Green New American Vegetarian
Courtesy of Green
Let's be honest: Vegans are a major pain in the tuchis. Never mind abstaining from eggs, milk and cheese; they won't even eat honey, people, lest the bees be exploited by man. This is why most vegan-friendly fare bites. Customers for this cuisine are more concerned with their own hairsplitting ethics, and don't mind punishing their palates for the cause. So flavor falls victim to morality. Unless you're talking about Tempe's Green, where they at least make an effort to craft vegan vittles that are a joy to nosh. Hey, you try cooking without any animal products whatsoever. You'll be lucky if everything doesn't end up tasting like sand. Green overcomes this handicap most of the time, with cheese, milk and egg substitutes, well enough to please even the occasional carnivore who wanders into Green unprepared. Green's vegan pizzas and Asian-style bowls are actually tasty. And the chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter bars truly kick some skinny vegan fanny.
CityBakery
By now, you downtown dweller, you've no doubt discovered City Bakery, over the tracks in south Phoenix, just beyond the baseball stadium, adjacent to the cavernous Bentley Projects. We love that the Arcadia Farms people have spread south from their Scottsdale outpost, and we love the chicken and strawberry salad they serve for lunch. But did you know that City Bakery is open for breakfast? We're not sure many do, because when we've been, the place has been blissfully empty. So we're making the sacrifice, sharing the knowledge, knowing that soon we'll be rubbing elbows with you at breakfast, too. That's fine; this secret is too good to keep, and we want to keep City Bakery in business. Try the fluffy eggs and thick toast, along with a French press coffee. Or grab a cupcake. We promise not to tell.
Pane Bianco
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.
Pugzie's Restaurant
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.
Sophie's French Bistro
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.
Wright's at the Biltmore
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.
ZuZu at Hotel Valley Ho
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.
Elements
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 Farm Kitchen
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.
Chelsea's Kitchen
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.

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