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Mark Tarbell


Mark Tarbell’s eponymous restaurant is sleek and airy, punctuated by colorful, modern artworks. The menu? American—grilled salmon, pan-roasted chicken, seared pepper steak—tempered with a French technique. It has become a Phoenix classic, but it’s still current enough to attract the city’s movers and shakers, as well as a fair share of celebs like Clint Eastwood, Sammy Hagar and Muhammad Ali.

Yet when Tarbell took the leap of faith to open his own restaurant in 1994, his only thought was to be the third-best restaurant in Arizona. “Why? Because the first- and second-best restaurants kept closing,” he recalls. “I wanted to have a great restaurant that stayed open.”

That plan reveals Tarbell’s deep-seated Yankee practicality. Born in New Hampshire, Tarbell became interested in food, he says, because he was always hungry and taught himself to cook. After high school he apprenticed in an Amsterdam hotel kitchen, then got into La Varenne, the Parisian cooking academy, as well as l’Academie du Vin, where he learned about wine.

Returning stateside in 1984, he got a job as a sous chef in Boston, with a long-range plan to open his own place. To get front-of-the-house experience, he signed on as a manager of a Utah ski resort’s fine-dining restaurant, then spent eight years as the food and beverage director at The Boulders in Carefree.

Since launching Tarbell’s, he has won numerous awards and accolades, including a James Beard Award nomination and a win on Food Network’s Iron Chef America. Tarbell, also an accomplished wine columnist, recently opened The Tavern, a next-door, “bruschetta-free” wine bar, as well as The Wine Store, which offers wine, beer and local foods.

“We honor where we came from,” says Tarbell reflecting on more than two decades of restaurant success, “but we always stay relevant.”


What do you always have in your refrigerator?

Eggs, butter, cheese, wine, beer, Champagne and lots of projects I’m working on, such as hot sauces, pickles and preserves.

What is your favorite high-end restaurant?

Vincent on Camelback

Vincent on Camelback


What is your favorite ethnic food restaurant?

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

Where do you go for breakfast?

Matt’s Big Breakfast

Who has the best wine list?

Posh or Cowboy Ciao

What restaurant has the best ambiance?

For views, elements at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain.

elements at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain 600x400


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

Wow—the omakase menu at Nobuo at Teeter House.

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

To my house, where I cook!

Who has the best late-night dining?

Delux, for burgers.

What is the best restaurant for a date?

Poolside at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain, with a cocktail in hand and a side of fries.

What is your favorite lunch spot?

Flower Child

Flower Child 600x400

Photo via Facebook

Where do you go for cocktails/happy hour?

Crudo has the best cocktails in town!

What restaurant typifies the ultimate Greater Phoenix dining experience?



You can find Mark at:

Tarbell’s — 3213 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, (602) 955-8100
The Tavern — 3205 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, (602) 955-7730


See the other chefs in this series: Justin Beckett, Nobuo Fukuda and Silvana Salcido Esparza.

By Nora Burba Trulsson. Originally printed in the 2015 Phoenix Official Travel Guide, published by Madden Media.