Cafe Reviews

Second Helpings

Food for Thought: Plenty of folks mistrust the media. I confess I'm wary, too.

My latest wave of doubt is inspired by Gourmet magazine, a favorite among foodies. The forthcoming October issue will feature a readers' poll of "America's Top Tables," including a section looking at the Valley.

It's hard to understand some of the places the editors put on the ballot. Several contenders were chain restaurants: Carvers, Landry's Pacific Fish Company, Romano's Macaroni Grill, Sfuzzi. Among America's top tables? Are you kidding? Not even their corporate headquarters would make that claim.

The geniuses behind the poll also included a number of restaurants that died ages ago. What are the Black Rose, Goldie's 1895 House, Marche Gourmet, Nina L'Italiana, Shannon Alexander's, Tsang's and the private-club Wrigley Mansion doing on this list?

More significantly, what were some of the Valley's best restaurants not doing on the list? How could places like Lon's, Rancho Pinot Grill, Razz's, Sushi on Shea, C-Fu Gourmet, Christopher's Bistro, Citrus Cafe, Gregory's Grill, San Carlos Bay, Marco Polo, Coup Des Tartes, Havana Cafe and El Bravo be ignored, while mediocrities like Alexi's, the Impeccable Pig, Jewel of the Crown, P.F. Chang's and Rustler's Rooste are considered worthy of merit?

Since Gourmet doesn't have a clue about the Valley's restaurant scene, I imagine its listings for other cities probably aren't any more reliable. How much can you trust a fine-dining list with Pinnacle Peak Patio on it?

Now, keeping up with the Valley's explosive restaurant growth isn't rocket science--I should know. But it does require a certain amount of energy and initiative. Gourmet's restaurant poll conclusively demonstrates that you can't do the job from behind a desk in New York City, armed with a telephone and an outdated Phoenix/Scottsdale Yellow Pages restaurant directory.

Season's Greetings: School is in session. Footballs are being tossed. The Valley's air is turning a golden brown. Autumn is just about here.

Locals are starting to venture out of doors. Tourists are coming. And several new restaurants are ready to greet them:

Norman's Arizona--When he's on, Norman Fierros is one of the Valley's most creative Southwestern/Mexican chefs. He's been in the wilderness since La Pila closed a couple of years ago, but now he's coming back with his own place at 40th Street and Campbell.

Rainforest Cafe--You've seen Planet Hollywood. You've seen Hard Rock Cafe. Get ready for another sprawling theme restaurant, this one with an eco-tropical motif. It's coming in November to Arizona Mills, the huge shopping complex under construction by I-10 near the Superstition Freeway.

Rincon Espanol--Spanish food has a long way to go before it's as popular as Italian, Mexican or Chinese. But knowledgeable diners know its power. This place offers tapas and regional cuisine, along with, I hear, an extensive list of Spanish wines. It's at 7607 East McDowell in Scottsdale.

--Howard Seftel

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