Culinary enthusiasts–or anyone who just likes to eat good and hearty, the Greater Phoenix metropolis an outstanding destination. Whether your quest is nouvelle creativity, Southwestern and Native American influences, farm-fresh sourcing, heart-healthy dining or comfort standards, it’s here in the Sonoran Desert.
During a recent media tour, Visit Phoenix and Visit Mesa kept me well-fed and well-quenched. Here are some of my raves and recommendations:
TRUE FOOD KITCHEN, PHOENIX
Holistic health guru Dr. Andrew Weil wants us all to live longer and healthier, and True Food Kitchen is the place to start. The menu at this bright and busy eatery is based on Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory principles. It features elements of Mediterranean and Asian food cultures along with lots of herbs, spices and vegetables but little red meat. There’s a wide selection of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options, sourced locally and organically whenever possible.
Edamame dumplings with daikon radish and white truffle oil, True Food Kitchen
If you didn’t know ahead of time that True Food Kitchen is a “health food” restaurant, you won’t know it later, either. The entrees, salads and sandwiches are hearty and delicious. They also are lovely to behold. The teriyaki bowl, for example, is an inventive concoction of shiitake, broccoli, carrot, brown rice, quinoa, avocado and sesame. Add tofu, chicken or grass-fed steak if you wish.
I LOVED: Edamame dumplings with daikon radish and white truffle oil, and the house-made chicken sausage pizza with organic tomatoes, roasted fennel and scamorza cheese. (The Kale-Aid smoothie, alas, was a tad too “grassy” for me.)
Biltmore Fashion Park, 2502 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix
RUSCONI’S AMERICAN KITCHEN, PHOENIX
A neighborhood gem, Rusconi’s presents New American cuisine in a chic, contemporary storefront setting. The bar is vibrant, the wine selection vast and the kitchen open for viewing. Award-winning chef and owner Michael Rusconi mingles with his guests and engages them with his stories. For instance, the enormous community table at which we sat was a 13-foot by 5-foot bakery table Rusconi bought at an auction and hauled to his restaurant. Today it easily seats a party of 10.
Rusconi’s American Kitchen, Phoenix. A neighborhood gem, Rusconi’s presents New American cuisine in a chic, contemporary storefront setting. The bar is vibrant, the wine selection vast and the kitchen open for viewing. Award-winning chef and owner Michael Rusconi mingles with his guests and engages them with his stories. For instance, the enormous community table at which we sat was a 13-foot by 5-foot bakery table Rusconi bought at an auction and hauled to his restaurant. Today it easily seats a party of 10.
The menu changes seasonally, although locally sourced ingredients prepared in a wood-burning grill are constants.
I LOVED: Everything. Especially the roasted sea scallops on a bed of vanilla-scented cauliflower puree, and the tenderloin with gnocchi and red wine reduction.
10637 N. Tatum Blvd., Phoenix
JOYRIDE TACO HOUSE, GILBERT
A hip hangout with colorful 1960s décor and neon lights in the vibrant Gilbert Heritage District. The menu is inspired by daily life and cuisine in Mexico and executed with a creative flair. The corn tortillas are made to order, the meats are slow-roasted and the signature salsa is complimentary. Specialty salsas come in two strengths: Kinda Hot and Melt Your Face.
The margaritas are concocted with house sour and spiked with local ingredients like cilantro, serrano, blood orange, cucumber, hibiscus and prickly pear. The tacos, sized to hold in your hand, come in 10 varieties including veggie and chili-braised pork.
I LOVED: The Mexican Street Corn, grilled and dipped in “white magic,” cotija cheese, and then generously dusted with paprika. Slice it off the cob. It’s sweet and tangy at the same time.
302 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert
POSTINO EAST WINE CAFE, GILBERT
A neighborhood bistro in the Gilbert Heritage District, Postino shares an address with its sister restaurant Joyride Taco House. But they are completely different concepts. Postino stars an ever-changing wine list with dozens offered by the glass. The menu of casual but creative fare, made with local ingredients and an Italian influence, also shines.
The bruschetta board, for instance, is an agreeable partner for an afternoon of wine-tasting. Here’s how it works: Choose up to four different bruschetta topping combos, which are served on gluten-free bread. Our choices were brie and apples with fig spread, prosciutto with figs and mascarpone, fresh mozzarella with tomato and basil, and tomato jam with sheep’s milk.
I LOVED: Bruschetta with prosciutto, figs and mascarpone. Also, the Bella Postino, a warm artichoke dip with white bean hummus and assorted breads.
302 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert