Phoenix Food Worth Seeking

Tourist Attraction Phoenix

Ripley's Believe It or Not! provided King Kong to the Arizona Boardwalk, which houses 8 tourist attractions. This towering sculpture touts an alien on its shoulder. Trade Recycled Art made this from recycled car parts in Bangkok.

Learn about 14 places to eat good food in Phoenix, Arizona’s largest city, along with neighboring Scottsdale, based on my visits to the Valley of the Sun in 2023, 2016 and 2015. On Page 2, you’ll find four great activities to enjoy between meals.

Updates since November 16, 2016
Additions: Essence Bakery Cafe, Glai Baan, JL Patisserie, LAMP Pizzeria, Mariscos Playa Hermosa
Subtractions: Bicycle Nomad Cafe (Closed), Sip Coffee & Beer Lounge (Moved go Phoenix Coffee Worth Seeking)

Angelina’s Fry Bread

Fry Bread Phoenix

Angelina’s son took over the original indoor swap meet location, which Grand Canyon University swallowed up in 2013. Current owner Frank Bracamonte led the transition to a nearby strip mall. Red chile beef and green chile beef are both viable fry bread toppings, and you can split the lid. Open Faced Supreme co-stars refried beans, shredded cheese, iceberg lettuce, and tomato. 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


Ice Cream Phoenix

Lauren Bailey and Craig DeMarco founded this premium Phoenix ice cream shop in 2011. Churn promises to use “zero phony stuff.” Rotating flavors may include caramel cashew, chai tea, eggnog, and Vietnamese coffee, all distinctly flavorful. Shakes, sundaes and floats are all popular. So are massive cookie sandwiches and cones. Their pretzel cone is a stunner, but too sturdy to eat easily.

MUST ORDER: Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream, Caramel Cashew Ice Cream

Essence Bakery Cafe

Breakfast Sandwich Phoenix

Chef Eugenia Theodosopoulos and husband Gilles founded Essence Bakery Cafe in 2007. Their tantalizing pastry case includes flaky, buttery croissants in different colors and shapes, including a pistachio round. Rich, chewy chocolate cherry rye cookies are good fun. So is their fried egg sandwich on a fluffy brioche bun with Dubliner cheese, tomato, ham and wilted spinach. A great breakfast.

MUST ORDER: Apple Crumble Croissant, Butter Croissant, Chocolate Cherry Rye Cookie, Classic Egg Sandwich, Cream Cheese Danish, Pistachio Croissant


Vegetables Phoenix

Charleen Badman was one of the first chefs to embrace local, seasonal cooking at FnB in Scottsdale. I ate dinner at FnB in 2010 and returned years later for lunch after they relocated within Old Town. Spaghetti squash with freekah, Feta, roasted tomatoes, and cilantro was a crowd pleaser. Chicken liver pate co-starred fig chutney, mustard, bread and butter pickles, and tangy giardiniera. My daily sandwich involved rosy roast beef slices, peppers, aged cheddar, and horseradish Dijonnaise on soft ciabatta.

MUST ORDER: Spaghetti Squash, Chicken Liver Pate, Sandwich

Glai Baan

Thai Food Phoenix

Chef Pornsupak “Cat” Bunnag is glai baan (far from home), but she and partner Dan Robinson beautifully relay her favorite foods from Thailand. Tom yum moo is a fragrant noodle soup with ground pork and fish balls. Hoi mlang pou treats plump PEI mussels to a luxurious lemongrass and chili jam bath. Spicy eggplant was a satisfying special with ground pork, shrimp and jammy egg.

MUST ORDER: Hoi Mlang Pou, Peek Gai Tod (Chicken Wing), Spicy Eggplant Special, Tom Yum Moo Soup

JL Patisserie

Croissant Phoenix

Jenna Leurquin also has a larger Phoenix location, but her pared down Scottsdale patisserie was still a hit. Leurquin’s decadent chocolate pistachio croissant was a flaky revelation. I also savored JL’s “classic” and ham & cheese croissants with savory skirts.

MUST ORDER: Classic Croissant, Chocolate Pistachio Croissant, Ham and Cheese Croissant, Pain aux Raisins

LAMP Pizzeria

Pizza Phoenix

In hockey, a lamp above the net lights up after a goal. Lindsay And Matt Pilato scored by opening their North Scottsdale pizzeria in 2011. LAMP’s supple wood-fired pizzas tout premium toppings that get bold and creative. Scientist (my favorite) featured 3 salumi and green olives. Mignulata, a Sicilian bread stuffed with housemade sausage, Pecorino and cauliflower, resembled stromboli.

MUST ORDER: Mignulata, Scientist Pizza, Pepperoni Pizza, LAMP Caesar Salad

Mariscos Playa Hermosa

Mexican Seafood Phoenix

Maria Maldonado and husband Jose debuted Mariscos Playa Hermosa in 2002, showcasing their favorite dishes from coastal Mexico. Son Emmanuell and daughter Yesica now helm this colorful restaurant, along with nearby Cielo Rojo. Pescado zarandeado is the MPH showstopper, featuring flaky butterflied red snapper marinated in salsa roja and topped with grilled shrimp and roasted chilies. Ostiones preparados top cool, creamy oysters with shrimp aguachile, spicy chiltepin salsa, onion and avocado.

MUST ORDER: Ostiones Preparados, Pescado Zarandeado

Pane Bianco

Italian Food Phoenix

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, also 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. A larger dinner menu includes pizza with famously blistered, pliable crusts. I waited less than 15 minutes for a Sonny Boy with onions, house-smoked mozzarella, and fennel sausage. 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 with cascading vanilla whipped cream.

MUST ORDER: Sonny Boy Pizza, Spaghetti & Meatballs, Market Salad, Vegetable Soup, Wood-Fired Focaccia, House-made Mozzarella Salad



Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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