Lon's at the Hermosa
Jackie Mercandetti
How the architect managed to figure out how to dig a wine cellar under the historic converted home that is Lon's, we'll never know. All we can say is that he did it, and beautifully. This brand-new room is hidden back behind the bar, behind a scrolled gate, and down a steep, winding flight of rock stairs. The temperature drops up to 30 degrees as we make the descent, and as we round the bend, we're presented with one of the most gorgeous private dining rooms we've ever seen. If there's no romance in the air in this room, lined with racks of wine bottles, crafted out of stone and centered with a heavy wood table dressed with candles, then this couple has no chance. There's no room charge, either, with menu and wine selections from Lon's seasonal offerings (adore that cow "q" Kobe beef, or the Peruvian seafood grill). It can be just us, or, if we want to shout our love out to the rooftops, we can invite up to six other couples. The manager tells us his servers often feel the need to announce when they're approaching the room -- after all, mood lighting, mood food, mood ambiance, and, well, it sure puts us in the mood.

Readers' Choice: The Melting Pot

Roaring Fork
Courtesy of Roaring Fork
When we're worn out, the only thing we want to do for dinner is eat over the kitchen sink at home. Unfortunately, it's hard to find friends who want to do that with us. So on those nights, we ask them to meet us at Roaring Fork, where it's almost as comfortable, casual and homey. These people understand the need to feed at a low-key bar. It's still pretty, in one of the most bustling, beautiful people spots in the Valley. And it's still got some of the most interesting, delicious, well-priced nibbles to be found anywhere. The "saloon" menu is available in the bar only, from 7 to 10 p.m. It includes thrills like green chile pork stew with jack cheese and buttered flour tortillas; a half chicken rotisserie-roasted over pecan wood with queso anejo and charred tomato salsa; or smoke-roasted barbecued pork ribs braised in Dr Pepper and chiles. Best of all, the plates run less than $10 each, and we don't even have to do the dishes.

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