Best Restaurants 2014

Our annual look at the best restaurants in Arizona. By Nikki Buchanan Photographs by Paul Markow

  • Brown Mug Café

    Winslow

    Decorated with sombreros, pictures of bullfighters and chile lights, this comfy hole-in-the-wall looks like it’s been around forever, and, in a way, it has — certainly long enough for owner Josephine Perez (who ran the place with her mother, Lucy Ono, some 50 years ago) to lose all track of the café’s opening date. But who really cares, given that Ono’s handed-down recipes for tacos, enchiladas, burros, Navajo tacos and sopapillas — not to mention the café itself, complete with an anachronistic pay phone — seem utterly timeless? One of the café’s claims to fame is that Harrison Ford ate there, a good thing to remember the next time you happen to be standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. Established: 1958 (approximate) Cuisine: Mexican/American Chef: Martin Vargas Price: $-$$ Open: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday Information: 308 E. Second Street, Winslow, 928-289-9973 (pay phone)

  • Da Boyz Italian Cuisine

    Yuma

    The name may conjure “Snooki” and the muscle-bound cast of Jersey Shore, but Da Boyz, a pizza-and-pasta restaurant with two locations, is strictly first class all the way. The “Joisey” reference is actually to Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack, whose photos, and those of other ’50s and ’60s icons, line the walls of the downtown location, which offers three private dining rooms: Da Rat Pack, Da Elvis and Da Marilyn (Monroe). But you don’t have to be a stuck-in-time celebrity worshipper to appreciate this nostalgic spot, specializing in gourmet pies, hefty sandwiches, build-your-own calzones and wildly popular lasagna. You just have to appreciate great Italian food at great prices, which is why “Da Boyz in Blue” and local firefighters keep this one in their regular rotation. Established: 2010 (downtown) Cuisine: Pizza/sandwiches/Italian Chef: Robert Molina (downtown)

    Price: $-$$ Open: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday Information: 284 S. Main Street, Yuma, 928-783-8383, www.daboyzyuma.com

  • El Palacio

    Kingman

    Twenty years ago, Gilbert Correa started out as a busboy at El Palacio, housed in a 100-year-old building sporting a 100-year-old bar. Now he owns the atmospheric old place, famous for its margaritas, salsas, homemade tamales and, of course, the El Bandido burrito — a 28-inch colossus enfolding cubed sirloin, chicken tenders, a tamale, a chile relleno, rice, beans, onions, avocados and tomatoes. Glazed with cheese and smothered in chile colorado and chile verde (the red-and-green-sauce combo known as “Christmas” in New Mexico), the thing feeds four hungry people (would that be equivalent to two firefighters?) for $31, which means customers eat like a king at the palace. Established: 1993 (approximate) Cuisine: Mexican Chef: Mario Perez Price: $-$$ Open: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily Information: 401 E. Andy Devine Avenue, Kingman, 928-718-0018

  • Esoji Japanese Restaurant

    Prescott

    Like his Tokyo counterpart Jiro Ono (the fanatical sushi chef upon whom the 2011 mega-documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi was based), Hiroshi Horikawa also obsesses about fish, turning out artful and authentic Japanese cuisine in a town more famous for rodeos than roe. But these days, even cowboys — not to mention Prescott’s own rough-and-tumble firefighters — have a yen for Horikawa’s popular sushi rolls, as well as sturdier rice bowls, noodle dishes and traditional entrées such as shabu-shabu. Bringing his 40 years of experience in Manhattan and Tokyo’s high-end Ginza district to the table, Horikawa offers a delicious mash-up of the trendy (think tuna poke and quail-egg shooters) and the traditional. How did Prescott get so lucky?  Established: 2007 Cuisine: Japanese/sushi Chef: Owner Hiroshi Horikawa Price: $-$$ Open: Lunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Saturday; dinner, 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday Information: 220 W. Gurley Street, Prescott, 928-227-2151, www.esoji.wordpress.com

  • Grand Canyon Coffee & Café

    Williams

    So, a Chinese guy, a Mexican guy and an American guy walk into a bar ... no, wait ... ’nother story. But just such a joke might come to mind when you see the menu at cozy Grand Canyon, where owner Anna Dick combines “good-old American hot sandwiches” and homemade soup with her mother’s best Mexican specialties and a handful of Chinese-American recipes preserved from the café’s previous owners. Where else in Williams (or maybe anywhere, for that matter) can you get a tuna melt, a chile relleno and chow mein under the same roof? Housed in a historic building on Williams’ main drag, this quirky, likeable spot is famous for its Canyon Burrito, a New Mexico-style monster filled with eggs, potatoes and green-chile pork, served enchilada-style with a generous melt of cheese. After such excess, there’s hardly room for homemade desserts. But try. Established: 2007 Cuisine: Mexican/Chinese/American Chefs: Johnny Gomez, Lisa Oakley (baker) Price: $ Open: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday through Wednesday; 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday through Saturday. Business hours vary during the winter. Information: 125 Historic Route 66, Williams, 928-635-4907, www.grandcanyoncoffeeandcafe.com

  • Kasa Mia

    Nogales

    Owner Margarita “Maggie” Vindiola was a banker who always dreamed of owning her own restaurant. Stumbling upon an available historic building (a former ice plant, circa 1924) and falling in love with it was just the impetus she needed to leave the lettuce and jump into the soup. And, indeed, hearty Mexican soups such as posole, fideo, cocido and menudo are Kasa Mia specialties, so homey that customers often describe them as “just like Nana used to make.” The rambling space, big enough to accommodate weddings and quinceañeras, also specializes in parrilladas (generous grilled-meat platters), as well as cordial “mi kasa es su kasa” hospitality. Established: 2010 Cuisine: Mexican Chef: David Vindiola Price: $-$$$ Open: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday Information: 460 N. Arroyo Boulevard, Nogales, 520-287-4040

  • Jake’s on the Green

    Flagstaff

    Huge picture windows overlooking the golf course offer spectacular views of the San Francisco Peaks, but that’s just one of many reasons tourists and locals flock to this cavernous-but-clubby hangout. Twelve big-screen TVs lure duffers and sports nuts inclined to swig cold beers and stiff cocktails while grazing on macho nachos, sliders and chicken lettuce wraps. In the summer months, Jake’s offers three squares, dishing out everything from eggs Benedict and blueberry pancakes to Reuben sandwiches, burgers, fresh seafood, hand-cut steaks, slow-smoked baby-back ribs and slow-roasted prime rib (the latter on weekends only). Breads and desserts are made in-house, and despite the upscale atmosphere, the place exudes a family friendly vibe. Established: 2012 Cuisine: American Chef: Co-owner John Gates Price: $-$$$ Open: Hours vary by season. Information: Continental Country Club, 2380 N. Oakmont Drive, Flagstaff, 928-526-7990, www.continentalflagstaff.com

  • Nana’s Sandwich Saloon

    Wickenburg

    Owner Sherry Hunt is the “Nana” in question at this cute, cozy spot, specializing in big, beefy sandwiches (16 in all), salads, homemade soup, quiches, coffee drinks, green drinks and pies. Yes, homemade pies — five varieties offered each day, which might include deep-dish apple or berry cream. It’s doubtful whether the fire crews who drop in regularly browse through Hunt’s girly gift shop, featuring ceramic roosters, country jars and cookbooks, but it’s a cinch they like her imaginative, belly filling eats — especially the Hotshot 19 sandwich, named for the 19 valiant men who lost their lives in the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013. That one surely leaves a bittersweet taste in the mouth. Established: 2008 Cuisine: American (sandwiches) Chefs: Manuel Morales, Janet Bowie (baker) Price: $ Open: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday Information: 48 N. Tegner Street, Wickenburg, 928-684-5539, www.nanassandwichsaloon.com

  • TrailRiders Restaurant

    Eagar

    Back in the day, executive chef Tim Cluff worked in the kitchen for his granddad, former Apache County Sheriff Edgar Merrill, who owned a ’60s- and ’70s-era restaurant in St. Johns called Trail Riders. So it seemed appropriate to Cluff, whose family settled in Eastern Arizona generations ago, to take all that history with him to Eagar, where he and his kitchen crew turn out everything from hand-cut steaks, pork chops, ribs and chicken-fried steak to huge chimichangas, Cluff Tacos (ground chicken with green chiles and avocado), biscuits and gravy, and a stack of pancakes topped with vanilla-scented buttermilk syrup. Given its mix of rustic cowboy décor and fancy cocktails, it’s no wonder TrailRiders functions as a social hub for Eagar’s own, offering Friday-night fish fries and UFC fighting on eight big-screen TVs. Established: 2010 Cuisine: Mexican/American Chef: Tim Cluff Price: $-$$$ Open: 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily Information: 140 N. Main Street, Eagar, 928-333-1446

  • Vinny’s New York Pizza

    Sierra Vista

    Founder Vinny Ferrara died in 2012, but venerable Vinny’s — a Sierra Vista standby for pizza and wings — is now in the capable hands of Chip Brown, the like-a-son employee who worked at Ferrara’s side for 22 years. Brown recalls the time a hotshot crew of firefighters walked through the door and the restaurant stood en masse to applaud them, a touching moment for everyone. Ferrara bought their dinner that night, as Brown still does today when the crews are fighting nearby fires in summer. It’s that kind of community support that keeps this casual, family oriented place top of mind with locals who swear by the hefty, made-from-scratch pies and what many consider the best wings for miles around. It makes sense that bone-tired, half-starved firefighters would love the place. Established: 1980 Cuisine: Pizza/wings/Italian Chefs: All 25-plus employees man the kitchen from time to time. Price: $-$$ Open: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday; noon to 9 p.m., Sunday Information: 1977 S. Frontage Road, Sierra Vista, 520-459-2315