Cibo Urban Pizzeria
Jacob Tyler Dunn
Fabulous rustic pizzas may be Cibo's biggest claim to fame, but don't expect to order a pie at lunch. Instead, stop by for colorful salads — like organic greens with pine nuts, tomatoes, roasted potatoes, pesto dressing, and shaved Parmesan — or one of the big sandwiches made on warm, crusty saltimbocca loaves fresh out of the wood-fired oven. The caprese, filled with fresh mozzarella, always hits the spot, but we love the refreshing, basil-and-mint-tinged tuna salad, too. Meanwhile, the charming, relaxing setting is a bonus. Situated in a beautifully restored historic house with a shady patio out front, Cibo is our favorite antidote to workday stress.
The Farm Kitchen
Dorothy, we're not in Phoenix anymore. Or are we? Eating lunch at The Farm Kitchen sure feels like a foodie field trip to the countryside, but really, it isn't that far from downtown. Step through the rustic wooden gate, onto a flower-filled cobblestone patio, and you'll soon forget about highways and high-rises and the frantic city pace. Inside the little house on the premises, take your pick from a huge list of healthful lunch stuff, like gourmet sandwiches and salads, as well as wholesome, homemade cookies, pies, and cobblers. Then head outside to find a picnic table and sip a fresh-squeezed lemonade in the shade of leafy pecan trees. Yeah, you'll probably hear some birds chirping and bees buzzing as a butterfly lands on your table, and then you may really wonder whether you're dreaming all this up. At that point, feel free to pinch yourself.
Fuego Bistro
Who wouldn't like to be in the know about a charming hideaway for a great meal? Fuego Bistro is just the kind of spot that'll make you seem so savvy to your friends — but first, you have to find it. We're not saying it's far away or anything. It's actually quite centrally located, just a little bit south of Bethany Home and a smidgen east of Seventh Street. However, you won't stumble on this place with any amount of driving. Trust us. It's actually tucked into the small courtyard at Fountain Court Plaza. Once you realize where it is, you'll never be able to drive past Apollo's, the hard-to-miss neighborhood bar, without being tempted by the eatery in the inconspicuous building right behind it. Anyway, consider the effort a treasure hunt, because the food at Fuego is delicious, an assortment of Cuban, Guatemalan, and Puerto Rican-inspired dishes with a Southwestern spin. Succulent pernil asado (marinated, slow-roasted pork) and spicy camarones de Patron (plump, blackened prawns cooked in tequila and slathered in cilantro-tomatillo sauce) are just a couple of the reasons to Mapquest this place. Or better yet, just check out the Web site.
Finally, a place that indulges our inner foodie and lets us slack in the kitchen on those days when it's just too damn hot to cook. (You know, about six months out of the year.) Thanks to the sprawling grab-and-go area at Dish — an over-the-top new Scottsdale eatery that's like a deli on steroids — the à la carte food selection at our local grocery store now looks painfully inadequate. Why suffer through the same old rotisserie chicken and coleslaw when you can pick up a fat slice of lasagna, some barbecued brisket, perhaps a big baked sweet potato with herbed butter, and (what the heck) a few cupcakes, too? The offerings here are mind-boggling, meaning we'll never get bored. And the food's so tasty that we're tempted to pass it off as home cooking for our next dinner party. (Shh — that'll be our little secret.)
Pita Jungle
Timur Guseynov
This longtime Tempe outpost of healthful and hip has exploded recently, with locations all over the East Valley. Now, you don't need to be a grungy ASU skateboarder to appreciate a combo chicken platter or a side of hummus. The grilled vegetable salad at Pita Jungle is a wonder to behold, and about as healthful as a decadent meal can get — and with an understandably long wait at the restaurants, we like to go the take-out route (we're big fans of P.J.'s whimsical Web site, too). Sure beats a pizza, both for taste and nutrition. We like to slather it — and anything else we can find — with Pita Jungle's addicting garlic dip.
Wright's at the Biltmore
We never gave much thought to the fine-dining restaurant at the Arizona Biltmore, but a year ago, after it was renovated and reopened as "Wright's at the Biltmore," we took notice. Along with the fresh new digs — moody lighting and Art Deco-inspired décor create visual drama in the elegant dining room — the menu got an overhaul as well. Executive chef Michael Cairns and chef de cuisine Matt Alleshouse call their concept "American Lodge Cuisine," which revels in boutique ingredients and exquisite preparations of hearty meats like aged buffalo loin (with creamy arugula and rosemary jus), beef tenderloin (in a sweet onion and blue cheese crust), and Colorado lamb (with a rich chickpea ragout). They even have seared red trout, done up with chardonnay butter and caviar. For dessert, the kitchen turns out heavenly soufflés with crme anglaise. Nope, you won't have to worry about roughing it at this lodge.
Olive & Ivy Restaurant & Marketplace
The food court at Fashion Square is good for a quick, cheap bite when our blood sugar plummets from too much power shopping. But sometimes, we'd much rather walk a little farther (just beyond the Nordstrom parking garage) and spend a little (or a lot) more for a chi-chi meal at the stylish Olive & Ivy. The bustling, see-and-be-seen atmosphere is pure entertainment, a slice of European-style cafe culture amid the man-made, only-in-the-desert, canal-side complex called the Scottsdale Waterfront. No offense to the pizza and cheese steak purveyors at the mall — we've eaten at those places plenty of times — but if we get a chance to dine on roasted garlic, tomato and pesto flatbread, housemade tagliatelle, or sweet potato agnolotti with Mandarin glaze, we're gonna pounce on it like a crazed shopper at a clearance sale.
Looking for a place to hang with your girlfriends besides the local bar? The sweetest deal in town for gettin' your drink on and making your fingertips look fabulous happens every Monday, at Furio's Martinis and Manicures night. It's only ten bucks for a cocktail and a fresh coat of polish. But let's face it — you'll probably want more than one drink, and hunger's bound to strike, too. Good thing Furio's executive chef, Jagger Griffin, has you covered. Happy hour specials include bargain-priced booze and tasty, wallet-friendly eats, such as grilled focaccia with dipping sauces, and a marinated flank steak sammy with brie and pesto. Or, if a leisurely dinner suits you more, settle into the swanky dining room and fill up on Italian-inspired dishes such as basil fettuccine with shrimp, pine nuts, and sun-dried tomatoes, or black truffle gnocchi with butter-poached lobster. Take a look at the wine list as well — but make sure you can wean your friends off those martinis first.
Rokerij
Diana Martinez
Call us alcoholics, but we're rarely ready to get to know someone new without a little liquid courage. On the other hand, when we're bothering to go on a first date, we want it to feel romantic and fraught with possibility. The Rokerij, Richardson Browne's snazzy restaurant just off Bethany Home Road, takes care of both problems. The upstairs is newly remodeled and now looks as smart as any place in town, but it's still dark enough to keep things dreamy. And downstairs, the couches in front of the fireplace are the perfect place for a nightcap — or any one of the Rokerij's excellent small plates, should you be unwilling to commit to dinner until you know your date a little better. The service is great. And if conversation flags, there's always a game on TV just behind the bar.
Our idea of a good night on the town does involve dinner and dancing, but we'd rather do the eating and leave the grooving to someone else. That's why we love to grab a table at Efes Turkish Cuisine on a Saturday night and enjoy the music while several of the best belly dancers in town shake it all. The menu's as authentic as the dancing, and as long as you keep stuffing your mouth, the dancers won't try to lure you onto the floor.

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