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Recommendation for affordable, very good group dining

Firstly, my apologies for posting a topic that may have many responses already, but the search box isn't getting me anywhere.

The board and staff of the small international not-for-profit I work with is converging in early March on Phoenix for a couple nights. Staying near the airport at the DoubleTree by Hilton.

We're looking for a solid, reasonably priced (entrees in high teens to low 30s) place worthy of a Chowhound thumbs up not too far from the hotel...preferably walkable, shorter light rail trip, Phoenix or Tempe. Style of the food not essential (southwest, eclectic, etc) as long as it is prepared thoughtfully, and with care (with a vegetarian option or two), maybe with fresh (even local?) ingredients, a good wine list, nice drinks...and, here's the hard part, a decent space (nice corner, private room?) for 25 to 30 folks. By decent I mean, not crammed in like sardines and not needing to yell at your neighbor when having a conversation.

Am I asking too much?

Our last meeting was in Boise, Idaho and Chowhound led me to recommend Fork to my colleagues - a big hit. Now the heat is on in the Phoenix/Tempe area. Thanks in advance for your recommendations.

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  1. Your hotel is situated in a somewhat uninteresting office district near the Airport. The only restauranrs within walking distance are those at the COFCO Chinese Cultural Center a block or two north. There, I'd say that Golden Buddha might work. The restaurant has a secondary dining room toward the back.

    About a mile to the east is the Stockyards, a classic steakhouse with lots of Phoenix history. They can accommodate private parties. Ther's always fish on the menu. Genuine vegetarians could probably be accommodated with advance notice. It's a bit too far to walk and there isn't a light rail station near the restaurant, but perhaps the hotel could shuttle your party there since the restaurant is no more distant than the airport terminals.

    Spreaking of light rail, if your group walks 1/4 mile to 44th/Washington, you can catch the train west to Downtown Phoenix or east to Downtown Tempe. Both are about a 15-minute ride. Some options in each city:

    DT Phoenix -- Arrogant Butcher & District both serve contemporary American fare and have private spaces available.

    DT Tempe -- House of Tricks serves a modern mix of Southwestern & Mediterranean influences. Very nice patio & private room inside.

    1 Reply
    1. re: exit2lef

      Thanks...that's a great start...and I have been to House of Tricks before. We're all game to walk the block to the Metro Light Rail Station so if others have recommendations along the rail line. Also the hotel will gladly ferry us a couple miles...

    2. that area is not really walkable as mentioned, but within a few dollars cab ride there is also Italian at Red Devil (casual) and Avanti (fancier), avati can do a private room.

      6 Replies
      1. re: kmarg

        Okay, my short list at this point (from combing other posts here mostly) is House at Secret Garden, House of Tricks, The Mission and even though I'm not sure they can handle a big group, Cafe Bink.

        I guess I might have biased all of you about distance...we consider 2 miles a walk and it's certainly no problem to hop in the hotel van or group cars and drive for 5 or 10 minutes. Anyway thanks for considering!

        1. re: broadwinged

          Cafe Bink is extremely far from your location. A good 40 minute drive I'd say, easily 30 miles. Other ideas are good though. Secret Garden and House of Tricks are both about 10, maybe 15, minutes away.

          Mission might be a little more like 20 minutes by the time you find parking but I really like the place. Not sure how their group setup would look though. If you're willing to drive to The Mission then you should look into lots of other places in Old Town. It is outside of your parameters though, but if you are willing to go to Old Town let us know and we'll have a lot more suggestions.

          Unfortunately your location just isn't the best for walking or even 5 minute drives. The airport is central to everything but not really in an area known for dining.

          1. re: broadwinged

            don"t mean to be overly cautious about the walking, but it is not just the distances. that neighborhood is industrial and pretty rough just away from the hotel. I'm from a so-so part of Chicago, and I would hesitate to hoof it very far in that area. take the shuttle or the train.

            1. re: kmarg

              Thanks all. I did lay out for my colleagues that Secrets, Tricks, and Mission were probably the clear choices. Thanks for the tip about the hotel location...I'm not sure why we are in Tempe this year as normal...probably money.

              And I miswrote re Cafe Bink...yes, I was disappointed that it was so far. I did though pass on FnB's link...again, I'm not sure they can handle a group but looks great. They're in Old Town right? That is right on the cusp of being too far but if there is a standout destination that can handle a group, please do tell!

              Thanks so much.

              1. re: broadwinged

                I hope I'm wrong, but I think the Mission and FNB are way too small to accomodate a group of that size. Good luck though and let us know if it pans out!

                1. re: cactuschowdah

                  For some reason I have it in my mind that FnB has only 29 seats total. The actual figure might be closer to 35 or 40, but at any rate, a group of 30 would pretty much take over the entire space.

        2. Others have touched on the walkability aspect, but not THAT far away, you have Vincent's on Camelback, and they have revamped their menu, to tone things down a bit. While still semi-formal (nice shirts and slacks for gentlemen), it is not as formal, as it once was. They can handle groups, as always, and do a great job for us, as we have several board dinners there per year.

          Enjoy,

          Hunt