BEST MAKEOVER 2007 | Wright's at the Biltmore | Food & Drink | Phoenix
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.
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.
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.
Maybe it's the case of gelato, or the soft blue and brown-hued décor, or the wall of computers in front of bar stools available for free Internet access. Or maybe it's just because we were so happy to see a new dining establishment open near the Mesa Arts Center. Whatever it was, let us tell you, this place offers one posh nosh — including lunch served on a silver platter. (Really!) The menu includes sandwiches, salads, soups, and decadent desserts. Soon, Posh Nosh will have a liquor license and dinner service, they say. We'll save a spot for them in next year's BOP, under "Best Nosh After The Show."
It's tricky enough to get the gang together for a night on the town, but it's even harder to get everyone to agree on somewhere to go for a bite after taking in a performance or an art opening. Luckily, Union Wine Bar & Grill is about as versatile a place as you'll find. Your foodie friends will dig tasty offerings like slow-roasted pork with apple-cabbage slaw, not to mention the restaurant's pedigree (it's run by Chrysa Robertson and Tom Kaufman of Rancho Pinot fame). Meanwhile, the picky people in your group will appreciate the variety of shareable small plates, satisfying as a snack or easily assembled into a full meal. As for the drinkers, well, they can settle in with a beer, a specialty cocktail, or something from the primo wine list. Five- and eight-ounce pours make it easy to have an impromptu tasting, perfect for post-show conversation. And when it comes to location, Union can't be beat — it's just a stone's throw from Scottsdale Center for the Arts and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.
Lauren Cusimano
Of course, everyone knows the PHX as the city that never sleeps. Er, at least 9-to-5, Monday through Friday. But, not unlike someone pulling the hair off an old hippie, we're improving our nighthawkishness, albeit one friggin' strand at a time. And the man you can thank for that is restaurateur Lenny Rosenberg, the guy who made sushi-'til-midnight the motto at Zen 32, which shares the same shopping center at the northwest corner of 32nd and Camelback as his other late-night bitery, delux. The open-'til-2 a.m. spot boasts a sleek, L.A. design, a gazillion beers on tap, hot servers of both sexes, and two of the best burgers in town, the Standard Classic and the delux burger. The former's a straight-up hunk of grilled, premium beef on a brioche bun, with lettuce, tomato and onions; and the latter's served on a demi-baguette, with a mix of Maytag blue and Gruyre, and topped with caramelized onions and applewood-smoked bacon. Either way you go, a hopper of sweet-potato fries is recommended. Best of all, you can nosh 'em past midnight, with the sort of swank, good-lookin' crowd that'll make you think you died and woke up in Santa Monica.

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