Second Helpings

Book Notes: Look out for a new restaurant guide that should soon be (dis)gracing the Valley's bookstore shelves. It's called Where the Locals Eat: A Guide to the Best Restaurants in America (Magellan Press, $19.95). What a dud.

The publisher claims it's the "most comprehensive and reliable restaurant guide on the market." How were the restaurants chosen? "Researchers" contacted local business and professional people and "asked them what restaurants were popular in their areas." They also "took some information from newspaper and magazine readers' polls."

I'll say they did. I got a preview of the Phoenix/Scottsdale section, and much of it reads suspiciously like an out-of-date New Times Best of Phoenix supplement.

Best American Food? Try Gabriel's. Best Cheap Meal? Mike's Golden Crust. Best French Food? Citrus Cafe. Best Health-Conscious Menu? Saigon Healthy Deli. Best German Food? Zur Kate. Best Middle Eastern Food? Cafe Istanbul. Best Southwestern Food? Arizona Kitchen. All those places won Best of Phoenix awards in 1994 or 1995 for those categories.

But what's particularly disturbing are the errors. A huge number of restaurants on the list are no longer in business. For example, you won't find Best Mexican Breakfast at La Pila anymore. It's been closed for about 18 months. In fact, you couldn't have found a Best Mexican Breakfast there when I bestowed the award on it two years ago. That's because, to my chagrin, La Pila had discontinued breakfast just before the 1994 Best of Phoenix supplement hit the racks. We didn't catch the change. Two years later, neither has Magellan Press.

What else won't you find? You won't find a coffee house named Dos Estrellas; you won't find Greek food at Nick's Cuisine on Indian School Road; Mary Coyle got booted from its West Thomas location months ago; Laura's Kitchen has been out of business since 1995; Rancho Pinot Grill, which opened in 1993, is hardly the "Best New Restaurant"; Unique Foods and Services has gone to the restaurant graveyard; Pearl of Asia no longer exists; Shalimar is history; Nina L'Italiana has relocated; and both Beulah's and Tamburino's delis have gone to the great sub shop in the sky. These are not exactly what I'd call up-to-date recommendations.

Other places are touted based on reputations that no longer carry weight. Among them: Mikado, a Japanese restaurant; Different Pointe of View (mistakenly called Etienne's Different Pointe of View); and Boman's Restaurant, inexplicably hailed for Best Kosher Food. And "Rustler's Roost" [sic] for Best Steaks? Please. Even the name is misspelled.

I can't say if the restaurants listed in other cities have been as carelessly collected as the ones for the Valley. But I sure wouldn't risk parting with 20 bucks to find out.

Oh. And if you'd like to nominate a restaurant for inclusion in the next edition, the publisher welcomes your suggestion. But you'll have to buy the book to make it. The publisher insists that you use the form in the back of the book for that purpose. Any other communication, presumably, will end up in the trash.

--Howard Seftel


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