I have called Arizona home for 21 years. When I first arrived here, there weren't a lot of gourmet choices for dining. Once upon a time, Phoenix wasn't known for great food. That has changed dramatically today and we have some of the best restaurants in the country. You can find just about any type of cuisine. In fact, despite being in the desert, we have some amazing sushi and seafood, with the fish flown in fresh daily.
If you want to try authentic Mexican food—not the Americanized version and not the so-spicy-you-can't-feel-your-tongue Tex-Mex variety, but authentic Mexican cuisine—there's still plenty of that along with great steakhouses, but Phoenix today has some amazing flavors.
While this isn't a complete list by any means, come along with me as I share a few of my favorite restaurants in Phoenix:
- La Hacienda, a Richard Sandoval restaurant at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is all about modern Mexican cuisine. Don't go here for run-of-the-mill cheese enchiladas and tacos. Instead, savor the flavor of tableside, fresh guacamole, amazing shrimp ceviche, pork carnitas and amazing lobster tacos. Try one of the hundreds of tequilas, my favorite elderflower margarita and save room for churros with chocolate sauce and a flaming coffee (with more tequila) for dessert. La Hacienda is at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in North Scottsdale. Read more about the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess here.
- Kai at Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass is the Valley's only 5-Star, 5-Diamond restaurant. Located on the Gila River Indian Community, Kai serves an experience along with amazing food, much of which is grown locally by the Native Americans. You can eat some of the most amazing food here. They have lobster prepared three ways—a butter soaked tail, a lobster knuckle and a lobster bisque. For your entree, I suggest either the buffalo or the venison. It's truly a meal to remember.
For those who want to experience a little of everything, there are two tasting menus available. Kai is at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass on the Gila River Indian Community in Chandler. Read about my hotel stay at Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass here.
- Sushi Roku offers some of the best sushi in the Valley. Hands down. The restaurant is located in the W Scottsdale and the vibe in the restaurant reflects the eclectic vibe in the hotel. I love the setting, but the food is the real star. For starters, I'd suggest the yellowtail with diced chilies in olive oil and ponzu. Another great app is the sautéed garlic green beans. As far as the sushi, sashimi and rolls—you can't go wrong. I've never tasted anything there I didn't like and it's amazingly fresh. A great way to check out Sushi Roku is during happy hour, which is 4 to 6:30 pm Monday through Saturday and all day Sunday in the bar and lounge. The savings on the sushi during those times is fabulous.
- Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails is a contemporary gastropub located in the Kimpton Hotel Palomar in downtown Phoenix's CityScape. Blue Hound has a fun atmosphere where the custom cocktails pair really well with the food. There are plenty of shared plates at Blue Hound, including the shishito peppers with sesame seed and sriracha aioli or the Hickman's Farm Deviled Eggs. My favorite dishes: short ribs with creamy grits and the Prime Flat Iron with whipped potatoes.
- elements at Sanctuary on Camelback is the restaurant of Food Network star Executive Chef Beau Macmillan. elements offers amazing food that is only rivaled by the equally amazing views of Camelback Mountain. The menu features many meats that are smoked in house and food that is usually fresh, local and organic. My favorites include the Schezwan style short ribs, miso glazed organic salmon and roasted sea bass. For starters, you should order the fire roasted oyster rockefellers. elements is located at Sanctuary on Camelback, tucked away on the north side of Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley.
- J & G Steakhouse at The Phoenician is the brainchild of Michelin-starred Chef Jean-George Vongerichten. J&G is on the top floor of The Phoenician with a modern setting, beautiful patio and great Valley views. I would suggest the tasting menu, which includes tuna tartare, parmesan risotto, sautéed grouper, cartelized beef tenderloin and warm chocolate cake for dessert. If you want an incredible steak, this is the place for you. Read about my stay at Canyon Suites at The Phoenician here.
- Wright's at The Arizona Biltmore is perhaps the most classic of Phoenix restaurants. A visit to Phoenix isn't complete without a visit to The Arizona Biltmore. You can visit the resort, walk the grounds, eat at the restaurants and soak up the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired architecture at this 85-year-old classic. But your visit won't be complete without dinner (or Sunday brunch) at Wright's. The food is classics reimagined. The lobster bisque is one of the best bites you'll find anywhere in Arizona. Possibly anywhere period. The most renowned dish at the restaurant is the Beef Wellington. These are the most perfect tenderloins encased in flaky pastries. Definitely save room for the dessert soufflé. My favorites are chocolate and Grand Marnier. Click here to read about my stay at The Arizona Biltmore.
- The Henry is a member of the Fox Restaurant Concepts family and is truly a neighborhood eatery. I love the vibe at The Henry. Part family restaurant—complete with sofas, library and great gathering spots—as well as part bar and part coffee shop. There's a walk-up bar for to-go coffees and pastries, but I like dining in and enjoying dinner at The Henry. The Branzino is great, but I think the Korean Style Skirt Steak is my favorite. For dessert, order up the Go North coffee drink—espresso, cocoa, cream served neat and cold—which I believe is the single best coffee drink in all of Phoenix. The Henry is on Camelback, just east of 44th Street.
- T. Cook's at Royal Palms Resort & Spa is a very unique restaurant. Royal Palms defines romance and T. Cook's creates amazing romantic dinners. But even if you're not up for romance, you're in for a very special meal here. The food is always fresh and creative. I love the Venison Tartare with juniper and piñons. For the main course, there's really nothing I wouldn't recommend. I love the beef tenderloin and the Colorado lamb, but the house made pappardelle with braised lamb is probably my favorite. Royal Palms Resort & Spa is on Camelback, just a few miles west of Old Town Scottsdale. Read about my stay at Royal Palms Resort & Spa here.
- ZuZu at Hotel Valley Ho is comfort food with a twist. I honestly don't know if I prefer breakfast or dinner at ZuZu. Both are amazing. If you go for breakfast, start with the Ho-J, a frosty orange juice and vanilla bean ice-cream drink. The cheesy grits are simply amazing. For your main dish, the eggs Benedict are the best I've ever had and the red velvet waffles will bring out your inner child. If you go for dinner, I would suggest the braised beef short ribs with creamy grits or the beef stroganoff. For dessert, the vanilla malt is fun but the white chocolate creme brûlée is to die for. Hotel Valley Ho is in Old Town Scottsdale. You can read more about the hotel here. Read my profile of Hotel Valley Ho here.
- Deseo at Westin Kierland Resort & Spa serves up South American-inspired cuisine, specializing in some tasty ceviches. I love to sit at the bar and watch the chefs at work. My favorite dishes are the millionaire tacos, shrimp chicharron and duck confit empanadas. Start with a berry muddle at the bar and you must try the bread. I dream about that bread. Westin Kierland Resort & Spa is located in North Scottsdale/Phoenix. You can read more about dining at deseo here or click here to read about my stay at Westin Kierland Resort & Spa.
- Lon's at The Hermosa Inn serves up one of my favorite Sunday brunches along with amazing dinners. It also has a gorgeous patio that showcases this historic hotel in a quiet residential area of Paradise Valley. If you go for brunch, sample some of the best of Lon's with the “From the Cellar” plate that includes house-made meats, local artisan cheeses, pickles and grilled bread or go for the mesquite honey pancakes. Dinner is amazing at Lon's. I love the Himalayan Salt Seared Ahi Tuna. They serve the tuna on a hot block of salt and you sear it to taste at the table. Fun and delicious. For the main course, you can't go wrong with the steaks. My favorite is the chili rubbed ribeye and I always order the truffle mac. There is a chef's tasting menu that I really must try someday. Click here to read about my stay at The Hermosa Inn.
- Talavera at The Four Seasons Scottsdale is located in the far northern part of the Phoenix suburb in the shadows of Pinacle Peak. The views from Talavera's patio are simply breathtaking and dinner prepared by Chef Samantha Sanz with those views as the backdrop make for one unforgettable evening. This is a Spanish steakhouse that serves up dishes prepared with love. I highly recommend the paella, which is a Chef Sam specialty. While Talavera has changed over the years, you can always count on a great meal with beautiful views.
With so many incredible restaurants, you won't go hungry during your visit to the Valley of the Sun. The hardest part will be deciding which place to eat and how many meals you squeeze into your itinerary. The best food in Phoenix is waiting!