Cafe Reviews


The appearance of Chevys on the glitzy Camelback corridor continues a disturbing trend along this high-profile strip. While several glittering, one-of-a-kind restaurants still dot the stretch between 20th and 40th streets--Christopher's, Vincent's, RoxSand, the new Tarbell's--the street seems headed in an increasingly dubious direction. First of all, it's becoming home to too many restaurants that have outposts in other parts of the Valley: Baby Kay's, Houston's, Sam's Cafe, Hops!, Ruth's Chris Steak House, California Pizza Kitchen, Taste of India. What's special about dining in this showcase section of town if you can get the same food in other neighborhoods? Even more disturbing than restaurant duplication is creeping middlebrow tastelessness. Planet Hollywood isn't a downscale Denny's. But it may as well be. Aimed at drooling tourists eager to eat second-rate food surrounded by third-rate Hollywood memorabilia, the restaurant is an aesthetic and culinary horror. It's tarnished the 24th Street and Camelback intersection and cheapened Biltmore Fashion Park. Does anyone expect the Hard Rock Cafe, scheduled to open later this year a few blocks away, to set a classier standard?

And now that moneybags PepsiCo has prominently planted a Chevys here, can other midscale chains be far behind? What's next? Another Olive Garden? Macaroni Grill? Outback Steakhouse? The possibilities are depressingly endless. For all its snooty elitism, Camelback Road once had style. Now it's got Chevys. This may be change, but I'm not sure it's progress. Let Them Eat Cake: The appearance of a decent pastry shop in this town is a noteworthy event. So the opening of Delicious and Good Too, in the Fry's shopping center at 3841 East Thunderbird, should not go unremarked. It's run by the same fellow who once operated an excellent breakfast-and-lunch spot of the same name on Central. Now he's just baking. Don't look for the kind of French pastries served at Pierre's Pastry Cafe. Delicious and Good Too concentrates on more familiar sweets: brownies, blondies, cookies, cheesecake. But familiarity shouldn't breed contempt--this is a tasty way to go off your New Year's diet. Eat One for the Gipper: If you review restaurants for a living, there are two indispensable requirements. The first is an appetite. The second is friends. I keep a stable of pals ready to eat at a moment's notice. When steak and prime rib are on the menu, I dial up John. If I need ethnic help, Ken and Scott or Michael and Kathy offer their stomachs in sacrifice. Larry and Brian are perfect when male bonding is called for. Bob, an old Brooklyn chum, volunteers for barbecue and deli missions. Mark specializes in Japanese food. I can count on Barbara, a veteran of years in Africa and Iran, to deal with food that is offbeat, bizarre or still moving. But no one's gone out more than Michael and Debbie. They've accompanied me often enough to write their own guidebook. Not anymore. They've finally succumbed to an occupational affliction. Good luck at Weight Watchers, guys.

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Howard Seftel