BEST PLACE TO KISS MA GRITS 2007 | Mel's Diner | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Small-town transplants and big-city East Coasters with a jones for a basic, cheap eatery serving heaping plates of food should hightail it down to Mel's Diner. The old-school establishment, located along an industrial strip of Grand Avenue, serves super-tasty breakfast all day and choice burgers and chicken-fried cuisine in the afternoons.

And a healthy dose of nostalgia, if the '70s and '80s count.

The opening credits and choice inside scenes for Alice — the successful sitcom that ran from 1976 to 1985, chronicling a Hollywood hopeful forced to take a waitress job at a diner after her car breaks down in Phoenix — were filmed inside Mel's.

The spot retains that no-nonsense charm, complete with a Mel Sharples-type character in the form of foul-mouthed Frank, a busboy who will begrudgingly pour you bottomless cups of coffee. Just don't smile too much because he'll wipe that grin right off with a verbal slap across the piehole.

Unless you're John-Boy Walton or Martha Stewart — or a glutton for emotional punishment — you're probably ambivalent about Thanksgiving. There's that enforced familial interaction (blah) and the infernal "dead turkey clock" that keeps ticking off the passing years. For example, if you've only eaten 10 birds, you're probably safe for a while longer — yet there's that yawning eternity of Thanksgivings looming ahead. If you're 75, you're reached the downhill slope of the turkey hump, but the Grim Reaper is sharpening his scythe.

Death by gobbler is gonna get you either way, so why not go out in style? The Wrigley's annual Thanksgiving feast is style personified. Get a load of these offerings from last year's menu: baby lamb chops with a mint glaze and grilled salmon with a roasted red pepper coulis. Even the turkey — slathered with cranberry chutney — is life-affirming. What price mental health? A mere $27.50 to $55, which we'd consider cheap at twice the price.

Now that you can't smoke in bars anymore, you can actually taste the food at Richardson's. Honestly, we're pretty sure it was always kick-ass, but up until this smoking ban thing kicked in, the closer you got to the bar, the more your enchiladas had to compete with the smell of ashtray. Richardson's drew a hard-smokin', hard-partyin' crowd whose heyday was the mid-'80s and usually looked like they stepped out of an episode of The Rockford Files. Nothing wrong with that, of course, unless you're not as inured to cancer-wand discharge as the Saturday Night Fever set. Because smokers now have to take it outside, the air is clean, save for the vague aroma of Hai Karate from the 50-something next to you. And your palate is finally free from the ravages of secondhand Pall Malls. So, thanks to government fiat, Richardson Browne's New Mexico-styled nook is the coolest place to eat at the bar in the PHX, not to mention drink. And if there happens to be an urban cougar on the prowl nearby, you'll actually be able to see her MILF-y, saline-enhanced, fortysomething curves, without having to strain through the fog of countless lit coffin nails.
Consider us impressed. We always thought that kids and a nice meal were like water and oil, but somehow Madelyn's has managed to pull off a classy restaurant where kids are graciously accommodated, but where grown-ups can still enjoy a sophisticated night out, feasting on chef-owner Brian Ford's contemporary American cuisine, including Zinfandel-braised beef short ribs and herbed pappardelle pasta. Make no mistake — this is an upscale neighborhood bistro not especially geared toward children. Still, each time we've been here, we noticed a few families seated amid the otherwise adult-filled dining room, which makes sense in the family-friendly enclave of Anthem. Props go to the parents of those well-behaved youngsters, but also to the thoughtful waitstaff, who managed to make even the littlest patrons feel welcome.
Matt's Big Breakfast
Truth be told, we don't always take the time for the most important meal of the day. But when we need to gear up for a busy day at work, fortify ourselves for a road trip, or just cheer ourselves up with a sweet stack of griddlecakes, we head straight to Matt's Big Breakfast.

This tiny, sunny diner's a downtown icon, and not just because of its orange counters or sassy retro décor. Here, the coffee's always strong, the juice is straight-outta-the-orange, and the thick bacon strips — from The Pork Shop in Queen Creek — are the best we've ever had.

Whether we go with the salami scramble, a fluffy Belgian-style waffle, or a fat omelet stuffed with roasted red peppers and aged provolone, Matt's hearty eats gear us up to take on the world.

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.
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.
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.)
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.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of