Windsor
We'll be honest: The whole "gastropub" thing has kinda fizzled with us as a trend. Give us a food truck or a pop-up any day. Maybe that's because, until recently, there hasn't been a good gastropub in town. Welcome, Windsor. Named for its 'hood, Windsor Square, this hip, charming spot is just what the real estate doctor ordered (remember what Postino did for the area just west of Arcadia?!). Windsor Square doesn't really need anyone's help in that department, but it was in need of another spot for a nosh and a drink, and that's just what Windsor offers, in a rehabbed old building with a charming patio and complimentary valet parking. The drink selection is fantastic, and the food is basic but good — we're partial to the corndog poppers and the picnic kebabs. Don't miss the crabcake sandwich. Be sure to save room for ice cream at Churn right next door, and don't forget to check out the wall of cassette tapes. Genius!
The Rose & Crown Pub
Rose and Crown offers all the ambiance of an English pub without shelling out for a ticket to fly over the pond. The historic former house adds instant atmosphere for your evening out on the town, be it a drink before dining at Pizzeria Bianco, a bite after visiting the Arizona Science Center, or just because it's Wednesday. There's also plenty of outside seating for the seven months out of the year that Arizona has nigh-on perfect weather. The grub is solid enough to lay the groundwork for a good evening, and both American offerings and British fare play nice on the menu. We recommend the bangers and mash or fish and chips. Add an imperial pint of Guinness or Boddingtons and you'll soon be shouting, "God save the Queen!"
Rosie McCaffrey's Irish Pub
Lauren Cusimano
Rosie McCaffrey's comes about as close to knocking back a pint in true Irish style as can be had in the middle of the desert. Dark and glossy aged wood, exposed cobblestones, and Irish bric-a-brac characterize the pub's homey, cave-like interior. Rosie's offers just about every major UK draft our little sandrat hearts could desire, with a draft Guinness so thick — and with such a heavy head — that it left behind a respectable beer 'stache upon first swig. A helpful guide is offered at each table for those who can't decide between two brews — next time, we're getting the Velvet Hammer, Guinness with a shot of vanilla Stoli. That's enough to get our Irish eyes a-smilin'. Well, maybe that with a side of boxty or corned beef.
Atlas Bistro
Jackie Mercandetti Photo
The food served at Atlas is amazing, thanks to Chef Carlos Manriquez and his decade of culinary experience. But what makes this place so special is that it's attached to Arizona Wine Company, the best wine store in the Valley, where one can browse for wonderful vino while waiting for a table in the cozy, adjacent dining room. And thanks to some fair-minded corkage fees, any bottle you bring from home will be greeted warmly by the friendly staff here. Don't miss the chance to sample Manriquez's pheasant breast roulade, or, if he's serving it, the special Australian lamb rack with tomato fennel jam. For dessert, pair a dessert wine with something called Enough Chocolate to Make Your Teeth Hurt, and you'll be all in. Stop by the wine shop on your way out and check out the big board of new arrivals and tasty specialty wines, then bring that bottle back sometime soon for more tasty vittles.

Best Place to Hang with the (Food Network) Stars

"Lunch & Learn"

Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa Hotel Review
Yeah, yeah, you'll pick up all kinds of helpful kitchen tips at Sanctuary's "Lunch & Learn" series — which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year — but the truth is, if you're going to shell out $125 for a cooking lesson, it'd better be from the likes of Robert Irvine. And it just might be. Each summer, Sanctuary executive chef Beau MacMillan invites a few of his Food Network pals out for a posh little summer vacay and a lap around the kitchen — and you're invited, too. This past summer, Irvine hit town, along with Marcus Samuelsson, and the lineup always includes cream-of-the-crop local chefs, as well. The 2012 schedule will show up on Sanctuary's website next spring — and space is limited.
Le Chalet
We are of the firm opinion that you're never too old to play with your food, and the kind folks at Le Chalet are in complete agreement. Le Chalet is known for its rich French menu, with drool-worthy crêpes and ooey, gooey fondue. It's more fun than a run-of-the-mill dinner date and a bit quainter than that other fondue chain. Try the Swiss cheese fondue with Gruyère, white wine, and kirschwasser (a sour cherry liqueur), served with crusty bread cubes. If a dipping dessert is more your style, enjoy a rich chocolate ganache or salted butter caramel fondues, each served with fruit, brownie bites, and cream puffs. At Le Chalet you can dunk, swirl, submerge, and dip to the delight of your inner child.
Rita's Kitchen
Back in the day — read: pre-kids — we came to the Camelback Inn for long, luxurious visits to the hotel spa. We love that spa. Hot rock massages, thick white robes, and a crystal-blue pool with the prettiest view of Camelback Mountain. We sat outside and ate the hotel's signature yellow gazpacho. And we were happy. Then we had kids. And we were happy, but in a much more, um, complicated way. To say the least. So now, when we need to steal back a tranquil moment or two, we pack the whole family in the station wagon and head to the Camelback Inn. The spa is definitely out, which is why we're so glad to have Rita's Kitchen. This place reminds us of the hotel coffee shops of our own youth, casual outposts in fancy-pants places where the waitstaff is patient and the menu's kid-friendly, but the sweet life's still on display. We can have that same cup of gazpacho while our kids frolic on the nearby grass hills, dance to live music, and munch chicken strips (with healthy veggies and fruit on the side, if you can wrestle the fries out of their grubby paws). Add a glass of sangria, a roaring fire (when seasonally appropriate), and that view of Camelback Mountain — and we are happy.Readers' Choice:
St. Francis
Evie Carpenter
We don't know about you, but we could happily end our days on this planet without another trip to IHOP. Or Red Robin. Or any of the other places people with kids are expected to eat. Frankly, we'd rather stay home and cry in our Top Ramen. But now we don't have to, thanks to the kind folks at St. Francis, who understand our plight. Who would have thought that the hippest restaurant in town would be so gracious? Just the other day, they posted their kids' lunch menu, which includes seasonal veggies with buttermilk dressing dip; "big" hamburger and fries; cheese pizza with salad; and "li'l" turkey sandwich with fries. Better check their website before you pack the kids in the car, to be sure the deal's still good; in researching this piece, we noticed quite a debate on Facebook over whether St. Francis was making the right move in being so kid-friendly . . .
The ratatouille omelette at Vincent's Market Bistro.
Lauren Saria
The ratatouille omelette at Vincent's Market Bistro.
We always arrive at Vincent Market Bistro with the best of intentions. The Organic Vegetable Medley salad is a wonderful, seasonal mix of super-fresh veggies, tossed in a light vinaigrette — so tasty we forget we're eating so light. And if it were only that salad that passed our lips, we'd look like Heidi Klum. Alas, that evil Vincent Guerithault has other plans. Each and every lunch at his sweet little bistro begins with a plateful of fresh-baked croissants. Even if we are able to keep our paws off the bread, you can be guaranteed that, at meal's end, the waiter will arrive with dessert — maybe a lemon bar with housemade raspberry sorbet or some decadent chocolate thing. If you didn't actually order it, it doesn't have calories, right? That's what we'll keep telling ourselves, because amazingly, the croissants and the dessert are free; we can manage to get out of this ritzy place at lunchtime for just a bit over $10. Now if we could just get into our jeans.
Order these cupcakes for your next gathering and your guests will think you are a big fat liar. As the deliciousness goes down, they will never believe these gems are totally vegan and, if you ask, gluten-free. You'll hear "How?" over and over. Rikki Hale of Rikki Cupcakes serves up other gluten-free treats as well, and welcomes the challenge of any other allergy issues. Rikki's motto is, "I don't need a soapbox; I just need a box of cookies." And with that, she'll prove that sweet and gluten-free do go together.

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