I told food editor Lauren Cusimano, something along the lines of, “Damn, this place is certainly going to make our year-end best restaurants list,” in early March after enjoying a meal at Sherpa Kitchen. Fate stepped in. Sherpa Kitchen has closed, joining a long list of other eateries in 2020. Hey, do you think we should cover the coronavirus? I asked late in the lunch, inhaled when Arizona’s overall case statistics hadn’t yet reached double digits.

The cachapa at Que Chevere.

Photo by Jackie Mercandetti
Chris Malloy,

Some of the most impressive barbecue in the Valley is in Avondale at Eric's Family Barbecue.

Avondale’s ERICS FAMILY BARBECUE is located at 12345 West Indian School Road.

With Erics, the west Valley received a top-notch American barbecue restaurant with a modest Mexican influence and cooking techniques that nod to central Texas (offset smokers, white bread, minimally rubbed beef) (elote, tortillas, smoking with mesquite). One of the greatest briskets in town can be found here.

Slabs have a steak-like heaviness, are thick and highly barked, infused with an impolite smoke, and are totally melt-in-your-mouth. Other meats are also powerful. Pork ribs get a hot rub and maintain their chew. Butter au jus added to the turkey to boost its juiciness. Like many pitmasters, Eric Tanori got his start in his backyard, and his perfected BBQ is full of lazy buzzed carefree summer vibes.

Piping hot takoyaki, one of life's great nocturnal pleasures, these from Ramen Kagawa.

One of life’s greatest nighttime joys are these piping hot takoyaki from Ramen Kagawa.

Malloy, Chris
111 West Monroe Street, RAMEN KAGAWA

At this downtown Rivendell of noodles, the ramen dips into you when you dig into your bowl. The Tonkotsu is special; it seems to have the utmost amount of taste in every last drop. Slurps provide a rising flood of pork-rich bliss, bone-warming goodness, and velvety broth.

A bowl of paitan is good; it is less overtly outstanding and more subdued than tonkatsu, but it is nonetheless delicious. There is a kink and crunch to noodles. Eggs are gently brought to the perfect level of molten yolkiness. Japanese-style curry is a good choice in addition to ramen. Also, don’t overlook the tasty takoyaki, which are large, crisp-fried balls with rich, creamy inside that are flecked with soft octopus chunks.

Topping a margherita pizza with olive oil.

Olive oil drizzled on a margherita pizza. Malloy, Chris
PIZZERIA VIRT, Scottsdale, 6952 East Main Street

When Gio Osso was 13 years old, he started his journey to the pizza oven of Pizzeria Virt by working there. When he arrived in the Valley, he continued it by running the wood oven at Grazie on the weeknights. Following the closure of Grazie, Osso took over the location and went on to get widespread praise for his innovative Italian restaurant, Virt Honest Craft. After receiving training from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, he currently sells pizzas there.

This organization from Naples is responsible for certifying the Neapolitan pizza served at Pizzeria Virt. flimsy crust floppy rim sluggish center heated to a high flame. floppy with a sparse top. Osso makes pizza of the highest caliber, but he also has a creative eye for toppings, such as the understated pairings of nduja and soppressata, taleggio and trumpet mushrooms, and vivid pesto and stracchino cheese.

Crab ravioli with citrus, fennel, and saffron from Francine.

Francine’s crab ravioli with lemon, fennel, and saffron.
Scottsdale, FRANCINE 4710 North Goldwater Boulevard

Francine combines lively cooking with its sunny heart in the south of France and extremities in places like Spain and Italy to a Scottsdale Fashion District crammed with boisterous yet sleepy restaurants. The formal restaurant combines the intelligent, contemporary touches of Valley resort-restaurant veteran chef Brian Archibald with the recollections owner Laurent Halasz has of his mother cooking in the culinarily revolutionary 1970s.

Francine can prepare traditional French dishes like lively branzino cooked in a salt crust and fragrant lengths of Panisse. Archibald can also veer off into more creative directions. A smooth crab ravioli balances a variety of strangely herbaceous, nutty flavors. Octopus is prepared two different ways and topped with chorizo and romesco. A gorgeous center bar with brass accents and blonde wood is a great place to hang out after a concert.

Al pastor and fish tacos taken out from Chantico

Fish tacos and al pastor from Chantico
Restaurant Chantico Mexicana 1051 East Camelback Road

The newest restaurant from Walter Sterling and the Ocotillo crew draws on Mexican cuisine from as far south as Yucatan and as far north as Sonora (a Sonoran rib-eye) (cochinita pibil). Not just with chiles, that cochinita roasts the brain. An abundance of delicately seasoned, banana-leaf-roasted pork that keeps all of the animal’s charm is delivered with the order. The clincher: a variety of masterfully pickled veggies, such as odd-looking carrots, micro-thin onions, and nopales. Chanticos al pastor is a potent adaptation that emphasizes pineapple.

Tacos are filled, but the tortillas might use some improvement. Dishes like duck leg drowned in black mole with a skinless trapezoid of grilled orange produce astounding depth on the palate and shocking contrast and harmony in the flavors, more than offsetting this dish’s first discordant note.

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Claypot chicken taken out from Belly Kitchen and Bar

taken out of Belly Kitchen and Bar’s claypot chicken

4971 North 7th Avenue, BELLY KITCHEN AND BAR

Belly rocks in a variety of ways, one of which is by making bland food sing. A lemongrass-flavored horchata sugar that is so subdued that the fragrant rice and the powerful lemongrass aroma can dance together is a beverage that is meant to be slurped down on the way home after picking up takeout. Why not consider a straightforward side dish of umami-rich sautéed seasonal vegetables? Even the thick fist of cauliflower is soft throughout.

Or consider the claypot-cooked chicken, with its black thigh pieces and sinewy-looking slices that are unusually juicy and seasoned with fish sauce and turmeric. The restaurant owned by Michael Babcock, Wayne Coats, Paul Waxman, and Robert Cissell, collectively known as Instrumental Hospitality, is immediately bustling. Even without mentioning A-sides or cocktails, that is.

Note from the authors: For this article, only eateries that debuted before Thanksgiving have been taken into account. The remainder will be involved next year. I’ve been attempting to wait longer before eating at new eateries this year.

Spare the Phoenix New Times Phoenix New Times has been regarded as the free, independent voice of Phoenix ever since we founded it, and we would like to keep it that way. providing free access to sharp coverage of regional news, cuisine, and culture for our users. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the trendiest new bands, with brave reporting, chic writing, and staffers who have received awards for everything from the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism to the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing prize.

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