Learn about nine places you should eat and drink in Phoenix, Arizona’s largest city, along with neighboring Scottsdale, based on a visit from December 31, 2015 – January 3, 2016.
Numbered establishments on the map correspond to information below for easy reference. Establishments also appear in alphabetical order instead of in order of preference.
1. Angelina’s Fry Bread
The original owner of this Glendale fry bread shop passed away many years ago. Angelina’s son took over at the original indoor swap meet location, which Grand Canyon University swallowed up in 2013. Current owner Frank Bracamonte oversaw the transition to a nearby strip mall. Two original cooks retired three weeks before my visit, but this “upscale fast food restaurant” is still going strong. Fry bread discs are available with either savory or sweet toppings. Open Faced Supreme supports refried beans, shredded cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomato, and a choice of topping. Red chile beef and green chile beef are both options, and you can split the lid. Fry bread is also available with cinnamon sugar and honey, flaky and crispy like an oversized wonton chip.
MUST ORDER: Open Faced Supreme, Plain Fry Bread
2. Bicycle Nomad Cafe [CLOSED]
Erick Cedeño, the bicycle nomad in question, is originally from Panama and lived on Miami Beach. When he wasn’t working as an event marketer or managing a Houston’s branch in Ft. Lauderdale, he biked from Vancouver to Tijuana, New Orleans to Toronto, and Miami to New York. In November 2015, he opened Bicycle Nomad Cafe inside a downtown Phoenix bike shop called The Velo. This cafe features a stone front, red chairs, black counter, and leather couch. Cedeño’s coffee set-up includes a two-group Astoria espresso machine, pourover bar, and beans from Press Coffee Roasters.
MUST ORDER: Espresso Drinks
Even on a 50-degree night, a line still snaked out the door at this premium Phoenix ice cream shop, which Lauren Bailey and Craig DeMarco founded in 2011. The space features a Carrara marble counter, shelves of candy, rhombus shaped wall colord red, orange, grey and white, and a blackboard menu. A wall message reads, “We love having you here,” and customers seem to buy into the mantra. Churn promises to use “zero phony stuff,” a blanket term that covers “scary chemical additives, preservatives or stabilizers.” 12 rotating flavors may include caramel cashew, chai tea, egg nog, or Vietnamese coffee, all distinctly flavorful. Shakes, sundaes and floats are all popular, as are massive cookie sandwiches and four different cones. Their pretzel cone is a stunner, but too sturdy to eat easily.
MUST ORDER: Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream, Caramel Cashew Ice Cream
Scottsdale isn’t technically part of Phoenix, but this sister city holds a prominent place in the metro area. Charleen Badman was one of the first chefs to embrace local, seasonal cooking at FnB in Old Town Scottsdale. To start 2013, she moved to a new location. Now FnB features a small patio, high ceiling, wood tables, stained glass outside and over the bar. I visited this time during lunch, where a tight menu touts just five dishes. Spaghetti squash with freekah, Feta, roasted tomatoes, and cilantro is a crowd pleaser. Chicken liver pate co-stars fig chutney, mustard, bread and butter pickles, and tangy giardinara. During my visit, the daily Sandwich involved slices of rosy roast beef, peppers, aged cheddar, and horseradish Dijonnaise on underbaked ciabata.
MUST ORDER: Spaghetti Squash, Chicken Liver Pate, Sandwich
5. Pane Bianco
Pizzeria Bianco is Phoenix’s shining culinary star. Thankfully, you no longer have to wait for three hours to score a pizza. Pane Bianco, the central Phoenix sandwich shop that Chris Bianco runs with baker brother Marco, has expanded in size and scope. They took over Lux Coffeebar and added a dining room with exposed beams, skylights, communal wood tables, and blackboard for market specials. A large oven still burns pecan and applewood, with dough and bread made in-house for all of Bianco’s restaurants. By day, you’ll find wood-fired focaccia topped with combos like Fontina and Bianco tomato sauce; house-made mozzarella salad served with country bread; and vegetable soup with herbaceous broth, heirloom beans, Parmigiano, and seasonal vegetables like sunchokes and potatoes. Nighttime brings a larger menu, which includes pizza with famously supple crusts. I waited less than 15 minutes for a signature Sonny Boy with onions, house-smoked mozzarella, and fennel sausage. A market salad might pair citrus with pomegranate, fennel, arugula, kohlrabi, parsley, red carrot, and lardo crostini. I also really enjoyed spaghetti & meatballs featuring AZ grass-fed beef, crushed tomato sauce, cooked garlic and raw basil. If you can muster room for dessert, mesquite apple cake is like an upside down cake made with Hayden Flour Mill flour and cascading vanilla whipped cream.
MUST ORDER: Sonny Boy Pizza, Spaghetti & Meatballs, Market Salad, Vegetable Soup, Wood-Fired Focaccia, House-made Mozzarella Salad