From iconic dishes to historic origins, these restaurants are staples in Phoenix.
Much like a city’s top attractions (say, the Space Needle in Seattle), certain restaurants can become so much a part of a city’s landscape that they become iconic, must-visit destinations in their own right. These quintessential restaurants have been in business in metro Phoenix for years. If you haven’t experienced these Phoenix essentials, add them to your list. Bon appetit!
2611 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix
Durant’s might just be the most iconic restaurant on this list. This steakhouse is steeped in lore.
Durant’s is named after its founder James E. “Jack” Durant, a pit boss at Las Vegas’ Flamingo Hotel who worked for gangster Bugsy Siegel. Stars of their times, like Joe DiMaggio, Clark Gable, and John Wayne, all dined at Durant’s, according to a story published in the Arizona Republic.
Located on Central Avenue, patrons pass under a burgundy awning and enter this steakhouse via the kitchen in the back. Durant’s has been in business for over 70 years and has a classic steakhouse vibe. The windowless dining room is dimly lit and features plush red booths and chairs along with red wallpaper that was picked out by Durant himself. Fresh flowers are behind the booths. Waiters wear red tuxedo vests.
Menu-wise, expect to find a variety of steaks, including T-bone, filet mignon, and ribeye steaks, alongside seafood options like fried shrimp with cocktail sauce, grilled scallops, and sautéed salmon. Consider pairing your hearty entrée with one of the restaurant’s signature martinis. The oversized house-made desserts include strawberry shortcake, classic key lime pie, and a trey of crème brulee.
Fun fact: Every diner who polishes off a 48-ounce porterhouse steak (worth $142.95 as of press time) gets a wooden plaque and is part of the Durant’s Porterhouse Club.
3213 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix
Helmed by James Beard nominated and Emmy-winning chef Mark Tarbell, Tarbell’s is a true fine dining destination. In business since 1994, the Central Phoenix restaurant features white tablecloths, fine art on the walls, and soft lighting to complete the experience.
Not to mention that the food is spectacular! Find house-made burrata with basil pesto, signature Argentine Ribeye, and your choice of four different pizzas. One true standout entrée: “The Meatball.” This entrée features spaghetti made with Arizona flour from Hayden Mills Flour and topped with a fist-size meatball that’s served with organic marinara sauce. The entire dish is finished with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Conclude your meal with one of the house-made desserts like the beloved chocolate mousse.
Hot tip: Tarbell’s also features a Wine Store where guests can get hard-to-find bottles alongside timeless classics.
3. Pizzeria Bianco
Two locations in metro Phoenix
Perhaps Phoenix’s most noteworthy chef, Chris Bianco’s Pizzeria Bianco has been serving his signature pies since 1988. He started in the back corner of a grocery store and has since expanded to two two metro Phoenix locations and one in Los Angeles.
Bianco is near-legendary. He was the first pizzaiolo to ever win a prestigious James Beard award—often called the Oscars of the Food World—in 2003. His food more than lives up to the hype. The dinner menu features housemade mozzarella served with Arizona tomatoes and basil, pasta, and of course, their signature pies.
Keep it simple with the marinara—tomato sauce, oregano, and garlic with no cheese—or try the very Arizona pie Rosa—Parmigiano Reggiano, red onion, Arizona pistachios, and rosemary. But no matter which of the six options you choose, you can’t go wrong here. If you’re having trouble deciding, you also can ask for a half-and-half option. Each pizza is cooked in the restaurant’s signature wood-fired oven.
Pro tip: If you’re at the downtown location and are in for a long wait (not an uncommon experience), try paying a visit to Bar Bianco next door. Bar Bianco serves craft cocktails, wines, craft beer, and house-made bar snacks.
4. Miracle Mile Deli
4433 N. 16th St. in Central Phoenix
It’s admittedly tough to find good deli food in Arizona, but Miracle Mile Deli fills that need—deliciously, we might add.
Since 1949, this deli has been serving pastrami sandwiches, corned beef and cabbage, and brisket of beef sandwiches. The Central Phoenix location is a brightly lit restaurant off a fairly major street where customers walk through a line cafeteria-style.
Other classic options include bagel, lox, and cream cheese, a variety of hot dogs, salads, and a kid’s menu. Dessert options include housemade bread pudding, cherry cheesecake, and a variety of pie slices, including pumpkin, pecan, and Boston cream.
Historical tidbit: Three generations of one family that was originally from Brooklyn have kept Miracle Mile Deli for the last seven decades.
5. Organ Stop Pizza
1149 E Southern Ave. in Mesa
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It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that there isn’t any other restaurant like Organ Stop Pizza in the entire Valley.
As the name of this restaurant implies, this Mesa staple is home to what is thought to be the largest Wurlitzer pipe organ in the world. If you dine inside Organ Stop (which has been in business since 1972), look forward to a pipe organ player performing a variety of popular songs in the oversized main dining room as lights flash in sync with the music for a true meal and a show experience.
Pizza is the main item on the menu. Guests can build their own 8-, 12-, or 14-inch custom pizzas, and pick from a few specialty pies, pasta, appetizers, and a salad bar.
Family fun: Kids will love the music here, and Organ Stop even hosts kids’ birthday parties.
Variety of locations throughout metro Phoenix
Being so close to the Mexican border, it makes total sense that Phoenix would be home to plenty of great Mexican restaurants. And the city certainly has its fair share of good ones, but Macayo’s is arguably the most prominent.
Macayo’s has been open for 76 years, and former President Barack Obama has even eaten here. The restaurant’s claim to fame is the chimichanga—essentially a deep-fried burrito—that is always worth ordering. The extensive menu also features classic Mexican fare, including tacos, cheese crisps, guacamole, burros, fajitas, enchiladas, and churros. Macayo’s also offers vegetarian and gluten-free options too. Kids and happy hour menus are available too.
Historical tidbit: Macayo’s founder Woody Johnson claims to have invented the chimichanga, although this is subject to some debate.