BEST DOWNTOWN LUNCH 2006 | Pane Bianco | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Heather Hoch
We don't blame Chris Bianco for closing his pizza shop at lunch, as long as he keeps Pane Bianco open. This super-cute, straight-out-of-Brooklyn (as long as you're picturing Park Slope) sandwich shop elevates the term "sandwich" to levels heretofore unimagined. We prefer the simple mozzarella, tomato and basil on ciabatta, although we have friends who swear by the tuna. And if you prefer to skip the carbs, try the tuna salad. Or blow the diet entirely and try the pizza. Part of the charm of Pane Bianco is the seating: It's only outdoors, so you'll be having a picnic at big, gorgeous hand-carved tables. Or sneak into Lux Coffeebar next door. If you buy a coffee drink, no one will mind if you pull out your sandwich although someone might ask for a bite.
One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do unless you do it at Pugzie's. This lunch spot embraces the hungry single, providing open seating so you never have to answer the dreaded question, "How many?" Super tasty sandwiches, salads and soups are ordered and paid for up front so you can retreat to one of the small booths without interruption from the wait staff. To top it off, Pugzie's has a gigantic communal magazine rack. No need to raise your freak flag by reading at a restaurant; it's completely normal here. Feel free to indulge with a fresh-baked cookie and a trashy celeb magazine . . . no one's watching.
Jackie Mercandetti
This little French restaurant is great at dinner, don't get us wrong. But our favorite time to visit is lunchtime, when this above-average dining experience gives us a little pick-me-up. The fresh white linens, sunny wood floors and (don't tell our boss) glass of dry white wine go well with the companionship of some giggly girlfriends. Try the French onion soup, or a light salad. And order the fries, you can share. The best part of the meal is free the tiny rich chocolate truffle that comes with the check.
Yeah, it's a little ridiculous to start off a lazy Sunday with not just eggs and bacon, but also a mound of prawns and crab claws. But when you're filling up your buffet plate at this stylish restaurant, the main dining room at the Arizona Biltmore, such delicacies seem not decadent but perfectly normal. For $28, the Biltmore serves up one of the tastiest buffets in town, and the menu offers plenty of great options for diners who like their meal delivered. Add a mimosa for $9.25 and make the afternoon really lazy.
Heather Hoch
There's something inherently difficult about trying to take your dad out for brunch. In a city where there's an IHOP or a Denny's on almost every corner, it's easy to fall back on sub-standard breakfast fare and tell yourself Dad doesn't know any better. Don't fall into the trap. Caf Zuzu at the Valley Ho Hotel offers the same comfort food as the chain slop house, but in a much cleaner, more pleasing environment. We particularly like the Ho's thickly cut Virginia bacon, and the Denver omelet's not bad, either. It's a little more expensive, but don't worry Dad'll probably insist on paying.
If you've only stopped by this scenic Paradise Valley resort for a drink at the Jade Bar, its oh-so-stylish lounge, you've probably raved about the view. But you haven't seen anything until you've stepped into the dining room at its Asian-inflected restaurant, elements. Practically every table in the place has a stunning, panoramic view of Camelback Mountain and its neighboring hills. And, as viewers of Iron Chef America surely know, the food ain't bad, either.
The fresh air, the smell of green grass, the beauty of nature we love a picnic. But who wants to cook? At The Farm, the picnic is ready and waiting, prepared from ingredients grown on site (even the turkey is as fresh as you can imagine!). We love to order at the counter from a nice variety of sandwiches and salads, top it with chips, cookies and drinks, then head outdoors to find a shady spot to eat. Best of all, there are plenty of picnic tables to sit on, so your butt won't get sore. This kind of picnic, we could eat every day. But The Farm is only open during the cooler months, so call ahead.
Courtesy of Chelsea's Kitchen
We remember the old North Bank restaurant fondly, so we were eager to see what Chris DeMarco and company would do with the prime spot along the canal near 40th Street and Camelback Road, just up the street from DeMarco's small empire at Postino. We're very pleased. The patio at Chelsea's is comfortable, with DeMarco's signature aesthetic (read: you wish he'd send his people over to decorate your house) and without the cacophonous clattering that's the only drawback inside the restaurant. If you want to have a pleasant conversation over wine and comfort food (we recommend the warm chicken and spinach salad), head north.
Each year, we don our bonnets and gloves (okay, not really, but we do try to make sure our tee shirt's clean) and head out in search of the finest high tea in the Valley. This year, we award it again to The Phoenician, where the Lobby Tea Court, as it's so graciously referred to, puts this place over the top as our tops for tea. From the beautiful porcelain pots to the Devonshire cream, every detail is exquisite. And while we never imagine we'll leave high tea without room for dinner, we found the selection of finger sandwiches most filling; our party particularly enjoyed the salmon selection. Our favorite, naturally, is the chocolate course. If this is how life is like in England, we're ready to jump the ocean for more!
One school of thought says children ought not to be taken to a "real" restaurant until they reach, say, the age of 12. Naturally, the members of that out-of-touch school probably don't have kids. The alternative to eating out just isn't practical in this rush-around-like-crazy world, but here's a little secret if you need to escape the artery-clogging hell of fast food: Get to this ever-popular eating and drinking establishment by 5 p.m. (you might get trampled by the Thirsty Ones after that), and you and the kidlings will have a fine time. The service is uniformly exceptional, and the kitchen churns out the grub faster than you'd expect. It's usually loud, so the occasional shrieks and moans that are part of the program won't bother dining neighbors. The booths are roomy, and the cutlery comes rolled into cloth napkins (fear not the blades!). Oh, and the kids' burger, which we have tasted on occasion, goes for a mere $5, and tastes great.

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