The 101 Best Dishes in the Valley

Fried Green Tomato Sandwich

Welcome Diner
The beauty of this dish comes from the harmony of its components. By design, it’s uncomplicated – just green tomato, arugula, corn relish and chipotle ranch, layered between two slices of Noble sourdough – which allows for masterful balance of salt, fat, acid and heat. Developed by the diner’s original chef, Michael Babcock, the fried green tomato sandwich talks with a Southern accent and walks with a Southwestern swagger.

Garlic Pork Roast

Los Dos Molinos
Los Dos is a Valley dining institution famed for brutalizing your soft tissues with fiery adovadas and sinus-clearing salsas, but it’s most brilliant dish is more or less capsaicin-free: this long-time favorite from the “specials” board that presents fork- tender pork roast in a meltingly hot mantle of cheese, potato and garlic. It’s a comfort bomb.

Goth Waffles

Activated charcoal has a glut of health benefits, from improving kidney function to lowering cholesterol levels. It’s also what gives this dish its inky hue and unusual moniker. Coal-colored Japanese-style bubble waffles are the main character here, while raspberry sorbet, berry compote, fresh seasonal fruit and shaved coconut have delicious supporting roles. Vegan and gluten-free, too.

Honeymoon Shooter

Hana Japanese Eatery
Oyster shooters, invented in San Francisco during the Gold Rush, often contain vodka. But chef/co-owner Lori Hashimoto keeps her honeymoon shooter – a blissful marriage of uni and oyster – non-alcoholic and Japanese in spirit, adding quail egg, ponzu, tobiko, green onion and garlic-laced Sriracha for a bracing blast of umami downed all in one go. Of the dozens of deserving dishes in Hashimoto’s arsenal – including her brilliant curry udon and elemental grilled squid (maruyaki) – it might be the most beloved.

Johnny Cakes

Aimee’s Swine House
Hoe cakes, Johnny cakes, jonnycake – they’re all regional names for the same delectable dish, pancakes made with cornmeal. Chef-owner Jonathan Allen amps up a traditional East Coast recipe with a secret “specific flour product” and luscious bacon fat. It provides a salty counter-melody to the symphony of sweetness that sways between cornbread and yellow cake. No syrup needed.

Castle Caesar

Sometimes the simplest things make the most impact. This is certainly the case with Windsor’s kale Caesar, which consists of romaine and kale, house-made cheddar biscuit croutons, generous chunks of avocado and celery, and crispy capers. The backstory: Back in 2009, on the eve of the restaurant’s opening, Upward Projects co-founder and CEO Lauren Bailey found herself with a batch of leftover cheddar biscuits and came up with a salad that’s still a force nearly 13 years later.

Korean Fried Chicken Tacos

CRUjiente Tacos
The Valley’s best tacos? This best-seller at everyone’s favorite Camelback-area gourmet taco pub surely belongs in the conversation. The star of the dish is a succulent knot of thigh meat, brined and double-fried by chef Richard Hinojosa, then draped in a spicy glaze of gochujang (Korean chile paste) accented with ginger and honey. “Each [taco] is a composed plate,” says Hinojosa, who enhances the crispy, juicy chicken with shredded compressed cabbage and dollops of jalapeño-green onion mojo. Never leave us, Korean fried chicken taco.

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