Abuelo's, which has 40 locations nationwide (including another Arizona locale just northwest in Peoria), is a family favorite with an expansive menu that offers a mix of traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex fare. Don't miss the chicken enchiladas (topped with sour cream, green chile sauce, or ranchera sauce) or the fajita tacos, which star wood-grilled chicken or steak with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and guacamole. The menu may be huge, but rest assured the prices are not, with many dishes in the $8 to $12 range. Regulars will encourage you to swap the Spanish rice for Abuelo's signature side, Papas con Chile, made with whipped red potatoes, four cheeses, red and green peppers, and jalapeños.
Gilbert: Liberty Market
Liberty Market opened in 2009, though the building has been around since the 1930s, which adds old-world charm to this family bistro. The menu has items to satisfy every palate, including weekly breakfast, burger, and wood-fired pizza specials, plus pastas, sandwiches, and salads. My favorite breakfast item is the grilled flattened meatballs, which are perfect to pair with scrambled eggs, pancakes, or Liberty potatoes (sautéed with cheese, onions, and green peppers). If you're in need of something sweet, try a slice of the signature red velvet cake with classic cream cheese frosting.
Phoenix: Barrio Café
Guacamole is just guacamole until you have it at Barrio Café, where it's mixed and mashed tableside. The creamy dip is only the start of the delicious tastes served up by chef/owner Silvana Salcido Esparza, who has crafted an artful menu she describes as "Mexican-inspired." Esparza adds a traditional touch to creative dishes such as enchiladas del mar (blue corn tortillas piled high with shrimp, scallops, crab, Queso de Cabra, and jocoque sauce) and torta de filetito (filet mignon with chorizo, Roquefort cheese, and chipotle sauce). Don't leave without ordering the churros rellenos de cajeta de cabra for dessert—goat's-milk caramel–stuffed fritters topped with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate espresso sauce.
Phoenix: Beckett's Table
Beckett's Table achieves the perfect blend of sophistication and relaxation with an atmosphere that makes you want to slow down and enjoy the food and company. The menu is ever-changing, reflecting what chef Justin Beckett finds at local farmers' markets throughout the week. Even so, recurring standards include falafel, pork osso buco confit, and the chef's signature short ribs. This is the place to dine if you have any sort of food allergy, as the menu offers gluten-free and vegan options and the staff is more than willing to provide an allergy-safe recommendation to suit your tastes and needs.
Phoenix: Matt's Big Breakfast
Don't let the diner-inspired decor fool you. Matt's Big Breakfast delivers when it comes to taste. Every menu item pushes the boundaries of flavor, like the kicked-up cherry-bourbon sausage, the Salami Scramble (three eggs scrambled with Molinari sopressata salami), and the Belgian-style waffle with sweet cream butter and real maple syrup. But as fancy as that all sounds, the setting is not. It's a micro-diner with an endearing casual vibe and a steady crowd of breakfast fans that only adds to the charm.
Scottsdale: Cowboy Ciao
Cowboy Ciao is a casual eatery with an eclectic menu that's perfect for date night or a girls' night out. The modern American-style fare includes favorites like the Stetson chopped salad (Israeli couscous, corn, smoked salmon, black currants, pepitas, and pesto dressing), the Korean-Style BBQ Short Ribs (braised in honeydew-pear barbecue sauce), and the Puerco Lento (slow-cooked Berkshire pork shank with shallot marmalade). If meat isn't your muse, opt for the vegetarian-friendly Exotic Mushroom Pan Fry, which piles nine varieties of mushrooms over double-cooked polenta doused with ancho cream and topped with grilled portabellini, avocado, tomatoes, and cotija cheese.
Sedona: Black Cow Cafe
Sweets lovers, look no further than Black Cow Cafe, a homemade-ice-cream parlor. Flavors range from the classic to the creative—including chocolate, almond praline, and prickly pear—all of which are served up in your choice of cup or waffle cone. Once you've made your selection, step outside to enjoy dessert while admiring a stunning view of Sedona.
Surprise: Amuse Bouche
Amuse Bouche is a French-inspired treasure where chef/owners Snir and Kierstin Mor transform even the most common dishes into delicacies. The rustic Parisian Baguette Sandwich is a personal lunch favorite, featuring layers of Serrano ham, Brie cheese, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, and Dijon aïoli. Or opt for the meatloaf sandwich with applewood-smoked bacon and onion aïoli, or classic quiche Lorraine with a side of field greens. The quaint interior features Parisian murals that complement the bistro-style fare.