Cafe Reviews

Nighthawk Noshes

If Gotham is the city that never sleeps, then culinarily speaking, Phoenix gets all its beauty rest and then some. The primary complaint I hear from freshly unpacked twenty- and thirtysomething transplants concerns the lack of late-night nosheries. And indeed, the pickings are slim here past 9 or 10 p.m., especially for discriminating palates.

Insomniacs do have options beyond Filiberto's and the 5 & Diner, however. What follows is a list of eateries where the nighthawk chow is above par. It's not exhaustive. The new Biltmore-area nightclub io and Scottsdale's Mythos dish it out late, but I've yet to try them. Ditto Desert Ridge's new corporate eatery, the Yard House. Also, Tempe hookah bars like King Tut and Oasis Café serve vittles into the wee hours, but I prefer my hummus sans water-pipe action.

Both Mickey's Hangover in Scottsdale and Nick's 24/7 Pizza (on 16th Street, south of Glendale Avenue) provide desperation grub past midnight. And there's a soft spot in my heart for the Counter Culture Café (, the funky, boho structure on McDowell Road, where you can grab a cup o' joe with a sandwich or Danish and fire up the WiFi connection at 3 in the morn.

I'm aiming higher on the totem pole, taste-wise. Additionally, I set the requirement as serving 'til 11 p.m. during the week, or fairly close. Got a place that makes the cut? Send it on. If I receive enough candidates, I'll follow up with another column.

Delux, 3146 East Camelback Road, at Biltmore Plaza, 602-522-2288, Serves full menu daily 'til 2 a.m.
Lenny Rosenberg deserves a medal. He made Biltmore Plaza at 32nd Street and Camelback a late-night dining destination by pioneering sushi-'til-midnight with Zen 32. Last year he added Delux in the same high-dollar strip mall: 40 international beers on tap, and a small, stellar menu of gourmet burgers, salads, sweet-potato fries, and a swoonworthy mahi-mahi sammy. All in a space of sleek, L.A.-like design.

Nearby, Zen 32 is still in business. And now you can swallow ultra-smooth Italian gelato at the Gelato Spot 'til 11 p.m. Gelato Spot has a different owner, but the cluster of these eateries makes Biltmore Plaza a star on PHX's foodie map.

Camus, 401 West Clarendon Avenue, (inside Clarendon Hotel and Suites), 602-212-2687, Bar menu served daily until 1 a.m.
After swilling a few of proprietor/barkeep Carson Quinn's signature martinis, you may want to inhale a plate or three from Chef Matt Donohoe's bar menu. On it, everything from calamari and herb-crusted lamb chops to carpaccio with wasabi cream and a primo French dip.

The waterin' hole section of Camus remains in operation until 2 a.m., and you can order from the bar menu until 1 a.m. The restaurant itself closes around 10 p.m., but stays open if diners are lingering. You may wish to linger all night. In which case, the front desk can ready a room.

Carly's Bistro, 128 East Roosevelt Street, 602-262-2759. Tuesday through Thursday, until midnight. Friday and Saturday 'til 2 a.m.
Carly's is the little wine bar that could. Really, it's more than a wine bar, as they now have full liquor to accompany their menu of grilled panini, soups, cold sammys, salads and assorted apps. Carly's also has your sweet tooth covered with lemon bars, and brownies à la mode. Have one while you gaze upon the giant Steve Yazzie painting and try to figure out the whole "nude recumbent with Indian carrying corkscrew" theme. Nutty. Very nutty.

Plaid, 1044 South Terrace Road, Tempe, 480-394-9424. Sunday through Friday, 'til 11 p.m.; Saturday night 'til 1 a.m. "Final Friday," 'til 2 a.m.
Not only does this chill spot have the estate-sale tables and chairs to match the moniker, it boasts a real mishmash of a menu, featuring Caribbean, Asian, Indian and Mediterranean dishes, all dead cheap. Belly-dancers do their Shakira impersonations on certain nights, local art adorns the walls, and no one will bat an eye if you crack a book while guzzling $1-a-glass draft beers and nibbling chips with Thai peanut dip. Service is promised 'til 11 p.m. Still, be wary of arriving minutes before closing and expecting the royal treatment. Next door, the Indian-Pakistani eatery Copper Kettle Café serves up until 11:30, carryout until midnight.

AZ 88, 7353 Scottsdale Mall, Scottsdale, 480-994-5576, Full menu daily 'til 12:30 a.m.
According to AZ 88 manager Troyce Hudnell, "If my boss found out that I'd shut the restaurant down early, it'd be my ass!" Now that's what we call commitment. What's good for Hudnell's fanny is good for you, if you're out late and your tummy's barkin'. The menu's hit-or-miss, with standard salads, sammys and burgers. Water chestnuts wrapped in bacon and flatbread pizza-like galettes are at least interesting. People-watching is an added attraction. Particularly the über-fabulous attempting to sober up before heading home.

Stingray Sushi, 4302 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-941-4460, Food served until midnight, daily.
Stingray Sushi's practically synonymous with the word hip: zebra-wood tables, orange walls, and a fish tank underfoot featuring live stingrays. Folks munch 'til midnight. Skewered, cucumber-wrapped "lollipop rolls" with tuna, salmon, whitefish, and masago caviar are a must, as is the rich, fatty hamachi kama, or broiled yellowtail collar. Drink enough sake, and you'll be ready to throw your date to the stingrays like you're Dr. Evil -- a late-night nosher if there ever was one.

Fate, 905 North Fourth Street (just south of Roosevelt on Fourth Street), 602-254-6424. Monday through Thursday 'til 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 'til 3 a.m. (Call 30 minutes before closing.)
"By 10:30 p.m. during the week, people should call first," advises wok-wizard and Fate owner Johnny Chu. "Sometimes we're out of here at 11, but if there are enough people eating, it might be 11:45. " Chu & co. stay open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, which has earned Fate the mantle of First Friday mainstay. Try the "hot and sour rice soup," with rice cake slivers in a spicy broth. Pad Thai rice noodles are also excellent, as is the "Spicy Saigon," with mushrooms, onions, and bok choy in a tongue-tingling basil sauce. As long as Chu's on the wok, you can't go wrong.

Richardson's Cuisine of New Mexico, 1582 East Bethany Home Road, 602-265-5886. Serves 'til midnight, daily.
I prefer supping late-night at Richardson's because by then, I can actually score a table, and the smokers have thinned out, giving me a chance to breathe. I tend to gravitate toward the New Mexican platter with chile relleno, burrito, tamale, and rice and beans, or the relleno platter, but nearly everything on the menu will leave you happily full-to-burstin'. And the copper-tinged ambiance is so romantic that you should bring someone to cuddle with, even if, like me, you have a tough time squeezing into Richardson's booths.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons