Chefs' Picks

Some of Phoenix's favorite local chefs dish on their favorite lunch spot, most memorable meals, the city's best-kept secrets and more.


This might surprise you: Chefs have a personal life outside their restaurants. They have favorite places to grab a late-night bite after work, they have go-to spots to wine and dine out-of-town friends, and they have strong opinions on who serves up the best Mexican food. In short, ask a Greater Phoenix chef about local restaurants, and you’ll get an insider’s dining guide to the metro area.

Here are four noted chefs who are deeply enmeshed in the local dining scene and their recommendations.

Silvana Salcido Esparza

The four-time James Beard Award-nominee, known for her exploration of regional Mexican cuisines, is the owner and chef at Barrio Cafe and Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva.

Mark Tarbell

The James Beard Award-nominated chef and Food Network's Iron Chef America winner is the owner and chef of Tarbell's

Nobuo Fukuda

The James Beard Award-winning chef serves a relaxed, izakaya-style menu, in addition to creative omakase at Nobuo at Teeter House.

Justin Beckett

Chef Beckett creates seasonal American fare at Beckett's Table and dishes inspired by the South at Southern Rail


Where do you go for breakfast?

Silvana: Matt’s Big Breakfast. I like everything, but I love their potatoes!

Justin: Essence Bakery

Mark: Matt’s Big Breakfast

What is your favorite lunch spot?

Justin: Pane Bianco for great sandwiches.

Nobuo: I like the dumplings at Lucky’s King Wah, a Chinese restaurant.

Mark: Flower Child

What restaurant has the best ambiance?

Silvana: Any Mexican restaurant on the west side on a Saturday night. They’re packed. People are dancing to bandas. It’s like walking into Mexico.

Justin: The Parlor Pizzeria. The interior of the mid-century building is beautiful.

Nobuo: Quiessence at The Farm at South Mountain. You’re in the middle of a farm, and you forget the city.

Mark: For views, elements at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain.


Dining in a beautiful garden tonight <3 #farmtotable

A post shared by Jenna Emily (@jbeanaleen) on


When guests come to visit, where do you take them?

Justin: We go to Richardson’s, Dick’s Hideaway and The Parlor Pizzeria.

Nobuo: Binkley’s

Mark: To my house, where I cook!

What local chef do you admire and why?

Silvana: Chris Bianco because he’s true to his craft. Christopher Gross because of his longevity and tenacity.

Justin: Josh Hebert of Posh (Note: Posh is now closed) for trying a concept that was nonexistent, and Kevin Binkley for sticking to his guns.

What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten locally?

Silvana: Tacos from Taqueria Los Yaquis, a food truck.

Mark: Wow—the omakase menu at Nobuo at Teeter House.


First course of the #omakase at @nobuo_teeterhouse was almost too pretty to eat! #bestofphoenix

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What is your favorite ethnic food restaurant?

Justin: Cafe Lalibela, an Ethiopian restaurant. It’s all about stewed flavors, and you get to eat with your hands.

Nobuo: Pho 43 Express, for Vietnamese food.

Mark: I like Mexican places like La Salsita, Los Reyes de la Torta, Mariscos Playa Hermosa, El Norteño and so many more.

What restaurant typifies Southwest cuisine?

Silvana: Kai at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass

Nobuo: Richardson’s or Los Dos Molinos

Who has the best late-night dining?

Silvana: Delux

Justin: Delux or The Clever Koi.

Nobuo: Cafe Ga Hyang, a Korean restaurant that’s open until 2 a.m.

Mark: Delux, for burgers.


Hun-gry. 😛 #deluxe #deluxburger #bestburgers #bestburgerinphoenix. #zagat #nimanranch

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What is the best family-friendly restaurant?

Silvana: Pepe’s Taco Villa. It’s economical, they have great menudo, and it can feed a few carfuls of Salcidos.

Justin: Oregano’s is definitely a favorite with our kids. They get to play with dough there. We also like Federal Pizza.

Nobuo: We’ve been going to a Vietnamese restaurant called Da Vang with our kids for years. It has healthy, delicious and interesting food.

Where do you go for Mexican food?

Silvana: Los Reyes de la Torta 

Nobuo: I like Silvana's Barrio Café.

What restaurant do you frequent most often and why?

Justin: The Parlor Pizzeria for its ambiance, food and decent menu after 10 p.m.

Nobuo: Pho 43 Express. It’s like they serve comfort food for me, with the mix of herbs and spices.

What is your favorite high-end restaurant?

Justin: Quiessence at The Farm at South Mountain

Mark: Vincent on Camelback

What would you say is the Greater Phoenix area’s best-kept dining secret?

Sillvana: The west side. It has serious potential. It’s not trendy, and it’s ethnically diverse. This is the next place where Phoenix will flourish.

Justin: Tortas El Guero. I could eat two or three of their cochinita pibil tortas.


Content is edited from a piece written by Nora Burba Trulsson. Originally printed in the 2015 Phoenix Official Travel Guide, published by Madden Media.

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