Halibut tacos, Gallo Blanco
-- Gallo Blanco -- Nestled in the Clarendon Hotel in uptown Phoenix, Gallo Blanco is a hidden gem of sorts, but a regular among true foodies in Arizona. Chef owner Doug Robson has created a menu that showcases regional Mexican cuisine made with fresh, local ingredients. And Gallo Blanco is one of few restaurants I've visited where indecision plagues me with every order, and it's because I love every dish I've tried. I can't get enough of their guacamole, which has chunks of citrus mixed in. Another favorite is the Elote Callajero, a grilled ear of corn sprinkled with paprika and cotija cheese -- now it's my preferred preparation of corn, and luckily it's something I can do my best to recreate at home (although it never really come close to Gallo Blanco's). Their tortas are delicious, particularly the Naco torta with grilled steak, avocado and a fried egg. One suggestion with the tortas -- order a half, especially if you want to try a few different items on the menu. Gallo Blanco also boasts one of the best happy hours in Phoenix, which is perfect for sampling their wide variety of offerings.
-- Daily Dose -- Daily Dose has a large menu and great food around the clock, whether you go for brunch, happy hour from 4pm to 8pm (one of the longest happy hours I've found in the Valley) or anytime in between. For breakfast I am a huge fan of the pancakes, which start with one of three batters, buttermilk, honey whole wheat or ginger bread. Then they are topped with everything from simple powdered sugar to peach creme brulee or cinammon apple crunch. Daily Dose's french toast and waffles boast similar creative toppings. For dinner, my favorites include the chorizo mac & cheese, made with a spicy cheddar cheese sauce, jalapenos and red onions, and the Daily Dose burger, a simple bacon cheese-burger served on a pretzel bun -- it's hard to go wrong with either.
-- Pizzeria Bianco and Pane Bianco -- Pizzeria Bianco is a Phoenix favorite with national acclaim for its wood-fired pizzas. A small intimate dining room means its always busy, but it's definitely worth the wait. Chris Bianco's pizzas are each unique and reflect a careful combination of flavors. My favorite is the Wiseguy with house-made mozzarella, fennel sausage and caramelized onion. The Pizza Rosa, with parmesan, red onion and pistachios, has received much critical acclaim for good reason. Recently Chris Bianco opened Pane Bianco, a charming lunch spot in uptown featuring a small menu of salads and sandwiches. The fresh-baked foccacia bread and generous portions make this a favorite for a casual lunch.