The Phoenix-metro area is a treasure trove of food nowadays. There is something for everyone, whether you are a picky or adventurous eater. In this first volume of short reviews for Phoenix-metro’s restaurants, I highlight some places with amazing atmospheres, fresh desserts, and culinary delights from across the world. If you have to prioritize, here are my top three, and otherwise, check out the full reviews below.
My Top Picks
#1: Wren and Wolf
This upscale eatery has an amazing atmosphere that completely entranced me. I had a full meal here with cocktails, entree, and dessert. I loved everything that I got. This is the perfect place to go for a unique date or celebratory dinner.
#2: Sweet Republic
Sweet Republic is a long-time favorite of mine. They have amazing, fresh ice creams and a variety of ways to enjoy their main attraction including fresh marshmallows, shakes, and light waffle cones. If you are looking for a cool escape in the summer, this is where it is at.
#3: Otro Café
There is a lot of amazing Mexican food in Arizona. I have so many favorite places and haven’t even scratched the surface in terms of what is out there. But Otro Café is one of my favorites. They have their own style to some extent, but everything here is high quality and so delicious. Whether you are looking for brunch or lunch/dinner, they have amazing offerings in what I would consider to be an Arizona-style of Mexican cuisine.
Big Earl’s Greasy Eats
Big Earl’s Greasy Eats is located in the northern Phoenix town of Cave Creek, and it is near a ton of amazing hiking. So, I find that this is a great spot for tasty, post-hiking meals of tasty burgers and other American foods. If you are going to go all out when you visit, pick one of their special burgers or fries, and get a shake to go with it. Big Earl’s is one of my favorite burger places in town, because they are in an exceptional location and their food doesn’t disappoint.
In terms of atmosphere, this little counter service spot is quintessential Americana. They have repurposed an old gas station to serve their needs and kept all the elements of the station that make this spot a fun place to gather and enjoy. Most of the seating is outside, so I would suggest trying to enjoy this spot in the cooler times of the year, or for their breakfast selections.
Big Earl’s is a casual place. It’s got great views of the Cave Creek mountain skyline. And it is also family friendly with a great menu for any picky folks in your group.
6135 E Cave Creek Rd, Cave Creek, AZ 85331
Feeney’s Restaurant and Bar
Feeney’s Restaurant and Bar honestly wasn’t too appealing to me until after I watched a video about Beef Wellington and I was desperate to try it. (But I didn’t want to make any). Luckily for me, Feeney’s came to my rescue. They have Beef Wellington on their menu! And I think their version is pretty darn good as well. In particular, the quality of the steak that they cook and use was very nice, and I think they are a great, local option for steaks.
That all being said, I think Feeney’s is a little dated, and not just in regards to its décor. The veggies and salad at Feeney’s weren’t my favorite. They have a nice salad bar, but they only offer salad with light, crunchy leaves and no dark green options. The veggies that came with my meal were also steamed and pretty flavorless. I think they could really make themselves shine by treating their sides and salads with the same love as their steaks.
In terms of atmosphere, I think Feeney’s feels like a 90s yesteryear. It is dark inside, with paintings on the wall of what I assume to be a city in Italy. Things are nice and clean, but I think after a few decades they could just use a little TLC.
In terms of coming here, plan for an expensive dinner, but everything else will be pretty casual.
6314 N 12th St, Phoenix, AZ 85014
Glai Baan is one of many Thai restaurants in the Phoenix-metro area, but it really does stand out from the crowd. While there are many familiar Thai dishes at Glai Baan, they also feature a smaller, more specialized menu with a few options that I haven’t seen anywhere else. No matter what you get here, the quality of the food will be amazing. Each dish is made with obvious love. Everything that I had, from dumplings to my entrée, was flavorful and colorful. Glai Baan also has a small menu of high-quality cocktails that are really unique and enjoyable.
In conjunction with their high-quality food, Glai Baan also has a very nice atmosphere. Their indoor seating is surrounded by beautiful décor, and the patio is a little oasis. My only complaint about this location is that they have very limited parked. I would suggest attempting to visit during off hours due to this.
2333 E Osborn Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016
Closed Sundays and Mondays
Otro Café became one of our regular spots for tasty food when we lived in the area. They serve what I could consider to be Arizona-Mexican food. Everything that I have gotten there and everything that my friends/family have ordered there has been consistently tasty and high-quality. I love getting their street tacos. All of them have a wonderful combination of flavors and you can try different tacos each time. My favorite of their tacos is the pork belly, although all of them are very good. If you are an iced tea drinker, they also have a really nice tropical iced tea.
In terms of atmosphere, Otro has an inviting, warm interior with beautiful décor that speaks to its Mexican inspiration. It’s not a huge space, but very comfortable. They also have a small back patio for when the weather is nice and you would prefer to eat in the open air.
6035 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85014
When it comes to local ice cream, Sweet Republic is one of my top three spots in Phoenix (the other two being Novel Ice Cream and Snowtime). They have amazing, light flavors that shift a little bit over the year with the seasons. In particular, mint chocolate is always my favorite flavor, no matter where I go. Sweet Republic does mint chocolate chip with actual mint. I love how fresh and refreshing it is. Their waffle cones are also airy and crunchy; a great addition to any scoop.
On top of that, Sweet Republic does homemade cookies and marshmallows, which you can get with your scoop or on its own. In particular, if you like marshmallows, I’d suggest getting a roasted one on top of your ice cream. They will flame it with a brulee torch right in front of you. And these marshmallows are SO fresh and fluffy.
Sweet Republic also does shakes, malts, floats, and more.
6054 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016
Wren and Wolf
Wren and Wolf is fairly new on the scene, but it immediately became a favorite of mine when I visited. Primarily, this is because I absolutely love the atmosphere of this restaurant. Located in Downtown Phoenix (with convenient parking downstairs), the unsurprising theme of the restaurant is wrens and wolves. These are featured in paintings and taxidermy throughout the space. The walls are painted a dark green which is accentuated with warm lighting. The tables are comfortable and they offered varied spaces to relax and visit with friends. This includes a few spots with couches.
On top of the amazing space, Wren and Wolf offers coffee in the morning and dinner in the evening. In terms of the dinner offerings, their cocktails are good and offer a variety of flavors. Their entrees are a bit expensive, but all of them are good and the servers can help guide you to the meal you will enjoy best based on your preferences. Finally, dessert… the thing that impressed me most about Wren and Wolf was their dessert. Everything was a bit upscale and not particularly cheap, but I think this is an amazing place for a celebratory dinner or fancy date night.
2 N Central Ave Suite 101, Phoenix, AZ 85004
Culinary Dropout is, in my opinion, a pretty standard place for modern American fare. Its food is somewhat elevated, and a bit more expensive than your average diner. But their offerings are pretty standard with burgers, sandwiches, salads, and classic entrees. That all being said, I’ve let their menu guide me to what they consider their specialties. I have never been disappointed by their turkey pastrami. Lean turkey meat with coleslaw and a pretzel bun. Yum! I’ve also been a fan of some of their more creative desserts. Although my absolute favorite is no longer available (as of May 2022).
In my opinion the cocktails at Culinary Dropout are a little hit or miss. I love their Evil Jungle Princess. But depending on the crowds and the bartender on duty, I have gotten drinks of varying quality. There are also some cocktails here that I just don’t think are very high quality in terms of presentation and mixing.
In terms of atmosphere, the best thing about Culinary Dropout, particularly at the Yard, is their huge patio. This has made them a go-to for me throughout the COVID pandemic. There is a ton of space there and even in the summer, they keep it nice with shade and misters. But with all the positives, Culinary Dropout has some issues with parking. They have their own lot, but it just isn’t big enough for how many people they can host. And half of the space is dedicated to valet parking. I generally just walked here from where I lived in order to avoid the chaos.
5640 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85014
Mochinut (International franchise)
Until 2022, I had never had the joy of a mochi donut. But as a fan of both mochi and donuts, I was absolutely delighted by the desserts of Mochinut. Their mochi-donuts are soft, appealing to the eye, and every flavor is simple but tasty. In particular, I fell in love with the somewhat savory sesame seed flavor, which I think goes perfectly with hot tea. Mochinut’s flavors also change month to month with a few favorites sticking around for consistency. What is great about mochi-donuts, along with their amazing flavor and slightly chewy/mochi texture, is that they are good for gluten free treats. (Although, please do your own research if you are highly sensitive).
On top of their edible treats, Mochinut also has a great menu of iced, Asian-style teas. These include refreshing teas and my personal favorite – milk teas. Although Mochinut is a franchise, I still think it is a great addition to the Phoenix-metro area. I think they have wonderful treats, with consistent, high-quality. And they might help a few folks looking for gluten-free desserts!
117 E Southern Ave, Tempe, AZ 85282
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