The 5 Best New Phoenix Restaurants to Book Right Now

Pan-seared scored mushrooms at Belly Kitchen and bar | Credit: Belly Kitchen and bar

Diners in Phoenix are flocking to new restaurants and old haunts with updated menus—and not just because they’re tired of sheltering at home. Many of the Valley’s most-loved places have added or expanded their outdoor dining areas, while others are home to new chefs who are shifting culinary gears or revamping last season’s cuisine. Here are five of the city’s most exciting post-pandemic restaurant updates.

Rough Rider (Downtown)

Chef Jose Morales perfects the new American menu at his recently opened downtown basement diner, which debuted over the summer. The Old World space manages to travel back in time—the spot is named for Theodore Roosevelt’s cavalry, after all—without being kitschy, lined with leather chairs, a petite library, and a fireplace. Traditional favorites such as grass-fed grilled steaks and fresh Caesar salads are joined by tasty, left-of-center choices like grilled cabbage newberg with cognac cream, and veal schnitzel with a side of—what else?—crispy sauerkraut. Starters, such as slightly sweet breaded fried cauliflower and a lobster roll served on a New England bun with aioli, also boast bold flavors. The drinks menu is stellar and features a host of jam-infused cobblers and top-shelf liquors. 

Belly Kitchen and Bar (West Phoenix)

Credit: Belly Kitchen and bar

Chef Michael Babcock was partly inspired by his Japanese grandmother when he drafted the menu for this swish pan-Asian spot, which opened in November 2020 and is now hitting its stride. Wedged among the shops of popular Seventh Avenue, this jewel box of a restaurant, painted in sunset hues, offers tempting twists on traditional fare from Japan, Vietnam, and Thailand: crispy soft shell crab bao buns; pizza on grilled rice paper, and fried rice studded with sweet jackfruit. Belly’s cocktails are equally imaginative, made with savory Southeast Asian spices such as lemongrass, basil, and turmeric.

Carcara – Sheraton Phoenix (Downtown)

Fresh from a top-to-toe renovation, this madeover space unveiled in September now features a 14-foot tall oak tree decked with glass and metal lanterns, as its alluring centerpiece. Other thoughtful updates, which take cues from the area’s countless citrus groves, include Cara Cara orange trees—which inspired the restaurant’s name—that line the patio. The Southwestern cuisine pays homage to Phoenix’s agricultural roots, with new spins on classic Native American and Sonoran dishes such as seared sea scallops with crisp prosciutto, served alongside red corn polenta, wilted spinach, and tangerine cranberry sauce. Thanks to an especially warm and cheerful staff, any evening here will be exceptionally serviced.

Neighborly Public House (Central Phoenix)

Neighborly Public House | Credit: Studio Alcott

Hopped-up comfort food and state-of-the-art cocktails rule the roost at this new addition to Central Phoenix, which debuted in October. Chef Christopher Collins, the restaurateur behind local gems such as Twisted Grove Parlor & Bar and Grassroots Kitchen & Tap, delivers another warm and cozy hangout, complete with a lush patio. The hearty plates here feature charred cauliflower steaks, a house specialty, and zesty oysters Rockefeller with creamed spinach. Other must-eats on the menu are a citrus-infused ahi tuna noodle salad, dusted with crushed peanuts and toasted coconut, and Maryland-style crab cakes on a zingy watercress-tomato salad.

Elements (Paradise Valley)

Chef Samantha Sanz, a two-time James Beard Awards nominee, brings her Latin-inspired cuisine to the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort’s fine-dining spot. Sanz, who’s advised by Food Network favorite Beau MacMillan (formerly the executive chef), works her magic on dishes such as a rich and creamy lobster risotto and a tender seared foie gras, perfect for special-occasion dining. The tangy barbecued Japanese eggplant, one of the menu’s more cosmopolitan selections, is a must-try at this dine-in-only destination, which offers holiday-specific specialty menus—and, arguably, the Valley’s best views.

Tried them all? Check out other options here.