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Richardson's dimly lighted adobe/ranch thing is comforting, even soothing to the dimly lighted head. Of course, you'll have to suffer the obnoxiously mainstream thirtysomethings who crowd the place, much like their SUVs in the parking lot, bumper to grinding bumper, but it's worth it. Besides, it's so dark inside, you'll forget about them once your draft lager (Richardson's has tons of them) and forearm-size burrito arrive. There are sports on the TV monitors, a moderately priced menu (forget the specials -- they ain't worth the coin), a smoker-friendly policy, and a waitstaff that seems to be glad they're serving your stoned countenances rather than another table of yuppie wankers.
One minus. Richardson's is always crowded, and without a reservation, a party of four can easily wait more than an hour. Toke it or leave it.
Nestled in an old house in a historic corner of downtown Phoenix, the restaurant features a breezy patio and cozy rooms decorated with the work of local artists. Diners are seated in old school chairs, but don't expect cafeteria fare. The menu -- eclectic without being intimidating -- features daily soups and entree specials, along with staples like the chicken corn chowder, a meal in itself but great with a mixed greens salad or a Southwestern caesar. Another favorite is the roasted turkey sandwich, spiced up with cranberry-serrano chile chutney.
The staffers are friendly and they'll keep filling your iced tea long after you know you should have returned to the salt mine.
Readers' Choice: Durant's
From September through June, The Farm Kitchen serves hearty sandwiches and delicious salads -- complete with bread and veggies made/grown on the premises -- in sturdy baskets, picnic-style. Lounge at outdoor tables or toss a Mexican blanket on the ground, listen to classical music or the sounds of nature while you enjoy grilled eggplant on sourdough or a Waldorf salad.
And if you've still got time before you return to work, snag a piece of pecan pie. It'll put a smile on your face that will last until you're back to the daily grind, downloading Internet porn from your station at work.
Don't tell it to the owners of this culinary find, a swell little soup 'n' sandwich joint hidden away in the bowels of a Mesa industrial parkway.
Despite its less-than-high-visibility locale, however, Crackers and Co. sees a lot more business than many of its high-profile competitors. Arrive early for lunch to avoid the crunch of regulars who congregate here daily for more than a dozen fresh soups (the cream of spinach and artichoke is pure heaven) and an equal number of made-from-scratch desserts.
Sandwiches, salads and pasta dishes round out a hearty menu that also includes signature creations like the Drunken Chicken Sandwich (poultry in a wine-garlic sauce) and an unusual apple-spinach salad with charbroiled chicken. But save room for dessert -- the house specialty, a warm blackberry cinnamon bread pudding, is also must-try.
Open for breakfast and lunch only, Crackers and Co. is tucked away behind the Home Depot on South Country Club Drive, just off the Superstition Freeway. This is one industrial secret everyone should know about.
The bodies shown here belong to bronzed guys with "set clippers on two" haircuts and girls crammed into skimpy tube tops, the better to show off their sunless-tanning-cream glows. In Kodak moment after Kodak moment, the gals are seen lying on tables, their Victoria's Not-So-Secret pushed aside, while casting come-hither, "I'm soooo drunk" smiles at equally snockered frat boys sucking cheap tequila off their breasts.
Hey, somebody turn up Sugar Ray.
The dimly lighted cafe offers more sophisticated ambiance than Denny's, and is the perfect place to slouch in a booth and chow down after a hard night of partying. Though the restaurant is also open during the week for traditional dining hours, Punky's shines brightest well after last call.
Readers' Choice for Best Late-Night Meal: Denny's
Harvey's is small -- just a few booths, tables and a bar. Harvey's is dark -- most of the lighting comes from the glow of beer signs and a Twilight Zone pinball machine. Harvey's is run-down -- bare concrete floors, ratty walls and wires hanging from the ceiling. Harvey's is smoky -- neighborhood types crowd the bar, accustomed to popping their first brew at noon.
At Harvey's, there is a pair of pool tables off in a side room, where we can plop down a few bucks for a quick game. And between shots, we gorge ourselves on out-of-this-world wineburgers. The beef is flooded with Burgundy as it cooks on a special, extra-thick grill (to keep the wine from evaporating too fast), drenched four times, topped with cheese and drenched twice again.
So we go back to the office smelling of smoke and alcohol? Playing hooky at Harvey's makes us very, very happy.
So maybe the students aren't being treated to the multicourse feasts they prepare, but we'd bet there's a whole lot of tasting going on in the school's kitchen.
This is no cafeteria food. Faculty includes three full-time chefs and three part-time chefs. They take their work seriously, leading students through rigorous training on cooking, presentation and white-tablecloth service.
Hey, we're happy to help the kids with their homework. Especially when it means we get to gorge on dishes like mussels with mango citrus salsa, spinach vichyssoise, poached Seckel pears with prosciutto and wild rice, oriental petrale sole en papillote, daube of lamb, coffee cinnamon flan and pistachio citrus cheesecake.
The dog ate the homework? Hardly. It was us.
Even if it's more of a stripped-down warrior ride, a Harley becomes an extension of its owner on the road. Indeed, it's such a personal friend that most true Harley riders can pick out their bike while blindfolded, guided by their scooter's distinctive potato-potato-potato call. It's just as a mother knows her infant's cry from any other in the world.
The folks at The Hideaway know better than to come between such love. Open just two years, The Hideaway has become the place in town for serious bikers (and jealous gawkers) to gather. On weekend nights, in fact, it's often difficult to hear the piped-in Southern rock, the clicking of pool balls or your conversation with the always-friendly bartenders. That's because of the herd of thundering Harleys parked mere feet out the front door, cozied up like pampered pets to the railing of The Hideaway's wood plank porch.
The best seat in the bar is on this porch, sipping a good, honest pour, and snacking on country-style steaks, fish fry, burgers or sandwiches. Even if you're not lucky enough to own a bike, it's a kick to watch the blessed ones, cuddled up with their charges, caressing the chrome and planting baby kisses on the handlebars (grown men, no less).
Is it fancy? Are you kidding? It's a dirt parking lot, the bar dressed up with concrete floors and walls hung with posters of bra-busting bike rally queens.
Because there's no need for expensive decor -- all eyes are on the beautiful beasts parked outside.
Estrella Mountain Ranch
11800 South Golf Club Drive
Estrella Mountain Ranch
11800 South Golf Club Drive