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Greater Phoenix Dining: Where To Eat?

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Schneier:

Why was it disappointing? What did you have, and why didn't it live up to your expectations? Just curious.

Much peace,

Ian

ballast/regime

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I am a NJ e-gulleter. Had dinner at Elements last March (in Phx for business) - thought it was wonderful. The Sanctuary is a great place to stay, also.

Ate at Roxsand's - it was good, but I wasn't as "wowed" as I had hoped to be.

Going again in November (staying again at Sanctuary). Have to take a large group to dinner (about 28 ppl) - thinking of Roy's. Any comments?

Thanks.

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I was talking to a local New Mexico chef who just went on a two week eating vacation, including The French Laundry and a few other notable places. But she went to Sea Saw as part of her trip and said it was second on the vacation only to The FL. Big words I realize, but she was blown away. I got to see the menu, and it looks pretty great. their take on the caprese salad was neat, it had sliced octopus and pickled ginger if I recall.

I haven't been there myself, just my 2 cents.

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Sea Saw is definitely on my list of places to go, except I'm not sure my husband would like the cuisine there. He's not crazy about Japanese food, and even though this is not your typical Japanese cooking, I'm still not sure he'd like it.

But maybe if I remind him that the chef was one of "Food & Wine" magazine's best new chefs this year, he'll be adventurous.

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I'm headed to Phoenix on a last minute trip. Just curious if there are any hidden gems that I should look for. Low brow to High brow it doesn't matter to me. I'll eat anything.

Thanks

Rodney

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If this post isnt too late.......... Try Los Dos Molinas on S. Central in Phoenix. They serve the best Mexican food in Phoenix (New Mexico type) if you can handle HOT food. The Chile Rellenos are awesome and hot. The salsa is incredible, but not for those unacustomed to the fire. Also worth the trip would be Montes La Casa Viejo (a steakhouse) in Tempe. This place is a time warp back to the frontier days in Phoenix with the building being a historic landmark. The real reason to go there is for the best Filet Mignon in the valley.

I hear the Chinese Cultural Center has some good food too.

Good eating! :raz:

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My husband and I just moved from Reading Pennsylvania to Phoenix. We live right off of Camelback. We like to eat out often, love Asian foods, Italian. Any help would be appreciated.

Beverly

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First, Beverly, welcome to Phoenix! With a 7 year hiatus, I've been here since 1981, and my husband is second-generation Arizonan. I'm sure you'll love the place.

You'll find that, with a few exceptions, most of the Chinese restaurants are in the southeast part of the valley. Although I live up toward Carefree, every so often I made a pilgrimage to C-Fu Gourmet, at Ray and Dobson, for dim sum. Obviously, it's worth the trip.

You'll also find a few decent restaurants in the Copco Center, at 44th Street just south of the 202 -- but more importantly (assuming you cook and don't only consume) the 99 Ranch Market is the place in town to find all the Chinese (and many other Asian) ingredients you want; live fish, several kinds of bok choy, etc.

What you don't find there, you'll find at the smaller (and in some ways much nicer) House of Rice on Hayden at Osborn -- which also has cooking classes at reasonable prices. (A nice side benefit to visiting House of Rice is Carlsbad Tavern. It's a New-Mexico mexican restaurant just next door that I highly recommend, despite the vaguely seafaring decor left from a previous inhabitant.)

It's been a few years since I've gone there, but closer to (your) home is Big Wong's, on Indian School and 5th Avenue; you used to have to ask for the "other" menu, but you could get the authentic stuff down to stir fried pig's feet.

For Italian, try Pasta Brioni, on Miller just south of Camelback. I went there (for the first time in many years) earlier this week, and it's simply outstanding. The main restaurant had a 1.5 hour wait (which is really amazing in this town, especially on a Tuesday night), but they have a "takeout" joint next door that has sit-down tables and a nice patio.

That may be enough to get you -- and the lurkers -- started.

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Esther, thank you so much for your informative reply. I have noticed that there is very little action on the Arizona "front". My own experience in the short time I have been here has been very good.

It is fun, to me and to my husband to have so many new places to try. Reading Pa was a wonderful place to live and raise a family, but very short on "many" restaurants.

Had one of my children visiting from San Francisco and he loved the few places I took him.

Where are you from??

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The Southwest forum is indeed a bit quieter than most. Texas used to be part of it, and they got a forum of their own... the rest of us haven't turned up the noise yet!

Whatever else one can say about the Phoenix area, we do have a lot of restaurants! Relatively few of the fine-dining sort (which I can rarely afford, anyway) but plenty of neighborhood joints with good-to-great food.

For instance: yesterday, we stopped at one place we enjoy quite a bit. Sonoran Brewing Company (which is local, and makes very good beer), has a brewpub on 3rd Street and Camelback -- on the north side of the street. Solid, basic, no-surprises food, like reuben sandwiches and fish-and-chips, but it's all _extremely_ well made. They make their own tartar sauce, for example, instead of pour some glop out of a bottle.

(And it's literally next door to the Indian grocery in town. Good thing, too, because some of the beer is strong, and I could use a little walk-around before I get back in the car!)

Another "neighborhood" restaurant we like, that's near where you live, is the Manuel's at 28th Street and Indian School. Pretty much the same menu you'll find at any other Mexican restaurant, but I'm particularly fond of their chimichangas.

I'm originally from New York City; my husband grew up on a farm in Missouri. But we've lived everywhere from an island off the coast of Maine to Clearwater, Florida. Phoenix is home, though -- the place that a part of you relaxes that never quite unwinds anyplace else.

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Your choice of food and places fits my eating habits EXACTLY! As long as we are the only two people from Phoenix online let's continue.

We did go to Pho Bang two weeks ago and liked it very much. There is also (i'm sure you know) just a marvelous Asian grocery there, the likes of which I've never seen.

Another place we like is very near where we live, its called The Grande Orange. It makes me think I am in New York (where by the way) my husband and I were born. Have you been there??? It's fun to sit outside, read the New York Times and eat breakfast or lunch. Haven't been to the Postino Cafe, in the same area , yet, but understand that is an interesting place.

Have found Trader Joe's and love shopping there.

All in I am quite excited by Phoenix.

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I haven't been the the places you mentioned (other than Trader Joe's), but I'll be sure to check them out. But if you like Pho Bang, you're almost certain to like the restaurant we call ORIENTAL (it has another name, but the sign in front at least used to say only Oriental). It's in a weird little shopping center at the southeast corner of Roosevelt and Hayden, and is primarily open at lunchtime; I think it closes by 7 or 8pm. Ostensibly it serves both Chinese and Korean food, but the Chinese stuff is wholly unremarkable. On the other hand, I've often made a meal out of their K1 and K2 appetizers. Plus, four people can stuff themselves for under $30.

My most recent "find" is Cafe Ted, up here by me -- at Pinnacle Peak Road and Pima. (Okay, so it's 30 miles from where you live. Sorry. But if you come up this way...) Cafe Ted is "upscale late hippie" -- funky table settings, great quiche and gazpacho, and so on.

How are you on Thai food? The best I've found is a place that, to someone from New York, would have all the danger signs. The main restaurant (there are two) is in a touristy area, it's owned by a non-Thai, and god help us they have *tablecloths* instead of worn out formica. How good could the food possibly be? Yet, Malee's on Main (in downtown Scottsdale, and up at the Desert Ridge marketplace at the 101 and Tatum) is one of my two favorite Thai restaurants in town, with a wide selection and really really wonderful food.

The *other* favorite Thai restaurant is, fortunately for me, even closer to my house. Thai Pan is inexpensive and in the old "Sizzler" model: you order at the counter, get a number to put on your table, and they bring you the order. I can't say enough good about it, and I think I've eaten everything on the menu. They make their own curries from scratch, nothing at all from a jar.

If you've found Trader Joe's, have you also found A.J.'s?

Esther

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I haven't been the the places you mentioned (other than Trader Joe's), but I'll be sure to check them out. But if you like Pho Bang, you're almost certain to like the restaurant we call ORIENTAL (it has another name, but the sign in front at least used to say only Oriental). It's in a weird little shopping center at the southeast corner of Roosevelt and Hayden, and is primarily open at lunchtime; I think it closes by 7 or 8pm. Ostensibly it serves both Chinese and Korean food, but the Chinese stuff is wholly unremarkable. On the other hand, I've often made a meal out of their K1 and K2 appetizers. Plus, four people can stuff themselves for under $30.

My most recent "find" is Cafe Ted, up here by me -- at Pinnacle Peak Road and Pima. (Okay, so it's 30 miles from where you live. Sorry. But if you come up this way...) Cafe Ted is "upscale late hippie" -- funky table settings, great quiche and gazpacho, and so on.

How are you on Thai food? The best I've found is a place that, to someone from New York, would have all the danger signs. The main restaurant (there are two) is in a touristy area, it's owned by a non-Thai, and god help us they have *tablecloths* instead of worn out formica. How good could the food possibly be? Yet, Malee's on Main (in downtown Scottsdale, and up at the Desert Ridge marketplace at the 101 and Tatum) is one of my two favorite Thai restaurants in town, with a wide selection and really really wonderful food.

The *other* favorite Thai restaurant is, fortunately for me, even closer to my house. Thai Pan is inexpensive and in the old "Sizzler" model: you order at the counter, get a number to put on your table, and they bring you the order. I can't say enough good about it, and I think I've eaten everything on the menu. They make their own curries from scratch, nothing at all from a jar.

If you've found Trader Joe's, have you also found A.J.'s?

Esther

My husband and I started out today to find the Korean restaurant you mentioned. We really have no experience with Korean food, but thought it would be fun to try. We also wanted to get some coffee for my husband at the Asian grocery.

We went down Camelback and it got sooo crowded, I got disgusted and thought this is worse than New York traffic. Is it like this every day????

We got out of the traffic and went home.

Found out later the traffic was because the Prisident was in town!!!! So I guess we will try it again.

Love your suggestions Esther.

beverly

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We went down Camelback and it got sooo crowded, I got disgusted and thought this is worse than New York traffic. Is it like this every day????

We got out of the traffic and went home.

Found out later the traffic was because the Prisident was in town!!!! So I guess we will try it again.

Let me know when you get there! I'd love to hear your opinion.

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Hi, Esther and welcome to Phoenix, Beverly!

I work near Camelback, so I have some familiarity with the area.

My favorite restaurant on Camelback is Havana Cafe on Camelback and 40th or 44th. Really nice Cuban restaurant. You can fill up on appetizers/tapas or go for the substantial entrees. Pretty much everything is good there. They also have the best take-out deal in town (assuming they still offer it, I haven't had it in a while). It's called Pollo to Go and you get a small roasted chicken and potatoes, plus black beans and rice, plus bread, plus a slaw/salad, and bread pudding for something like $18.00. All of this is ostensibly for two people, but could easily feed three. The quality of the take-out food is just as good as the food that gets served at the restaurant.

If you find that you like Korean food, there's a new restaurant in Mesa (Dobson & Southern) that you might want to try out, called Hodori. The seafood crepe and barbecued pork bulgogi are fabulous.

-cg

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Pizzeria Bianco, hands down,

for pizza or ?????

Yes, for wondeful pizza. I love the fennel sausage pizza. Also for the antipasto plate, and the appetizer (I think it may be called Spiedini) which consists of prosciutto wrapped around cheese on a stick, and if you're lucky, the desserts made by chef Chris Bianco's mom.

The food is amazing at Pizzeria Bianco because there's a fanatical attention to procuring the best quality of ingredients, and preparing them perfectly.

Chef Bianco now also runs Pane Bianco, a sandwich place on Central Avenue. I've only been once, but it seems to be the same quality of Pizzeria Bianco on a much smaller scale (three regular sandwiches, one special, plus you can buy bread there). I had a fabulous bacon, cheese and collard green sandwich. It sounded weird to me, but I knew Bianco knows what he was doing, and it was great. The bitterness of the greens was a perfect offset to the fatty, salty flavor of the bacon and cheese.

-cg

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My favorite restaurant on Camelback is Havana Cafe on Camelback and 40th or 44th. Really nice Cuban restaurant. You can fill up on appetizers/tapas or go for the substantial entrees. Pretty much everything is good there. They also have the best take-out deal in town (assuming they still offer it, I haven't had it in a while). It's called Pollo to Go and you get a small roasted chicken and potatoes, plus black beans and rice, plus bread, plus a slaw/salad, and bread pudding for something like $18.00. All of this is ostensibly for two people, but could easily feed three. The quality of the take-out food is just as good as the food that gets served at the restaurant.

It's been a couple of years since I went to Havana Cafe -- there's another one on Bell Road and about 40th Street, for those of us at the northern end of town -- but I certainly did like it. You may need to go there with someone's who's been there before; it's a little too easy to order something "safe" on your first visit, and those probably aren't their best dishes.

The last time I went, my friends ordered three plantain based appetizers. They were all wonderful, and I'd never have picked 'em off the menu on my own.

Indian food. You realize nobody's mentioned Indian food in this thread? Maybe it's because we don't have any really GREAT Indian food in this town. The best is probably Jewel in the Crown, in Scottsdale, but it doesn't hold a candle to even a minor Indian restaurant in New York or the Bay Area. Unless... perhaps someone here can enlighten me about something NEW?

--Esther

(who's simply glad that a GOOD Chinese restaurant finally opened north of Bell Road)

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If you haven't been to Pizzeria Bianco, go. A meal will cost you less than $20, and the pizza is to-die-for.

address or phone of this place, please.

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Best of Phoenix 2003 (According to the Phoenix New Times)

Best Authentic Arizona Restaurant:

Kai

5594 West Wild Horse Pass Boulevard (in Wild Horse Pass Resort)

602-225-0100

“…James Beard Award-winning chef Janos Wilder. Wilder, already famous for his innovative French-Southwestern Janos restaurant in Tucson, has brought us fine dining drawn from our state's Native American heritage. How authentic is it? The chef works with Pima/Maricopa Indian farmers to harvest the finest of their 35,000 acres of land and aqua farms on their reservation surrounding Kai.”

BEST VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT

Pho Bang

1702 West Camelback

602-433-9440

“How cool is it to sit down at our own tabletop grill, and be presented with a large plate circled with whisper-thin slices of lightly oiled raw beef, whole shrimp, sliced onion, chopped scallion and peanuts? On the side is xalach dia, an array of sliced carrot, cucumber, pickled radish, whole scallion heads, mint, cilantro and lettuce, alongside plates of rice paper sheets and butter. In fact, everything at this cozy hole-in-the-wall is remarkable.”

BEST MIDDLE EASTERN RESTAURANT

Persian Garden Café

1335 West Thomas

602-263-1915

“Chef Mahmmud Jaafari knows his Persian cuisine. He also knows his Mediterranean, Italian, American, Mexican, Cajun and vegetarian foods, and even a smattering of Oriental influences. The result is one of the most exciting restaurants in this town, with cooking that is defined most simply as Middle Eastern.”

BEST SEAFOOD

The Salt Cellar

550 North Hayden, Scottsdale

480-947-1963

“…folks have kept the Cellar pretty much as it was when it first opened in 1981. What they save in rent, they pass on to us in lower prices for exquisitely fresh seafood flown in daily from places like Hawaii, Chesapeake Bay, Alaska, Boston, British Columbia, Idaho and the Gulf of Mexico. The cellar keeps us coming back for its seasonal specialties, too, like turtle soup, and smoked blue marlin.”

BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT

Christopher's Fermier Brasserie

2584 East Camelback

602-522-2344

“So how lucky are we, because we can eat this fantastic French food every day, for lunch, dinner, and even late night (the place serves until midnight seven days a week). Christopher's has kept us thrilled since chef Christopher Gross first opened this comfortable, elegant bistro in 1998, and we swear, he just keeps getting better. Chalk it up to the simple grace of his Gallic classics, emphasizing artisan ingredients from local and regional farmers. Salmon is smoked in-house, most dishes are prepared in a wood-burning oven, and the traditional French touches are all there (fantastic wine list, an extensive cheese program).”

BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT

Tao Garden

2050 North Alma School, Chandler

480-857-4188

“We're always up for a dive into Tao's fresh fish tanks, stocked with live lobster, crab, tilapia, rock cod, flatfish, catfish, scallops and clams. The kitchen has ingenious ways of preparing its catch, and we're sure to ask about the daily specials (printed in Chinese but cheerfully translated by a friendly staff). At least one dining decision is simple -- for best Chinese food in the Valley, we choose Tao Garden.”

BEST NEW AMERICAN CUISINE

Cowboy Ciao

7133 East Stetson, Scottsdale

480-946-3111

“….at Cowboy Ciao, the surprise is always spectacular. Executive chef Bernie Kantak has come up with dishes like chile gratin (elk, beef loin, white beans, smoked Cheddar and Gouda); rare tuna with ground hops and chamomile over curried chow-chow and mango soy; or peppercorn ostrich tenderloin with blackberry compote and cocoa-nib mashed Yukon golds. You may think you know what you're in for with grilled duck breasts, but then Kantak sideswipes you with apple-chipotle marinade, ancho-pecan chutney and smoked Gouda grits.”

All of the above and the rest of the listings are at: http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/bestof/2003/ethnic/index.html

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If you haven't been to Pizzeria Bianco, go.  A meal will cost you less than $20, and the pizza is to-die-for.

address or phone of this place, please.

623 E Adams St

PHOENIX, AZ 85004 - 2334

(602) 258-8300

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Indian food. You realize nobody's mentioned Indian food in this thread? Maybe it's because we don't have any really GREAT Indian food in this town. The best is probably Jewel in the Crown, in Scottsdale, but it doesn't hold a candle to even a minor Indian restaurant in New York or the Bay Area. Unless... perhaps someone here can enlighten me about something NEW?

Been racking my brain on the new Indian restaurants, and haven't come up with anything.

There's a place called Goa on McDowell, which serves Goan cuisine (Goa is a province in India which had a lot of Portugese influence if I recall correctly). Emphasis is on seafood, and there may also some be some Chinese influence on the dishes. Went once, only sampled a small part of the menu, but what I got (lamb vindaloo) was good. Would like to go back at some point and order some of the seafood dishes.

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Indian food. You realize nobody's mentioned Indian food in this thread? Maybe it's because we don't have any really GREAT Indian food in this town. ...... Unless... perhaps someone here can enlighten me about something NEW?

--Esther

Phoenix times rates these as best of for Indian Food:

Year 2003:

Indian Delhi Palace

5104 East McDowell

602-244-8181

Year 2002:

Maharaja Palace

5775 West Bell, Glendale

602-547-1000

Year 2001:

Copper Kettle Salads, Balti and Tandoori Grill

1941 West Guadalupe, Mesa

480-456-4365

(and 1050 East Lemon, Tempe, 480-894-1276)

Year 2000:

Taste of India

1609 East Bell

602-788-3190

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Phoenix times rates these as best of for Indian Food...

I've been to most of those. They're really... okay. Not awful, but not outstanding either. I wouldn't give any of them more than 3 out of 5 stars.

None of those places comes close to the smallest hole-in-the-wall in downtown New York for food quality or range of menu options, or to a place like Gaylord's in San Francisco for ambiance. It's not exactly as though the local Indian restaurants aren't trying... but maybe they figure the locals here won't know the difference.

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Phoenix times rates these as best of for Indian Food...

None of those places comes close to the smallest hole-in-the-wall in downtown New York for food quality or range of menu options, or to a place like Gaylord's in San Francisco for ambiance. It's not exactly as though the local Indian restaurants aren't trying... but maybe they figure the locals here won't know the difference.

Don’t shoot the messenger, just attempting to point out some options that maybe you have not been to.

With the proliferation of chains and everything vanilla restaurants, I believe that the average local anywhere won't know the difference.

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