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Featured Dining LocationValerie's Sugar Brook Bakery & Café is located at 1695 Mesquite Avenue, in Lake Havasu City. For more information, call 928-855-2253 or visit sugarbrookbakery.com.

© Ryan B. Stevenson

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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 2009
Here's the thing about human beings: Sooner or later, every single one of them has to eat. Even supermodels and kids named Mikey. With that in mind, we present our second-annual "Best Restaurants in Arizona" issue, straight from the mouth of the state's most-respected food critic.

by Nikki Buchanan

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From the big lake in the north to the grasslands of Sonoita in the south, we've combed the state in search of Arizona's best restaurants. Why? Because we know that tramping around, taking photos and buying trinkets tends to make people hungry. Some of the restaurants on this list are classics, beloved by their communities for decades, while others are newcomers, destined for long-lived success. Some are upscale. Some are down-home. We hope you'll appreciate them for precisely what they offer — whether it's charming décor, great food, friendly service, gorgeous views or maybe a piece of Arizona history. Each, in its own way, is noteworthy. So, buckle your seat belt. We promise a delicious trip.

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AH Best Restaurants

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Valerie's Sugar Brook Bakery & Café, Lake Havasu
Before she opened her dramatically decorated, upscale bakery-café, Valerie Howard-Goldney repeated this mantra, "If I bake it, they will come." And she was right. Everyone's crazy about her fancy breakfasts, lunchtime sandwiches on fresh-baked breads, house-made jams and syrups and incredible selection of sweets — including pastries, muffins, brownies, cookies, pies, cakes and the most adorable cupcakes you've ever seen. Nowadays, Valerie offers Friday and Saturday night dinners (the menu changes weekly), while making amazing one-of-a-kind cakes for her catering business. But does she ever sleep?
1695 Mesquite Avenue, Suite 106-107, 928-855-2253 or sugarbrookbakery.com.

Fiesta Mexicana Family, Page
Customers who visit this pretty, papaya-colored restaurant cluttered with crafts from Mexico often want to buy what they see, but the only items for sale are the terrific margaritas (watch out for The Baby-Maker) and generously portioned, made-from-scratch Mexican specialties. The Flaming Fiesta Combo — a sizzling Tex-Mex assemblage of carne asada, pollo asada and shrimp, brought to the table in flames — is a showstopper, but don't miss more authentic selections such as steak Tampiqueña (topped with grilled shrimp, onions, peppers and cheese) or mojarra rellena (tilapia smothered in seafood sauce).
125 S. Lake Powell Boulevard, 928-645-4082.

Gerardo's Italian Bistro, Payson
Gerardo Moceri, who apprenticed in Venice and worked in restaurants all over Italy, brings the real deal to Rim Country, buying organic pasta, using fresh herbs from his garden and making his own mozzarella, breads and desserts each day. From the wood-burning oven come wonderful pizzas and baked pastas such as bacon-studded ziti mac & cheese. His legendary calamari, Florentine bistecca and butternut squash ravioli are all the more delicious for the cozy, family oriented environment he and his own hard-working family have created.
512 Beeline Highway, 928-468-6500.

Barrio Café, Phoenix
Chef-owner Silvana Salcido Esparza explodes the myth that Mexican food is a bland assemblage of carbohydrates and cheese, taking her customers on a culinary tour of southern Mexico that invariably leaves them breathless — or would that be the potent margaritas? Succulent, achiote-rubbed pork roast, pomegranate seed-studded guacamole, dreamy chiles en nogada and cajeta-filled churros are the not-to-be-missed signatures. Meanwhile, Barrio's edgy local artwork and wildly decorated bathrooms, rife with Mexican kitsch, are always conversation starters, and the Mexican wine list is the best in the state.
2814 N. 16th Street, 602-636-0240 or barriocafe.com.
Brickman's Grill, Pinetop
Show up in tennis shoes or a tux — it's all the same to Bob and Vicki Brickman, who label their friendly operation "casual fine dining." Factor in the NASCAR memorabilia and comprehensive wine list, and that sounds about right. An eclectic but ultimately American menu offers everything from coconut shrimp to chicken Marsala, the specialties being steak and seafood, including rainbow trout, Alaskan king crab legs and broiled lobster tail. Cozy up to the fireplace in cold weather; head for the patio come summer.
1450 E. White Mountain Boulevard, 928-367-7400 or brickmansgrill.com.
Firehouse Kitchen, Prescott
"Comfort" is the operative word at the Firehouse, where butterscotch and burnt sienna-colored walls are hung with vintage food and beverage posters, and seating runs to high-backed upholstered banquettes or plush, black leather Parsons chairs. The menu is a medley of American mom classics — meatloaf, pot roast, pork chops, barbecued chicken, brisket, cream-enriched mashed potatoes and gooey mac & cheese. Clean your plate and maybe you can have s'mores or homemade apple pie à la mode.
218 W. Goodwin Street, 928-776-4566.
Rancho Pinot, Scottsdale
Foodies flock to this cowboy-chic venue, decorated with Western memorabilia, for dozens of reasons — first and foremost, chef-owner Chrysa Robertson's sophisticated version of American comfort food, inspired by her Italian family and informed by her passion for local, seasonal, organic ingredients. A master of the mesquite grill, she works wonders with quail, duck and chicken, makes ravishingly simple salads and bakes up homey, satisfying desserts such as ginger cake with honey-roasted local pears and house-made ice cream. Partner Tom Kaufman, who maintains an impressive cellar of boutique wines and hard-to-find vintages, charms the room with his wine lore and down-to-earth approach.
6208 N. Scottsdale Road, 480-367-8030 or ranchopinot.com.
Elote Café, Sedona
Nearly two years ago, Jeff Smedstad said "adios" to Scottsdale and moved to Sedona, where he dishes out the extraordinarily good regional Mexican food that earned him such acclaim in the Valley of the Sun. His market-inspired menu features fire-roasted corn kernels tossed with spicy mayo, lime and cotija cheese (the elote for which the restaurant is named), braised lamb shank smothered in earthy ancho chile sauce and sweet, griddled corn cake with cajeta and vanilla ice cream. His second-floor digs allude to the colorful cantinas of Mexico, while the spacious open-air deck affords gorgeous views of the red rocks.
771 Highway 179 (Kings Ransom Sedona Hotel), 928-203-0105 or elotecafe.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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