Top 5 things I ate in Phoenix, ArizonaWritten on November 28th, 2021 by Jonathan Tsang
Before moving to Phoenix people told me moving there was a mistake. They said I needed a car (which is slightly true), it was a wasteland, and it was too arid for anything to be there. Despite that, I went and enjoyed my time hiking and trying some of the great hispanic and other cultural foods of the area. Here’s my list for best foods in Phoenix Arizona.
- Hola Cabrito (South Mountain)
- Shakes and Cones (Scottsdale)
- Taqueria La Hacienda (Downtown Phoenix)
- Novel Ice Cream (Mesa)
Note: List contains places in both Mesa and Tempe (not strictly Phoenix area) since all three areas do have overlapping areas.
5. Pernil Empanada from Republica Empanada
I was in Mesa for the Dia de los Muertos festival and had to check out two places. (Coincidentally the two places were also featured on Diner’s Drive-ins and Dives with Guy Fieri) One of those was Republic Empanada. (other place was Tacos Chiwas if you were curious)
The chimichurri pairs perfectly since it is oiley, spicy, and tangy to go alongside the fried empanda and the pernil is traditional slow roasted and specially seasoned pulled pork for $4.75.
This place is pretty busy so either order ahead for pickup on the apps or try to go in a non-peak dining time.
4. Carne Asada from El Pollo Supremo
I have a soft spot for local, family-owned, cash-only (even if it inconvenient) restaurants. This is one of them, located right across from the Whole Foods in downtown Tempe near the Arizona State University campus.
I wouldn’t necessarily call this a “student” spot since prices are on the moderate side (they even rose by 8% from my first visit and my last visit to this place, this is in the span of a MONTH)
First visit: (Oct 3)
Second visit: (Oct 29)
They don’t skimp on quantity here. You get some beans, salsa, pickled onions, flour or corn tortillas and a plate full of carne asada. (You can also get chicken or a mix of carne asada and chicken, but I prefer the carne asada) It’s good food, it’s home cooking food, and it’s plentiful for $10.39 if you have a fixing for some carne.
3. Wild Mushroom Enchiladas from Cocina Madrigal
Do not let the fact that the dish is vegetarian scare you off. I was initially unsure, but ALL the reviews mentioned this “wild mushroom enchilada”. Normally, I would never order something like this, but if EVERYONE is saying rave things about it, I had to try it. It did not disappoint. The enchilada plate comes with rice and beans and two of the very filling enchiladas for the “upscale” price of $15. (which by all means is VERY manageable for an upscale meal)
I ordered one birria enchilada and one wild mushroom enchilada and I enjoyed the wild mushroom one a lot. (Birria one was a little dry in my opinion). They even let you mix and match enchilada types for no extra cost.
I felt that the enchiladas were flavourful and the mushrooms had great texture from the blend of three wild mushrooms. (Which I think is just a regular mix of crimini, white button mushroom, portobello… but it tasted good, especially since it isn’t a meat dish) My only gripe is that it is a little rich with the cream fraiche on top of the enchilada sauce and can be a bit heavy if you aren’t expecting something that flavourful from a vegetarian dish.
The story behind “Cocina Madrigal” is Chef Leo Madrigal served as a corporate chef at a few Phoenix restaurants before opening an authentic restaurant in South Mountain Village. From my limited experience in South Mountain Village is a rough area of Phoenix. It’s also a little difficult to get to since it is south of downtown Phoenix.
2. John and Yoko from Super Chunk Bakery
To sum this place up it is an artisan desert shop in Scottsdale for ridiculously low prices. (Insane that it is only $8 for this honeycomb and tres leches cake) My rough translation is this is like “Spot Dessert Bar” from NYC in terms of quality, more local mom-and-pop style, and 30-40% cheaper on every dessert. Scottsdale is even considered an “upscale” area by Phoenix standards, but I think the desserts I tried here are a steal.
I’m mad I didn’t go to this place EVERY week I was in Phoenix. I only found it randomly when walking around the fairly touristy area of Scottsdale. I only got to try the “John and Yoko” tres leches cake and the “Black Heart” which is a strawberry hibiscus mousse filled with Nutella hazelnut praline and lemon sponge. They also have ice cream flavours, cookies, and other pastries that looked really enticing but I could only eat so much dessert in so little time.
This place has no line whenever I go and will make the “John and Yoko” fresh for you. (The honeycomb can tend to get stale if left out)
1. Sliced Brisket Plate at Little Miss BBQ (University)
Something I didn’t expect in Phoenix was good bbq. It pains me to put #1 as a bbq place in Phoenix since I lived in Austin previously and I have high expectations when it comes to bbq. And yet, there is a reason why this place is #1 on my list for Phoenix food.
A $19.50 bbq plate with 2 sides is good on it’s own. Then you find out they really give you closer to 2/3lb of brisket and the sides and meat taste really good? That’s what propels this up the list. Their cheesy grits are good (and I normally hate grits) and their potato salad is stellar too.
They’ll give out samples in line while you’re waiting and their service is always helpful when ordering (clarifying, asking about the menu). Even after the meal, they’ll stop by your table and ask if everything is good with the food. Nothing short of impeccable food and service here.
Their smoked pecan pie although a little pricey, at $6, is a legit pecan pie that I would order every time if I could.
My gripe with the place is that the line for this place is nuts. The locals know it is good, the tourists know it is good, and you have to wait to get a piece of bbq goodness here. You can wait anywhere from 1 hour to 1.5 hours during weekends/lunch times. You do get a slice of sausage or a brisket end sometimes for waiting in the line, but if you show up too late you could be waiting in that 1-1.5 hour range which is pretty disappointing (or even worse if they run out). The payoff in the end is worth it for some delicious brisket, but it’s hard to carve out waiting 1.5 hours EVERY time you go to this place especially if you have a busy schedule.
(The sunnyslope location does pre-orders unlike the university location and is a little less busy as an alternative)
Phoenix has some good food places. Are they sometimes a little hard to find? For sure, but these gems are my go-tos. If I had to only pick one place, Super Chunk Bakery is unique, quality, and cheap desserts in Scottsdale.