Book Notes: A new restaurant guidebook should be hitting the stores any time now: 100 Best Restaurants in Arizona, 2000-2001, by Harry and Trudy Plate (Kelton Publishing, $9.95).
The guide has appeared biennially since 1977. The current edition should make a decent stocking stuffer, if you're interested in an undemanding overview of Arizona's restaurants. (The "100 Best" of the title is actually an understatement, used just for effect -- there are more than 150 listings.)
I can't disagree with most of the authors' choices. But I have several quibbles. I don't know what the Chaparral Room is doing on the list -- its new "we serve everything everybody else does" concept can't begin to compare with the classic menu management unfortunately ditched. No way is La Madeleine one of the state's top restaurants. Why is Carlos O'Brien's, a gringo Mexican restaurant, taking up book space, while San Carlos Bay and Pepe's Taco Villa, two genuine south-of-the-border outposts, get snubbed? I might have found room for Carlsbad Tavern, Eliana's and Texaz Grill, as well. Still, I was pleased to see the authors had the courage to leave out the popular, and wretched, P.F. Chang's.
The most serious local omission? What happened to Gregory's Grill? This is one of the top restaurants around, and I can't begin to figure out how the authors passed it by.
Though 100 Best gives you an idea of what's out there, I wouldn't rely too heavily on this book for details. Believe me, nobody knows better than I just how quickly restaurant info can get old. Restaurants change hours, menus, prices and chefs as often as Imelda Marcos changes shoes. But occasionally the authors impart information so out of date that I have to wonder just how much legwork they've done.
El Bravo, they say, doesn't accept credit cards. In fact, the restaurant started taking credit cards almost two years ago. The brewery part of Christopher's Fermier is ancient history. Bistro Panino closed back in the spring, but the authors include it anyway. The book praises the contemporary American menu at Mary Elaine's. But that's the menu of a chef who left last February.
Sometimes, too, the authors are flat-out wrong. They say, for instance, that Harris' serves prime-graded beef. But according to the restaurant's own recipe book, it doesn't -- Harris' uses Top Grade Choice.
Along with sticklers for accuracy, two other groups may want to give this book wide berth. I'm referring to English majors and copy editors. I've rarely seen a guidebook so sloppily edited.
The misspellings in the table of contents are horrendous: Nordstrum [sic] Café; Z'Tejus [sic] Grill; Chez [sic] Bella. The back cover mangles Coup Des Tartes. The table of contents says you can read about Suzanne's Bistro on page 111. No, you can't. After the restaurant folded, the authors pulled the write-up and inserted an ad in its place. So how did Suzanne's Bistro make it into the index as well?
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