Even after prohibition's repeal on December 5, 1933, no whiskey was legally made in the Phoenix-metro area until Arizona Distilling Co came along in 2013. Far from changing local history overnight, the distillery's team spent seven years refining their technique, sourcing local grains, and parsing plenty of legalese. The fruit of all that labor is Copper City Bourbon, barrel-aged for at least two years and named for an Arizona brewery that was shut down during prohibition. Though bourbon remains the micro-distillery's cornerstone, lead distiller Jason Grossmiller has already begun branching out into small-batch gin made with local botanicals and Desert Durum Wheat Whiskey, locally-sourced grain whiskey. In addition to being poured as samples in the tasting room, the company's libations grace stores and restaurants throughout the state, as well as speakeasy bars hidden inside desert mesas.
At Café Lalibela, you're expected to eat with your hands. The communal Ethiopian meals typically consist of injera—thin, spongy bread that tastes similar to sourdough—that diners, sans forks, use to scoop up wat, a stew made from veggies, meat, or both. Made from a grain native to Ethiopia, torn-off pieces of injera become utensils for fish stew simmered with red pepper or tikil gomen, a mix of cabbage, carrots, and potatoes. The menu features à la carte wat selections, as well as suggested combinations for individuals, parties of three, and tall figures made by parties of three concealed within a long overcoat. The staff's commitment to an authentic experience extends to its beverage offerings, including imported African wines, freshly roasted and brewed Ethiopian coffee served in a clay pot, and Tossign, an herbal tea from the country’s highlands.
Following Baja Fresh’s ethos set in 1990 as a healthy take on fast food, never-frozen meats sizzle atop the grill before they're tucked into made-to-order tacos and burritos. Grilled corn and flour tortillas embrace fish, carnitas, chicken, and steak, and smoky queso fundido sidles onto nachos and into burritos. Between bites, chips scoop up salsa made from farm-fresh produce rather than poured out of a can or fabricated in a space-age replicator. A complimentary salsa bar ensures no mouthful goes unspiced, and guests can scoop up their favorites as they await their dine-in, takeout, or catering orders.
Eating dessert first may be a classic faux pas, but no one could blame you at Essence Bakery Café. Chef and owner Eugenia Theodosopoulos studied in France and has earned quite a reputation for her macarons. Unlike the chewy, coconut-based variations commonly found in American bakeries, Eugenia’s macarons are crafted with finely ground almonds and then shaped into tiny sandwiches with decadent fillings like chocolate ganache, salted caramel, or tart raspberry jam. Of course, it's also hard to pass up mini desserts such as white chocolate and raspberry cream petits fours or fresh, buttery croissants, which the chef makes from scratch, and uses as the base for savory breakfast sandwiches topped with fried eggs and melted Dubliner cheese. But while many of her best-loved pastries originated in France, Eugenia makes a point of sourcing her ingredients locally. As such, the cafe’s sandwiches and salads are simple by design—the only proper thing to do with such high-quality meats and produce is to show them off. After all, what's not to love about dishes like a grass-fed steak and mushroom sandwich, served opened faced with cabernet butter and bleu cheese? Or organic greens tossed with caramelized onions, pecans, and warm pears poached in red wine? And, to further demonstrate their commitment to the environment, Eugenia’s team has also taken pains to ensure that all of the menus are printed on recycled paper, all of the to-go cups are biodegradable, and all of the cafe’s furniture is constructed from marzipan.
To make Thai Basil’s signature dish, chefs sauté the restaurant’s namesake herb with spicy garlic, bamboo shoots, and a variety of vegetables. Thai basil is also found in a bounty of other plates—grilled eggplant brightens beneath its characteristic tang, spicy fried rice takes on a Thai flavor with the herb, and three curry dishes incorporate it in their stews of coconut milk and spices. Tofu, beef, chicken, and a selection of seafood play central roles in the restaurant's selection of rice, noodle, stir-fry, and grill entrees, each conveniently priced by protein rather than individual dish or the number of letters in its name. Dishes find complement in a wide selection of iced and hot teas and traditional desserts, such as sticky purple rice topped with Thai custard.
Liquor stores generally don't give out free samples, but Taste of Tops is the next best thing. As the taproom for Tops Liquors, it's the place where customers go to try a sizable chunk of that store's massive inventory, including 24 rotating draft beers and another 400 microbrews in bottles and cans. Taste of Tops is also home to frequent wine and beer tastings, though tasting flights are actually available any time. The taproom doesn't serve food, but patrons are welcome to bring their own meals from local restaurants or from a mysterious picnic basket they found that spits out endless logs of pastrami.