Phoenix isn’t famous for one singular dish or style of cuisine, but its culinary concepts are inventive, diverse and inviting, thanks to the city’s Southwestern hospitality.
There are endless gems for foodies in the Arizona capital—in fact, more than 150 new places to eat and drink opened between March 2020 and February 2021. If you’re looking for the best food in Phoenix, then check out this guide.
Every Day is Taco Tuesday
If I had to choose just one type of food to eat for the rest of my life, it would be tacos. Thankfully, Phoenix has plenty to choose from (soft, hard, street and ‘basket,’ just to name a few).
One thing’s for sure—tacos make a great Phoenix lunch. My favorite place to grab tacos is at Barrio Café. Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza’s creations, which have earned her national acclaim, are known as Las Tlayudas or Oaxacan-style corn tacos. Be sure to also try the cochinita variety (a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork).
And for an unforgettable side, don’t miss the incredible artwork adorning the building and the murals around back, too.
Don’t Miss Weekend Brunch in Phoenix
Who doesn’t love a good brunch? If you’re looking for a traditional American breakfast spot, then I recommend Welcome Diner. It has a retro charm, with vintage diner booths and a Southwest flair. The food is cooked from scratch, which gives all of their dishes that home-fare feeling.
Welcome Diner serves breakfast all day, so you can have pancakes for dinner (I’ve definitely done that a few times). My favorite dish, though, is their biscuits and gravy—the biscuits are cooked to perfection and the sauce is just the right texture of creamy with a heavy dose of sausage. Nothing makes me feel more at home.
Tuck Into Some Soul Food
Phoenix’s soul food scene might be flying right below the national radar, but once you’re here the options are plentiful.
Once again, downtown Phoenix brings the goods. I usually make a beeline for The Larder + The Delta on Portland Street, just west of Central Avenue. This eatery puts food front and center, from the farm-to-table menu to the open kitchen at the heart of the venue where guests can perch to watch culinary theater unfold—my favorite spot to sit.
With Southern-inspired dishes made from the best Southwestern produce, everything on the menu is lip smackingly good. But if I’m ordering, it’s got to be the hoe cakes. An unctuous dish comprising Southern favorites like okra, maque choux (made from locally grown corn) and country ham, it pairs perfectly with a glass of Arizona’s finest chardonnay.
Celebrate Indigenous Cuisine
A puffy, deep-fried dough that’s used as base for other ingredients, fry bread is a Native American staple. There are few places that serve Native American cuisine, which is why Fry Bread House earned “America’s Classics” honors from the James Beard Foundation in 2012. Try the fry bread topped with green chile-laced beef, refried beans and cheese.
And if you want to splurge, try out Kai, which means ‘seed’ in the O’odham language. Located on the Gila River Indian Reservation, at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, this fine-dining experience cultivates distinct interpretations of Native American cuisine, such as beans, seeds, and plants.
Try their signature dish of grilled buffalo tenderloin. Slightly sweeter than beef, buffalo is a lighter meat and it comes with smoked corn purée, cholla cactus buds, a light chile of scarlet runner beans, chorizo, and a drizzle of saguaro blossom syrup.
Splurge on Innovative Cocktails
For a lovely evening out, I recommend checking out the award-winning Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour in downtown Phoenix. Housed in the former Arizona Prohibition Headquarters, the atmosphere has a vintage feel to it. The mixologists are excellent, with an extensive menu that offers classic drinks with unexpected twists. My favorite is the Kaffir Lime CC, with kaffir lime gin and lime cordial (both made in house). It’s refreshing and light.
For those who don’t drink alcohol, this is also the place to be for the best virgin cocktails. In fact, Miss Nightingale, a hibiscus drink, is another reason I love Bitter & Twisted so much.
Calling All Pizza Aficiona-doughs
Ready to have your mind melted with a slice of pizza knowledge? Some of the best pies in the country can be found in Phoenix. Take it from me, there are a lot of exceptional places to choose from, but my go-to is Cibo Urban Pizzeria—an unassuming, 1900s-era bungalow in downtown.
Snag a spot on the patio, order the the Rustica, with mozzarella, prosciutto crudo and arugula, or the Tartufata, with mozzarella, mushrooms, prosciutto and truffle oil, and find out why this restaurant landed at No. 23 on The Daily Meal’s 2020 list of ‘The 101 Best Pizzas in America.’
Indulge in Forbidden Rice
Most visitors don’t expect to find such vast international culinary offerings here — but, don’t forget, this is the nation’s fifth-largest city and it’s home to more than a few global standouts.
For a truly unique bite, I suggest checking out Harumi Sushi, best-known for its signature dish of purple—or forbidden—rice. In ancient times, this rice was revered for its apparent medicinal powers. Because of this, the price tag was so hefty that only the upper class could afford it.
Although the rice is full of antioxidants and fiber, and has less sugar and carbs than traditional rice. But once you taste this taboo grain, the health factor quickly becomes your second priority. Harumi’s menu includes a wide variety of sushi, sashimi, nigiri, and specialty rolls. They also offer udon noodles and salads and have plenty of vegan options.
Cozy Up To A Cup of Local Coffee
Last but not least, whenever I am traveling, I always like to know where the locals go for their coffee. My go-to cafe in downtown Phoenix is Songbird Coffee & Tea House, which is located in a historic home that was built in 1904.
All of the drinks they served at Songbird are locally sourced. Their coffee is from Cortez Coffee Roasters in Tempe, their tea is from Maya Tea in Tucson, and their kombucha is also from the Fermented Tea Company, also in Tucson. Sit inside or enjoy your coffee or tea at any of the benches in their front yard.
Experience All the Food that Phoenix Has to Offer
Whether you’re keeping things budget conscious or are looking to splash out for something special, it’s a great destination for every food lover.