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Best of AZ
The Pork Shop, Queen Creek

© Jeff Kida

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Best of AZ
Unless you're über-omniscient or an arrogant know-it-all, there's no way of putting together a definitive list of the best of everything. Especially in a place like Arizona, where the range of people, places and things is as vast as the Grand Canyon. Nevertheless, in our ongoing effort to steer you toward the state's superlatives, we present our second-annual Best of AZ package. From the beefiest bratwurst to the best place to shack up with the stars, this is our take on the best places to eat, stay and play in Arizona.

By Kelly Kramer

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BEST OF DINING

Best Beer Without a Buzz
Mr. D'z Route 66 Diner, Kingman
If you visit Mr. D'z, there are three things that should make their way from the menu to your belly: The first is the bacon cheeseburger — all of the servers say it's the must-eat entrée. The second is the banana split — need we say more? The third is Mr. D'z's world-famous root beer. "How world famous is it?" you ask. Well, Oprah liked it so much she ordered gallons of it for her audience. Oprah. That's saying something, and there's definitely something special about the sweet drink at Mr. D'z. It's cold and creamy and kind of like drinking a bunch of caramel candies — only better. Sure, if you follow our rules, you'll have to secretly loosen your belt while your companions aren't looking, but who cares? Oprah would approve. Information: 928-718-0066 or www.mrdzrt66diner.com.

Best of Arizona


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Best Buds
Desert Rain Café, Sells
All of the ingredients on the menu at Desert Rain Café are indigenous to the Tohono O'odham people. That means you'll find plenty of mesquite meal, prickly pear and agave. You'll also encounter the cholla bud. Known for its smoky, citrusy flavor, the bud makes an appearance in the café's pico de gallo, created by chefs at Tucson's Canyon Ranch. The cholla bud is also esteemed for its blood-sugar-lowering qualities, like so many of the foods native to the Sonoran Desert. Hearty and healthy? That's one heckuva bud. Information: 520-383-4918 or www.desertraincafe.com.
Best Bet for Cheap Eats
Molcas Mexican Grill, Tucson
Molcas may be a taco stand, but it's not just a taco stand. It's a place where you'll find homemade chicken flautas topped with smooth sour cream and salsa verde, steak quesadillas, fresh lemonade and Sonoran hot dogs — bun-busting creations topped with beans, chili or you name it. The prices are sweet, too. Perhaps best of all, you won't find anything on the menu that breaks the bank. In fact, you won't find anything that costs more than $5. Information: 520-295-4466.
Best of the Wurst
The Pork Shop, Queen Creek
Say you need to feed an army of people from Wisconsin — people who really, really, really love bratwurst. You could: A) hit the local grocery store for a few packs of Johnsonvilles, or B) hit The Pork Shop in Queen Creek, where you could get a pound of fresh, savory brats for just $3.99. If you needed 10 pounds to feed a small army, you'd only spend $39.90. That's not too shabby, and neither are the rest of the shop's offerings — everything from hickory-smoked bacon and Arizona summer sausage to Iowa-cut chops and Russian salami. And if the brats just aren't enough to keep your guests happy, you could try the "Half Hog," $200 worth of ribs, sausage, ham, chorizo and pork steaks that give a whole new meaning to the phrase "pigging out." Information: 480-987-0101 or www.theporkshopaz.com.
Best Bets for Experiencing the Upper Crust
Miz Zip's, Flagstaff/Apple Annie's, Willcox
This is a category that can't have just one winner. That's because it has to do with pie, and around here, pie is sacred. So, we picked two "bests," one in Northern Arizona and another in Southern Arizona. Flagstaff's Miz Zip's is vintage — it opened in 1954 — but its pies are as fresh as the day they were baked: today. Order a slice of lemon meringue and it'll tickle your taste buds, especially if it's topped with a scoop of melting, coat-your-tongue creamy vanilla ice cream. Some 350 miles away, Apple Annie's in Willcox serves up some serious pie, too. That makes sense, considering that Annie's is an orchard, where apples, peaches and pears are queens. Sweet. Information: Miz Zip's, 928-526-0104; Apple Annie's, 520-384-2084 or www.appleannies.com.
Best Way to Beat the Heat and Get Chile
Sal & Teresa's Mexican Restaurant, Show Low
Some like it hot. If you live in Show Low or vacation there, chances are you don't, which is why you've touched down in the cool White Mountains town. But that's only with regard to the weather. When it comes to red chile, Show Low residents and visitors like it smokin', so they visit Sal & Teresa's Mexican Restaurant. Consistently referred to as having the "best food on the mountain," this family owned hangout is known for its red chile, whether it's piled inside a burrito or atop chiles rellenos. And, you can get it for a steal — slap down $7.95, and roll away with a red chile burro, taco, rice and beans in your belly. Doggie bags are free of charge. Information: 928-537-0230.
Best Place to Go Dutch
Byler's Amish Kitchen, Black Canyon City
Breakfast at Byler's Amish Kitchen is kind of like breakfast in your grandma's kitchen with your extended family. Everyone's friendly, windows are dressed in lace and the food's fresh, hot and just plain good. You'll find homemade toast that you can smother with Byler's special peanut butter spread (PB, marshmallow topping and maple syrup), spicy sausage scrambles, arteries-be-damned gravy and pie. It, too, is homemade, and man, it's awesome. It even prompted one visitor to exclaim, "If being Amish means eating like this, I'm throwing away my car keys." It's a point well taken, but keep the keys — you'll need them for the drive to Byler's. Information: 623-374-9330.

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