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cocktail party near PHX convention center?

I throw a cocktail party (hors d'oeuvres and lots of drinks) at an annual conference for my company and next year's event will be at the Phoenix Convention Center. Previous years' parties have just been at the host hotel, but I went a bit overboard at our event in Savannah this year and threw the party at The Lady & Sons. The big draw for guests was celebrity chef Paula Deen, but the location and service were wonderful and the food wasn't bad either.

So now I have to match that!

Anyone have suggestions for a good cocktail party location near the convention center? My requirements:

- walk or *very* short cab ride from convention center
- lively atmosphere
- dedicated banquet area that fits at least 100

and of course:

- great food!

I'd love something unique to Phoenix. I'm open to all kinds of cuisines, as long as the atmosphere is festive and the food is good. Catered/banquet food isn't always the best representation of a restaurant, I know -- but I'd like the location we choose to have a quality menu to work from.

Thanks for any suggestions you might have!

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  1. Hm-m-m, while Phoenix has some great food, I cannot bring anything, that fits your requirements, in the Convention Center area to mind.

    Now, to your thought of a "catered" event: though the restaurant recently got a less than favorable review on this board, I still stick with my love for the food at Vincent's On Camelback, http://www.vincentsoncamelback.com/. Chef Vincent Guerithault, a James Beard Award winning chef, has created a Phoenix landmark for dining with his unique and personal take on Southwest-influenced French cuisine. We have used their catering service for groups from 12 to 60. I have attended events for 200, where he, and his staff shown. Provided that your hotel will accommodate your requests, this would be one recommendation.

    Maybe others will have some more ideas for you. Also, the complexion of the downtown dining scene is changing in Phoenix, but I do not know if it will be "ready" in time for your event.


    1. i'd say tradiciones - its not at the phx center but its relatively close. when we were there at xmas they had 2 separate private events that totaled 150 ppl - so they can definitely handle the volume

      1. OR the science center is a quick walk of a block or 2 - why not have the party there??

        3 Replies
        1. re: winedubar

          Oooh... the Science Center could be cool. This is an event for Pharmacists. Any maybe the Science Center would allow Bill Hunt's caterer. (Hotel locations rarely allow outside caterers.)

          Thanks for the suggestions! Keep 'em coming! I really appreciate the help.

          1. re: janeoh

            You have two major challenges... timing and location.

            - Timing wise, downtown PHX is under major construction. There's light rail going in, the convention center is being rebuilt, a massive convention hotel has not even begun to arise, not to mention other major projects that are still in infancy... a major new ASU campus, biotech facility, condos, - plus a big entertainment district, parks and housing proposed. Thus what you have is a number of blocks under construction, others being demolished, and a bunch of seemingly vacant real estate doing nothing until the stars align. Lots of proimise, but timing wise you are in a transitional period.

            - You'll be locationally challenged for the same reasons. There are some nice gems near downtown, but I can't think of any for 100+.withiin walking distance.

            Honestly, you might consider taking a couple of buses from the conference hotel to offsite location.

            Otherwise, you should check with the Science Center, Symphony, Art Museum, etc - all of which are nearby - to see their catering options.

            When is your gig? The Museum of Art, for now, is hosting a world class collection of Rembrandt.

            1. re: janeoh

              We've attended similar events at both the Science Museum and the Art Museum. Since I was only an attendee, I do not know the catering situation. All of these were good, though the wine selection at the Art Museum was very, very limited - probably from their catering dept.

              Please post your reviews, good & bad, as this is a fairly common inquiry, and we (locals) need to know who handles this sort of event the best.

              Another venue, albeit not really close, is the Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens. Again, we've attended weddings, business dinners, etc. there, and they do a great job. However, I have never been the person in charge of organizing the event, so I do not know all of the details.

              If you decide to do something outside the CBD (Central Business District - a term not often used in the PHX Area), there are several transportation companies, that cater to the business dinner off-site. Here, I could make a few recs., however, they are well outside the domaine of "food," so I will remain silent on this aspect.

              AND, you know that you are now obligated to post a review, eh?


          2. The Arizona Club at the top of the Bank One(Chase) tower does hosted events like banquents and weddings. We looked into it for our wedding - nice view.


            What about the sports facilities - Don't they have clubs?

            1. A great Caterer in the downtown area that is terrific is Taylor Rae’s Catering – (602) 264-6900
              They may have some suggestion for venues in the downtown area that would work for a group.
              Ask for Randy!!!

              1. Bentley Galleries? Downtown Phoenix, great location,. good catering. Central Library, incredible architecture, room for 100, good catering. Heard Museum...absolutely unique to Phoenix. Tradiciones is very good - they have a very nice room for receptions. But once you're there...you're there.

                1. I think there are two issues here: facility and caterer

                  All of the museums and cultural facilities mentioned would make excellent venues. The question is if they allow you to choose your own caterer or if you are limited to a contracted provider.

                  Unfortunately, good restaurants with large rooms for private functions are scarce downtown.

                  1. Thanks so much for all your input! My event isn't for a year (Mar. 18, 2008). It may seem that I'm planning too far in advance, but we like to book locations and services early for planning and budgeting purposes. In the past, we've always thrown our parties at a location that provides the food. A venue with a separate caterer would add some complications, but they might be very worthwhile complications. I love the idea of a museum or the library. I will start to research some of the sites and caterers and post again if I have questions. Then, of course, I'll post a review!

                    And, while I prefer the idea of choosing the best location in the area, regardless of proximity to the Convention Center, it won't work in this case. We won't be the only company throwing an event that evening and our guests will likely want to be able to come and go as they choose. But thanks for the transportation suggestions!

                    1. I second Alice's recommendation for the Bentley Gallery - the downtown space is actually called Bentley Projects. They have a fair amount of room and use Arcadia Farms for catering. More info can be found here: http://www.bentleyprojects.com/events...

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: pickychick

                        Many people planning cool/fun downtown events struggle with this. Understand re: wanting guests to come and go and not worry about transportation

                        I attended a cocktail party on the pool deck of the Hyatt Regency (3rd floor maybe?) that was open air and very fun. Bad thing is that you would have to use the Hyatt for food...

                        Bentley Gallery is a good idea, at least you could get a good caterer.

                        What about the rooftop pool deck at historic Hotel San Carlos? That is a great venue - anyone know about how their kitchen is doing these days?

                        ...perhaps US Air Arena or Bank One Ballpark could do a cool event? My only worry would again be forced in-house caterers.

                        One final thought...we as locals may groan, but famous former Phoenix Suns player Dan Majerle's Sports Grill and Lounge is in an ideal location downtown, offers lots of drinks and decent bar food and is specific to Phoenix. They just expanded I think and can handle large private parties:http://www.majerles.com/privatepartie...

                        Let us know how it goes!

                        1. re: HomeCookKirsten

                          Thanks, Kirsten. I think we'll actually be staying at the Hyatt (as will many of the conference attendees), so that might be an option. If anyone has had catering there or at the Hotel San Carlos, I'd love to hear reviews.

                          I'm also going to look into the Bentley Gallery. Thanks so much!

                          1. re: janeoh

                            Hyatt was the central hotel for an IACP conference in Phoenix about ten years ago. They did an OK catering job, pretty standard hotel fare. The San Carlos was abysmal but, keep in mind, this is ten year old information. Maybe they've revamped their operation(s). Eugenia Theodosopoulos (sp) co-owner of Essence Catering is a good name to know. She has catered some large events at high-end locations for discerning people and received rave reviews. Check with The Phoenix Art Museum. I remember one of her parties there as being especially well-done. There must be other references.

                            She's be my first call if I were in your shoes. Perhaps she'll also have ideas for the perfect spot for your party. Have you checked into the possibility of using the Orpheum Theatre? It is walking distance from the Hyatt and a recently renovated Phoenix landmark.

                            Good Luck - you have quite a chore.

                      2. For catering, the ones to get in town are Arcadia Farms and Santa Barbara Catering. I used to work for Santa Barbara and can say from getting to munch leftovers at the end of the night that the food was always delicious. I think most places that have venue space (the best ones off the top of my head would be the Science Center, Phoenix Art Museum, Heard Museum, Phoenix Zoo, and Desert Botanical Gardens) will often have their own caterer (I know for DBG it's Arcadia Farms) but they'll usually let whoever you want do catering for your function.