Cafe Monarch
Cafe Monarch

Imagine not flying to France, but still dining European villa-style with a customized menu and privacy. There is a reason why Café Monarch was voted the second-most romantic restaurant in the country by TripAdvisor. Couples will receive special attention from the staff, and if it seems you're treated like family, it may be because the restaurant is family-owned and -operated. Gustavo Lewkowicz is the chef. His wife, Sofia, is in charge of the decor, and their sons Christian and Phillip run the place. The restaurant's farm-to-table ingredients ensure the highest quality in cuisine. In fact, the Traveler's Choice Awards named it the third-best restaurant in the United States for fine dining. Only two New York City restaurants finished higher. This true gem is a place to linger with your love and let the romance take center stage.

Socializing can be difficult with little ones running around, especially when you want to catch up with an old friend over a cup of coffee. There's no way anyone can carry on a conversation at a local fast-food restaurant or kid-themed pizza joint (let alone want to eat there). Don't fret, parental units. The Teapot, located in a restored downtown house just south of Roosevelt Street, is both a cool spot and a place for the little ones to play. Created by two parents, one of whom hails from London, the menu consists of delicious British pastries, kid-friendly noshes, and handcrafted caffeinated beverages and juices. What makes The Teapot perfect for families is the expansive play place in the backyard complete with pedal cars surrounded by canopied benches. This makes The Teapot a hip yet practical hangout.

Welcome Diner
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

It doesn't get any better than Welcome Diner's patio when you're kicked back, drink in hand, watercolor sun setting or night already late and weird. Under the green and red neon lights that sear the palm-treed sky over the Garfield District, you, me, her, them, him, they, everybody in this nook of town seems to be having a blast. The hurricanes and palomas flow like oxygen, booze sopped up by poutine and fried chicken and chorizo meatloaf. This is the kind of spot that seems to vanquish your goals and dreams of faraway places, leaving you content in the moment. It's also the kind of small and mismatched but ideal patio that wouldn't even need good food or drink, but has both, making Welcome a Phoenix landmark.

Grand Avenue Pizza Company
Lauren Cusimano

Grand Avenue Pizza Company doesn't open until 4 p.m. It stays open until 3 a.m, but only five days a week (four in the summer). Do that math. Frustrating as it may be for the lunch crowd, this represents a lot of what Grand Avenue is about. It knows its vision, and it doesn't mess with a winning formula. Using all high-quality and natural ingredients (Arizona-grown when possible) and making everything in-house, Grand Avenue doesn't need to compensate for anything with ridiculous toppings or bougie presentation. Nothing tastes better at 1 a.m. after a Van Buren dance night than a slice of pepperoni and one of its famed PB&J cookies.

Durant's

Walking into this nearly 70-year-old steakhouse feels like you're stepping into a Martin Scorsese film. When you open the back door and step into the kitchen where steaks and chops are being broiled for the hungry customers inside, it's another world. Once you go through the kitchen's swinging doors, a team of tuxedo-clad waiters will cater to your needs, whether it's a martini or a filet mignon cooked perfectly to your liking. Phoenix's history practically oozes from the red walls. So much has been said of the establishment's founder that you knew someone would make a movie out of Jack Durant's life (and yes, someone did). Leave what you've heard or seen at the door. The truth is that when you have something to celebrate, you go someplace legendary. You eat at Durant's.

If you live in any part of the Valley remotely west, north, or even central, driving to Handlebar Diner can start to feel like a road trip pretty quickly. But that's almost part of the experience, a vibe the residents of Eastmark, the large-scale, master-planned community in southeast Mesa where Handlebar Diner is located, don't get. This Valentine-style diner is small inside, but the patio, with its flatscreen TVs, picnic tables, and outdoor lighting, is where you'll want to spend breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or just drinks. Some suggestions include the Vietnamese-style wings, Adam's Mac and Cheese, Highway 44 raviolis, the Eastmark Cobb, and the Keto Smothered Chicken. For those cool nights on the deck, order local, imported, or domestic beers off the menu of libations, or go for a house cocktail like the Chef's Hurricane or Handlebar Mule.

There's only one place in town to get something Stacy style, and that's Stacy's Off Da Hook BBQ and Soul Food. The casual American restaurant plates "ole fashion" barbecue, fried chicken, and chitterlings, and has Kool-Aid on tap. That crispy fried chicken comes from a secret recipe concocted by owner Stacy Phipps himself, who most likely will be in the restaurant when you visit. Pair your plate with sides like creamy mac and cheese, salty green beans, collard greens, and corn muffins. Off Da Hook also offers breakfast pairings, including catfish and grits, and chicken and waffles. The dining room is as enjoyable as the menu, so sit back and take in the classic R&B; photos of icons like Rosa Parks, Wilson Pickett, and the Obama family; and of course, the plate of soul food in front of you.

the larder + the delta
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Chef Stephen Jones puts the "South" in "Southwestern," taking Southern food to gustatory and intellectual places we haven't seen in Phoenix. He is deservedly famous for the cauliflower he gives a Buffalo treatment, replete with smoked blue cheese and pickled celery. You see final dishes like these — hoppin' John, Nashville-style hot chicken, radish-jeweled hoe cakes — and they impress. But what you might not expect from afar is the microscopic detail and thoughtfulness that go into their components. Jones artfully pickles corn when in season. He hoards vegetable scraps and burns them into an ash used for seasoning or garnish. He has baked parsley roots in hay. Together, these small, skillful maneuvers and Jones' calculated creative style make his cooking some of the most interesting in town.

Cornish Pasty Co.
Shelby Moore

You can grab a pint at any number of English-themed bars in town, but maybe it's because owner Dean Thomas grew up in Cornwall, England, that Cornish Pasty Company feels more authentic. You can make a new friend as you sit on one of the communal benches while drinking from the selection of beers on tap, including offerings from local microbreweries to the finest stouts from abroad. On some nights, you can even catch a great local band playing at one of the locations. Oh yeah, did we mention the pasties? We recommend the hearty Oggie, but there's plenty on the menu to suit your palate.

Any bar can pour you a pint of Guinness. This Mill Avenue pub will make you wait two whole minutes for your stout. The bartenders don't mind seeing you anxiously wait for that beer, either. They know that's the way it's supposed to be done, setting this bar apart from the other themed bars and eateries that serve you fast rather than right. There are a variety of sandwiches, fish and chips, and an authentic boxty with braised beef on the menu for you to enjoy while drinking your brew on the outdoor patio. Afterward, sip a warm Irish coffee and sample the restaurant's delectable bread pudding as a Celtic band plays live for you.

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