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Phoenix Area favorites

I'm meeting friends in Phoenix in mid-September for a conference at the Hyatt. We're all food lovers and would like to experience some of the best the greater Phoenix area has to offer (we'll have a car and know how to use maps.)I've searched the boards, but these are my questions for local Chowhounds, if you'll please help us:

1)Your most favorite restaurant that's real Arizona (Mexican, American, or Native...)
2)Your most favorite place for a special night on the town
3)Your most favorite lunch spot with 15 minutes of downtown
4)Your most favorite place for atmosphere

Many thanks for your help!

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  1. 1) It doesn't get much more real Arizona than the Fry Bread House on 7th Ave just north of Indian School. Their frybread is perfect, the chilis are incredibly delicious. Also worth a note is Carolina's Mexican, which also fits category 3.

    2) Many resort restaurants fit the bill. Elements at the Sanctuary (NB: I work at Sanctuary's sister property, the Hotel Valley Ho, but elements really is good!), T. Cook's at the Royal Palms, Lon's at the Hermosa are all good choices. Coup des Tartes is excellent, Durant's is a well-preserved classic steakhouse that does great steaks (park in back and go in through the kitchen!), other people will mention more.

    3) Carolina's Mexican is close to downtown. If you get the urge for soul food, Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe is *the* gold standard for soul food in Arizona. Mrs. White has been cooking in the same location for decades now. Her grandson opened up his own restaurant not too far from Mrs. White's. It's called Lo-Lo's Chicken and Waffles. Both are amazingly good. Neither one looks like a classy joint (at Mrs. White's, the menu is written directly on the wall), but oh MAN the food is good. You'll wish that you could hire professional body rollers to get you out to your car.

    4) A lot of places with atmosphere are places that don't have good food. I think I'd go with Durant's, exactly like an old style steakhouse should be, dark inside with dark leather booths and great waitstaff. Pizzeria Bianco is also a great one for atmosphere, as it is in a historic old storefront. Be warned the wait at Bianco's can be ridiculously long (we're talking at least an hour and a half), so either get there before 4:30 (they open at 5), have a party of 6-10 so you can get a reservation, or settle in at the wine bar next door (in a charming old house lit mostly by candlelight at night). I have brought a deck of cards and played lots of Gin Rummy while waiting.

    1. It will still be warm in mid-September, so bring your sunscreen and short-sleeved shirts. Here are my answers:

      1. Los Sombreros (Mexican - Scottsdale) / Barrio Cafe (Mexican - Phoenix) / Indian Fry Bread House (Native American - Phoenix) / Durant's (American - Phoenix)

      2. T. Cook's at the Royal Palms Resort in Phoenix (Southwestern and Mediterranean Fusion)

      3. Phoenix Ranch Market (16th Street and Roosevelt in Phoenix) - Mexican

      4. Two places: Durant's (Phoenix) - Old World Club feeling to it. Red Velvet wallpaper, black leather booths, tuxedo-clad waiters. Coup de Tartes (Phoenix) - French bistro, intimate, in a little converted house.

      Have a great time in Phoenix.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Seth Chadwick

        Oh man, how could I have forgotten Phoenix Ranch Market? They're one of my favorites! Great food, festive atmosphere, and the prices are ridiculously low.

      2. What a fun way to categorize your chow wish list! Like others, I'm finding my choices are fitting into more than one category.

        1. Quintessential Arizona -- Los Sombreros or Roaring Fork. T Cook's can also fit here for the setting -- The Royal Palms has the true territorial elegance that feels more Arizonan than any other place, to me.

        2. Night on the town -- Sea Saw or Cowboy Ciao topped off by drinks at Kazimierz Wine Bar. They're all back to back on restaurant row, in the middle of the nightlife in Scottsdale. I also think they are the best food we have, outside of maybe Binkley's up in Cave Creek. You won't regret a meal at either place.

        3. Central lunch -- I'll echo Carolina's, emphatically, but Phoenix Ranch Market is another good experience.

        4. Atmosphere -- this one's hard, because all of the above are memorable spots. I'll repeat T Cook's, I'll add Sassi, Lon's at the Hermosa, I'll agree with Pizzeria Bianco -- but only if you're on the dime when the doors open, or don't mind an evening on the porch of the wine bar in the Craftsman bungalow next door -- and I'll throw in Tarbell's for the mention, the food and wine are great.

        edited to mention that Coup De Tartes, which Seth mentioned, is BYO, which makes for a fantastic bargain. Menu's online so you can scout your wine pairing(s) ahead of time.

        Enjoy your time here. Let us know if you need any more recommendations!

        1. JK......I'm going to Elements on Monday night with hubby. I can't WAIT!

          1. 3)Your most favorite lunch spot with 15 minutes of downtown
            The original Crazy Jim's on 15th AVE just south of Indian School. Great salad's - love the house creamy greek dressing. House made fresh pita bread. Pizza good there (soggy if you take it to go IMO).

            Chili Pepper (Chinese) - have only eaten lunch here and have only eaten either the Lemon or House (General Tso style) chicken - but have enjoyed both. Nice bit of attitude from the staff. Even if there is a wait it won't be long - they encourage no diddling after you eat. Come, eat, go - let the folks who are waiting in. Central north of Osborn on the east side of the road - small pink building.

            Other categories are well defined.

            BZ

            7 Replies
            1. re: Bazel

              Bazel,

              Do you mean China Chili? I work near Central and Osborn and China Chili closed its location on Central because of work on the Light Rail project. (They are opening a new location on 3rd Street near Virginia in the future, so I have been told.)

              1. re: Seth Chadwick

                China Chili is remodeling a building at Third Street and Flower. And, yes, it's going to be pink.

                1. re: El Dupree

                  Any update on China Chili? It is great and I really hope they come back.

                  1. re: poet

                    Just drove by the new location this evening. They're still working on the building, and I was wrong -- it doesn't look pink any longer. No clue yet as to when it'll open. Anyone else know?

                    1. re: El Dupree

                      Yes, China Chili is soon to open on 3rd street! I've had their
                      menu sitting on my desk for the past 6 months, because they
                      had mentioned they were going to relocate. My boss just
                      confirmed that they will open on Friday, December 15th!

                      1. re: snowsk8er

                        Looks as if the original owners of China Chili have opened a new place : Mr. Chao's Asian Bistro....

                        Has anyone tried it?

                        http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/Issues...

                        1. re: ciaogal

                          [Bump]

                          It's in Ahwatukee:
                          4232 East Chandler Boulevard, Ahwatukee
                          480-759-2899.

                          Not very handy for me, sigh, but good for trips to Tucson...

                          Cheers -- Pete Tillman
                          Rimrock