Best New Restaurants of 2007

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Essence Bakery Cafe
825 W. University Drive, Tempe

Stax Burger Bistro
4400 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale

Radio Milano
3950 E. Campbell Ave, Phoenix

I found lots of interesting restaurants (20, to be exact) to put in Phoenix Magazine's Best New Restaurants issue this year, but here are three of my personal favorites. Small though it may be, Essence Bakery Cafe packs a wallop when it comes to delivering on the baked goods. That's because chef owner Eugenia Theodosopoulos baked pies for her family's Ohio restaurant when she was a kid. That experience, coupled with her training in Paris, explains her incredible macarons (yes, one "o"), French-style sandwich cookies unlike any similarly named cookie you've ever had here in the States. Essence serves lovely breakfasts and healthy lunches in a charming, mutli-windowed, green-designed room. You'll love the simple but sophisticated food. Stax has a lot going for it too, namely, a terrific wine list featuring affordable half-bottles, a lively atmosphere (filled with restaurant types in the wee hours) and build-your-own burgers. Stax makes everything home-made (including the catsup and chutney) and offers lots of exotic burger choices for people who lack the creativity to dream up their own. Radio Milano, owned by the same folks who bring us La Grande Orange, Postino and Chelsea's Kitchen, is noisy, casual and a ton of fun. The Italian-inspired menu features small plates, delivered in no particular order and meant to be shared. The food is light and sophisticated, so don't be looking for marinara sauce and gobs of melted mozzarella. These days, there's valet parking to ease the burden of looking for a space on a corner that houses three bangin' LGO concepts.