Flavors of Arizona
Despite the fact that it's become a culinary melting pot, Arizona has long been lumped into the spicy Southwest category of cuisine. But by pairing global influences with diverse Native American cultures, regional history, and local agriculture, creative chefs and entrepreneurs have started to earn Arizona its own star on the food walk of fame.
The Native Palate
From flash-flood farming in the south and sustained agriculture in the Verde Valley to livestock ranching in the state's northernmost reaches, Native American food customs are becoming customary off the reservations. Gourds, desert beans, mesquite pods, tree nuts, cactus fruit, agave nectar, and local game like quail and elk are buzzwords on award-winning menus. And Navajo fry bread, a tradition born from the worst of times, is one of the state's most sought-after (and caloric) treats.
Kai, Chandler. The Pima word for seed, this elegant and scenery-studded restaurant on the Gila Indian Reservation just outside Phoenix blends the local food traditions of the Tohono O'odham people with some of the finest dining in the state.
Cameron Trading Post, Cameron. If you're headed to Lake Powell, Monument Valley, or the North Rim, there's no better place to stop and try a Navajo taco made from fry bread.
Hopi Cultural Center Restaurant, Third Mesa, Hopi Reservation. This is one of the few places to find authentic piki (paper-thin blue-corn bread) and Hopi stew with lamb, hominy, and chiles.
Spice of Life
Arizona has long been defined by its heat. With a natural affection for everything from Mexican jalapeños to New Mexican hatch chiles, local food artists have given recipes ranging from chips and salsa to chicken mole and chilaquiles a most memorable flair.
Café Poca Cosa, Tucson. This hip family-owned eatery changes its menus daily but consistently maintains its authentic approach to Mexican cuisine.
Los Dos Molinos, Phoenix. For those who like it hot, this is the state's reigning restaurant. Signature dishes like Shrimp Veracruz are drenched in New Mexico red chili.
The Mission, Scottsdale. Try a modern twist on old-school Mexican food like Pollo a la Brasa, chilaquiles, and avocado margaritas.
Fruits of the Desert
Arizona's local-grown wine industry is also not to be overlooked. What began as an experiment in 1973 has become a booming business in southern Arizona's Santa Cruz Valley.
Callaghan Vineyards, Elgin. Producing bold Spanish reds and a delicate white, this southeastern Arizona vineyard and winery has established itself as a favorite on area wine-tasting tours.
Keeling Schaeffer Vineyards, Pearce. Featuring fruity Chardonnays, sold-out Grenaches and Syrahs, this vineyard with Mary Jane Colter-inspired architecture offers tastings and tours by appointment only.
Page Springs Cellars, Cornville. Taking a gamble on the Verde Valley's high-desert soil has paid off for winemaker Eric Glomski and his southern Rhône varietals.
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