• Best Of
  • Restaurants: Right Place - Right Time
Postino Wine Cafe
Jeez, dating is expensive. Dinner and a movie can run $75 plus. (Think about the cost for two: $15 for tickets, $7.50 for watered-down soft drinks, $8 for sacks of stale popcorn, or $7 for boxes of Goobers, and another $40, easy, for steaks afterward.)

At Farrelli's, we can scope out a potential paramour and enjoy a fine meal and a movie for only $43 (Here's the math: tickets, $12; sodas with free refills, $3; juicy Angus cheeseburgers on sourdough rolls with piles of fries, $18; and for dessert, homemade cheesecake, $10). For a first date, there's no debate: It's Farrelli's.

Okay, so we didn't conduct a personal count, but we're taking Wright's word that its wine cellar/private dining room boasts 10,000 bottles. Certainly it looks to be true, with a sea of shimmering bottles just begging to be opened and sampled.

While the wine -- and the resort, built in 1929 and inspired by the desert-design concepts of Frank Lloyd Wright -- may be old, the cuisine is entirely fresh. Chef Rick Boyer's contemporary, lavish style tempts with treasures like grilled veal and sweetbreads with pickled cabbage, pan-roasted sea scallops with celery root risotto and Sevruga caviar, and a chef's five-course tasting menu paired with -- what else? -- wines.

Now that's the Wright way to celebrate wines.

Fine dining has landed at the Scottsdale Municipal Airport, thanks to the Valley's own Channel 3 celebrity Jan D'Atri. This joint's home-style Italian food is so delicious that you'll find us there, even if the only baggage we've got is our childhood. The location's a surprise, until you remember that Scottsdale Airport is frequented by folks who don't want corn dogs, but a maitre d', votive candles, white tablecloths and niceties such as rack of lamb, shrimp and scallop skewers and filet mignon. There's great stuff for us working-class folk, too: terrific panini sandwiches, pasta and sausage. We love the fresh-off-the-bird turkey breast sandwich, grilled with provolone, mozzarella, feta, mushrooms and caramelized onion. D'Atri's pastas fly high, anchored by homemade noodles and stunning sauces. Thanks, D'Atri's, for a fuel bill that's a delight to pay.

From the first seductive aroma of smoking meat and simmering sauces, this artery-busting, fat-packing food demands we EAT UP.

Honey Bear's slogan: "You don't need no teeth to eat our meat." That's true. Tender pieces of pork, beef and poultry fall off the bone before we open our mouths. Sure, we could eat light, maybe subsisting on a piece of chicken and a garden salad. But no, we want to pack it in with a massive combo sandwich (a two-fister marrying our favorite meat choices), moist hot links, and gargantuan slabs of pork ribs.

Sides aren't low-cal, either, but they're luscious -- tubs of sweet-tinged "cowbro" beans and mayo-bound potato salad. We finish our feast with enormous servings of hot-from-the-oven peach cobbler and sweet potato pie.

Honey, that's our idea of a healthy diet.

An event just isn't a success unless the food is fabulous, and Continental Catering is the life of our party. In business since 1966, Continental is our choice for both VIP dinners and family milestone celebrations. For those fancy evenings, go with an elaborate spread of herbed mesquite grilled rack of lamb with smoky tomato jalapeño sauce, tournedos of beef with pâté and Madeira sauce, and hazelnut crusted fillet of Atlantic salmon with red pepper coulis. You can even count on Continental for a mouth-watering picnic. This caterer's core talents are with Southwestern, classic and regional American menus, but they've been known to cut loose with themes like Old New English Christmas fetes or Native American celebrations. If you don't even feel like cleaning the house, Continental can set you up in unique locations such as the Heard Museum, the Arizona Science Center or even Corona Ranch and Rodeo. Continental, you're our toast of the town.

Chefs Eddie Matney and Dave Andrea own two important Valley restaurants, but they've branched out into convenience food, setting up a casual, quick-dining and take-away concept.

World Noodles serves -- what else? -- noodles, cooked to order in a wok and heaped in a big bowl for just $3.95 to $6.50 (most are about $5). For this, we get a healthy soba stir fry, tumbled with broccoli, snow peas, carrots and chicken, beef or tofu in teriyaki sauce. We also favor the drunken veggies, thick udon noodles tossed with enoki mushrooms, broccoli, red peppers, corn, green onions and tofu in a sprightly sake and sesame oil sauce. Among the slightly more sinful selections: beef stroganoff with mushrooms, cabernet cream sauce and horseradish sour cream, or good old mac 'n' cheese, blended with three cheeses, cream and garlic crouton crumbles. So, for good and quick, use your noodle and stop by.

Folks who've never been to Phoenix are convinced that we dine solely on hunks of steak, barbecue beans, baked potatoes and paint-peeling coffee made with eggshells. Leave it to Cowboy Ciao, with its ultra-stylish, spaghetti Western ambiance, to show them creative American cuisine, spiked with influences from Italy, Mexico, and, of course, the Southwest.

The Stetson chopped salad is legendary, and we crave the calamari, tossed with chasoba noodles, sesame vinaigrette, chile oil and daikon radish sprouts. Entrees aren't for the timid, plated with starch and vegetables, and centered by such delights as espresso charred filet mignon (with pan-grilled vegetables, mashed tortilla potatoes, chipotle hollandaise). We endorse the signature dish, too, a fine fry of cremini, button and oyster mushrooms in ancho cream over double-cooked polenta with grilled portabellini, avocado, tomato and cotija cheese. Pure heaven.

Add a dessert of chocolate lottery torte, or Mexican chocolate pot de crème with chipotle cream, plus an inspired, globally encompassing wine list, and we're proud to call this new Phoenix chow our own.

It's easy to miss House of Tricks as you drive by on the two-lane street next to ASU -- and that's part of the reason we love it so. Set, amazingly enough, just steps from a row of Tempe's rowdiest bars and restaurants, this Victorian-inspired 1920s chateau lolls in quiet splendor behind a thick flush of trees, trellises and a picket fence. Sure, other places tout spectacular desert views, but at night -- or when you want to forget you're in tumbleweed country -- this is the place to go to let your cares melt away under the gentle gurgle of a fountain, sheltered by a vine-covered, light-bedecked canopy. Any time of day is right for Tricks' thrilling American contemporary cuisine. For lunch, try smoked ham and Brie on a pumpernickel bagel or grilled trout with chayote slaw. For dinner, kick up the class, with ahi tuna crusted in lavender and herbs and red curry sauce, or molasses-brushed rack of lamb with lemon rosemary mashed potatoes. Best patio dining? That's no Trick question.
Kazimierz shows how terrific the upscale sip-and-nibble concept can be, with a fashionably funky interior, eclectic music, creative wines and superb "small plates" of creative, refreshing snacks. After finding the door (it's hidden in the back, with no sign), snag a cozy, cushy, overstuffed armchair or sofa. Sprawl back amid candles and shrouded lamps, enjoying a magical display of lights behind an elaborate paper-and-gel "stained glass" window along the bar's northern wall.

The best way to eat here is to share sumptuous appetizers: nutty-toned truffle and duck pâté, salmon tartare, and Egyptian flatbreads (pizzas) with toppings like earthy morels and roasted shallots on Brie with truffle oil; or roast lamb, chèvre, figs and balsamic. The best way to drink here is with one of two dozen themed flight selections, each flight a trio of three-ounce pours of different wines. The best way to be merry here? Hey, if we have to tell you that, you're in the wrong place.

The idea of morning sure sounds good: happy chirping birds, gentle dew, rose-kissed clouds. But it's never that way as we stagger all sticky-eyed, wild-haired and crabby-spirited out of bed.

That's the time to treat ourselves to an indulgent breakfast at Squash Blossom, a gorgeous place overlooking a two-and-a-half-acre water playground. Breakfast is an expensive treat -- $10.75 to $14.50 for entrees -- but worth every penny. Petite filet mignon is high style, paired with poached eggs, herbed hollandaise sauce, breakfast potatoes and toast, while corned beef hash kicks it up with chile cilantro hollandaise. For a special experience, go for the Arizona toast, a raisin bread sandwich filled with cactus pear marmalade, dipped in egg batter and served with fig compote. Or swoon over the potato pancake trio, each dainty round with a different topping: smoked salmon, diced onion, tomatoes, cream cheese and capers; beluga caviar, cilantro and sour cream; and pan-smoked trout with creamed horseradish. Oh, what a beautiful morning.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of