Phoenix -- sunset cocktails and more
We'll be staying at the Marriott Canyon Villas (which seems to be in the Desert Ridge area, so the topography is confusing) for a week in February, then on to Sedona for a few days. I'm at something of a loss in understanding the geography of Phoenix and thus in fully appreciating much on the Phoenix threads. I welcome help in, first, identifying good places to sit and have drinks at sunset (both Phoenix and Sedona), and second, in identifying non-chain or local-only chains that are within a few miles - or so - and local specialties other than the obvious Mexican.
Also, there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for Joe's Barbecue in Gilbert. Is there anything good closer?
Finally, there will be a craft beer festival while we're there. Would that involve a lot of crowds and standing in line? Any good food?
Thanks in advance, and my apologies for my ignorance of local geography. It would help if all cities were divided into arrondissements.
Well, we enjoyed lots of sunsets and had slots of good meals -- Bandera, T. Cook's, Elements, Andreoli's Italian Kitchen, the Blue Adobe Grille, Los Sombreros, and Carolina's -- and Cucina Rustica in Sedona. Looking back, that's quite a range. Other highlights were (1) temperatures at least 50 degrees higher than at home in DC (2) the botanical gardens (3) the Musical Instrument Museum which greatly, greatly exceeded expectations (4) great hikes (5) highways without potholes and (6) manageable traffic at all hours. (Compared to DC).
We shall return.
The AZ Strong Beer Festival has long lines, but those can be managed around if you arrive early or buy the VIP tickets. My recollection is that the food selection in years past has been limited. There is some, but people don't come for the food.
Joe's Real BBQ is a good place, but it's a million miles from Desert Ridge, which is a newly developed area near the far north end of Phoenix. Two nearby local chains I like are Humble Pie and Pita Jungle.
A few miles to the south in more established areas of northeast Phoenix, I recommend 32 Shea, especially in the evening when they serve a daily chef's special; Pho A.V.; the Nee House: and Eden's Grill. Farther south in Central Phoenix, I'd add the rooftop bar at the Clarendon Hotel and the Lustre bar at the Palomar Hotel for sunset cocktails in a more urban setting (as opposed to the equally nice resort setting of some of the other places recommended). If you choose either for drinks, I'd suggest following up with dinner in the restaurants associated with both hotels, Gallo Blanco and Blue Hound, respectively.
That area is not within my usual orbit, so my knowledge is somewhat sketchy.
Other than the Cafe at MIM (The Musical Instrument Museum) and LAMP Pizzeria, both of which are highly regarded, I don't know of anything worthy that's very close to that resort.
My favorite place for traditional ingredient-focused Italian food is Andreoli Italian Grocer, which is about 15 minutes away. Some are put off by the no-nonsense service and the ambience, but the food is always made with care and isn't duplicated by anyone in town. I suggest ordering primarily from the whiteboard list of daily specials, not that the standard menu items (especially the arancini) aren't worth trying. I hear informed raves about Andreoli's pastries, which I've yet to find space for after lunch.
Joe's Real Barbecue has its fans, but their sauce-heavy style isn't one that I am keen on. Not really worth the drive, as far as I'm concerned. People I trust about such things give the food at Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue very high marks. The restaurant is located in the town of Cave Creek, about 20 minutes north from where you will be staying.
Binkley's and Cafe Bink are two other very good local options in the Cave Creek/Carefree area, both are a bit east of Bryan's. Cafe Bink is a casual sister restaurant of the decidedly upscale (but not stuffy) flagship Binkley's.
Can't speak to the beer festival--my personal expectations would be for long lines and limited food.
The "geography" of Phoenix (the Metro Area) IS daunting. No apologies necessary. With 500+ sq miles, one can easily get lost. Here are some thoughts.
OK, neither is all that close, but also (by Phoenix standards, not that far away).
Sunset cocktails (and also dining), with a view:
elements @ The Sanctuary - just great views, and a lovely bar (a tad noisy for me, but still good), plus good food.
Different Pointe of View @ The Hilton Pointe Tapatio - great patio, plus an almost all-glass dining room, with a good wine list, and good food.
Now, if one skips the "views," but concentrates on the ambiance at sunset, I would add Lon's @ The Hermosa - great drinks, lovely patio area, and also good food.