Second Helpings

Great Outdoors: This is my favorite time of year. I'm buoyed by pre-holiday cheer, the end of Thanksgiving leftovers and perfect weather for dining alfresco.

There are problems, however, with eating outdoors in the Valley. It seems like almost every place with patio chairs, umbrellas and heaters overlooks either a strip-mall parking lot or a busy street. That's not a problem if the street is, say, the Champs Elysees. But, in case you haven't noticed, it's hard to mistake the Arizona Canal for the river Seine.

Fortunately, there are a few places around the Valley that offer both worthy scenery and worthy food. Here are six of them:

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* Back Stage Restaurant and Bar, 7373 Scottsdale Mall, Scottsdale, 949-1697. This is one of my favorite corners of the city, the area around Scottsdale Civic Center. From its second-story perch, Back Stage gives you a view of grassy lawns, strolling pedestrians and bubbling fountains. The wallet-friendly fare makes lingering enjoyable. Check out the lahvosh pizzas, roast duck and chicken linguini.

* Eddie's Grill, 4747 North Seventh Street, 241-1188. Set way back from the street and parking lot, Eddie's patio gives you a soothing view of a gazebo and a koi pond. Enjoy it with some of the city's most inventive food. I'm fond of Eddie's signature dish: seared New York sirloin, encased in cheese-dusted mashed potatoes and moistened with a Burgundy sauce.

* El Chorro Lodge, 5550 East Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley, 948-5170. Nestled by the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, this lovely patio is the place to gaze romantically at your significant other. The only problem is, the food is good enough to deflect your attention. The kitchen uses aged prime meats, as you can tell after one bite of the rack of lamb or Chateaubriand for two. First-timers take note: Don't fill up on the sticky buns.

* House of Tricks, 114 East Seventh Street, Tempe, 968-1114. Set in a bucolic cottage a few blocks off busy Mill Avenue, House of Tricks recently added a beautiful new patio, complete with roaring fireplace and flowering vines. The food roars and flowers, too. I'm particularly fond of the out-of-the-ordinary lasagna. It's a whole roasted eggplant, crammed with ricotta, goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, layered with noodles.

* Lakeshore Restaurant, 14011 North Bush Highway (at Saguaro Lake marina), 984-5311. What a sight! Come here at twilight and gaze on the vividly blue Saguaro Lake, framed by majestic, rocky cliffs dotted with saguaros. The fare doesn't quite match the splendor of the scenery, but that's almost too much to ask. Try the right-out-of-the-lake walleye pike, or the surprisingly tasty slab of baby-back pork ribs.

* Pi–on Grill, 7401 North Scottsdale Road (Regal McCormick Ranch), Scottsdale, 9485050. The patio overlooks the resort's palm-fringed lake and a nonstop parade of ducks. You won't want to overlook the food, some of the best Southwestern fare in town. You won't regret ordering the pepper-crusted swordfish bathed in habanero beurre blanc, or the luscious veal chop rubbed with guajillo chile in a wild-mushroom sage sauce.--Howard Seftel

Suggestions? Write me at New Times, P.O. Box 2510, Phoenix,

 
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