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The 22 Best Downtown Phoenix Restaurants“The 22 Best Downtown Phoenix Restaurants”
Phoenix sits at the heart of Maricopa County, recently cited as the fastest growing county in the U.S. New condos and apartment buildings are popping up everywhere you look, as are new restaurants to feed the hungry people arriving here in droves — typically from states with colder, wilder weather. Naturally, the restaurant scene has grown and evolved considerably in the last decade, but metro Phoenix — once known for its steak houses and mainstream Mexican restaurants — has positively exploded in the past five years, ironically, even more so in the past two.
Yes, the area lost dozens of great restaurants during the pandemic, but it gained plenty of new ones too, many of them owned by plucky entrepreneurs who decided there was no better time to take the plunge. Phoenix never lacks for high-end steakhouses and resort restaurants, but these days, it also offers an impressive range of multi-cultural restaurants serving Puerto Rican, Filipino, regional Chinese, regional Mexican, new-school Southwestern, and even a hybrid Cambodian-Middle Eastern cuisine.
When you’re hungry for a specific meal, Phoenix now has lots of choices to scratch that itch. So jump in. Your options are deliciously varied.
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
Ms. Martha’s Caribbean Kitchen
It’s impossible to go wrong at chef-owner Martha Laurencin’s outpost for all things Caribbean (she even offers shelves-full of Caribbean snacks, marinades, and sauces), so the hard part is making decisions. Should you try the turmeric-tinted Jamaican patties? Emphatically, yes. The crunchy, deep-fried wings, bathed in garlicky, hot-sweet Calypso sauce? 100 percent. Nor should you miss beefy, gelatinous oxtail stew or curried goat — both probably the best versions you’ll find in this town. Mop everything up with johnnycakes or festivals and consider your outing a mini vacation to the islands, complete with live Caribbean music on the huge patio on designated weekends.
Ginalyn Halum’s new restaurant is the latest addition to greater Phoenix’s robust-and-growing Filipino food scene. Known primarily for the halo-halo at her ice cream shop, Scooptopia, Halum has pivoted to Filipino barbecue with Flaming Pig. The place lives up to its name, serving pork many beautiful ways: in stewy blood-thick dinuguan, in ampalaya, and, of course, as lechon. Flaming Pig isn’t the only Filipino barbecue in town, but it might be the first where you can grill the skewers yourself in a dine-in restaurant.
Belly Kitchen and Bar
In his 7th Avenue kitchen, chef Michael Babcock of Instrumental Hospitality channels his love for Southeast Asian cooking, building pizza on grilled rice paper, creating a torta-banh mi hybrid, and making sizzling jackfruit fried rice. Cocktails move well beyond the classics, braiding in Thai basil, lemongrass, turmeric, and other popular Southeast Asian ingredients. If you can, grab a table on the tiny rooftop patio overlooking Camelback Road.
Named for Puerto Rico’s noisy mascot, a whistling tree fog, this cramped but cheery restaurant got its start as a food truck in 2017, becoming so popular for its soulful Puerto Rican food that partners Juan Alberto Ayala and Alexis Carbajal moved to brick and mortar this past February. Their menu features flaky empanadillas, garlic-laced mofongo, pastelon (a casserole layered with picadillo, plantains and cheese), and jibarito — mini pork pernil sandwiches tucked between crispy tostones disks. Don’t miss the outstanding alcapurria, a crunchy fried yuca fritter stuffed with picadillo.
Phoenix’s Melrose District is home to one of the most novel Arizona-centric restaurants in town. With blond woods, leather upholstered chairs, and accents that are seemingly 11,000 shades of brown, Valentine sets a mid-century vibe anchored firmly in the 48th state by its art, food, and drink. Lattes are swirled with heirloom squash, chiltepin, pink corn, and other regional ingredients. Desert-centric tinctures like cactus vermouth power cocktails, which bear the signature of co-owner and mixologist Blaise Faber. Much of the rugged-yet-refined food by chef Donald Hawk has seen the smoke or flames of mesquite fire. Breakfast dishes include a churro waffle and steak and eggs; dinner features “elote” pasta and Anasazi bean dip. For dessert, there’s nopales semifreddo.
Testal Mexican Kitchen
Fernando Hernández’s cafe, restaurant, and bar on Grand Avenue does two main things very well: The first is roll Chihuahuan homestyle burritos with robust tortillas wrapped around hearty fillings like carne deshebada, chicharron, and, in the morning, eggs and potatoes. The second is sotol liquor. At a short bar, guests can taste several artisan versions. Testal blends these into a whole menu of cocktails that celebrate Chihuahuan traditions.
Rene Andrade, a native of Nogales, Mexico, is preparing some of the most vibrant Sonoran food in greater Phoenix on a single Santa Maria-style grill fired with three kinds of wood. Most dishes see the hot grates — carne asada, octopus, finfish, half chickens, potatoes, elotes, even pots of plump pinto beans. Andrade is often seen greeting customers as they enter the tiny dining room on Grand Avenue, simultaneously tonging tome-thick steaks and squeezing lime over chiltepin-flecked aguachiles. He approaches caramelos and burritos with the technique and rigor of a veteran chef, yet they remain homestyle. And yes, a limited cocktail menu mixes in plenty of bacanora.
Via Della Slice Shop
Phoenix always had a slice-shaped hole in its well-rounded pizza scene, that is until Tanner Locust’s downtown shop opened in 2021. Locust uses Italian 00 flour and long fermentations to bake pizza with flavorful, bready crust. Pizza comes whole pie, by the grandma-style square, or by the slice. A creamy vodka sauce and a white pie defined by sweet onions and sesame seeds are signature orders. Locust also fries wings and serves a thoughtful selection of local drinks.
The second Pa’La location aims beyond the Italian-leaning sandwiches, bowls, tapas, and fish dishes of the Claudio Urciuoli’s first restaurant. Breads are still masterful. The food is still radically simple, often made with ingredients from esoteric Italian producers and treated minimally or not at all. But now, Urciuoli veers more into pizza, pasta, fregola, and kindred staples. At Pa’La downtown, Jason Alford, who oversees the kitchen, introduces Asian touches that lend a new complexity such as a tart smear of apple-miso below simply seared scallops or a white pizza with poblano peppers and roasted corn touched with togarashi.
First & Last
Tucked away in a high-ceilinged historical building on the southeastern fringes of Roosevelt Row, this streamlined New American restaurant looks fantastic, thanks to a second-floor dining mezzanine set atop a glittering turquoise bar parked in the middle of the restaurant. The menu offers plenty of share plates (many of them vegetable-centric), a handful of pastas and four entrees. If you can’t get a table on the tiny street-front patio, opt for one by the big windows near the bar and begin with an excellent cocktail.
Nearly a year in, this basement restaurant downtown serves, paradoxically, New American food with strong roots in the past. Chef Jose Morales plates Caesar salad, chilled shrimp, and baked brie, yet also gets inventive with dishes like porchetta with redeye gravy and tempura cauliflower with sesame creme fraiche. Cocktails co-star — no surprise given that the owners of Pigtails and the Whining Pig are behind Rough Rider. The drinks lean classic, including a roster of jam-flavored cobblers, channeling the restaurant’s late 19th-century theme.
TJ Culp and Esther Noh of Restaurant Progress opened this French-style bistro and wine bar in a vintage bungalow in Roosevelt Row last fall, and it’s been packed ever since. One draw is the small, farmhouse-chic space equipped with an old-school stereo and plenty of vinyl, another is wine guru Oscar Avila’s 150-bottle global wine list, and a third is the French-inspired menu, which hews to bistro classics such as pate, escargot, steak tartare, and croque-madame. Get there early to snag a seat on the front porch overlooking a verdant lawn.
The Pemberton isn’t a single restaurant but a multi-purpose space, home to some serious food and drink options. On the beverage end, Baby Boy mixes a thoughtful selection of low-key sangrias, frozen blends, and classic cocktails spotlighting offbeat rums and agave spirits. Saint Pasta sauces Jersey-style pasta, some of the top noodles in town, while Baja Fish Tacos & More and Street Cuisine are two other Pemberton favorites.
Kabob Grill N Go
Armenian-style meats and vegetables turned over a charcoal grill are Kabob Grill ‘N Go’s calling card. Loaded metal spits lean in long clusters under a glass display case in Hasmik and Tony Chilingaryan’s shop before getting sizzled and charred. Deeply browned meats and craggily blistered peppers and tomatoes are served over basmati rice in metal tins. Pork ribs are deboned and strung onto kabobs. Whole Cornish hens are broken down and strung up, too. This casual eatery has won a loyal following for its family platters; lunch regulars come for the ground-pork-and-beef koobideh and shirazi salads of cucumber, tomato, red onion, and lime juice. Kabob Grill ‘N Go is open for dine-in or takeout.
The Neighborly Public House
Good-looking and infinitely comfortable, this aptly named watering hole and eatery is the latest of many restaurants and food outlets owned by chef-restaurateur Chris Collins, and so far, it’s his best. There’s a booth-furnished covered patio out front, deep booths in the dining room, and a mammoth square-shaped bar (great for people-watching) with plush stools tailor-made for settling in over happy hour snacks and cocktails or a full-blown dinner. The extensive menu offers crowd-pleasers such as rotisserie chicken, baby back ribs, and French dip, as well as lots of great seafood options, including new-school Oysters Rockefeller and Maryland-style crab cakes (among the city’s best). Save room for custard-y coconut cream pie.
Zinc Bistro alums Charles Barber and Dave Bowman have teamed up for this casual New American restaurant, readily embraced by its North Phoenix neighborhood for its chill atmosphere, great cocktails (Barber’s forte), and elevated yet unpretentious food (Bowman’s beat). Small plates are especially strong here, so consider these delicious possibilities: Brussels sprouts with crispy farro, pickled sultanas, Boursin cheese, and an oozy fried egg on top or wild shrimp, drizzled with basil vinaigrette and set atop an earthy puddle of sunchoke puree with marcona almonds and a cascabel chile crisp for extra crunch. For dessert, there are tart key lime bars adorned with candied lime and crystallized ginger-flecked Chantilly cream.
Christopher’s at the Wrigley Mansion
Last spring, James Beard Award-winning chef Christopher Gross opened Christopher’s at Wrigley Mansion in a stunning all-glass building designed by architect Wendell Brunette and attached to one end of the graceful 90-year-old property built by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley. No matter where you sit, the 180-degree views of the Valley are dazzling, and so is Gross’s French-influenced food. Tuesday and Wednesday nights, he plates the French bistro classics he’s famous for — red pepper soup, ABC foie gras terrine, and Duck 2 Ways — offered on a prix fixe menu for $125 per person (summer hours may expand to Thursday; look for unbelievable wine deals then). But, of course, it’s his multi-course tasting menu on Friday and Saturday nights ($275 per person, $125 extra for wine pairing), that has everybody talking, thanks to rare ingredients, elegant execution, and surprising presentations.
The patio of Jewel’s Bakery & Cafe in Arcadia has morphed into a three-night-a-week taco pop-up. Tru Tacos is headed by Justine and Misael Trujillo. A small menu of tacos and a few sides includes the usual suspects, namely carne asada, lengua, and al pastor carved off a hot trompo. The duo also does a taco that combines al pastor and nopales, as well as one heaped with nothing but slivered cactus pads. They work prickly pear powder into some tortillas, tinting them pink, and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos into others, turning them blood-red. Specials like pozole (from an old family recipe, like many of the tacos) and a poblano-cream taco rotate in. The margaritas are juicy and sneakily drinkable.
Former Talavera chef Samantha Sanz has rejoined the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort’s Element kitchen, bolstering the team led by executive chef and Food Network regular Beau MacMillan. Sanz, a two-time James Beard Award nominee, heads kitchen on a more day-to-day basis. Dishes feature unlikely flavor combinations like soy caramel and escargot, beets and pistachio-mint chimichurri. New American with a focus on high-flying, meat-and-fish-forward entrees, this resort restaurant is a special occasion splurge, from wagyu dumplings to lobster risotto with chanterelles. The swanky Jade Bar, long one of the valley’s best, has gotten a boost with the addition of bartender Christiaan Rollich from Los Angeles’s A.O.C. and Lucques. Elements is open for dine-in.
Santé means “to your health” in French, the perfect toast for a restaurant created for vegetarians, vegans, and people with every imaginable dietary restriction (See: paleo, keto, gluten-free, and low FODMAP). Surprisingly, it all works. The elegant dining room is a far cry from the usual hippie hole-in-the-wall, and each dish is beautifully plated just as one would expect from a high-end restaurant. Naturally, veggies dominate the menu, but steak and other proteins are available, as is a terrific salmon belly crudo with ponzu-dressed slaw. Do not miss for the cast iron skillet shishito cornbread, drenched in melting maple butter, and end with a swirly avocado-chocolate mousse that tastes like chocolate, not avocado.
At My Place Cafe
Flordeliza Obregon opened her first Filipino restaurant in Mesa five years ago, moving to this cheery Chandler storefront last fall, and from the looks of it, she’s gained a slew of new admirers. People wander in all day long for her wonderful home-style cooking, which includes Filipino standards such as crispy lumpia; fat, crunchy empanadas; chicken adobo; and seven different breakfast silogs (your choice of protein, garlic-fried rice, and fried egg), served all day. In the Do-Not-Miss category: pork belly sisig, served on a sizzling cast iron skillet, and buko pandan, a cool silky dessert combining sweetened cream, young coconut, and green gelatin cubes infused with pandan leaves.
Early in 2021, Lee and Thai Kamber opened one of the most freewheeling restaurants in the East Valley. It’s a true mom and pop operation, featuring dishes from Thai’s native Cambodia and Lee’s homeland of Iraq. But they also channel other culinary traditions with joy and zero restraint, shaving gyro meat, baking naan, folding banh xeo. On the Cambodian end of the menu, Thai prepares lok lak — peppered beef salad with thinly sliced tomato, egg, and onion — and salaw machu, a soup tart with tamarind. For dessert, expect options like pistachio baklava and Cambodian snow cones.