Cafe Monarch
Cafe Monarch

When you visit Café Monarch, you're entering Christopher Van Arsdale's domain. He's the chef-owner of this super-stylish, tucked-away spot, and he's often a one-man show, waiting on tables, chatting up customers, and cooking up a storm in the 558-square-foot space that he single-handedly designed. After spending years as a personal chef, Van Arsdale realized his dream of opening his own place, and he's created an atmosphere that's so friendly and intimate that it's almost like dining at a friend's house. The scrumptious menu of starters, salads, and sandwiches is merely a launching point for Van Arsdale's cooking, which often spins off into original creations inspired by customers' cravings, seasonal finds at the farmers market, and whatever else strikes his fancy. One of the appetizers is simply titled "chef's whim." For a leisurely, fun meal, you're in good hands at Café Monarch.

Best Place to Go When You're Feeling Sad

Organ Stop Pizza

Organ Stop Pizza

It's impossible to feel sorry for yourself in the presence of Organ Stop Pizza's Mighty Wurlitzer. The food at the two-story pizza parlor is an afterthought because the main draw is the 6,000-pipe theater organ, with its orchestra pit of instruments, bells, and whistles. Organists like Charlie Balogh dazzle the crowds with boisterous renditions of cheesy but happy songs like "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and "Flight of the Bumblebee."

Senior citizens come by the busload, and Organ Stop also is popular with toddlers. When you go, ask the organist to play "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid. As the lights dim, a glimmering disco ball rotates, shooting shimmering sparkles across the dining hall. Just when you think life can't get much better, Balogh flips a switch, and bubbles float down from the ceiling. We cry from happiness every time.

What are you hungry for? Where should we go to dinner tonight? If it's a Wednesday, the answers should be pizza and Lisa G Café and Wine Bar. Beyond that, we're pretty fuzzy about the future, but that's the best reason to come here for Wednesday Psychic Night, a fun weekly event that's all about peering into the great unknown. Psychic astrologer Joseph Anthony does the readings (10 minutes for 20 bucks), and you never know what he might reveal. From impending relationship drama to a big achievement at work, there's a lot to consider. And, of course, we like to do it while noshing on pizza (the night's special, not on the regular menu), working on a nice bottle of wine, and hanging with a few pals. Not like we're in need of stuff to chat about, but Anthony's insights sure make for fun conversations.

Cheba Hut
Jackie Mercandetti

When you're in a restaurant that serves subs in various sizes called "nugs," "pinners," and "blunts," it only makes sense to be surrounded by cannabis-inspired art. While ordering at the counter, customers can eyeball the plethora of pot-themed stickers and photos taped across the length of the counter, proclaiming things like "Friends don't let friends eat shwag." There's also a display case featuring T-shirts that depict George W. Bush hitting a bong. Once customers have their, uh, blunts in hand, they can ogle the photos beside the soda machine that show Cheech & Chong icon Tommy Chong stuffing his face at Cheba Hut. And once seated in a booth, patrons can take in the giant wall mural that features folks surfing and sunning and a monkey blowing smoke rings through the trees. After their munchies have been slain, customers get one last look at a marijuana leaf, this one painted on the door. There are more green leaves in this place than a teashop. With décor like this, one can't help but leave no turn unstoned.

Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor
Jamie Peachey

We've been hanging around Scottsdale so long that we remember when Fashion Square was an open-air mall. We shopped at the Wigwam, ate at China Lil's, endured countless Parada del Sol parades. So imagine our dismay when two Scottsdale old-timers — Pink Pony and Quilted Bear — bit the dust this year. We knew just what to do. We dusted off our Saba's cowboy boots and headed straight for the Sugar Bowl to drown our sorrows in a banana split. Since 1958, the Pepto-Bismol pink-and-white ice cream parlor has served up frozen treats (oh, yeah, it has regular diner fare, too) to Scottsdalians young and old. Not much has changed about the Sugar Bowl; good thing "shabby chic" is in style. We don't care — give us Bil Keane's old Family Circus cartoons on the walls and the crunchy old linoleum alongside two scoops of chocolate mint, and we're content to relive our childhood.

Apricot Glazed Chicken from Liberty Market
Heather Hoch
Apricot Glazed Chicken from Liberty Market

Gilbert's Liberty Market is the talk of the town. A complete renovation of the circa-1935 market and its 1959 addition has resulted in a buzz-worthy hangout that combines contemporary cool with vintage Americana. It's part cafeteria, part coffee bar, and part gourmet boutique, the kind of place where you could theoretically eat three times a day. Chef David Traina's tasty menu includes griddled bread pudding with espresso syrup for breakfast, thin-crust, wood-fired pizzas for lunch and dinner, and homemade brownies and cookies for anytime. And for a pleasant caffeine kick, grab a latte at the E-61 Bar, the in-house coffee counter named after Liberty's restored vintage espresso machine. Do you need any more reasons to stop by this quirky place? Because really, we could go on . . .

Roka Akor
Nicole Hoffman

Need proof that Scottsdale is on the international jet-setter map? Consider Roka Akor, an offshoot of London's chic Roka restaurant, which also has outposts in Macau and Hong Kong. Exotic company, don't you think? The "Akor" in the name here is actually "Roka" backwards, since it's supposed to be a reflection of the original eatery — both have high-style dining rooms designed by the same cutting-edge Japanese design firm, and both specialize in robatayaki, Japanese grilled dishes that include skewered vegetables, miso-marinated black cod, prime beef filet, and more. Roka Akor's raw selections are also exquisite, from toro sashimi to wagyu sushi with wasabi, ponzu, and ginger. Earlier this year, the place was named among Bon Appetit's best new sushi spots in the country. So who needs a trip abroad for sophisticated Japanese cuisine? They're bringing it to us instead.

Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix/Ro Ho En

At the Japanese Friendship Garden, as you pass through a gate on your way toward an authentic Japanese teahouse, you are supposed to shed a little more of your worldly cares in favor of a more serene, calm self.

The ancient art of Chanoyu, or Japanese tea ceremony, is performed on the second Saturday of each month at the Japanese Friendship Garden. Five tea presentations are performed each day, with eight to nine guests per ceremony, so reservations are required. The cost is $20 per person and includes admission to the garden. During the ceremony, in which each moment is choreographed with moves that date back to the 11th century, a tea master will serve to you a cup of matcha green tea. Think of it as time travel for the Zen master in you.

The Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix
Courtesy of Bistro 24

We've had tea all over town, but no place spoils us like the Ritz. From the sweet valets to the tart lemon curd, every detail of the experience is spot-on, which is what you'd expect when you're paying big bucks for a sip of English Breakfast. It's worth every penny, as far as we're concerned, to perch on the edges of fancy furniture, pinky crooked just so, nibbling on scones and cucumber finger sandwiches — the main character in our own fairy tale. Until The Plaza opens a Phoenix branch and we can slurp with Eloise, we'll be taking our afternoon tea here, dahling, thank you very much.

Best Bite Before (or After) Visiting SMoCA

The Orange Table

Orange Table
Jamie Peachey

Even if the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art weren't right next door, The Orange Table would still be Old Town Scottsdale's best neighborhood cafe. But the proximity to SMoCA creates a great synergy — you can fuel up before checking out the latest exhibition, or swing by afterward to discuss the art over a meal. Earlier in the day, the breakfast menu is one of the tastiest in the Valley, with huge, fluffy pancakes, incredible corned beef hash, and eye-opening coffee concoctions. Later on, lunch and dinner bring great sandwiches and burgers (we're suckers for the Arrogant Bastard Rustler cheeseburger). And then there's the beer list, full of noteworthy craft brews that lure us into The Orange Table late into the evening. The museum might give you food for thought, but this hip little joint feeds your more urgent cravings.

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