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Insider Guide to Phoenix Restaurants from a Local Star Chef

Arizona native Charleen Badman is a Phoenix-area booster and a Scottsdale empire builder. With her business partner Pavle Milic, Badman runs the tiny Baratin Café wine bar, a farmers’ market-style grocery called Bodega, and AZ Wine Merchants, a shop dedicated to local wines. She’s currently working on reopening her flagship FnB restaurant under Baratin’s roof with a new name. Here, she shares where to eat, shop and sleep in her town.

Phoenix Restaurants

Go-To Lunch: The Main Ingredient Ale House & Café

“I go here every Monday for lunch on my day off. It’s a local pub around the corner from my house and they serve really fresh salads and sandwiches. I have a Sophie’s Salad every week, without the cheese. It’s supersimple, just greens, artichokes, tomatoes, onions, pine nuts and balsamic dressing. Matt, the owner is like, ‘Will you please try another salad?!’ But I’m a creature of habit.” tmialehouse.com

High-End Japanese: Nobuo at Teeter House

“The omakase at Nobuo at Teeter House in downtown Phoenix is spectacular. It’s only served on weekends and you have to reserve in advance. We went there for Pavle’s birthday recently and they serve things like oysters marinated in ponzu, and grilled Washugyu beef with wild mushrooms. On regular nights, the menu is more izakaya style.“ nobuofukuda.com

Phoenix Restaurants: Italian Restaurant
Photo © Robyn Lee.

Ingredient-Driven Trattoria: Italian Restaurant

“Chris Bianco has always been somebody I admire for his simplicity. He does very simple pastas that they make in-house, and his brother makes all the bread for the restaurant. Bianco is about to put a pizza oven in so he can start doing dinners with whole animals like lambs, pigs and goats from nearby farms.” pizzeriabianco.com

The City’s Most Famous Pizza: Pizzeria Bianco

“Bianco’s pizzas are really thin, done in a wood-burning oven. They’re simple, but really delicious. I love to eat here whenever I have the time. Now that they’re open for lunch the wait is better—I once waited two and a half hours to get in for dinner.” pizzeriabianco.com

Romantic Meal: Quiessence Restaurant

“I love the ambiance at Quiessence. It’s located at the Farm at South Mountain, a gorgeous property, which also has a breakfast spot, café and spiritual center/spa. During dinner, it’s so beautiful looking out over the farmland and seeing vegetables and pecan trees—well, maybe other people wouldn’t think that’s romantic, but as a chef I think it’s really nice. The menu is really seasonal New American food and we have a lot of the same purveyors—we both buy these great chickens from a guy who’s known as the Egg Man.” quiessencerestaurant.com

Phoenix-Area Restaurants

Scottsdale, Arizona

Best Ice Cream: Sweet Republic

“I stopped making ice cream at my restaurant, because I just get it from Helen at Sweet Republic. I usually ask her to make different flavors depending on what fruits I have around. I’ll give her cases of cantaloupes or Arizona grapefruits or peaches and she brings me back sorbets or ice creams. We actually trade—she makes my ice cream and I cook her dinner at one of my restaurants.” sweetrepublic.com

Tempe, Arizona

Best French Pastries: Essence Bakery Café

“Eugenia Theodosopoulos makes the best croissants. Her husband is French and they lived in France for a while, so she learned to make croissants there. I’m so glad they ended up back here—her husband went to ASU and he insisted that they had to come back to Arizona. She’d rather be living in France, but I feel fortunate to have her here!” essencebakery.com

Glendale, Arizona

Fun Night Out: Café Ga Hyang

“Pavle and I recently found this little gem near Glendale, and owner Sun Johnson does lots of Korean small plates and amazing pickles and little condiments. It’s just delicious. And they’re open until 2 a.m.! Sometimes we’ll get a little group of cooks together after work to get something to eat there. It’s a one-woman show: Johnson is there lunch and dinner, seven days a week. She even does karaoke. She has a little disco ball hanging up and she starts dancing with a microphone.”

Chandler, Arizona

Noodle Fix: China Magic Noodle House

“If we get stuck working on a Monday, Pavle and I will run over to get a quick pho. They always greet me and say ‘Hi, Chef! Vegetarian sauce?’ And I’ll say: ‘Yes, please!’ They’ll bring out a bowl of tofu and bok choy and homemade noodles in a delicious broth.”

Phoenix-Area Shopping Picks

Kitchen Tools: Phoenix Knife House

“Whether you need a knife or tweezers or a peeler or a nutmeg grater, you can find it here. My friend Eytan Zias owns the shop and he has such a passion for knives. I work in an open kitchen, so people ask me all the time where I get mine. I tell them the knife house—I recommend it to everybody.” phoenixknifehouse.com

Imported Ingredients in Scottsdale: Andreoli Italian Grocer

“Andreoli has a lot of Italian products—the owner, Giovanni Scorzo, brings in meat, cheeses and olives from Italy. He’ll have stuff in the back that just came off the plane from Italy, like this beautiful, silky burrata, and he makes his own bread.” andreoli-grocer.com

Spice Shop in Tempe: Haji-Baba International Foods

“You can get preserved lemons and all sorts of spices like cumin or allspice bagged separately. I buy most of my spices there. They move through them so quickly, so you know they haven’t been sitting long. They have a little Middle Eastern restaurant in there too, so if you’re hungry, try the veggie plate.” haji-baba.com

Phoenix-Area Sights

Amazing Architecture in Scottsdale: Taliesin West

“Frank Lloyd Wright’s former home and studio is an awesome place to go check out. He designed it, and it’s been there forever. You can see the studio where he worked, and take a tour of his beautiful home.” franklloydwright.org

Day Trip: Arcosanti

“Arcosanti is more of a commune, where people live and work, including artist Paolo Soleri. He also has a studio in Phoenix where he makes and sells his amazing Soleri Bells (decorative windbells in materials like ceramic and bronze). He’s in his 90s, but he travels back and forth between studios every week. You can stay at Arcosanti for less than $100 a night.” arcosanti.org

Phoenix-Area Hotels

Downtown Phoenix: The Clarendon

“The Clarendon is a boutique hotel that’s very retro, and they have a terrific restaurant called Gallo Blanco. They do very light, clean, Mexico City-style Mexican food, without a lot of cheese.” theclarendon.net

Scottsdale: Hotel Valley Ho

“This is a historic hotel that opened in 1956 and it’s still very cool, with a midcentury-modern design. It’s not far from FnB restaurant.” hotelvalleyho.com

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