Top 100 Restaurants in the East Valley - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Top 100 Restaurants in the East Valley

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Posted: Thursday, November 2, 2006 1:59 pm | Updated: 2:59 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Tribune’s dining critic reviews restaurant picks on our side of town.

AHWATUKEE FOOTHILLS

Arrivederci Trattoria (4221 E. Chandler Blvd., [480] 759-9292). Highly recommended Italian specialties include the cannelloni de carne (beef and veal stuffed pasta tubes with melted cheese and tomato cream sauce), chocomisu and cannoli. Oh, and don’t be surprised if the staff greets you with a double-cheek kiss. Additional location in Scottsdale. $$

Havana Cafe (4232 E. Chandler Blvd., [480] 704-2600). What’s not to like about a place that serves 17 desserts? Marvelous meats (try the sweet pulled pork or lime-and-garlic-infused steak) are also stars at this feel-good Cuban cafe that oozes a relaxed, colorful coolness. The seafood soup is a sensational starter. Additional location in Scottsdale. $$

Nello’s (4710 E. Warner Road, [480] 893-8930). If deep-dish Chicagostyle pizza is what you crave, Nello’s pizzerias are where to go. The salads are scrumptious as well, especially if they’re topped with the thick house dressing. Additional locations in Mesa, Tempe and Scottsdale. $

Ra Sushi Bar Restaurant (4921 E. Ray Road, [480] 940-1111). From spicy tuna rolls to lobster shrimp rolls, Ra offers dozens of sushi selections. Also worth a try are the apple teriyaki salmon and the ginger cilantro ahi tuna — along

with a sake bomber or two, of course. Additional locations in Scottsdale and Tempe. $$

Venice Ristorante Italiano (4747 E. Elliot Road, [480] 961-9350). From appetizers to desserts, portions are generous, flavors are exciting and presentation is attractive at this romantic, neighborhood Italian eatery. Highlights include the filet mignon ‘‘Aglio Olio,’’ capellini al pomodoro, calamari fritti, crab cakes and tiramisu. $$$

CHANDLER

Bahama Breeze (7200 W. Ray Road, [480] 705-7399). If fruity spirits and spicy cuisine are your thing, head to this island-inspired chain. Specialties include the coconut prawns and kebabs. Additional location in Scottsdale. $$

Brunchies (17 E. Boston St., [480] 899-5036). Brought to you by the folks behind Serrano’s Mexican restaurants, this oldtown spot serves brunch until 2 p.m. daily. The tasty spread includes all the usual suspects — pancakes, eggs, fruit, sausage and home fries — along with a variety of soups, desserts and Mexican breakfast favorites. $

Citrus Cafe (2330 N. Alma School Road, [480] 899-0502). Small, intimate and delightful, this modestly adorned, friendly cafe features some of the best French bistro food around. $$$

Cyclo (1919 W. Chandler Blvd., [480] 963-4490). Adventurous flavors, affordable prices and a BYOB policy make this locally owned Vietnamese hideaway a hot spot. The crispy lemongrass chicken and beef carpaccio are delicious. Don’t worry about saving room for dessert, because Cyclo’s $3 sweets are mini treats. $

El Zócalo (28 S. San Marcos Place, [480] 722-0303). The lush, inviting back patio — often with live music — makes a great backdrop for enjoying the flavorful chicken mole or carne asada at this downtown Chandler hot spot. $$

Famous Dave’s (3250 W. Frye Road, [480] 782-1212). This Midwest import, which boasts more than 150 barbecue-related awards, has the best St. Louis-style spare ribs in the East Valley as well as beef brisket, chopped pork, burgers, moist madefrom-scratch corn bread muffins and pecan pie. $$

Hon macHi Grill (3450 W. Chandler Blvd., [480] 857-7800). From calamari, shrimp and scallops prepared on teppanyaki tables to an extensive sushi menu, this Japanese strip mall gem is sure to delight. Expect high-quality cuisine without the high prices. Entrees $5.95-$29.95. $$$

The Keg (3065 W. Chandler Blvd., [480] 899-7500). Dark wood, glowing fireplaces, extensive stonework and dim lighting make for a classy steakhouse and bar. The wellmarbled meats are grilled to perfection, but you’re just as likely to fall in love with the outstanding twice-baked potato or the warm, crunchy sourdough round. Mmmm, carbs. For dessert, the Billy Miner Pie is lip-lickingly delicious. $$

La Stalla Cucina Rustica (68 W. Buffalo St., [480] 855-9990). With a bubbling fountain, wooden ceiling beams, iron chandeliers and stone walls, this Chandler pasta and pizza place exudes Old World charm. The pasta al forno (a baked, deep dish of rigatoni, mini meatballs, mortadella and mozzarella) and Rustico (enormous focaccia sandwich with grilled chicken, avocado, sautéed spinach and tomato) are good bets. $$

Naples Ristorante (888 W. Warner Road, [480] 963-9033). This delightful eatery makes some of the finest Italian cuisine in the East Valley. The ambience is cozy and romantic and the service is warm and friendly. $$

New York Pizza Department (2580 W. Chandler Blvd., [480] 722-0898, and 9845 S. Priest Drive, [480] 705-6973). Authentic, mouthwatering New York-style specialty pizzas and pasta dishes are on the menu at this local chain. Specialties include Broadway bruschetta, Da Works pizza, Al Capone calzone and New York’s Finest Cookie ’N’ Cream dessert. Additional locations in Scottsdale, Tempe and Gilbert. $$

Rockfish Seafood Grill (3095 W. Chandler Blvd., [480] 963-6662). Whether you prefer your seafood with a side of Southwestern flair or you’re more of a traditionalist, this Dallas chain has got you covered. Specialties include the Mexican shrimp martini and seafood enchiladas. $$

Shimogamo (2051 W. Warner Road, [480] 899-7191). A cozy, sleek, modern space serving some of the freshest, most authentic sushi in the East Valley. $$

Swaddee (5055 W. Ray Road, [480] 785-1640). This unassuming Chandler restaurant serves what’s arguably the best Thai in town. The pad Thai, tom ka (hot and sour) soup, massaman curry and chicken spicy noodles are all outstanding choices. Swaddee has a legit five-star heat scale, so cool down by ordering the homemade coconut ice cream, a coconut milk sherbet topped with crushed peanuts. $$

Teakwoods Tavern & Grill (5965 W. Ray Road, [480] 961-0945). The menu at this throw-your-peanut-shells -on-the-floor watering hole is huge — meatloaf, pasta, pizza, burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads and the crispiest tater tots around. Additional locations in Gilbert and Scottsdale. $

GILBERT

Dual (4972 S. Power Road, [480] 840-3455). Dark and sexy with an affordable yet interesting menu including braised short ribs with gnocchi and tomato ragout ($18), pepper crusted ahi tuna ($19), fried green tomatoes ($8) and desserts that could double as art. Sunday brunch offers from-scratch scones, roasted lamb hash and eggs Benedict. $$

Farm House Restaurant (228 N. Gilbert Road, [480] 926-0676). Formerly housed in a converted farmhouse, the restaurant lost nothing when it moved up the road to downtown Gilbert. The food is still downhome basics that will fill you up and leave you with memories of grandma. The menu features killer omelets and giant, homemade cinnamon rolls. $

Flancer’s Cafe (610 N. Gilbert Road, [480] 926-9077). This neighborhood favorite does everything — from pizza to calzones to sandwiches. And it does them all well. The cafe, which doesn’t look like anything extraordinary from the outside, packs a powerful punch inside with its warm, friendly staff. $

The Gilbert House Restaurant (397 S. Gilbert Road, [480] 507-3383). This white-washed, green-trimmed cottage with weathered wood flooring offers sleepyheads a cozy place to start the day. The typical country kitchen menu offers fluffy hotcakes, delicious eggs Benedict, apple and cinnamon pancakes with a rich cider syrup and delicious French toast. $

Joe’s Real BBQ (301 N. Gilbert Road, [480] 503-3805). Looking for inexpensive yet tasty eats? At Joe’s you’ll find plenty of smoked meats and savory sides including mac and cheese and the best beans in town. Give the lemon cake a go, too — moist, tart and tangy, it’s delicious. $

Sushi Ave. (866 N. Higley Road, [480] 218-5700). Not only is this one of the best sushi spots in the East Valley, it’s also Gilbert’s coolest space to eat in. The black wood tables, chairs and sushi bar; dark aqua walls; earthy slate tiles on the floor and walls; and soft track lighting create a hip Asian ambience. The simple menu includes nine stir-fry options for the sushi shy, including the generously portioned and spiced suicide chicken. $

MESA

Anzio Landing Italian Restaurant (2613 N. Thunderbird Circle, [480] 832-1188). World War II memorabilia lines the walls at this Italian eatery overlooking Falcon Field Municipal Airport. The complimentary bread is divine, and the long list of pasta specialties has few misses. $$$

Asia (1236 E. Baseline Road, [480] 892-0688). A hip noodle house (formerly called sN Asian Kitchen) with a black, white and red decor and new-in-2006 sushi bar. The cozy restaurant features noodle specialties from Japan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. Jazz bands play Friday and Saturday nights. $$

Buca di Beppo (1730 S. Val Vista Drive, [480] 507-9463). Yes, it’s an over-thetop Italian behemoth but it works well for celebrations thanks to the lively atmosphere and family-style servings. Try the garlic mashed potatoes, Caesar salad, nine-layer lasagna and spicy arrabbiata pizza. Additional locations in Chandler and Scottsdale. $$$

Crackers & Co. Café (535 W. Iron Ave., [480] 898-1717 and 1325 N. Greenfield Road, [480] 924-9977). From pancakes and omelets to salad and soup, this eatery does ’em all — and does ’em well. The extensive breakfast and lunch menu also features sinful homemade cakes and treats. $

D’Vine Wine Bar & Bistro (2837 N. Power Road, [480] 654-4171). Chef Ramon whips up such Are-we-still-in-Mesa? dishes as pan-seared ostrich on a cheddar polenta cake topped with a lingonberryjalapeño preserve and escargot sautéed in white wine with cream and bleu cheese tossed with linguine. The $5 wine tastings with live music on Tuesdays and monthly wine pairing dinners complete the package, making D’Vine the most exciting restaurant in Mesa. $$

Giant Hamburgers (2753 E. Broadway Road, [480] 733-6542). The Get Out crew hits this greasy spoon so often it’s become a running joke around the office. The cooked-to-order, crunchy golden fries are addictive, as are the delicious, juicy, -pound burgers. Breakfast items are tasty, too — try the fluffy pancakes or biscuits and gravy. $

Lil’ Pizzazz (8257 E. Guadalupe Road, [480] 357-6355). One of our favorite pizzas in town — the mini meatball and onion pan pie — is a whole lot closer now that this mom-and-pop place traded its Queen Creek address for one 10-odd miles north in Mesa. Calzones, pickeach-ingredient salads and subs are also on the menu. $

Crackers & Co. Café (535 W. Iron Ave., [480] 898-1717 and 1325 N. Greenfield Road, [480] 924-9977). From pancakes and omelets to salad and soup, this eatery does ’em all — and does ’em well. The extensive breakfast and lunch menu also features sinful homemade cakes and treats. $

D’Vine Wine Bar & Bistro (2837 N. Power Road, [480] 654-4171). Chef Ramon whips up such Are-we-still-in-Mesa? dishes as pan-seared ostrich on a cheddar polenta cake topped with a lingonberry-jalapeño preserve and escargot sautéed in white wine with cream and bleu cheese tossed with linguine. The $5 wine tastings with live music on Tuesdays and monthly wine pairing dinners complete the package, making D’Vine the most exciting restaurant in Mesa. $$

Giant Hamburgers (2753 E. Broadway Road, [480] 733-6542). The Get Out crew hits this greasy spoon so often it’s become a running joke around the office. The cooked-to-order, crunchy golden fries are addictive, as are the delicious, juicy, -pound burgers. Breakfast items are tasty, too — try the fluffy pancakes or biscuits and gravy. $

Lil’ Pizzazz (8257 E. Guadalupe Road, [480] 357-6355). One of our favorite pizzas in town — the mini meatball and onion pan pie — is a whole lot closer now that this mom-and-pop place traded its Queen Creek address for one 10-odd miles north in Mesa. Calzones, pick-each-ingredient salads and subs are also on the menu. $

Mangos Mexican Cafe (44 W. Main St., [480] 464-5700). Über-popular with downtown Mesa’s 9-to-5 set, Mangos satisfies with jalapeño-flecked carne asada burritos, enchiladas, a breakfast burrito that’s tasty any hour of the day and refreshing pressed fruit juices. Crispy beef or chicken tacos are a mere 99 cents from 2 to 4 p.m. daily. $

Oasian (1935 S. Val Vista Drive, [480] 632-1245). Casual, stylish Asian place that puts Pei Wei to shame. If owner K.C. is there, pull up a seat at the small bar and hang out with the jovial, well-traveled storyteller. Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Korea are all represented on the extensive menu. $

Rancho de Tia Rosa (3129 E. McKellips Road, [480] 659-8787). From the gorgeous architecture to the colorful ambience to the fabulous cuisine, we can’t stop singing the praises of this east Mesa gem. Specialties include shrimp quesadillas, salmon enchiladas, chicken mole and an extensive margarita menu. In our part of the country, Mexican restaurants seem to outnumber 7-Elevens. Tia Rosa, though, outshines them all. $$

Red, White & Brew (6734 E. McDowell Road, [480] 807-9393). The stuffed meatball pizza roll at this neighborhood hangout is top-notch and enough for two, especially if diners take advantage of the endless homemade garlic and Parmesan breadsticks. Another fave is the flavorful 10-ounce marinated flat-iron steak with garlic mashed potatoes. Pizzas, seafood, salads, desserts and nightly specials round out the menu. $$

Sauce (3426 E. Baseline Road, [480] 497-3500) One of the best order-at-thecounter concepts around — the thin, crisp individual pies are crowd-pleasers as are the paninis. Salads are very good and served with a sourdough roll. The tiramisu is tasty, too. Additional locations in Scottsdale. $

Vito’s Pizza & Italian Ristorante (1947 N. Lindsay Road, [480] 832-3311). This southern Italian family eatery offers something to satisfy every appetite. From veal parmigiana to homemade lasagna, every dish is hearty and baked with love. $$

Waldo’s BBQ (4500 E. Main St., [480] 807-1645). Barbecue, beer and some serious sass — that’s what you’ll find at this sawdust-covered rib joint. Sauce comes in a small skillet, frosty beverages are poured into giant mason jars and complimentary corn bread is dished up moments after diners are seated. Sides (try the veggies) are endless, and so are the memories. $

TEMPE

Big City BBQ (5118 S. Rural Road, [480] 756-5702). Dig into Southern-style barbecue specialties — pecan smoked beef brisket, spare ribs, red beans and rice, braised cabbage, and sweet baked beans with bacon. Save room for the sugar biscuits. Additional location in Mesa. $

Caffe Boa (398 S. Mill Ave., [480] 968-9112). Tasty offerings at this red-brick walled Italian wine bar include paninis, pastas and a very tasty tiramisu. Looking for lighter fare? Boa has a nice list of tapas and flights as well as one of the best happy hours in town. $$

Chuck Box (202 E. University Drive, [480] 968-4712). The guys at this rustic ASU lunch spot have been serving the best mesquite-grilled burgers in Tempe for longer than we can remember. Ever a student (and alumni) favorite, Chuck Box also makes great fried zucchini. $

Classic Italian Pizza (1030 E. Baseline Road, [480] 345-8681). It doesn’t look like much from the parking lot, but inside the dimly lit cafe are the best gourmet woodfired pizzas around. Great wines, salads and desserts, too. $$

Cornish Pasty Co. (960 W. University Drive, [480] 894-6261). The pasty (passtee)

is England’s answer to the calzone, but with a pielike crust. The carne adovada and lamb vindaloo versions rock, as does the mine shaft style and shape of the pub and the $7-and-under menu. $

Dilly’s Deli (414 W. University Drive, [480] 929-0111 and 3330 S. Price Road, [480] 491-1196). Any time is a good time for soup — especially at Dilly’s. Better known for its grilled sandwiches, this popular lunch spot also serves up a mean bread bowl. Our fave? The cream of broccoli. Additional locations in Chandler and Scottsdale. $

Four Peaks Brewery (1340 E. Eighth St., [480] 303-9967). Don’t expect the usual bar food suspects here. Four Peaks’ menu includes such impressive offerings as Thai hummus, the Portabella veggie beer bread sandwich and the salmon BLT. Oh, and the beer — including the customer fave, Kilt Lifter — ain’t half bad, either. Additional location in Scottsdale. $$

House of Tricks (114 E. Seventh St., [480] 968-1114). Located in a 1920s cottage, Tricks is all the things most other Mill Avenue eateries are not — charming, cozy and delightfully unique. In addition to an eclectic menu featuring a fusion of French and American flavors, Tricks also boasts an inviting outdoor bar (complete with fireplace) and a shaded patio perfect for enjoying a bottle of wine. Or two. $$

Oregano’s Pizza Bistro (523 W. University Drive, [480] 858-0501). Good pizza, great big bowls of tasty pasta and a gloriously simple, gooey cookie dough and ice cream dessert are what make Oregano’s an always-packed crowd favorite. Additional locations in Scottsdale and Mesa. $$

Papa Razzini’s (1825 E. Guadalupe Road, [480] 345-6560). Don’t be surprised if you hear the owner, “Papa,” belt out an Italian verse or two at this casual neighborhood Italian bistro. The linguine with clam sauce is sensational, as is the free makeyour-own bruschetta. $$

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro (740 S. Mill Ave., [480] 731-4600). P.F. Chang’s has been a hot spot in the Valley since it opened a decade ago. Offering innovative Chinese cuisine and an upscale ambience, P.F. Chang’s has since taken its famous lettuce wraps national, with locations in such corners of the country as New Jersey, Wisconsin and Alabama. Additional locations in Chandler, Scottsdale and Mesa. $$

Pita Jungle (1250 E. Apache Blvd., [480] 804-0234). Vegetarians aren’t the only ones who love Pita Jungle, with its huge portions of mostly healthy fare. Usually crowded, with cool art on the walls, this is one spot that college students and postgrads can agree on. Additional locations in Chandler and Scottsdale. $

Plaid Eatery (1044 S. Terrace Road, [480] 394-9424). Hipsters and health nuts chat about the newest indie bands between bites of pesto chicken sandwiches, lemon grass stir-fries and hummus fold-overs at the vegan-friendly Plaid (nearly every item comes with choice of tofu or chicken). $

Rúla Búla (401 S. Mill Ave., [480] 929-9500). In addition to pints of Guinness and Irish coffee with a jolt of Bailey’s, this Mill Avenue bar and grill — modeled after the pubs of Ireland — serves a mean shepherd’s pie. Other specialties at this fun, colorful hot spot include corned beef and cabbage, soda bread, lamb stew, boxty and bread pudding. $$

Sacks Art of Sandwicherie (35 E. Ninth St., [480] 966-9266 and 839 W. University Drive, [480] 967-2980). Patrons will discover arty sandwiches and an equally colorful setting at this longtime ASU fave. The sandwiches, named for the greats (Picasso, van Gogh and the like), are served in a sack (get it?) with a freshbaked chocolate chip cookie. It’s just like mom used to do — only cooler. $

Sinbad (5004 S. Price Road, [480] 491-5588). All kebabs are not created equal. At Sinbad, a quaint Middle Eastern and Lebanese eatery buried (unfortunately) in a strip mall, the kebabs out-dazzle even the belly dancers who perform there every Friday night. Diners can choose from lamb, chicken and beef kebabs, all of which come with hummus, tabbouleh and rice. $$

Z’Tejas Grill (20 W. Sixth St., [480] 377-1170). Blending American regional styles, this restaurant has remained a favorite with locals and visitors alike. The food, dubbed New American cuisine, is a combination of Tex-Mex, Southwest and Cajun/Creole flavors. And the potent margaritas? Well, they’re sure to put you in your place. Additional locations in Scottsdale and Chandler. $$

PARADISE VALLEY

Elements (5700 E. McDonald Drive, [480] 607-2300). The view alone is worth the cost of dinner. Have a drink on the patio, or try something from the menu, which changes to accommodate whatever fresh ingredients are available. Try the signature Asian-inspired grilled salmon or one of the amazing desserts. $$$$

CAVE CREEK

Binkley’s Restaurant (6920 E. Cave Creek Road, [480] 437-1072). A husbandand-wife-run restaurant with the best foie gras in the East Valley coupled with a menu full of creative, stunning plates. This is destination dining at its best. It’s worth the drive from anywhere. $$$$

NORTH SCOTTSDALE

Cantina Laredo (7361 E. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd., [480] 951-3807). This Dallas import is the mastermind behind the most mindblowing Mexican dish we’ve ever tried — the camaron poblano asada (sautéed plump shrimp, mushroom slices, onions and Monterey jack stuffed into a poblano pepper wrapped in a tender 10-ounce carne asada on a small pool of chimichurri sauce). Not into gourmet Mex? The kitchen pulls off the basics as well. $$

Eddie V’s Edgewater Grille (20715 N. Pima Road, [480] 538-8468). Who would have thought we could get such great seafood smack-dab in the middle of the desert? The service is impeccable, the restaurant is comfortable yet elegant and the food is exquisite. $$$

The Greene House (15024 N. Scottsdale Road, [480] 889-9494). My favorite new face of 2005, I crave the delicate Pacific black cod gently glazed in a sweet soy. The boutique wine list gives production numbers. The earthy-yet-upscale House — a nod to Craftsman-style architect Henry Greene — looks like another smashing success for restaurateur Sam Fox (Bloom, North, Sauce). $$$

Humphrey’s Pacific Rim (11144 N. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd., [480] 551-3222). A chef/ owner who personally welcomes you to his new-in-2004 restaurant. Creative, delicious dishes like duck confit quesadillas, mango pot stickers and beef randang. Artful presentation and warm service. $$$

Jilly’s American Grill (7301 E. Butherus Drive, [480] 368-8663). This place has something for everyone: Televisions for the sports fan, celebrity regulars for those who like to track such people and sublime comfort food for everyone who walks through the door. Buckets of shrimp and chicken pot pie are two of the must-tries. Additional location in Chandler. $$

Marquesa (7575 E. Princess Drive, [480] 585-4848). Diners are offered an exploration of Mediterranean cuisine at the premier restaurant in the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort. It’s posh, but not pretentious. Marquesa chefs’ interpretation of the cuisine is sophisticated and has earned the AAA Five-Diamond award. $$$$

Mastro’s Steakhouse (8852 E. Pinnacle Peak Road, [480] 585-9500). Reminiscent of a Manhattan supper club, Mastro’s has a masculine but not overbearingly macho feel. The food is heavy-duty, too, from tender, sizzling steaks to lobster and fish. Diners leave satisfied and glad they indulged. $$$$

Michael’s at the Citadel (8700 E. Pinnacle Peak Road, [480] 515-2575). Chef and owner Michael DeMaria’s take on contemporary American cuisine, seasoned with Mediterranean and Asian accents, has garnered the multitalented chef first-name-recognition status. His food is fabulous. Consider any seafood main plate or go for the “classic” medallions of beef tenderloin au poivre. Sensational sweets, too. $$$$

Mosaic (10600 E. Jomax Road, [480] 563-9600). Nestled at the foot of Pinnacle Peak, Mosaic is breathtaking inside and out. The restaurant, which boasts two scenic patios and a framed mosaic with cascading water, offers such tantalizing dishes as curry-dusted scallops, Muscovy duck breast and boar. Be prepared for a wait (reservations are strongly encouraged). But also, prepare to be dazzled. $$$$

Parmigiano Italian Bistro (23535 N. Scottsdale Road, [480] 538-9977). A cozy, family-owned spot with from- scratch pastas and sauces. The meat-sauce lasagna will fill the hungriest of diners, and the antipasto plate is impressive. Wonderful service, too. $$

Radda Caffe-Bar (7000 E. Shea Blvd., [480] 778-0800). Wow, this Tuscan-style restaurant really won me over. Pretty plates, amazing flavors and nice wines — it’s gourmet grub for the budget-minded. The bruschetta, chorizo-stuffed dates and filet mignon balsamico are dreamy. $$

Razz’s Restaurant & Bar (10321 N. Scottsdale Road, [480] 905-1308). The inventive and subsequently yummy food — a little Asian, a little Italian and a little Spanish — created by chef and proprietor Razz Kamnitzer has received national acclaim. Yep, it’s that good. Don’t miss Razz’s flower petal and cheese ravioli in tomato broth or his decidedly delicious duck cakes. $$$$

Sassi (10455 E. Pinnacle Peak Parkway, [480] 502-9095). Prepare to be awed at this $10 million eatery, built to replicate a Tuscan villa. The views are amazing, as are the wine selection and the Southern Italian cuisine, which is surprisingly affordable, considering the setting. $$$

Star Spangled Tavern (20751 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale

[480] 419-8729). The heaping bowl of smoky mac and cheese with bacon, juicy Queen Creek pork chop, spicy baby back ribs and apple-cranberry crisp are all drool-worthy at this DC Ranch restaurant. It’s the brainchild of Peter Kasperski (Cowboy Ciao/Kazimierz/Sea Saw) and Jimmy Carlin (Blue Wasabi) so it’s no surprise the wine list is 19 pages long. $$$

Tapino Kitchen & Wine Bar (7000 E. Shea Blvd., [480] 991-6887). A wine bar that doesn’t take itself too seriously and offers enough tempting tapas to make an affordable meal. The sublime bruschetta and brilliantly complex foie gras dish with honey and rosemary are amazing. $$$

DOWNTOWN/SOUTH SCOTTSDALE

Arcadia Farms (7014 E. First Ave., [480] 941-5665). Gourmet salads and sweet baked treats are on the menu at this cuteas-a-button eatery. The patio, with linencovered tables and a rainbow of flowers, is one of the best in the Valley. $$

Bandera (3821 N. Scottsdale Road, [480] 994-3524). Famous for its wood-fired, spit-roasted chicken, but the rest of the restrained menu is impressive as well. The thick, roasted pork chops with chorizo stuffing and apricot glaze would make a nice meal for two paired with the stellar house salad and a tin of their tasty corn bread. The lamb sandwich with roasted peppers is also worth a shot. Sexy lighting and a dark color scheme create cozy confines. $$

Bloom (8877 N. Scottsdale Road, [480] 922-5666). Sandwiches, creative entrees and even more imaginative martinis are served up in this hip, oh-so-Scottsdale space. And save room for something sweet — Bloom’s Bars of Sin dessert lives up to its name. $$

The Breakfast Club (4400 N. Scottsdale Road, [480] 222-2582). The menu at this trendy Scottsdale a.m. eatery is dominated by eggs, pancakes, waffles and french toast. The huevos rancheros with chili verde and black beans is delicious. Feeling naughty? Go for the Yakima Belgian waffle or Foster pancakes — both come with vanilla ice cream. $

Carlsbad Tavern (3313 N. Hayden Road, [480] 970-8164). Need more spice than found at most East Valley New Mexican eateries? Get your carne adovada fix here; you also can fill up on fresh snapper tacos and green-chili-topped burgers. $$

Cowboy Ciao (7133 E. Stetson Drive, [480] 946-3111). This Scottsdale eatery partners Western, Italian and Mexican flavors — an ambitious undertaking indeed. Borrowing from each, bold flavors have been tamed into surprisingly likable dishes, from crab enchiladas to elk strip loin. $$$

Don and Charlie’s American Rib and Chop House (7501 E. Camelback Road, [480] 990-0900). This Valley favorite is nothing short of a baseball shrine, with celebrity caricatures and magazine covers tacked to the walls and hundreds of autographed baseballs and memorabilia on display. Owner Don Carson’s popular rib restaurant is generally packed with fans of his Chicago-background barbecue. The baby-back ribs, chicken and pork chops are legendary. $$$

Dos Gringos (4209 N. Craftsman Court, [480] 423-3800). The food here is fine, but what makes Dos Gringos tops is the atmosphere. It’s fun. Plus, it’s a great place for second-tier celeb sightings — if you’re into that sort of thing. Additional location in Tempe. $

Drinkwater’s City Hall Steakhouse (6991 E. Camelback Road, [480] 941-4700). Owner Mark Drinkwater, son of former Scottsdale Mayor Herb Drinkwater, serves everything from prime steaks to Atlantic salmon to lamb rib chops at this consistently rewarding restaurant. The menu is exquisite, as is the wine selection. $$$$

Furio (7210 E. Second St., [480] 945-6600). Sexy and edgy, chef Jagger Griffin’s dimly lit cafe serves such mouthwatering delights as fresh mussels and aqua clams, tender calamari, Parmesan-encrusted shrimp and braised short ribs. And don’t forget dessert — the cappuccino cheesecake is sinfully scrumptious. $$

Fusion (4441 N. Buckboard Trail, [480] 423-9043). Expect killer cuisine and topnotch service at this husband-and-wiferun eatery serving up inventive seafood dishes and a delicious Buckboard shortcake. $$ Grazie Pizzeria Wine Bar (6952 E. Main St., [480] 663-9797). Cute, charming and perfectly situated among Old Town’s galleries, this is a great place for a glass of wine with friends or a gourmet pizza. The desserts are creative and tasty as well. $$

HT Seafood (2922 N. Hayden Road, [480] 941-4733). There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but at HT Seafood you’ll find the next best thing — a cheap lunch. With 12 lunch combinations, including eggplant with garlic sauce and Kung Pao chicken or beef, priced at $4.75, diners get plenty of bang for their buck, as all plates come with soup, appetizers, steamed rice, hot tea and a fortune cookie. $

Kona Grill (7014 E. Camelback Road, [480] 429-1100). Among the Valley’s prettiest people, Kona Grill is the place to be for happy hour. And for good reason: The snazzy eatery’s appetizers — including Maui tacos, California rolls and calamari — are half off. While you’re there, also check out the sushi menu, which includes squid, sea urchin and salmon eggs. Additional location in Chandler. $$

Kyoto (7170 E. Stetson Drive, [480] 990-9374). Serving steak, seafood tempura and sushi, this hot spot is the eatery of choice for the city’s most beautiful hipsters, but don’t let that deter you. The teppanyaki is a delight, and the extensive sushi menu is worth slipping into that little black dress for. $$

L’Ecole at Scottsdale Culinary Institute (8100 E. Camelback Road, [480] 990-7639). School lunches never tasted so good. The training ground for student chefs about to be unleashed on the dining world, L’Ecole offers gourmet food and impeccable service at a very friendly price. The menu changes daily and the reservation book fills up fast, especially in the fall and winter. $$$$

Los Sombreros (2534 N. Scottsdale Road, [480] 994-1799). Some surprises on this compact menu include the pumpkinseed-encrusted snapper and the verduras guisadas, tomatillo-braised mushrooms and zucchini served with crispy potato cakes. The soup and classic Mexican dishes are great as well, and the prices are refreshing. $$

Malee’s on Main (7131 E. Main St., [480] 947-6042). When it comes to Thai cuisine, this bistro has long been a Valley favorite. The menu — which features spicy curry dishes and stir-fries — is the real deal, guaranteed to please Thai lovers and new initiates alike. Additional location at Desert Ridge Marketplace serving sushi. $$

Mary Elaine’s (6000 E. Camelback Road, [480] 941-8200). The sweeping nighttime vista of Scottsdale from any table is dramatic. Matched with the view is the restaurant’s extraordinary Frenchinspired cuisine and smooth, professional service. The restaurant, located at The Phoenician, also boasts a dazzling wine list. $$$$

The Melting Pot (8320 N. Hayden Road, [480] 607-1799). Do you fondue? You should — fondue is fun again. The Melting Pot’s subdued lighting and booth seating make for a cozy-as-you-desire, unhurried dining experience. And as for the menu, patrons can delight in dipping everything from fruit to cheese to meat. Additional location in Ahwatukee Foothills. $$

Méthode Bistro (6204 N. Scottsdale Road, [480] 998-8220). New in 2006, this bistro has a hearty, flavorful osso bucco; a succulent wood oven roasted lobster; a light and luscious nicoise salad; and a winning white chocolate and blueberry frozen soufflé. Low lighting, big candles, vintage Euro advertising posters and an open but quiet kitchen make for an intimate, relaxing meal. $$$

Patsy Grimaldi’s Pizzeria (4000 N. Scottsdale Road, [480] 994-1100). This NYC import has been named the Big Apple’s best pizzeria for the last seven years by Zagat. And hey, that’s good enough for us. In addition to pizza, patrons can nosh on calzones, salad and homemade cannoli. Additional location in Chandler. $$

Pepín (7363 E. Scottsdale Mall, [480] 990-9026). The tapas are tops at this downtown Scottsdale favorite, nestled next to Scottsdale Center for the Arts. In addition to live salsa music (and dancing, too!), patrons can enjoy such spicy delights as paella, Spanish crab cakes and braised rabbit. $$$

Rancho Pinot Grill (6208 N. Scottsdale Road, [480] 367-8030). Chef-owner Chrysa Kaufman takes simple dishes such as braised chicken and gnocchi and makes them spectacular. The majority of her seasonal menu is gourmet comfort food, and it’s served under the watchful eye of her husband, Tom, who also handles the extensive wine collection. The fine dining experience is made more casual by the cowboy-desert decor and jean-sporting owner. $$$

Roaring Fork (4800 N. Scottsdale Road, [480] 947-0795). The upscale cowboy cuisine of chef/proprietor Robert McGrath is tasty stuff, especially that rotisseried salt-and-pepper chicken. Try the pork and green chili stew or wrap your mitts around the Big Ass Burger offered in the bar. $$$

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