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Great Food, Fun atmosphere near the Biltmore (PHX)

Hi all!
I have been pouring through the Phoenix boards about restaurants for dinner and am having a little trouble deciding on a dinner spot for this Friday night (not for lack of choices I assure you!). My best friend and I are meeting up for a girls weekend at the Biltmore on Thursday night and staying through Sunday. While we know we are eating at the hotel Saturday night, could anyone give a recommendation for the Friday night? We would like somewhere with a fun vibe, close to the Biltmore (we don't have a car), but great food. I know everyone loves NOCA, but I am not sure the stripmall atmosphere fits the bill. We were also looking at Christopher's, Sophie's, Postino Wine Bar and Richardson's. Anyone have any other suggestions or want to weigh in on these? Thanks so much!
Robin

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  1. FWIW, Richardson's is also in a strip mall, and Christopher's is in a mall--a pretty nice one, though. Richardson's and Postino may be the most "fun" restaurants in your list, but foodwise, they aren't even in the same league as NOCA.

    Postino has a sleek modern feel which differs pretty markedly from the dark clubby coziness of Richardson's. To me, Postino seems more stereotypically "girly" than Richardson's, but I don't pretend to know which one most women would prefer for a girls' night out--depends on the girls, I reckon. :-)

    5 Replies
    1. re: hohokam

      DearHohokam,
      Thanks for the quick response :)
      It will be a pretty low-key "night out." We would prefer somewhere we can have a conversation(i.e. no blaring music,etc). We certainly won't be clubbing it. We are definitely used to excellent food so we wanted somewhere worth the only night out we have, but somewhere that is not a hassel to get to and has a nice fun atmosphere. How is Postino's food compared to Richardson's? Would we need a reservation at either for a Friday night?
      Thanks again...

      1. re: charliebear2

        The menu at Richardson's generally features heavier fare with a Southwestern kick, in contrast to Postino, where several lighter/easily shared options are offered (salads, soups, bruschetta) along with panini of various stripes (follow links below for more details).

        For dinners out, I'm generally more inclined to eat at places that offer more than soups, salads, and sandwiches, so if I had only one opportunity to eat dinner out in Phoenix, I probably would skip Postino. This is not meant as a knock against Postino's food, but is simply a reflection of how I like to spend my dining dollars. Bruschetta and salads are nice, but I can easily make that stuff at home.

        At Richardson's, unless you get a very early start or are comfortable waiting an hour or two, it's best to get a reservation, but beware, they take reservations for parties of 4 or more only. I'm not sure that Postino even takes reservations, but maybe someone can speak to that.

        I'm hoping that someone can weigh in on Christopher's as this might be the best all-around option in terms of food, atmosphere, and location. I haven't been there yet, so I can't offer an informed opinion about it.

        -----
        Postino Winebar
        3939 E Campbell Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85018

        Richardson's Cuisine of New Mexico
        1582 E. Bethany Home Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85016

        1. re: hohokam

          I won't pretend to know the best spot for a "girl's night," but if you're looking to keep it casual and want to do Postino, you can always get a very good pizza at La Grande Orange, then just walk to Postino (they're neighbors) to hang out and have some drinks (or vice versa). Honestly, drinks at Postino, walking over and having some dinner at LGO, followed by some great gelato at Arlecchino is a fantastic night, if you ask me.

          Truthfully, though, if the stripmall location is all that is keeping you away from any of the other options mentioned, that's really not a very good reason. Like silverbear said below, it really doesn't matter once you're inside...still will have the terrific food and atmosphere. Being located in a stripmall is extremely common here and, as you see, says absolutely nothing about the quality of food or ambiance.

          1. re: crsin

            honestly for a no hassle getting in and out, no blaring music kind of night i wouldn't recommend either postino/lgo or richardsons. both are going to be packed, both will have a wicked wait (assuming you can't get a res, which still might be a reality at this late time), and both are loud, loud, loud.

            if loud and a wait doesn't bother you, i'd say stick with richardsons, because the food is great, and unless you're from the southwest, you probably won't find something similar where you live. have your concierge make the reservations for you, they'll be able to work some magic getting you in. lets just call it an insiders tip ;)

            we just had our girls nite out at j&g steakhouse at the phoencian.. ok, its a chain, but a damn good one ;) loved the food, loved the stellar view of phoenix from the patio, and its not too far from you.

            i'd say noca, too for sure. i'm not a big fan of tarbells, and chelsea's kitchen i haven't been too in the last 6 months so i can't say if it's as loud as it used to be.

            just my random thoughts

            1. re: winedubar

              Good to know. I've only been during mid-late afternoons (with the exception of Arlecchino), so have always gotten right in and have only experienced it when it was fairly subdued and reasonably quiet. In fact, I've actually never even had a difficult time finding a parking spot which shows I've only experienced the rare lull in the swarm. I guess it all depends on what OP's idea of "fun vibe" is...

    2. Stripmall, schmipmall -- I don't understand why people get so hung up about restaurants located in neighborhood shopping centers. Unless you intend to sit outside, it won't make any different in ambiance.

      Noca's great. So is Tarbell's, which is located diagonally across the street in -- you guessed it -- another stripmall. Neither is a straightforward walk from the Biltmore, though. The Biltmore is somewhat isolated on its lush grounds.

      Are you looking for a place you can walk to (very few options) or a place that you might reach via taxi (more options)?

      10 Replies
      1. re: silverbear

        Chelsea's Kitchen has a patio which is a lot of fun in the evening. Very Hip crowd!
        Great Salads, short rib Taco's, rotisserie chicken...very yummy!
        Fun for a girls night out!
        http://www.chelseaskitchenaz.com/menu...

        1. re: ciaogal

          Thanks for mentioning Chelsea's. I thought that might be an option for the OP to consider, but seeing as how I haven't made it over there yet, I didn't think I should be the one to throw it into the mix. :-)

          -----
          Chelsea's Kitchen
          5040 N 40th St, Phoenix, AZ 85018

          1. re: hohokam

            with our weather being so unseasonably beautiful this week....I think any place w/ great food and a great patio should be an option! I would recommend Lons @ the Hermosa
            http://www.lons.com/cuisine.html

            and Elements @ Sanctuary , the view is spectacular ,and the Jade Bar is happening!
            http://www.sanctuaryoncamelback.com/c...

            1. re: ciaogal

              These are great suggestions, but on my previous trip to Phoenix I ate at Lon's and Elements (we stayed at the Sanctuary). Both were lovely, especially the view from Elements. Anyone have any comments about Christopher's or Crush? The atmosphere looks great, but how's the food? And about the stripmall thing, I don't care what it looks like from the outside, but I do care about what the inside looks like. I just don't want a sort of hole in the wall kind of place for that night...How far is NOCA from the Biltmore? We just want to be able to grab a cab that won't be astronomical...DO we need reservations for NOCA? Thanks everyone!!!!

              1. re: charliebear2

                Cab ride to NOCA from the Biltmore should be only about 2.5 miles. In the context of staying at the Biltmore and dining at NOCA, I can't see the cost of the cab being that significant--maybe $10-$12 each way.

                1. re: charliebear2

                  Noca looks just fine inside and not too shabby on the outside. Keep in mind that the strip mall that Noca is part of reflects the upscale demographics of the surrounding neighborhood. The shopping center is anchored by an upscale version of a Safeway supermarket and is also home to Phoenix's most luxurious jeweler (shopping by appointment only) and a men's custom shirt shop. It's not the type of strip mall in which you'll find a payday loan store next to plasma donation center.

                  As for transportation, a cab is a possibility, as are the following:

                  -- Inquire of the Biltmore concierge. Some hotels have a free local shuttle, and Noca might be considered local.

                  -- Call Noca. Due to Arizon's strict DUI laws, some local restaurants have partnered with car services to offer reduced rates on transportation.

                  -- Walk. I've looked at a satellite image, and I now believe that it would not be bad at all to walk from the Biltmore to Noca. Here's the route I would suggest:

                  http://tinyurl.com/AZBtoNOCA

                  1. re: silverbear

                    I do agree about the walk. I'd do this in a heartbeat. In SF, we walk twice as far to dine in Union Square. In London, 3x as far. In New Orleans, depending on the neighborhood, 3x as far, even if we're pushing M-I-L in her wheelchair.

                    Still, the Biltmore should have access to transportation and it should be fine.

                    Hunt

                  2. re: charliebear2

                    You might not "need" reservations, but it would be a good safety net. Even in the "off-season," they can fill up quickly. Mention CH, when making the reservations, and you will become instant family.

                    I believe that several members of their staff frequent this board.

                    Hunt

            2. re: silverbear

              Good point about how unimportant the building type is once you step into either NOCA or Tarbell's. The interiors of the restaurants are just fine (especially love the bar at Tarbell's), and the food and service do more than enough to make one forget about the strip mall setting.

              -----
              Tarbell's
              3213 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ 85018

              Noca
              3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

              1. re: hohokam

                Yes to Mark Tarbell's. I had overlooked that gem. Well worth an evening's walk, as well.

                One must get past the exact location of the restaurant. It should be about the great food and the total dining experience.

                I've had great views in architecturally significant buildings, and missed the great food. Happens all too often.

                Good call, and I have egg on my face for not immediately thinking of Mark's.

                Hunt

            3. We went to Coup Des Tartes for our girls night out last year. It is a charming place to relax and chat. Food and service are excellent. Dessert are the best. This Restaurant is BYOB ($9.00 corkage fee).

              -----
              Coup Des Tartes
              4626 N. 16th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85016

              1. Rokerij - part of the Richardson's family, but a little farther north on 16th Street

                Excellent!

                1 Reply
                1. re: azcanadienne

                  Christophers is probably a better bet for a before dinner drink. I handily second Lon's but am surprised no one has mentioned Sophie's. It's quiet, comfortable and good food.

                2. While I really enjoy Richardson's (normally dine at Dick's around the corner, but share a common kitchen and most of a menu), and also enjoy Sophie's, I have to put in the plug for NOCA. OK, it is in a strip mall, but the moment that you walk through the little gate entryway, you will forget that architectural aspect.

                  The vibe is a tiny bit much for me, but then I'm an old dude, with visions of gentlemen's clubs with dark walls, Port and cigars, and servers in tuxes. The moment that the food begins, you will think that you are elsewhere. It could be Michael Mina's off of Union Square in SF, or it could be the French Laundry in Yountville. You could be dining at Restaurant Gary Danko's, or almost anywhere without a world-class view.

                  The service has always been top-notch, and great fun. The wine list is rather short, but well-filled with great wines for the food. The prices are well within line for the restaurant.

                  Probably the most cited restaurant in the Valley, Binkley's, is also in a strip mall, although about a 40 min. drive from the Biltmore.

                  I'd take a lovely evening walk along Camelback (I love to walk) and dine at NOCA.

                  If I had hit the last big Powerball, I would have signed a deal to build a fabulous stand-alone restaurant for NOCA, and would have hoped that nothing changed, except for the location. Were I a developer, I would make either NOCA, or Binkley's the ultimate deal for back-filling a fabulous venue. Who needs another ultra-high-end steakhouse in PHX?

                  Sorry to prattle on so much, but I'd not miss NOCA, and would also suggest renting a limo to go to Binkley's.

                  Enjoy, and please report back,

                  Hunt

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    I see that you are from Chicago. To give you a feeling for my general tastes, I'm dining at Charlie Trotters and Tru next week, and love NOCA.

                    Enjoy your trip,

                    Hunt

                  2. No one has mentioned Barrio Cafe,seems to me it would be a hit.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: twodogs

                      i love barrio cafe, but it doesn't take reservations, and i don't think the op really wanted a big wait....

                      shoot now you are making me hungry for their conchinita ;)