In an area filled with luxury hotels and some of the Valley's most expensive real estate, you would expect to find some of the city's best eats. The Biltmore neighborhood delivers. In this Central Phoenix stretch you can find excellent French and American cuisine crafted by chefs who have been cooking for longer than some of their young customers have been alive.
But there's more than just fine dining to be had in the Biltmore 'hood. The area's strip malls and shopping districts also have attracted chefs who are serving more affordable eats, including one of the country's top pizza chefs and a restaurant where comfort food gets a modern twist.
If you're familiar with chef Bernie Kantak's cuisine, then the food at The Gladly should come as no surprise. At this sister restaurant to Scottsdale's Citizen Public House, Kantak continues to serve American cuisine that simultaneously tastes familiar and new. Comfort food classics including meatloaf and mac n' cheese get upscale treatment with ingredients such as duck and smoked mozzarella. It's hard to resist the chef's signature The Original Chopped Salad, but The Gladly's Pistachio Chicken Liver Pate quickly has become a go-to starter. The creamy spread comes with buttery toast, capers, and pickled red onions to give the dish balance and texture.
We're just going to come right out and say it: We prefer the Town & Country location of Pizzeria Bianco to the original at Heritage Square. To be clear, we have nothing against the cozy brick restaurant downtown, but the Town & Country restaurant has a larger menu and tends to be less crowded. For these reasons, it's become our go-to spot for chef Chris Bianco's rustic Italian cuisine. The pizzas here are not to be missed, but once you've eaten your way through the selection (don't skip the Biancoverde or the deliciously smoky Wiseguy), venture to options such as handmade pasta in the chef's own tomato sauce or incredibly tender pork shoulder served with pickled squash. And be sure to save room for dessert; they're made using Bianco's mother's recipes.
Tarbell's The Tavern
Chef Mark Tarbell's namesake restaurant has been a Biltmore neighborhood staple for years, and with the addition of The Tavern next door, the chef has only widened his dining audience. Compared to the more upscale restaurant, The Tavern offers a comfortable vibe and slightly less refined cuisine. You can still count on beautiful ingredients used with care, but The Tavern's menu also includes options such as tacos, chilaquiles, spaghetti and meatballs, and ceviche. With a bottle of wine from the adjacent The Wine Store, you'll want to kick back, relax, and indulge. The Lobster Roll is worth the $21 price, though you won't be disappointed with even more affordable dishes such as the lamb burger ($15).
Located in a strip mall off Lincoln Drive, Base Pizzeria is a little farther north than the other spots on this list, arguably at the very edge of the Biltmore neighborhood. Don't quibble and you'll be rewarded with excellent views of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve on the patio of this charming pizzeria. The restaurant specializes in pizzas made with local and organic ingredients and is run by a trio of Australians who treat every customer like lifelong friends. Don't skip the flatbread with housemade dips, which can be anything from smoked eggplant dip to hummus, and our personal favorite, The Prawn pizza, which comes topped with tomato, shrimp, red onion, and chile. Pro tip: If you're into spice, ask for a side of the house-infused ghost chile oil.
Christopher's and Crush Lounge
James Beard Award-winning chef Christopher Gross has been delivering a mix of traditional and modern French fare at this sleek restaurant and bar for years. But you can rest assured that nothing about the place — neither the food, nor the atmosphere — feels anything but fresh. Whether you're looking for a plate of traditional escargot en croute or a loaf of freshly baked bread, Christopher's restaurant delivers, and in style. To appeal to more modern diners, there are also affordable wood-fired pizzas and a happy hour that's one of the best deals in town. Even the wine list, curated by wine director Paola Embry, is top-notch; the Crush Lounge offers hundreds of wines by the bottle, with more than 50 also available by the glass.
Originally published March 11, 2015. Updated February 23, 2016.