Arizona may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of compelling cuisine, but the Grand Canyon state is slowly establishing itself as a foodie hotspot. With influences from Mexican and Indigenous cultures, Arizona restaurants have started attracting the attention of both the James Beard and Forbes Five Star awards.
From date-infused shakes to bacon-blanketed hot dogs, Arizona has some surprising but delicious offerings. Here are the foods you need to check out next time you visit the 48th state.
The name pretty much sums it up, but what it doesn’t describe is how delicious this meal is. Dating back to 1864, fry bread has a long and somewhat tragic past. It was first invented by the Navajo when they were driven from their land in Arizona and forced to walk 300 miles to New Mexico.
The dish is a flat dough bread, deep fried in oil, shortening, or lard. It’s often topped with beans, meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream. On occasion, some restaurants also serve sweetened versions with honey or powdered sugar.
Where to try it: Fry Bread House in Phoenix
When it comes to milkshakes, most people debate between chocolate and vanilla, but what about date? Arizona is one of only a few states that grows dates in mass quantities. It’s known for the medjool date, a larger and darker variety that offers a caramel-like taste. When liquified and added to a milkshake, the exotic fruit offers a sweet taste that you’ll only find in Arizona.
Where to find it: Sphinx Date Co. Palm & Pantry in Scottsdale
You may recognize the name Chimichanga from the answering machine message in the movie Meet the Fockers (or not–that wasn’t Ben Stiller’s best work). Either way, this deep-fried burrito is an Arizona staple. The dish traces its history back to 1920s Tucson when Monica Flinn accidentally dropped a burro into the deep fryer. Chimichangas are traditionally filled with meat, beans, cheese, rice, and a healthy helping of sour cream.
Where to find it: El Charro Cafe in Tucson
Prickly pear margarita
This drink may sound lethal, but we swear it offers a refreshing reprieve on a hot Arizona day. Made from the edible fruit that bloom on prickly pear cactus, the juice is mixed with a splash of tequila to create an alluring margarita with a satisfying mix of sweet, salty, and sour. Prickly pear is also used to make jams, jellies, and syrups.
Where to find it: Javelina Cantina in Sedona
Considering Phoenix’s origins as a cattle town, it would be hard to leave steak off the list. Whether you’re looking for t-bones, ribeyes, or porterhouses, Arizona offers a number of classic American steakhouses. Make sure to get it broiled, though. This is when the chef lays the steak on a very hot pan for a short amount of time, crisping the outside while keeping the meat tender on the inside.
Where to find it: Durant’s in Phoenix
Route 66 beer
One of the most famous roads in the country, Route 66 was America’s first all-weather highway linking Chicago to Los Angeles. And while we don’t condone drinking and driving, if you’re looking for a place to end your road trip, there’s no better spot in Arizona to grab a beer than Mother Road Brewing. Creating beers inspired by the open road, try its Limited Visibility hazy IPA or its classic Tower Station IPA.
Where to find it: Mother Road Brewing in Flagstaff
Sonoran hot dog
This isn’t your average ballpark frank. Originating as street food in 1940s Sonora, Mexico, rather than a traditional bun, the sonoran hot dog uses a split-top roll called a bolillo. Wrapped in bacon and grilled, the hotdog is cradled in the bolillo and topped with onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, pinto beans, mayonnaise, guacamole, pico de gayo, and a dumping of cheese. Tourists travel from all over to sample the legendary Arizona dog.
Where to find it: El Guero Canelo in Tucson