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Featured Dining LocationLike the plate of hot steak and potato above imply, Rod's Steak House in Williams is all about the beef that has tantalized customers since 1946.

© Paul Markow


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Best Restaurants 2011
In places like Phoenix and Tucson, it's pretty easy to find a good restaurant. But where do you go when you're in Wikieup or Snowflake or Camp Verde? You could pack a lunch or eat fast food, but there are so many other options, including the 25 locally owned eateries in our fourth-annual "best restaurants" issue. There are plenty of others, of course, but this should fill you up for a while.

by Nikki Buchanan

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We hope you're hungry, and we hope you have plenty of gas in the car, because after you've read our fourth-annual "best restaurants" issue (a roundup of 25 great places to relax over breakfast, grab a snack, have a frilly girls' lunch, enjoy a fancy dinner or just wolf down a hot dog), you're going to want to hop in your buggy and eat your way around the state. Just like Arizona, our list is diverse, offering a bit of history here, a dash of family friendliness there, all served up in one delicious melting pot. Dig in, and drive carefully.


Matt's Big Breakfast, Phoenix
Now that Guy Fieri has featured this tiny downtown breakfast-and-lunch spot on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, it's more crowded than ever. Get there at the crack of dawn — particularly on weekend mornings — or expect to wait in line for like-Mom's-only-better omelets, pancakes, rosemary-flecked home fries and crispy hash browns, which are easily the best in town. Owner Matt Pool sources great Arizona ingredients: bacon from The Pork Shop, bread from MJ, jams from Cotton Country and coffee from C4, deliciously proving morning after morning that eating local leaves a good taste in your mouth.
801 N. First Street, 602-254-1074, www.mattsbigbreakfast.com.
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AH Best Restaurants


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Noca, Phoenix
There's no grass growing under the feet of owner Eliot Wexler or executive chef Chris Curtiss, who create dozens of delicious reasons to visit this comfy but classy neighborhood restaurant on a weekly — if not daily — basis. Besides their drool-inducing, California-inspired regular menu (seasonal and constantly tweaked), this creative pair offers three-course Sunday Simple Suppers, daily specials such as Wednesday's legendary lobster roll and exciting collaborative dinners with other high-profile chefs and restaurateurs. Factor in imaginative cocktails, complementary cotton candy and Wexler's charming ministrations, and it's easy to see why the direction to head is invariably Noca — shorthand for "north of Camelback."
3118 E. Camelback Road, 602-956-6622, www.restaurantnoca.com.


River City Grill, Yuma
It's been said that this hip but tiny restaurant, housed in a 90-year-old building and featured in Architectural Digest, puts the yum in Yuma. Well said. The menu, which manages some serious globe-hopping, offers everything from Vietnamese spring rolls and Jamaican jerked chicken to seafood gumbo and wild salmon with raspberry chipotle sauce. "Low in fat, rich in flavor," that's the mantra here, where regulars who prefer more breathing room head for one of two spacious, maturely landscaped patios.
600 W. Third Street, 928-782-7988, www.rivercitygrillyuma.com.


Rod's Steak House, Williams
The iconic neon sign and steer-shaped menu have been integral parts of the Rod's experience since Rodney and Helen Graves opened this Historic Route 66 fixture back in 1946. Nearly 40 years later, Graves sold the place to longtime employee Lawrence Sanchez, who'd been everything from busboy and dishwasher to head chef and manager in his 25-year tenure there. When Sanchez and his wife, Stella, took over, they had the good sense to stick with a winning formula, offering the same dandy steaks, prime rib, beef liver and fried chicken that have kept locals and Grand Canyon tourists well-fed for more than 50 years.
301 E. Route 66, 928-635-2671, www.rods-steakhouse.com.
Rooster's Café & Coffee, Prescott
With its wraparound porch, cheery yellow walls and bright-red accents, this immaculately kept café, housed in a historic cottage, is the sort of place morning lovers tend to crow about — as much for its eye-opening cappuccino and al fresco dining as for its full-blown breakfasts. If you've polished off house-made corned beef hash or the best biscuits and gravy in Prescott, you may not have room for apple-cream cheese bars, cranberry scones or chocolate-almond cake (made by the restaurant's pastry chef or the Italian proprietress herself), but you'd be a cluck to miss them. So come back for lunch, a bowl of fire-roasted red-pepper-and-tomato soup and then the goodies.
333 S. Montezuma Street, 928-778-1440.


Screaming Banshee Pizza, Bisbee
Screaming for ice cream is so last millennium. These days, Bisbee locals and visitors clamor for thin-crust, wood-fired pizza, dished up by the passionate proprietors at Screaming Banshee. Housed in a converted gas station, this funky, color-drenched parlor oozes indie cool, thanks to local art, found art, local organic ingredients, local brews, fruity Sangria and background music that's eclectic to say the least. Never mind that cheese, bread and antipasto plates are both generous enough and good enough to make a light meal. No one forgoes the pizza.
200 Tombstone Canyon Road, 520-432-1300, www.screamingbansheepizza.com.


Simon's Hot Dogs, Sedona
Hot dogs are the next big thing, a trend wiener-wizard Felipe Roldan sniffed out months ago. From his tiny stand inside Oak Creek Brewery Co., he turns out a handful of oddball but effective combos that go spectacularly well with OCB's craft beer. Simon's tucks all-beef dogs (brats and veggie versions are also available) inside freshly baked buns, then loads them up with ingredients such as pineapple, crushed potato chips and mozzarella (named the Colombian) or grilled onion, wasabi mayo and toasted sushi nori (dubbed Tokyo Madness). All of them seem to taste even better on the shady patio.
2050 Yavapai Drive, 928-496-0266, www.simon-hot-dogs.com.


Tavolino Ristorante, Tucson

When it moved to roomier digs last spring, this neighborhood trattoria took on a more elegant vibe, boasting dark wood floors, high-backed booths, a private dining room and a chef's table near the kitchen. Lucky for Tavolino's legions of fans, chef-owner Massimo Tenino offers the same salumi, wood-fired pizzas, house-made pastas, Tuscan-style rotisseried meats and boutique wines that made a bigger location necessary in the first place. You get a bang for your buck here, especially at lunch, when inspired $7 paninis blow similarly priced fast-food options right out of the water.
2890 E. Skyline Drive, 520-531-1913, www.tavolinoristorante.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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