Fork-Free & Fabulous: Finger Foods for Dinner in the Valley of the Sun

Utensils aren’t required for a decent meal. The Valley of the Sun offers a smorgasboard of satisfying finger foods, from common sliders and tacos to something called “meat candy.”

Utensils aren’t required for a decent meal. The Valley of the Sun offers a smorgasboard of satisfying finger foods, from common sliders and tacos to something called “meat candy.”

Petite Buns

First, the sliders—robust, three-bite burgers that are worlds apart from the finger sandwiches of high tea. Morton’s makes them with filet mignon and only serves them in the bar; iPic Theaters at Scottsdale Quarter serves them in darkened screening rooms. TapHouse Kitchen finishes petite Angus patties with béarnaise sauce and a cracked quail egg. Pulled-pork sliders at Thirsty Lion Gastropub & Grill are dressed with barbecue sauce containing Newcastle brown ale; short rib sliders at Blue Hound Kitchen are scattered with root-beer-braised onions.

Sliders at TapHouse Kitchen

Sliced Bread

Bruschetta makes another easily hand-conveyed meal; it’s really just a series of toasts with fun toppings. Postino might have started the local movement, debuting inside a former Phoenix post office in 2001 with a menu of Caprese and white-bean salads piled onto French bread—a formula that remains popular at four locations Valleywide today. Newer Salut Kitchen Bar makes mini open-faced BLTs with Sriracha and ranch dressing. The Living Room puts apples, Brie and fig jam on sliced toast; Olive & Ivy applies asparagus or Brussels sprouts as seasons dictate.

Bruschetta at Postino

Handfishin’

Go beyond same-old popcorn shrimp and calamari: Hoist a few oysters on the half-shell at Little Cleo’s Seafood Legend. Or make like the lounge lizards at Houston’s: Pick at a platter of smoked salmon and toast points while making small talk with a curious stranger.

Little Cleo’s oyster menu

Meaty Treats

Leave it to a couple of upstart breweries to provide spunky bar snacks: Tempe’s Blasted Barley mixes popcorn with bacon, Parmesan and sage, while Mesa’s Beer Research Institute douses thick strips of candied bacon with Sriracha and calls it “meat candy.” And speaking of bacon, consider the finger-friendly butcher boards at Paul Martin’s American Grill and Bootleggers Modern American Steakhouse. They’re mighty meaty.

Blasted Barley popcorn; Paul Martin’s butcher board

Mexican por la Mano

There are too many great tacos in town to name, so here are a couple of the newest ones to get your hands on: Modelo beer-braised short ribs or achiote chicken in soft tortillas at Tapacubo at the Graduate Tempe hotel, and pineapple-braised pork with relish and slaw in a crispy shell at Diego Pops in Scottsdale.

Tapacubo tacos

Quesadillas can be a finger food too, depending on the recipe. Sierrra Bonita Grill’s tortilla wedges filled with Manchego cheese, spinach and earthy huitlacoche are nice and neat. Less tidy, but no less desirable, are the Hatch chile and cheese quesadillas at Carlsbad Tavern—they’re drippy, oozy, and worth the nominal napkin investment.

Sierra Bonita quesadilla

And don’t miss the chance to dip a few tortilla chips into a bowl of super-substantial guacamole. SOL Mexican Cocina uses mangos and toasted pepitas in one recipe and pomegranate seeds and candied walnuts in another. At SumoMaya, mashed avocados may be upgraded with lump crab or bacon and twice-fried pork rinds.

SOL guacamole