Luci's at The Orchard
Jacob Tyler Dunn

We love kids, but they're not always the easiest dining companions. When eating with little ones, the choice of restaurant is crucial, which is why we love Luci's. Part of the Orchard complex in north central Phoenix, Luci's has a simple but tasty kids' menu of perennial favorites — including chicken strips, a cheeseburger, Funky Monkey French toast, and a cheese crisp. There are plenty of good choices for the adults as well; breakfast is served all day, and options like a veggie-packed frittata or a sweet fig and tuna salad wrap are both healthy and delicious. But as good as the food is, it's what comes after that makes this the ideal spot for families. The Orchard is home to a splash pad and a shaded lawn surrounded by chairs, as well as Splurge Ice Cream & Candy Shop, a dessert spot that will delight kids of all ages. As you relax with a waffle cone and watch the kids play on the grass, you'll wonder why you don't take them out to eat more often.

There's a big chunk of the year when we try to avoid the outdoors as much as possible. But when patio season hits, there's nowhere we'd rather eat al fresco than Ocotillo. The central Phoenix eatery has been a favorite of ours since its inception several years ago, and the outdoor atmosphere is a big part of the reason. There's the covered area that contains long, picnic-style tables and its own bar; there's also a cozy area with couches for groups that's near a good-size lawn perfect for children to play on. Or, you could sit on the wraparound patio that looks out at Third Street. Wherever you end up seated, you'll enjoy your meal; Ocotillo's rotating seasonal menus have nothing but good options, including plenty of vegetable dishes and the famous mesquite-grilled Ocotillo chicken with citrus, chiles, and local honey.

San Tan Brewing Company

Some of us never thought we'd say this, but Historic Downtown Chandler is super-cute and fun. Shops, restaurants, arts, underground bars — it's all here. And one of the area's staples is SanTan Brewing Company, which has served craft food and numerous varieties of craft beer since opening in its corner spot at Arizona Avenue and Chandler Boulevard in 2007. And if that's not everything you need already, the dog-friendly patio should cap you off nicely. SanTan has a roomy patio, fresh water, and attentive guests for your doggies to bask in. There are also Otto's Brew Bones — peanut-butter-flavored dog treats made with SanTan spent beer grain that are made and packaged in-house, and feature Otto, the cartoon dog who graces the label of SanTan's Oktoberfest German Style Lager. SanTan opened a second location earlier this year near Bethany Home Road and 16th Street; that outpost has the same great beer selection as the original location, but it doesn't have a patio, so make sure to head to Chandler when you want some quality outdoors time with your four-legged friends.

SoSoBa
Lauren Cusimano

For all the growth that downtown Phoenix has seen in the past decade or so, late-night dining options are still in short supply. That's why we're so grateful that SoSoBa decided to open a second location of its Flagstaff noodle shop on Roosevelt Row. Craving a Vietnamese-style salad with rice noodles, veggies, and seaweed salad? How about blistered shishito peppers, pork belly or fried chicken bao buns, or a savory bowl of katsu ramen at midnight? SoSoBa has you covered. Everything on the restaurant's Asian-fusion menu is available until 2 a.m., making it the perfect spot to sober up after a night of drinking. If you're not ready to call it a night just yet, you can also pair your meal with one of the inventive cocktails, like the Honey and Knives, which combines tequila, grapefruit juice, ginger syrup, and serrano pepper.

J&G Steakhouse
Courtesy of J&G Steakhouse

The Valley dining scene is increasingly diverse, with restaurants representing countless regional and national cuisines available for the sampling. But sometimes, we just want a really good steak. J&G Steakhouse at The Phoenician resort recently celebrated its 10th anniversary by undergoing a redesign that included a desert-inspired color scheme and improvements to the patio area. Fortunately, the stunning views, outstanding food, and impeccable service haven't changed. Beef is the restaurant's raison d'etre, but it's by no means the only good choice on the menu — there's fresh seafood, craveable sides, and a beverage menu that ranges from domestic beers to bottles of wine that cost more than a mortgage payment.

One of our favorite parts of the Las Vegas experience is the buffets: For a moderate fee, we get to gorge like we're living in the last days of the Roman Empire. We get the same thrill when we visit the Wandering Horse Buffet at Talking Stick Resort & Casino. Variety is the keyword here. There's a full salad bar. There are sections for Mexican, Italian, and Asian food. Antipasto, sushi, carving stations, desserts including a gelato bar (the blood orange gelato is our favorite) — it's all here. Talking Stick had a rough summer; monsoon storms caused damage to the resort's power systems, and it was closed for about six weeks for repairs. We're glad it's back open — it's been far too long since we put "all you can eat" to the test.

This shoebox-size, family-run diner serves up classic, mouth-watering greasy spoon eats. Open six days a week for breakfast and lunch, Art's specializes in unpretentious and delicious homestyle comfort food. For breakfast, don't miss the scratch-made biscuits and gravy, served with your choice of home fries or hash browns (both are exceptional). For lunch, the ABC (avocado, bacon, and cheese) burger is terrific, as is the French dip sandwich. Squeeze into the tiny dining room and make yourself at home — the service is as friendly as the food is delicious.

Rhema Soul Cuisine

Rhema Soul Cuisine isn't your average neighborhood soul-food restaurant. True, you'll find familiar dishes on the menu, including chicken and waffles. But at Rhema, this staple dish is prepared with a playful twist — the fluffy, oversize waffle is prepared with a red velvet batter, drizzled with sugary icing, and served with juicy boneless chicken. The friendly Childs clan, who own and operate Rhema, have fashioned a one-of-a-kind menu that creatively draws culinary inspiration from Southern and Caribbean cooking, with the occasional nod to Southwestern cuisine. Try, for instance, the Brorito, a soul-food take on a burrito. It's essentially a Southern meat-and-three meal wrapped up in a flour tortilla. It's gargantuan, hearty, and oh so good.

Avanti Restaurant of Distinction

Avanti has been doing it for more than four decades now, and we're glad. Its dependable service, delicious entrees, and sincere retro vibe are part of the Phoenix experience. Founded by Benito Mellino of Sorrento, and Tuscan restaurateur Angelo Livi, Avanti (Italian for "forward") began tempting us with perfect pasta and superb sauces in 1974, and its black-and-white and chrome decor has barely budged since. Blood-red walls and zebra-stripe fabrics add a little something extra to tasty entrees like linguine carbonara, rich with spaghetti, eggs, and cheese, and a hearty lasagna like Mama might make. If this, one of Phoenix's favorite old dinnertime haunts, ever leaves us, we'll have to move to Sorrento.

George & Dragon Pub

There's so much we envy about our friends across the pond. They've got great accents, Harry and Meghan, and they've got classic English pubs, dimly lit bastions of beer and conversation. Until we can get back to Jolly Olde England, we indulge our Anglophilia at George & Dragon, a central Phoenix mainstay for more than two decades. The G&D is the place to have a pint (or several), enjoy some traditional English dishes (there are several types of pasties and curries, bangers and mash, shepherd's pie, and more), and watch some football — meaning soccer. You can grab a booth inside, or sit on the patio and watch the city traffic go by; either way, you're in for a good time.

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