Sometimes what you’re seeing is as important as what you’re eating. Yes we’re referring to the experience of patio or balcony dining with an amazing urban view laid out in front of you. It can certainly make your meal feel more cosmopolitan, your glass of wine or mixed drink a little more sophisticated, your view of self a little more worldly.
If you seek an urbane experience such as this, or just really enjoy people watching with a drink and good point of view, here are 11 restaurants in greater Phoenix with the best city views.
Compass Arizona Grill
122 North Second Street
The ultimate special occasion restaurant, Compass Arizona Grill — or just Compass Room — is the spherical, slowly spinning hotel eatery pinned to the top of Hyatt Regency Phoenix. People usually remember the 24th-floors views of downtown Phoenix versus the food, but the new American menu still features some classics. Think calamari, wedge salads, scallop, pasta, and prime New York strip. There’s also a lengthy wine list and decent selection of craft beer and handcrafted cocktails. After 40 years of spinning around, you’re not going to find a more appropriate place for a graduation, anniversary, or job promotion dinner than Compass Arizona Grill.
308 North Second Avenue
This downtown spot is best known as the midsize venue instrumental in re-energizing the Phoenix's live music scene. But Crescent Ballroom should also be recognized for its outstanding patio and balcony, which brings some much-needed urban nightlife to the once relatively quiet streets of this section of downtown. The bottom floor offers shaded seating, while the top floor boasts views of downtown Phoenix. But no matter where you sit, you have easy access to Cocina 10, the venue's Mexican-inspired kitchen. The menu has house favorites like the I-10 Nachos and the Poquito bean and cheese burrito.
Nook Kitchen Downtown15 East Monroe Street
Every day at 5 p.m. the crew at Nook Kitchen Downtown start setting up the Italian eatery’s urban patio. Dubbed "modern American with Italian roots" and overseen by chef Nick LaRosa, the downtown location of Nook opened inside the Hilton Garden Inn in 2016. Recommended dishes at Nook Kitchen Downtown include arancini, balls of risotto stuffed with hand-pulled mozzarella and pomodoro sauce, or the Canadian favorite, poutine — hand-cut fries topped with mozzarella curds and beef gravy. There are also salads, pastas, entrées and pizzas rosso, and house favorites like osso bucco. But maybe you just want a glass of wine on the patio, in which case, we’ll leave you to it.
420 South Mill Avenue, #201, Tempe
Mix a little bit of Germany of New Orleans with your downtown Tempe. Businesses tend to come and go in downtown Tempe, but brewpub Gordon Biersch has been a three-story mainstay at the northwest corner of Mill Avenue and Fifth Street. Businesses the wraparound balcony looks down upon may change, Gordon Biersch has been around for more than a decade. The views overlook Mill Avenue in all its bustling glory, as well as whatever bar is occupying the historic Laird & Dines Drugstore structure. Sip a pint of Golden Export, Hefeweizen, or rotating seasonal beers that were brewed in-house and order some crab cakes with Cajun rémoulade — a perfect pairing for a sunset viewing or lazy Sunday.
Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails2 East Jefferson Street
This handsome dining spot is one of downtown Phoenix's favorite destinations. Located at the Hotel Palomar at CityScape, Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails serves elevated gastro-pub fare such as shrimp and grits, handmade pasta, and braised pork shank. In addition to the upscale Southern fare and drinks, soak in the 360-degree views of downtown. Dinner service is 5 to 10 p.m. except on Friday and Saturday, when service runs an hour longer. And the bar is open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight.
Lustre Rooftop Bar
2 East Jefferson Street
Also at Hotel Palomar at CityScape, Lustre Rooftop Bar offers sweeping views of South Mountain and the downtown Phoenix skyline — making it one of the go-to open-air lounges for travelers and Valley locals. Lustre has ample seating space with sofas and tables, a pool, and a full bar featuring local brews like Four Peaks Kilt Lifter and San Tan Brewery's Mr. Pineapple on tap. But there’s also a menu with pretzel sticks, green chili fondue, flatbread, salads, and sliders. Enjoy discounted food and drink specials during happy hour, which is Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m.
132 South Central Ave, Fourth Floor
One of the newest cocktail lounges downtown, Little Rituals is found on the fourth floor of the Residence Inn/Courtyard by Marriott. It offers 30 custom cocktails (not that you have to go for one of the signature drinks but if you're looking to spend they're pretty inventive), plus beer and wine, and gourmet bar bites like the "Pho" French Dip. All comes from the minds of people behind the neighboring Bitter & Twisted and Casino del Sol resort in Tucson. The view from the fourth floor is a little lacking, for now, so just stare at their mural of Phoenix and Arizona references.
Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva
1301 Northwest Grand Avenue, #1
This is one of the more unique dining rooms in Phoenix. Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva occupies the old Braggs Pie Factory in the Grand Avenue Arts District. The menu is packed with upscale Mexican fare overseen by James Beard Foundation Award-nominated chef Silvana Salcido Esparza and sous chef Brianna Arzaga, and the mole is unmatched. But let’s go back to the scenery. Your views are of the open kitchen, the weird and colorful sidewalks of Grand Avenue, or, if you’re seated in the front of the house, some amazing views of downtown Phoenix.
The Perch Brewery232 South Wall Street, Chandler
There are birds, beers, and live performances held at The Perch Brewery’s rooftop lounge area in the middle of downtown Chandler. Sample some of the unique fare like The Perch Bird Race or The Perch Bird Hands, or just grab a drink and reflect on how much Chandler has grown. Enjoy $5 appetizers and drink discounts during happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Perch's rooftop spot is open Wednesday through Saturday starting at 6 p.m.
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401 West Clarendon Avenue
While Tranquilo — the in-house, modern-Mexican restaurant at the boutique Clarendon Hotel and Spa — is technically on the ground level, there is the Skydeck. The rooftop hangout with views of downtown Phoenix as well as The Clarendon’s well-known pool area doesn't actually serve food, nor is there service from below, but it is BYOF. That means you can order dinner from Tranquilo, like the cactus fries, tinga de pollo tacos, or the Tranquilo Burger, and bring it upstairs. The Skydeck bar is open daily (well, nightly) from 5 to 10 p.m.
Social Tap Eatery
4312 North Brown Avenue, Scottsdale
Old Town Scottsdale bar and restaurant, Social Tap Eatery, is moving up — literally. The spot has recently opened a 1,800-square-foot rooftop bar with more of a sophisticated wine and cocktail lounge feel. Think fireplace, lounge chairs, swooping outdoor lights, and views of Old Town Scottsdale from on high. However, the menu still features those sought-after street tacos and upscale bar fare. Plus, the rooftop bar is just that, a bar, so you may still bring a cocktail or glass wine of wine back to your lounge chair from just a few feet away.