi or his elegant take on shabu-shabu.
622 E. Adams St., Phoenix,
No run-of-the-mill, Philadelphia-Roll-spewing sushi joint, this uptown BYOB is a beacon for fish fans who demand the good stuff, including hard-to-find delicacies like ankimo (monkfish liver) and tender, tantalizing ika yaki (charbroiled squid). Even more fun: Hassling chef Lori Hashimoto to unleash a few of her off-menu treats, particularly her legendary chawanmushi (custard egg). Ask for it by name .
5524 N. Seventh Ave., Phoenix,
Don’t be fooled by the casual, shambolic vibe at chef-owner Giovanni Scorzo’s Italian market-eatery – the highly personal, old-school cuisine would be perfectly at home at any white-tablecloth fine dining restaurant. Order the pepper-edged porchetta sandwich on crusty Italian bread or choose a pasta dish from the white board specials. No need for white tablecloths here. The food speaks for itself.
8880 E. Via Linda, Scottsdale,
Conveniently housed inside a wine shop, this long-running BYOB and foodie favorite is better than ever thanks to executive chef Cory Oppold, whose affordable three-course prix fixe menu spotlights both his classical training and crazy-creative streak. Oppold makes fine dining fun, turning out beautiful food that’s never overwrought.
2515 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale,
The Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North’s flagship restaurant got a modern makeover last year but remains true to its Spanish steakhouse roots, complemented by a dazzling array of Iberian cured meats, paella and seafood under talented young chef Samantha Sanz.
10600 E. Crescent Moon Drive, Scottsdale
Pa’La chef-owner Claudio Urciuoli is the Valley’s gruff Italian answer to Alice Waters: obsessed with perfect ingredients showcased simply. The menu depends on his daily sourcing, so Tuesday could feature roasted white anchovies and Wednesday could highlight spicy fennel salami schiacciata (whole-grain flatbread) with arugula and pickled goat horn chile.
2107 N. 24th St., Phoenix,
Warm, intimate Virtù makes our Top 25 for a slew of reasons, which may vary by voter: an impressive cocktail program, the legendary grilled octopus (which PHOENIX named the No. 1 dish in the Valley in 2016), a cozy, bi-level patio (just right for weekend brunch) and luxurious touches (say, foie gras hollandaise) that deliciously convey chef-owner Gio Osso’s sexy streak.
3701 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale,
A surprise choice for the Top 25? Only if you missed our 2014 Best of the Valley issue, in which the Camelback eatery won a blind taste test for the best wood-fired, Neopolitan-style pizza against the likes of Bianco and Pomo. Beyond that: off-the-charts antipasti and vegetable dishes, groundbreaking cocktail program. We stand by it.
1916 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix,
Chef-owner Chrysa Robertson – a local gal with big-league talent long before that bandwagon was open for business – gets everything right at her Italian-inflected, Arizona-inspired restaurant, which takes “bests” in every category: service, people-watching bar, salad (we can name at least three) and dessert (pretty much anything on the list).
6208 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale,
Chef-owner Stephen Jones grew up on Southern cooking, and at his tiny, cheerful Downtown restaurant, he both replicates and re-imagines it, turning out sophisticated New Southern Cuisine that stays true to its roots. Expect crispy pig ears, Hoppin’ John, barbecued oysters and the crispiest, best fried chicken in town.
200 W. Portland St., Phoenix,
Nostalgia definitely has a hand in this ranking, guiding us back to those salad days when Richardson Browne’s seminal Southwestern eatery was the most exciting thing in a dining scene that lacked for excitement. But then we have a transportive mouthful of the molten green chile stew or the action-packed duck relleno and it’s like, “This place is just flat-out awesome.” As it ever was .
6335 N. 16th St., Phoenix,
A PHOENIX Best New Restaurant no-brainer when it opened six years ago, this Bernie Kantak-fronted city gastropub continues to surgically disarm our appetites with innovative twists of culinary doctrine. Case in point: the bonkers foie-smeared duck meatloaf, and Donald Hawk’s amazing raw bar. His brown-butter tuna might be the Valley’s premier fish dish.
2201 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix,
Having opened to scant fanfare in 2018, this house of pan-Mexican goodies – set across the street from Barrio Café – quickly captured the hearts of Valley diners in the know. The cuisine is confident, the atmosphere hip without a hint of trendiness, and the salsa bar, running the gamut from zesty to nuclear, is a blast. Start with the beet-sauce enchiladas. They’re loco bueno.
2637 N. 16th St., Phoenix
The Valley’s steakhouse of record is such a fount of merit, we’re sitting here wondering why it’s only No. 22: ridiculously good prawns, sinfully spectacular sides, obsessively spot-on service, and serving plates so hot, you can almost run a teppanyaki game on your medium-rare, bone-in ribeye. The off-menu steak specials are routinely insane.
5104 N. 44th St., Phoenix,
Sometimes you want cheap street tacos at a hole in the wall. Sometimes, though, you want something schmancier. Enter CRUjiente, where chef-owner Rich Hinojosa crafts truly innovative tacos – Wagyu, karaage, étouffée, to name a few – and co-owner Jason Morris helms a masterful Spanish wine program.
3961 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix,
Chef Jeremy Pacheco is on his second tour of duty at this classic resort restaurant, but he’s not tired. The Arizona native enlivens culinary standbys with chef-y twists (chorizo emulsion on branzino, fennel pollen on scallops) and is maniacal about meat sourcing. Try his signature sizzling bacon – thick-cut, house-peppered, hissing on a cast iron plate, drenched in maple syrup and aged sherry vinegar.
5532 N. Palo Cristi Rd., Paradise Valley
Before Chula Seafood opened up shop in 2015, it was natural to question the provenance of any “fresh, sustainable” seafood dish placed before you in the Valley. Not at Chula. Pioneering the boat-to-table concept, owners Jon Heflin and Hogan Jamison catch the critters themselves in California and drive their catch to Phoenix daily. In addition to supplying fish to an armada of restaurants, they serve crazy good poke bowls, buttery sashimi, incomparable smoked salmon and the finest swordfish tacos you’ll devour.
Two Valley locations, chulaseafood.com