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Featured Dining LocationEssence Bakery is located at 825 W. University Drive, in Tempe. For more information, call 480-966-2745 or visit www.essencebakery.com.

© Paul Markow


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For 25 of our favorite places to eat in Arizona, pick up a copy of our 2011 "Best Restaurants" issue, on newsstands now. In the meantime, enjoy our lists of winners from years past.
Best Restaurants 2010
From a small BYOB in Scottsdale that serves something called Death by Elvis to a rustic-but-comfy, pueblo-inspired hideaway in Greer, there's something for everyone in our third-annual collection of the state's best places to fuel up when you hit the road.

by Nikki Buchanan

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It's one thing to know where to go skiing, fishing, hiking, golfing or shopping in our state, quite another to know where to eat, drink and be merry before and afterward. To that end, we've searched high, low and in between to bring you 25 noteworthy Arizona restaurants you'll want to try. A few bring history or longevity to the proverbial table; one is so new the paint's barely dry. Some offer big-city sophistication, while others are cozy mom-and-pops brimming with small-town charm. Our third-annual "Best Restaurants" list offers choices — to dress up or dress down, to splurge or save money, to challenge or comfort yourself. So tuck in that napkin and let's get started.


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AH Best Restaurants


AH Best Restaurants 2014 >>
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Angelina's Italian Kitchen, Lake Havasu City
Don't let the nondescript building or off-the-beaten-path location deter you. Cozy, family run Angelina's offers generously portioned, made-from-scratch specialties from Southern Italy and beyond — lasagna, gnocchi, cheese ravioli, cioppino and veal Parmesan, many of them lavished with cooked-all-day red sauce and accompanied by a basket of house-baked, rosemary-topped bread. Red-checked tablecloths and twinkling lights lend this small, crowded local favorite an air of romance and nostalgia (think Lady and the Tramp sharing spaghetti).
2137 Acoma Boulevard West, 928-680-3868.


Atlas Bistro, Scottsdale
Bringing your own couldn't be easier at this tiny, romantic BYOB, tucked inside AZ Wine Co., the Valley's best wine shop. Buy a bottle in the shop and the corkage fee at Atlas is waived. Chef Josh Riesner (who changes the seasonal, locally focused menu constantly) is sure to prepare something wine-friendly and shockingly good — maybe a pork porterhouse with pumpkin purée, sauerkraut, bacon and maple demiglâce. If Death by Elvis (a ridiculous dessert involving chocolate, peanut butter, bananas and bacon) is available, try it. Or "settle" for sautéed figs with brown butter-almond pound cake and buttermilk panna cotta.
2515 N. Scottsdale Road, 480-990-2433, www.azeats.com/atlasbistro.


Blue Buddha Sushi Lounge, Page
Although Lake Powell is just a stone's throw away, a sushi bar isn't the sort of restaurant that springs readily to mind when you're in Page. But yes, Virginia, it's possible to find ultrafresh sushi in this town, and it's delivered by a jolly fat guy in blue. Just as unlikely, BB sports the trendy good looks of sushi bars in larger cities, which is surely why it's the hangout du jour for Page's twenty-somethings. Elaborate sushi rolls star here, but teriyaki and noodle dishes, a kid's menu and Yum Yum Bombs (tempura-fried Oreos with ice cream) prove that the Buddha loves us all.
644 N. Navajo Drive, 928-645-0007.


Café Cornucopia, Bisbee
Tourists and locals alike love this bustling, cheerful café — considered Bisbee's best lunch spot — for a whole host of reasons, most of them edible. First, there's the freshly baked rolled-oats-and-honey bread (delivered to the table warm and fragrant). Then there's the eclectic selection of homemade soups, hefty sandwiches and quiches, including the much-loved Hatch green chile-and-cheddar. Although regulars wax rhapsodic about house-baked raspberry scones and lemon bars, the tart-sweet treat that puts this mining town gem on the map is fresh-squeezed lemonade infused with fruits of the season — peach, strawberry or maybe tangerine.
14 Main Street, 520-432-4820.


Café Poca Cosa, Tucson
Chef-owner Suzana Davila moved her legendary restaurant to sleek and sexy new digs a few years ago, but the venue change hasn't changed the high priestess of alta cucina Mexicana one whit. She's still dishing out her own delicious version of gourmet Mexican food (no burritos in sight) listed on a portable chalkboard changed twice daily. Outpacing the regional Mexican trend by 20 years, Davila doesn't hesitate to use obscure chiles or to add yet another exotic molé to her prodigious repertoire (30 and counting). If you don't know pollo chilindron from pastel de elote, just close your eyes and point, saving room for cinnamon-sparked Mexican chocolate mousse.
110 E. Pennington Street, 520-622-6400, www.cafepocacosatucson.com.


Cucina Rustica, Sedona
If it weren't for the telltale Red Rocks nearby, Cucina Rustica could pass for an elegant villa on the Mediterranean. Trickling fountains, rustic doors, gilt-framed pictures, glowing sconces and a massive hearth create Old World ambience counterbalanced by a modern, Southwestern-edged menu drawing heavily from both Italy and America. Grilled artichoke with lemon pesto aioli, rigatoni tossed with chicken and mushrooms in chipotle cream sauce and grilled pork tenderloin, served with red onion confit and roasted potatoes, are a few luscious possibilities. And the wine selection is impressive too, which is why Wine Spectator gave the restaurant an Award of Excellence in 2007.
Tequa Plaza, 7000 State Route 179, Suite 126A, 928-284-3010, www.cucinarustica.com.


Cuveé 928, Flagstaff
When you're in the mood to relax and watch the world go by, there's no better place in Flagstaff than Cuveé 928, a handsome wine bar sporting picture windows and a patio, both overlooking Heritage Square. Of course, paying close attention to anything beyond the expertly crafted food and drink is easier said than done — considering an urbane collection of panini and small plates, as well as an affordable wine list (25 global selections by the glass and bottle, as well as a handful of flights). Imagine melon, fennel and duck prosciutto salad or brisket panini with caramelized onion and blue cheese. Then imagine caring about much of anything else.
6 E. Aspen Avenue, Suite 110, 928-214-9463, www.cuvee928winebar.com.


Enzo's Ristorante Italiano, Snowflake

Take your own beer or wine to Enzo DiMartino's snug, eight-table restaurant, where tablecloths, warm colors and Italian background music create a welcoming, upscale ambience. Although the menu features Neapolitan-style pizza, north- country customers usually prefer sophisticated offerings such as fettuccine Alfredo, shrimp fra diavolo, penne arrabiata and pesto chicken — sauces, breads and most everything else made from scratch. The place opens at 4 p.m. and closes at 8:30 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays, so plan ahead, knowing the philosophy is first come, first served.
50 East 1st Street N., 928-243-0450.


Essence Bakery Café, Tempe

Unlike Kermit, chef-owner Eugenia Theodosopoulos finds it easy being green at her cute, green-designed café, where she makes elegant breakfasts using house-baked breads, free-trade organic coffee (locally roasted, of course) and the eggs of cage-free, vegetarian-fed chickens. Lunch selections feature grass-fed beef, free-range chicken and local, organic produce, all of it featured on recycled paper menus. But don't think for a minute that virtue trumps taste. This École Lenôtre-trained chef, who deftly incorporates the Greek specialties of her childhood, knows a thing or two about decadence — as her French pastries and incredible macarons (almond-meringue sandwich cookies) deliciously prove.
825 W. University Drive, 480-966-2745, www.essencebakery.com.

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DiningWhether you find yourself famished in Flagstaff or starved in Sonoita, there are many great spots to find a bite in Arizona... [more

Weekend GetawaysCheck out Weekend Getaways around the state. ... [more]

Events CalendarEscape, experience and explore Arizona, one event at a time... [more]

 

LodgingNo matter where you travel in Arizona, you'll find lodging that ranges from rustic to ritzy, along with everything in between... [more]

External LinksFor more information about great places to visit in Arizona, view our list of links to external resources, from Native American arts to parks and national forests... [more]

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