Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa

When the Phoenix Ritz-Carlton went kaput a few months ago, ladies all over town shed a delicate tear for the death of high tea, long celebrated with flair and a song by Jeffrey Hattrick, the hotel's tea sommelier. But we soldiered on knowing we'd found an even better tea just up the street at the Arizona Biltmore. True, there's no live music (not on the day we were there, anyway) but the service is impeccable, the china lovely, the tea selection varied. And, as at any proper tea, the lemon curd, clotted cream, and scones are divine. Pinkies up!

FEZ

Fez has relocated, moving into the former Portland's space just off Central Avenue. Friendly, easy service (most of it from young, bearded guys), an open indoor dining room, and a hopping after-hours scene (check out the shifting bar specials) are all pluses. But lately, restaurants and diners are opening all over town with high-end tasting menus, crafted cocktails, and gimmickry based on locally grown everything. But few of them have such a nice wide patio for dining al fresco. Comfy, bright orange chairs and four-top tables surround the rounded façade of this swell building. Fez's outdoor dining patio fronts on First Avenue and offers views of an ever-better downtown, with the Westward Ho tower in the immediate distance, and just across from the public are of a big-city light rail stop. As those trains whiz past, you can't help but think two things: 1) What city am I in? and 2) I'll have another Manhattan!

Linger Longer Lounge
Lauren Cusimano

The food at Linger Longer Lounge isn't just good lounge food. It isn't even just good bar food. The food at Linger Longer Lounge transcends all places within the Venn diagram of establishments that serve both food and alcohol — it's just plain ol' good food. With appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and pizzas that could stand next to any of the other hot spots around town, we'd venture to Linger Longer Lounge any hour of the day — not just after the sun goes down — for good eats and drinks. Plus, it has some of the best fried pickles we've ever had. Seriously, ever.

Dick's Hideaway
Patricia Escarcega

It is not easy to find Dick's Hideaway on 16th Street. Even when you do know what you're looking for, don't be embarrassed if you walk by it a couple of times before you realize that those doors with the iron bars on them are actually the entrance to a tiny restaurant where it's best to sit at the bar. Once you're inside, don't even bother with the small side room or the hightops. Just pull up a bar stool and prepare to be treated like family by the bartenders. Whether it's for brunch, lunch, happy hour, or dinner, the bar is where it's at in Dick's Hideaway. You'll feel like a regular in no time.

Beckett's Table
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

It isn't that the kids' menu at Beckett's Table is leagues above anyone else's — it isn't. With well-executed basics like grilled cheese, hot dogs, and sliders, it's predictable fare. But what differentiates Beckett's Table from others is how successfully it executes on its motto: "Come together." From top to bottom, the staff really does treat the dining room like someone's home. Family isn't just welcome; it's encouraged.

Until restaurants start offering kids half-portions of adult food instead of lowest-common-denominator basics, Justin Beckett's flagship is the place where kids and their parents can enjoy a meal together. Skip the kids' menu altogether and have your little ones order the Original Grilled Cheese with pancetta and roasted red pepper tomato soup. Even the short rib is tender enough that baby teeth won't flinch. And if all else fails and a meltdown ensues, there's an affordable wine list to appease Mom and Dad.

The House Brasserie

Braving the crowds and craziness of Old Town Scottsdale on a Friday night may not sound like the recipe for the most romantic evening with your loved one, but just beyond the hustle and bustle you'll find one of the most romantic spots in the Valley: the House Brasserie. Trees block the candlelit patio from the street, and white tablecloths wait to present Chef Matt Carter's comforting yet original fare. Inside you'll feel like you're sitting in someone's home, with the service and hospitality to match. Grab a glass of wine or a cocktail and settle in with your honey for a lovely evening.

Readers Choice: Elements

Jacob Cutino only started making Homeboy's Hot Sauce in March, but already it's become a favorite ingredient of some of the Valley's best chefs. You'll see it on the shelves at markets including La Grande Orange and Luci's Healthy Marketplace, as well as on the menu at restaurants including Crudo, Yard Bird + The Larder, and The Gladly. So why do home cooks — and chefs — love Homeboy's so much? It's probably because Cutino uses onions and carrots — a mirepoix of sorts — as a base, giving his sauces as much flavor as heat. For now, the popular line includes two hot sauces: a fiery red jalapeño hot sauce and a deceivingly friendly looking golden habanero variety. From what we can tell, both taste good on pretty much everything. Our only complaint? That the four-ounce bottles aren't bigger.

www.homeboyshabanero.com
Crepe Bar

Crepe Bar might not be the first place you think of when it comes to vegetables, but it should be. Chef Jeff Kraus nearly always offers a selection of daily small plates that showcases local produce, usually from the nearby Farm at Agritopia. We've had everything from lightly tempura-battered green beans seasoned with mole spices, mint, and honey to a heap of tiny roasted carrots complemented with harissa and served with a single fermented tomato. In addition to these exciting and ever-changing veggie small plates, there's also the restaurant's well-loved vegetarian option, the 13 Mile Crepe. Made with seasonal vegetables from the Farm at Agritopia, this curried crepe is easily one of our favorite vegetarian dishes. If one thing's sure, it's that Kraus source the best and freshest vegetables, then showcases them with creative flavor combinations that always keep us interested in eating our greens.

Alexi's Grill
Courtesy of Alexi's

There's plenty to like about this popular midtown restaurant, long a favorite of locals. But the Caesar here is really exceptional, with a good black-pepper kick and crunchy, housemade croutons crusted with cheese. Salads at pizza places are often second cousins to a main course, but not the Caesar at Alexi's. Perhaps because it's so unpretentious (the waiter always looks surprised when we request anchovies, as if they're de rigueur) or because its cold plate is piled high with shiny romaine leaves, drizzled with that anchovy-rich dressing and showered with Parmesan. Who cares why? Alexi's Caesar is simply the best.

We love pickles. We'll eat them on sandwiches, with eggs, in a Bloody Mary, or plain. And our favorite place to get all sorts of pickled veggies is from Lillie Mae's, a vendor you can find at several local farmers markets. Owner Dawn Peterson makes hundreds of jars of pickled veggies every week — everything from classic dill pickles and spicy cilantro pickles (our personal favorite) to pickled pineapple (they're great on burgers) and sweet pickled beets. We love the homemade feel of each heavy mason jar of preserved vegetables, plus the fact that she almost exclusively sources her ingredients from organic or local farmers. Most often you can find Peterson at the bi-weekly Uptown Farmers Market, where you can purchase pickles for $12 a jar or $33 for three different types.

www.facebook.com/lilliemaespickledgarden

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