Out-of-towners have no idea that there are so many incredible places to eat in Arizona, but locals are very aware of all the good grub to be had. If you’re a real Arizonan, you know where to get the best Sonoran dogs in the southern part of the state, and where to find delicious pie to devour in the north. Here are 13 restaurants where all Arizonans in the know have eaten at least once.
1. Crossroads Restaurant, Tucson
Tucsonans would rather go to Crossroads or some other less popular sit-down joint in South Tucson for a birria caramelo than one of the zillion gringo-ified Mexican places around town.
2. Cafe Roka, Bisbee
Bisbee peeps hit up Cafe Roka for the chef’s insanely delicious (but not inexpensive) rotational menu of locally-sourced goodness, the sorbet course, and the woodland creatures-shaped foil animals encasing their leftovers.
3. Elote Cafe, Sedona
Sedonans in the know stand in line for hours without complaining to splurge on the comida at Elote Cafe. Corn and huitlacoche caldo and lamb adobo are just two of the 30 or so elevated Mexican street food-inspired plates, all accompanying a tequila selection from heaven.
4. El Güero Canelo, Tucson
When Southern Arizonans are in the mood for a Sonoran Dog, they hit old-school El Güero Canelo.
5. Up the Creek, Cornville
Diners at Up the Creek in Cornville look out the huge picture windows to watch raccoons, hummingbirds, bobcats, and deer frolicking alongside the trickle of Oak Creek. Meanwhile, they drink well-curated wines, sing along with the owners at their old-timey upright piano, and feel guilty/not guilty devouring venison medallions and brandied liver pate.
6. Nick’s Feed Your Face, Prescott
Since 1981, Prescottonians have headed straight to Nick’s Feed Your Face for a Rude Boy sub or maybe a Depth Charge. Nick’s has had almost the exact same menu since it opened, just in a *slightly* larger location a couple streets away from the original (literal) hole-in-the-wall site.
7. Macy’s Coffee House, Flagstaff
Flagstaff hippies tried their first European-style locally-roasted coffee at Macy’s 38 years ago. They lunched on a spelt bagel, picked up a Camus book, started a game of Go, and never left.
8. Rock Springs Cafe, Black Canyon City
When driving down the hairpin windiness of I-17 from Northern Arizona to Phoenix, it’s vital to take a pie break at the bottom of the hills at the cool historic Rock Springs Cafe. Of course, they sell more than dessert, but who cares when there’s pie? So much pie.
9. The Old Spaghetti Factory, Phoenix
Phoenicians are well aware that they have the US’s best pizza at Pizzeria Bianco, but they prefer devouring Italian standards in a vintage trolley at the family-owned institution, The Old Spaghetti Factory. It’s been around as long as “Wallace and Ladmo” was on, back in the Legend City era.
10. The Grand Canyon Caverns, Peach Springs
The Grand Canyon Caverns on Route 66 are actually in Peach Springs, almost two hours southwest of the national park. The dry cave system houses Cavern Grotto, an all-you-can-eat dive 200 feet underground. Reservations are required and the buffet-style experience isn’t cheap, but where else are you going to get a bat burger surrounded by stalactites? (Kidding. No bats.)
11. The Velvet Elvis Pizza Company, Patagonia
Patagonia has some of the world’s best bird watching, drawing eccentric foreign rich folk who enjoy the cult-like Velvet Elvis Pizza Company alongside ranchers and farmers. The Elvis offers crunchy quinoa crust and sweet sauce — we’re all hooked.
12. Stables Ranch Grill, Tubac
Tubac townies head to the Stables Ranch Grill, the family restaurant at Bing Crosby’s old golf resort. “Tin Cup” was filmed there, and John Wayne used to get grub there, so the blackened red snapper and tomahawk pork chop should be good enough for snowbirds, too!
13. The Asylum Restaurant, Jerome
Haunted Jerome is full of kitschy, overpriced, themed restaurants, but the Asylum is special. The former hospital is now a hotel, way up on a hill. It’s hard to get past the institutional “Shining” vibe, but locals face their fears to eat The Stack and Australian lobster tail.