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Phoenix Restaurants Worthy of Craving

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I lived in Arizona for much of my childhood and I’ve been going back once or twice most years since I moved away fourteen years ago. So, what’s on my must-do list when I return, beyond visiting family and long-time friends? Eating! There are a handful of Phoenix-area restaurants that are not merely tasty; these places cause deep-rooted cravings. As a bonus, each is an affordable option for families with children. Here’s a list of must-taste Phoenix restaurants.

The Chuckbox in Tempe, Arizona

The Chuckbox in Tempe, Arizona (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Best Burgers and Dogs

Don’t let the name scare you! Chuckbox, located just across from Arizona State University in Tempe, is THE place to go for a grilled meaty treat before or after a Sun Devils game. Hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken sandwiches are cooked as nature intended…over a huge flaming open fire. You might as well order some beer battered onion rings or deep fried zucchini while you’re at it. Portions are huge, prices are low. The atmosphere is rustic, with wooden plank benches and glass mugs of beer or root beer. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Best Pizza and Subs

With several locations throughout Arizona, Streets of New York makes the best pizza in Arizona as far as I’m concerned. It’s not fancy; it’s just cheesy, saucy, crispy, chewy pizza goodness. Not in the mood for pizza? Get a sub instead. My Scottsdale-resident parents are devotees of the Best of Everything hot sub, layered with Capocolla ham, Genoa salami, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pepperocini, and tasty Italian dressing all served on a warm, chewy roll. Yum!

The Sugar Bowl ice cream parlor in Old Scottsdale (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Sugar Bowl ice cream parlor in Old Scottsdale (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Best Ice Cream Parlor

Nothing beats an old-fashioned ice cream parlor for a special treat, especially when you have kids! Slide into a bubblegum pink booth in Old Scottsdale’s Sugar Bowl and order my favorite, a Blarney Dream – a tall layered sundae of green mint syrup, vanilla ice cream, chocolate fudge, and butter pecan ice cream, topped with whipped cream and a cherry. If that sounds too exotic, order a standard banana split, hot fudge sundae, or one of their many flavors of shakes. While you’re here, take a peek at the Family Circus drawings that adorn the walls. Artist and Sugar Bowl fan, Bil Keane, featured the Sugar Bowl in a bunch of his cartoons.

Best Coffee House

Back before Starbucks took over the world, Coffee Plantation was the forerunner of the coffee movement in the Phoenix area. My high school pals and I used to drive to Tempe on weekends to go to the original Coffee Plantation on the college town’s main street, Mill Avenue. The original location recently shut down despite its numerous loyal fans, but you can still grab a good cup of joe or an Italian soda (with cream or without) at its newer Scottsdale location.

Rosita's Fine Mexican Food in Tempe (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Rosita’s Fine Mexican Food in Tempe (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Best Mexican Food

While good Mexican food can be found in my adopted hometown of San Diego, for me, nothing beats Arizona’s Sonoran-style Mexican cuisine. I couldn’t narrow it down to just one, so here’s my top three picks.

Ajo Al’s has three locations in the Valley of the Sun and one in Arrowhead, Arizona. One of their house specialties, and my dish of choice, is the Pollo Con Queso – a fried chicken burrito topped with spicy cream cheese and melted cheese.

Macayo’s Mexican Kitchen is a newer find for me. A unique dish, and my husband’s all-time favorite, is the Chicken Poblano. A fresh poblano chile is filled with seasoned chicken, then breaded, cooked until crunchy, and smothered with enchilada sauce and melting cheese. If you’re a tamale fan, you must try Macayo’s green chile tamale! There are numerous Macayo’s locations to choose from throughout Arizona and Nevada.

Rosita’s Fine Mexican Food offers kitschy décor and delectable dishes in Tempe. I used to wait tables here during college and I never tired of the extensive menu. Back then, I even stopped by on my days off to get my fix of chicken enchiladas with zesty red sauce, spinach enchiladas with creamy white cheese, or crispy flautas topped with guacamole.

Do you have a favorite Phoenix area restaurant that should be added to the list? Let us know in the comments!

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show,, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. Lindsay Jones says

    Hey Colleen!
    We lived in Phx for several years without our son and then for about 19 months with him, so we have plenty of time to sample the local places. Here are a few of our favorites:

    La Grande Orange (LGO) – 40th and Campbell. Fantastic pizza, decent wine and beer list, hip atmosphere and adjacent gelato shop. Really cool grocery shop also with specialty items – pretty limited menu other than pizza – but great breads, sweets and coffee. Plus, the place is loud which is perfect for kids. Overall, kid friendly but still has a cool adult vibe. Parking can be a challenge – best to valet.

    Chelsea’s Kitchen – 40th just north of Camelback same owners as LGO – a little more upscale – wonderful patio with a huge outdoor fireplace – great bar and wine list – yet really ready to host kids with great kids menu and lots of yummy comfort food. I love their fish tacos.

    Matt’s Big Breakfast – 801 N. First in downtown phx. soooo sooo good. Best breakfast in town – super tiny so go early (easy for most parents!) or you will wait outside to get in. Kind of has a 50s diner feel. (Its located in what used to be the home of Chez Bubba – so full of phx culinary history!) The breakfast burrito is really yummy.

    Los Dos Molinos – Wonderful mexican food and such good margaritas. I like the location which is south of Phx best because the decor is really fun and it has a great patio. There is one in town, right on the light rail route, food is still really good but the atmosphere is not as great.

    Sonora Brew House – On Camelback between 7th street and Central. Great beers – they brew them all on sight. Really nice wait staff who love kids and really good pub food. I love their veggie wrap and must have had it a million times. This was our go to weeknight (I can’t cook after the day I have had) place. :)-

    Cibo – 603 N. 5th ave phx – a wonderful little renovated house in one of the historic districts downtown. Good pizza, wines and desserts – the nutella crepes are fantastic. Nice outdoor area which is enclosed with a grassy area for kids to play and run around while you stand and drink wine. Inside is small but accommodating.

    The Farm at South Mountain – 6106 Sound 32nd Street. This is a working farm with several restaurants on site. All of the food served is organic, most is from their gardens. Kids love this place because they can run, explore all of the gardens, and play with the chickens and goats. You can either buy some sandwiches there at the shop by the road and eat picnic style or head to the back and eat at their place – which is all outside. Horses and sheep are behind a fence on one side and orange trees are everywhere. Best known for big wonderful breakfasts.

    Delux – 3146 East Camelback. Best burgers and sweet potato fries in town – plus all their meat is antibiotic free and USDA Organic. Best spot is the patio – they provide crayons. The Delux burger is the bomb. Maytag and Greyere cheese, carmelized onions, applewood smoked bacon – all on a baguette – OMG. So so good.

    As you can tell, I love phx restaurants – it is such a great foodie town and there are so many fun options! We’ll have to hang out and do some tasting if we both visit at the same time.

    Take care – Love the blog – Lindsay

  2. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

    Wow, Lindsay! Thank you for all of the wonderful restaurant suggestions! I will have to check these out during my next visit to Phoenix!

  3. I think My Big Fat Greek Restaurant in Tempe on Mill is really good. Probably the best greek food I have ever had.

  4. Can’t leave out Oregano’s ( or Pita Jungle (! Both YUM and have locations throughout AZ! I always make a point to visit both when I head back to AZ – did this weekend, actually. The “Lady is a Scampi” at Oregano’s is an absolute must!

  5. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

    Allie – I have friends who swear by Oregano’s but I’m a bit ashamed to say I’ve never tried it! Next time I’m in Arizona, I will!

  6. I’m seven years late to this post! But one of favorites is Uni Sushi out in Surprise, AZ. Love that place!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Will need to keep Uni Sushi in mind should we make it over to Surprise. Thanks for the suggestions, Wyatt!


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