If you’re reading this article, it may be out of pure curiosity and that’s okay. A lot of us have heard vague mentions of Southwestern food yet really aren’t clear on exactly what it is. So let’s start by educating ourselves:

Vibrant and intensely spicy, Southwestern cooking is known for its heavy use of chiles, and its staple ingredients are corn, beans, and squash. While it’s very similar to Tex-Max, it is, in fact, distinct from it and frequently found (cooked and eaten) in America’s Sunbelt states (including New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Colorado). Its influences are the Native American, Spanish, and Mexican cultures.

If you haven’t yet tried this unique cuisine, it’s about time that you do. To discover our top Southwestern restaurant recommendations in Arizona, continue reading below.

  1. Ghost Ranch: Modern Southwest Cuisine, Tempe, Arizona

“A party in your mouth” might just about sum it up. Ghost Ranch: Modern Southwest Cuisine in Tempe has established quite a reputation. Far and wide, people praise the quality, taste, and presentation of its food (it’s “CRAZY GOOD” exclaims one reviewer.) And this is Southwestern food at its best: “amazing” aguachile appetizers, “phenomenal” grilled rainbow trout, “delicious” Aztec cake, enchiladas, esquites dip, tacos, and so on. Diners also rave about the “tender, juicy” steaks that the eatery serves up and its exceptional cocktails (I’m definitely going to try the one with the hibiscus gin myself as it’s supposed to be “so floral and fruity,” which sounds refreshingly delicious!)

The staff at Ghost Ranch is also remarkably kind and helpful, and the bartenders are pleasant with a good sense of humor. Additionally, the interior of the restaurant is classy and modern. So if you’re dying for a taste of Southwestern fare, Ghost Ranch: Modern Southwest Cuisine is seriously the perfect place to go!

Check out Ghost Ranch: Modern Southwest Cuisine’s menu in Tempe, Arizona here.


  1. Vanes Cafe, Guadalupe, Arizona

Family-owned and operated, Vanes Cafe in Guadalupe serves delicious homecooked breakfast and lunch southwestern style. This means that you can get customizable breakfast burritos, spicy and crispy breakfast potatoes, flavorful french toast, veggie omelets, and so much more. (According to one reviewer, “You can’t go wrong with anything you order off the menu!”) Diners can’t get enough of the extremely affordable prices, generous portions, cozy atmosphere, and friendly, fast service (“I’d eat here every week if I could!” says one.)

And don’t let its small size fool you – Vanes has a charming outdoor patio that provides a relaxing and comfortable dining experience. Be sure to stop by this wonderful hole-in-a-wall spot for a hearty, southwestern-infused breakfast any day of the week!

Find Vanes Cafe’s menu in Guadalupe, Arizona here.

  1. Thirsty Lion Gastropub, Gilbert, Arizona

Happy hour with a Southwestern twist – how does that sound? Amazing, right? If so, get going to Thirsty Lion Gastropub in Gilbert right now. Truthfully, Thirsty Lion is a restaurant that satisfies a variety of tastes. There’s ramen and beer batter cheese curds and California rolls and green chili chicken and avocado sandwiches. And more. Kung pao chicken. Even beer cheese soup. A little all over the place maybe, but the food is excellent and patrons absolutely love the big selection of menu items.

The eatery easily manages large parties (including many birthday celebrations), and diners enjoy a relaxing and romantic ambiance at outside firepit tables. Thirsty Lion also serves brunch and provides a ton of cocktail, wine, and draft beer options. So if you’re ever in the mood for a touch of Southwestern fare mixed in with an eclectic blend of other outstanding cuisines, Thirsty Lion Gastropub will suit your needs perfectly – check it out soon!

View Thirsty Lion Gastropub’s menu in Gilbert, Arizona here.

Thirsty Lion

  1. AGAVE Southwest Bar & Grill, Scottsdale, Arizona

Sometimes the best places to eat are tucked away – nearly indiscernible, hidden, and completely underrated. AGAVE Southwest Bar & Grill in Scottsdale falls into this category, located in a Marriot hotel. You might be tempted to dismiss it because of its location, but don’t! Its menu is unique, service impeccable and fast, surroundings beautiful (“awesome view of the TPC golf course”), and the food top-notch. In particular, customers love AGAVE’s fresh tortillas, steak, chicken (“their spice blend recipe is literally gold”), and delightful breakfasts. So if you’re ever in Scottsdale, consider staying at the Marriot or dropping by to experience AGAVE Southwest Bar & Grill – you won’t be disappointed!

Explore AGAVE Southwest Bar & Grill’s menu in Scottsdale, Arizona here.

  1. Tapas al Gusto by Letty’s Cocina, Queen Creek, Arizona

The owner and founder of Tapas al Gusto in Queen Creek writes on the food truck’s website that the food she cooks and serves is a fusion of Spanish, French, and Indian cuisines. (There’s definitely some Southwestern flair in there too!) Customers have fallen in love with this exotic and completely unique kind of food. “The bacon-wrapped prawns with guacamole and cucumber are to die for,” and “The mushroom and poblano pepper tacos are so very delicious,” they write. Other favorites include Tapas’s fish tacos, scallop tapas, rice and bean salad, argentine quesadilla, tamales, barbacoa tacos, and ribeye burritos. You really can’t afford to miss experiencing Tapas al Gusto’s exceptional food – it’s out of this world amazing!

Find Tapas al Gusto by Letty’s Cocina’s menu in Queen Creek, Arizona here.