Elie's Deli

After slaving over a hot desk all day long, who really wants to face an hour or more working in the kitchen for dinner?

Still, we'd like our families to enjoy a healthful, tasty, home-cooked meal, even if it isn't cooked in our own home. So it's Elie's takeout to the rescue! We love this tiny, family-run quick-stop casual shop where pretty much everything on the Mediterranean and American menu is homemade. Our family members with the simplest tastes love the straight stuff -- hot and cold subs fashioned from Boar's Head meats, a fine BLT and grilled cheese, and burgers. More adventurous types lust after the Greek specialties, like magical grape leaves stuffed with rice, tomatoes and garbanzo beans, dipped in silky-tart yogurt spiked with cucumber, garlic and mint. And we've been known to make an entire meal out of tabbouleh, a refreshing salad of chopped parsley, tomato, cracked wheat, lemon juice and olive oil, with some hot pita bread on the side. All food is prepared to order, but it's done with speed -- we never wait more than a few minutes before we're tramping our treasures out the door.

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

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.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of