Best Place To Expect The Unexpected 2002 | Hamburger Mary's | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix
As its name implies, it's a hamburger joint. But what other burger-n-bun shack offers Saturday afternoon tea (Long Island, though), a champagne Sunday brunch, prickly pear margarita parties, Sex and the City viewing parties, service-industry happy hours, karaoke, dollar disco daze, gay lifestyle festivals and fashion shows? Only the same place that, alongside its certified Angus beef burgers, proudly serves Dom Perignon. What better to complement a bleu cheese and bacon burger than a bottle of the $150 sparkly? It adds a certain joie de vivre to a chile size smothered in onions, or a meaty mushroom burger loaded with Cheddar and jack. Mary, you make us proud.
The 1.5-mile hike through the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is gorgeous and deeply informative any time of the year. But only in fall, as you walk down through the steep-walled Queen Creek Canyon, do you pass through hundreds of different tree species from ecosystems around the world changing colors together. It's a palette seen in few places on Earth. And surprisingly, most visitors come to the Arboretum in the spring, leaving the paths fairly quiet during this spectacular show.

One caveat this fall, though. As with much of Arizona, the drought has taken its toll on the plant life, so this autumn likely will be a replay of last year, when severe heat and dry conditions muted the colors.

As for the details: Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children 5 to 12. Children under 5 are free. The Arboretum is open every day of the year except Christmas from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is just about a half-hour east of Apache Junction on Highway 60.

Apache Stronghold Golf Club is becoming the hot summer golf spot for Phoenix golfers looking for something very different -- and a little bit cooler.

Part of the Apache Gold Casino/Resort complex east of Globe on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, Apache Stronghold is probably best enjoyed by the under-10-handicap crowd. Not only is it long -- more than 7,500 yards from the back tees -- but just about every shot awaits a disaster of some sort. Lightning-fast greens drop away into trouble, and undulating fairways and hidden doglegs pull even the straightest ill-conceived shots into the high Sonoran Desert.

Expect at least five shots added to your score. But also expect the hurt-so-good pleasure of being beaten by a great Tom Doak-designed course. And if that's unacceptable, just enjoy panoramic desert views unhindered by Valley development, or the 5- to 15-degree temperature reprieve you get coming up above 3,200 feet.

The San Carlos Tribe offers stay-and-play deals throughout the year. Your best bet: Load up the car with three buddies, drive up, play 18, hit the casino and spend the night -- all for $79 per person.

Recession, overbuilding and 110-degree heat can be good things.

In south Chandler, they'll allow you to play a Nicklaus Design golf course on a weekend for $9.

That's if you're willing to walk the short 18 at Bear Creek, which can be a bear in the heat. But just get there early and it's a piece of cake.

The Bear Creek short course is a maddening challenge for your short game. Nowhere in the Valley can so many sub-100-yard holes cause you so much trouble.

And because of the price, the Bear Creek short 18 is one of the best places in the Valley for a good golfer to bring his or her son or daughter. While you struggle keeping a short wedge shot on the tricky greens, kids can blast away and probably end up in equally good shape. This little course levels the playing field between parent and child, making the experience more enjoyable for the kid. And remember: If they have fun, that means you can continue to call a round of golf "quality time with the kids."

We had to rub our eyes when we read that Boyce Thompson welcomes quadrupeds (at least on leashes). But it does! We can take our pooch into Arizona's oldest historical arboretum and botanical garden without any fuss. Mining magnate Colonel William Boyce Thompson founded his arboretum in the roaring 1920s, to imbue in people an appreciation of plants. And while dogs might appreciate trees in ways different from ours, the folks at the Arboretum don't seem to mind.

Best puppy behavior is recommended (though not enforced) as you enter through the pay-by-honor snack bar. It only takes one or two snuffs of sharp cactuses to convince your pet he should stay on the trail. The walk is wonderful, easily two hours past a symphony of Arizona history, babbling brooks and traveling sculpture. You have to factor in time for bops on the head for your kids who may insist on frightening lopes along the edge of a crevasse, and to scrub off the sticky spittle of your own sweat and dried dog drool. But you, and your hyper hound, may never be as happy anywhere as you can be, for a day, at Boyce.

The expansion of the 202 Freeway east is a good thing. It allowed us to empty our car into uncharted territory in Mesa, and, as we drove around lost and clueless, to come across the Orange Patch. We were immediately taken with the farmhouse shop, surrounded by more than 200 acres of tree-ripened citrus. This is a store straight out of Harry & David's lore, stocked to the rafters with bin after bin after bag after tin of locally grown fresh-roasted-in-the-store nuts. There are also Arizona-kitsch gifts, dates, dried fruit, candies, hand-dipped chocolates, orange juice made fresh every day and ice cream. The fresh produce options are as jaw-droppingly expansive as the nut selection: fresh citrus, seasonal items such as squash, okra, tomatoes, New Mexico green chiles, Utah peaches, watermelon and cantaloupe.

Shop anywhere else? We'd have to be nuts.

Best Place To Listen To Music And Eat Chinese Food

Lucky Dragon

Johnny Chu has mastered the art of multitasking, and we're grateful as we sip hot tea over a plate of beef and broccoli, listening to live jazz. Chu doesn't only make great Chinese food with a French flair (the portobello dishes are superb) and book all kinds of music into his hole-of-a-strip-mall venue, he offers up the walls to local artists, as well.

Be thankful for the dim lighting -- the quality of art is more varied than the quality of the spring rolls -- and appreciate the fact that whether you dig art and music or not, you can still score hot and sour soup 'til 1 a.m.

So many restaurants these days are so, well, hot. Loud music, a crush of fashionably dressed bodies, edgy service, blaring decor, and a menu that takes an Atlas and foreign dictionaries to decipher. How are we to focus on our special someone under these conditions?

We go to Palm Court to whisper sweet nothings. This intimate space speaks of yesteryear, a candlelit room framed by picture windows overlooking the golf course, exotic floral displays, the quiet melodies of a Steinway, even a personally engraved matchbook for our party.

It's impossible not to melt in each other's eyes as our tuxedoed server prepares our entrees tableside, au flambé as appropriate. We know what these dishes are without any primer -- steak au poivre with cognac and tricolor peppercorns, duckling aux framboise in raspberry bigarade, lobster Lord Randolph with fresh mushrooms, truffles and Courvoisier. An evening of enchantment begins with escargots Bourguignonne on toasted brioche, and ends with bananas Foster.

Or, if we're really lucky, the evening's just begun.

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