With a spectrum of cuisine that ranges from signature Southwestern dishes to exotic international fare—plus weather that’s perfect for patio dining under the desert sky—Greater Phoenix has all the ingredients to leave diners feeling a warm, after-dinner glow.
Passionate foodies will find cuisine created by James Beard Award-winning chefs, pizza a New York Times critic deemed the “best in America,” and the only Five Star/Five Diamond restaurant on the continent owned and operated by Native Americans.
The highlight of Greater Phoenix cuisine is its Southwestern fare. After first drawing upon the traditions of American Indians, Southwestern cuisine was spiced up by Spanish colonists, Mexican settlers and U.S. pioneers. This international convergence eventually led to the modern Southwestern cooking Phoenicians and visitors have come to know and love.
Aside from the region’s expected mastery of Southwestern cuisine, foodies in Greater Phoenix enjoy a wealth of traditional steakhouses and American fare, as well as international cuisine from Asia, Europe, Japan and Mexico.
Many restaurants in Greater Phoenix offer unique dining experiences, including views of breathtaking sunsets, majestic mountains and serene desert landscapes. Beyond the dining room, back in the galley, several larger-than-life chefs ply their craft:
In 2015, seven chefs from Phoenix were invited to bring a bit of Arizona to the James Beard House. The collection of chefs included including Cullen Campbell (Crudo, Okra Cookhouse & Cocktails), Kelly Fletcher (formerly of House of Tricks), Josh Hebert (Posh Improvisational Cuisine), Scott Holmes (Little Miss BBQ), Stephen Jones (yard bird + the larder), Bernie Kantak (The Gladly, Citizen Public House) and Gio Osso (Virtù Honest Craft).
Chris Bianco brings exquisite Italian flavor to Phoenix with his locally and nationally cherished restaurant, Pizzeria Bianco. Born in the Bronx, Chef Bianco began his culinary career by working in a pizzeria at 13 years old. He has since been named the Best Chef in the Southwest (2003) by the James Beard Foundation.
Douglas Rodriguez, a James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef award winner, is regarded as the inventor of Nuevo Latino cuisine. He has owned restaurants in Philadelphia and Miami and is now the inspiration for deseo restaurant at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, where he is a Signature Chef.
Phoenix’s own Vincent Guerithault is a master of Southwestern cuisine. Famous for applying his classic French technique to the indigenous ingredients of the Southwest, Vincent was named the Best Chef in the Southwest by the James Beard Foundation in 1993. Vincent was the first chef ever to receive a Citation of Excellence from the International Food & Wine Society. Guerithault’s restaurant, Vincent on Camelback, is a Phoenix favorite.
Nobuo Fukuda, winner of the James Beard Foundation’s 2007 Best Chef in the Southwest Award, creates wine-friendly sushi and Japanese tapas at Nobuo at Teeter House in Downtown Phoenix.
Beau MacMillan, the Executive Chef of Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain and its signature restaurant, elements, is a Food Network star who also has served as the personal chef for Wayne Gretzky and cooked for international rock group U2.
These are just a few of the talented chefs plying their trade in Greater Phoenix. Other local restaurants of note include:
Phoenix is filled with amazing Mexican restaurants, but the one deemed best in the city by The Arizona Republic (seven years in a row) is the Barrio Café. Don’t expect burritos and combination plates here. James Beard-nominated Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza specializes in creative regional cuisine from central-southern Mexico, and the bar houses one of Phoenix’s best collections of tequilas and Mexican wines. www.barriocafe.com
Chef Justin Beckett’s restaurant in the Arcadia/ Biltmore area showcases seasonal American cooking. Here, homey classics made with inventive flourishes. Think creamy grits and andouille sausage with mustard jus, pork osso buco confit with summer veggie spaetzle, chicken ‘n’ dumplings, green chile pork stew with cornbread and beckett’s table signature fork tender short ribs. Guests can expect a casual neighborhood restaurant where friends and families gather for a quick supper, a celebratory dinner or maybe just a couple of beers and a snack. beckettstable.com
This upscale steakhouse has classic 1940s décor, and the low lighting and quiet surroundings make table talk easy. The namesake of this iconic restaurant is Jack Durant, whom local legend paints as a gambler, gangster, drinker, and grandpa with a gold heart. Patrons who ask one of the tuxedoed wait staff about Durant may learn that he loved his dogs more than his wives, that his taste in décor was influenced by bordellos, and that one of Phoenix’s most notorious murders was planned in his lounge. These days, that lounge serves what Phoenix locals have deemed the “Best Martini in the Valley.” www.durantsaz.com
Fox Restaurant Concepts
Sam Fox may be one of the biggest names in Arizona and perhaps nationally. James Beard recognized and James Beard nominated restaurateur creates progressive concepts.
Upward Projects creates inspired restaurants that are connected to the communities they serve in Arizona. Beginning 15 years ago with the Valley’s original local WineCafe, Postino Arcadia, owners Craig & Kris DeMarco and Lauren & Wyatt Bailey built a foundation on historically relevant buildings integral to the neighborhoods that surround. Hallmarks include pairing delicious food with local ingredients, boutique beverage programs and a warm, friendly culture that brings everyone together. Concepts include Windsor, four unique Postino locations, Churn, Federal Pizza and two Joyride Taco House locations.
Tarbell's friendly neighborhood atmosphere is defined by light woods, white tablecloths, a bird's-eye maple bar and an exhibition kitchen. Mark Tarbell, the restaurant’s owner, studied in Paris, receiving wine training at the l'Academie du Vin and earning a Grande Diplome d'Etude Culinaire from La Varenne Ecole du Cuisine. Tarbell was the youngest Food and Beverage Director of any Five Diamond property in the world when he went to work for The Boulders resort at the age of 23. Nominated for “Best Chef – Southwest” by the James Beard Foundation in 2001, he has cooked for the Dalai Lama, Muhammad Ali and Clint Eastwood (among others). www.tarbells.com
Terminal 4 at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport
You won’t find any lifeless lettuce or tuckered out taste buds here at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport. Instead, you’ll discover the culinary ingenuity of local independent restaurants spearheaded by James Beard recognized chefs. You can find a taste of the Valley without ever leaving the airport. From slow-roasted, fork-tender pork to goat’s milk-caramel-topped crepes or simple eats at the acclaimed Matt’s Big Breakfast all while waiting for a flight. Let Phoenix’s talented, award-winning chefs create some tantalizing flavors for you, and you might find yourself flying through Sky Harbor International Airport more often.
For additional information about Greater Phoenix restaurants, visit www.visitphoenix.com/restaurants and our blog, The Hot Sheet.