The West's best food towns

Whose food scene reigns supreme? Check out the winners of our 4 regional food town smackdowns

Phoenix-Scottsdale vs. Tucson food fight

Two Southwest titans duke it out for the title of best food city

Southwest smackdown
Photo by Annabelle Breakey

Southwest smackdown

Arguing for Pho-Sco: Craig Outhier (reviews restaurants for the Arizona Republic and covers dining and lifestyle news for Phoenix magazine). We concede that the best Mexican restaurant in Arizona might be Tucson’s Cafe Poca Cosa, but our concessions end there. By every other important standard—fine dining, ethnic eats, chef-owned gastropubs, omakase masterminds—the Phoenix-Scottsdale metro tag team beats the stuffing out of rinky-dink Tucson. You can find a decent street taco in Tucson. You might even hunt down a hip New American grill where the chef dreams up some credible culinary use for the cholla buds he picked behind his condo. But here’s the sad truth: You’ll exhaust Tucson’s reservoir of interesting restaurants in about a month. Not so in Pho-Sco, where a critical mass of award-winning culinary talent powers the region’s best food scene.

Arguing for Tucson: Edie Jarolim (Tucson editor for Zagat and contributing dining editor for Tucson Guide). David to Goliath: We’re coming for you. Go ahead and let our sleepy cow-town image fool you, but while you’ve spent your boom years grilling steaks for planeloads of sun-burned golfers, Tucson has been slow-cooking its way into culinary respectability. A new generation of energetic young chefs can whip up perfect steak frites from grass-fed local beef and purple Peruvian spuds, mix a mean ginger-infused margarita, and finish with a bracing tart-and-sweet prickly pear sorbet. Add expansive, smog-free Sonoran Desert vistas, and we’ve got you L.A. wannabes to the north hog-tied. Bring it.


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