PaPaYa Thai Restaurant’s chicken mango curry won Best Thai Curry 2009 by Phoenix magazine. It brims with the bold, sweet, and spicy flavors of coconut milk, mango, and red-curry paste, further enhanced by sweet basil, lean chicken, and bell peppers, each shaped like a life-size Stanley Cup. It’s testament to the carefully crafted dishes typical of PaPaYa, which serves traditional dishes that alternate between sweet, sour, and salty flavors and feature no MSG. The barbecue grill adds crispiness to chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, and salmon, each plated beside thai sticky rice and sides of sweet chili dip or spicy lime sauce. Most dishes can be made vegetarian on request, and PaPaYa’s attentive waiters encourage patrons to pick their preference of spiciness, ranging from mild and medium to thai hot.
At Pink Pepper Thai Cuisine, spice whisperers summon sauces such as thai curry and lemon chili to grace plentiful portions of chicken, beef, and veggies. Twelve appetizers such as baked mussels glazed with spicy cream sauce ($8.95) and marinated Chicken on Sticks ($5.95) set the course for meals to come, like explorers on their way to a legendary city made of foie gras. Wreathed in shredded cabbage, the pattaya chicken ($9.95) swims in an ocean of sweet-and-sour garlic sauce spiked with curry powder, and Arizona fried rice ($10.95) steeps its wok-fried grains and veggies in a thai curry paste before chefs toss in beef, chicken, or pork. Patrons can also sip traditional beverages such as thai iced tea and coffee ($2.95) or head to Pink Pepper’s full bar to show off their good posture by balancing glasses of beer and wine on their perfectly level heads.
If you've always wanted to visit Bangkok, but could never learn the Internet to order a plane ticket, today’s Groupon will get you the next best thing: $40 worth of acclaimed Thai cuisine at Malee’s Thai Bistro for $20. AZ Central, whose readers picked Malee's as Best Thai Restaurant of 2009, describes the intimate Old Town restaurant as a “great place to warm up and chill out after an afternoon of browsing local shops and art galleries.” Malee's food is MSG-free, and if you have special dietary needs, the chefs will happily de-glutenize or vegetablize any order. You can also have any dish custom-spiced to your preferred level of spicy.Unfortunately, no amount of angry letters directed at government officials or Hollywood scientists could stop the heat from rising. Temperatures soon reached an unheard-of 70 degrees, and Arizona repealed its mandatory "10 Layers of Underwear to Prevent Moral Perversion" statute and became the first territory to make reading illegal for children under six, believing that the brain waves of young readers were causing the heat wave. A delegation of Arizona preachers even visited the equator to yell at the sun, but to no avail. No cure was ever found for the rising temperatures, and today, temperatures in Phoenix rarely drop below 200 degrees.
Just past the vault door lies The Mint’s most valuable treasures: trays of expertly crafted cocktails and martinis. Housed in 7,000 square feet of a former bank building, The Mint nods to its previous life with money-themed drinks and rich, Asian-inspired tapas from a menu conceptualized by the restaurant's executive chef, Johnny Chu. Small plates of loganberry shrimp, wasabi sliders, and flash-fried sugar-cane pork take their place at booths cut with dark wood and cohiba marble or along seats at the main room’s 30-foot bar. Drinks include The Mint, a mélange of Grey Goose La Poire, star fruit, mint, and lemon, and Liquid Gold, which pairs a pineapple-infused vodka with Grand Marnier, amaretto, lemon, and raspberry, all heated to 1,948 degrees Fahrenheit. After fueling up with comestibles and drinks, diners can explore the patio’s cabana-style seating or take a break with some bubbly at the coed bathroom’s champagne bar.
The menu at Wild Thaiger is so colorful and esoteric it would almost come as no surprise if the thaiger ribs were made from actual tiger. Don't worry, they aren't. The half and full slabs are actually made from tender pork, marinated in a blend of spices. To get a real taste of a jungle beast, order the decha boar, sliced thin and served with green beans, bamboo shoots, and hot red chili sauce. The wild boar is one of many specialties pioneered by chef Olashawn Hasadinratana-Weaver. She and her family rely on seasonal ingredients and traditional marinades to distinguish their fiery Thai cuisine, which ranges from ubiquitous plates of pad Thai to a citrus-tinted seafood panang curry. Though the herb blends are complex, the kitchen keeps no secrets. Diners who sit indoors can watch as chefs toss their meals in the blazing fire wok, searing meats and Asian veggies with touches of lemongrass, basil, and lime, but no MSG. Alternatively, the protected patio provides shelter for outdoor suppers that might otherwise be ruined by errant fly balls. There, hot days herald bowls of homemade coconut and durian ice cream, or a chilled cocktail from the full bar, where imported beers and wines also make a strong showing.
Wrigley Mansion has been Phoenix’s grande dame for over 80 years, built as a 24-room estate between 1929 and 1932 by chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. as a 50th wedding anniversary present for his wife, Ada. However, the on-site Geordie’s Restaurant & Lounge is much newer – the Italian eatery opened in the 1990’s – but still retains the gracious elegance of the grounds with white tablecloth service and plenty of upscale entrées to choose from. Chef Robert Nixon makes his own pastas and breads, and plucks his own herbs from the Wrigley’s garden, then sends out statement dishes like the signature Bisteca alla Fiorentina, a 32-ounce Porterhouse for two, or tagliatelle tossed with daily seafood. The patio is extremely popular for periodic jazz nights and a sunset happy hour, though the gilded, baroque interior is nothing to shy away from, either.