Phoenix Dining

Like its mythical namesake, Phoenix is rising out of the desert and making a name for itself for its culinary offerings. The restaurant scene has taken off in a short period of time, helping to draw tourists and snowbirds to the city and its suburbs, including Tempe (home of Arizona State University) and Scottsdale (the wealthiest area of Phoenix, location of the Ritz-Carlton hotel, the Biltmore, the Royal Palms and more). There are several culinary schools in Phoenix, as well, including a branch of Le Cordon Bleu. Suffice it to say, Phoenix takes its food very seriously. Dishes from just about every country are represented, and represented well, in Phoenix. Whether it be a beer and brats with the college crowd, or a chef's selection multi-course dinner at a four-star restaurant, you're in for a treat.

Below are some of Phoenix's most raved-about and popular restaurants, sure to please every palate. Some are casual but iconic representations of the laid-back attitude of the Southwest; and others are virtual transplants from the grandest avenues of Europe. Both ends of the spectrum are not to be missed!

MIDDLE OF THE ROAD:
Aiello's
Located at 202 Central Avenue, this center-of-the-city Italian staple is a family-run Italian eatery which opened in 2007. Although it's somewhat quaint in appearance, the proprietors know a thing or two about authentic Italian food. Joe and Myrah Aiello hail from New York, having brought the ambiance, recipes and attitude of New York with them to the heart of the desert. Best bets include Eggplant Rollatini (floured and fried rolls of eggplant filled with mozzarella, ricotta and Romano cheeses and topped with a sublime tomato sauce); Tre Colore Salad (arugula, endive, and radicchio with shaved parmesan and lemon juice/olive oil); Spaghetti alla Puttanesca (with both pitted and un-pitted olives, capers and anchovies); and Chicken Fiorentina (sautéed chicken breast with wilted spinach, Fontina cheese, and panna sauce). This is a great place to bring a large group of friends, have a few bottles of wine, play the "tombolo" and revel in abandon.

HIGH-END:
Cartwright's Sonoran Ranch House
No one can say they've stayed in Phoenix until they've eaten at this Southwest-style restaurant. At 6710 E. Cave Creek Road in Cave Creek, Cartwright's trots the globe with eclectic Southwest takes on Mediterranean, European and Asian dishes. If you want to stay close to "home" on the culinary spectrum, the Apple Chipotle Barbeque Chicken Breast, served with spinach, fried garlic and caramelized onion fries, is to die for. Or try the Beef, Elk and Buffalo Meat Loaf, served with country gravy, mashed potatoes, French green beans and carrots. An Asian-style specialty is Wok-Seared Salmon with Asian spices, stir-fried veggies, ginger jasmine rice, seaweed salad and miso/wasabi/tamari sauce. You can choose your protein (fish, beef, game, poultry) for the Pan-Roasted (take your pic) with Spanish artichokes, leeks, garlic, tomatoes and spinach and angel-hair pasta.

CASUAL-CHIC:
Acacia Cafe
This is the place to come to escape from the daily grind. Located at 3701 East Indian School Road, Acacia Cafe is a casual cafe, bakery and coffee shop serving artisan breads and fresh pastries, deli sandwiches, scrambles, paninis and salads. Ohhh, and the coffee...reason enough to check out this Phoenix fave. Be sure to try the Nicoise Salad (albacore tuna, black olives, green beans on a bed of fresh greens and served with champagne vinaigrette); or the South by Southwest Breakfast Burrito (scrambled eggs, cheese, roasted veggies, chorizo and salsa).