The Arizona Restaurant Association has named the finalists for its 2016 Foodist Awards.
The finalists listed are essentially a who’s who of the state’s culinary scene.
Split into 13 categories, the finalists were chosen by a panel of food and beverage industry experts.

And the nominees are:

Uniquely Arizona – Home to some of the oldest documented food traditions, Arizona has a rich culinary past steeped in tradition. We are searching statewide for the restaurants that embrace not only the local food but are staples of the state.

  • Joe’s Real BBQ
  • Lon’s at the Hermosa
  • The Stockyards

Food Pioneer– Honors a lifetime of outstanding culinary excellence that continues to educate, inspire, entertain and foster a deeper understanding of the culinary culture in Arizona.

  • Joe Johnston (Liberty Market, Joe’s Real BBQ, Joe’s Farm Grill)
  • Kevin Binkley (Binkley’s, Bink’s Midtown, Bink’s Kitchen + Bar, Cafe Bink)
  • Sam Fox (Fox Restaurant Concepts)

Top Chef – Pays tribute to outstanding culinary excellence, breaking new ground with an innovative menu while enhancing the dining experience.

Innovative Restaurant Concept– Recognizes a restaurateur or restaurant group who demonstrates that they don’t follow trends; they define them, setting the bar in restaurant operations and the overall customer dining experience.

  • Clever Koi
  • Kai
  • Ocotillo

Outstanding Multiple Location Restaurant– Honors a culinary concept with multiple locations, demonstrating exceptional achievement and commitment to excellence in marketing, menu design and customer service.

  • Nook Kitchen
  • Pita Jungle
  • Postino

Emerging Restaurant of the Year– Honors promising up-and-comers that demonstrate exemplary talent, showcase innovation and have already distinguished themselves as pacesetters in food, beverage and service.

  • Craft 64 Pizza
  • Flourish Restaurant
  • Ocotillo

Restaurant Employee– Recognizes the front or back of house employee that has set the gold standard for exemplary customer service and enhancing the overall dining experience.

  • Darryl Jansen, Kitchen Manager (Joe’s Real BBQ)
  • Kevin Michael Lewis, Sommelier & Beverage Director (Kai)
  • Laura Baldassarre, Employee (Wildflower Bread Company)

Premier Cocktail Program– Recognizes an outstanding restaurant or bar that demonstrates excellence and innovation in their cocktail program.

  • Bitter & Twisted
  • Counter Intuitive
  • Market Street Kitchen

Premier Beer Program– Recognizes an outstanding restaurant or bar that demonstrates excellence and innovation in their beer program.

  • Culinary Dropout
  • Four Peaks Brewing Company
  • Two Brothers Tap House & Brewery

Premier Wine Program– Recognizes an outstanding restaurant or bar that demonstrates excellence and innovation in their wine program.

  • Lon’s at the Hermosa
  • Ocotillo
  • Southern Rail

Good Neighbor– Recognizes the outstanding community leadership and exceptional devotion to making a difference in our neighborhoods and community at large.

  • Joy Bus
  • Local First
  • Salut Kitchen Bar

Outstanding Food Truck– Recognizes outstanding achievement in mobile nourishment, operations and community development.

  • Chef Wade’s Bistro on Wheels
  • Frites Street
  • The Rocket

Best Dish “Dessert”– Honors the restaurant that quite simply does it best.

  • Butter Cake (Mastro’s)
  • Orange Sky (All desserts)
  • Sumo Maya (Tres Leches)

The winner will be announced at the award ceremony on Thursday, April 21 at 6:00 p.m. at the Showcase room located at 149 S. Farmer Avenue in Tempe.

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