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Arizona Restaurants

AZ 88 Bar & Restaurant
7353 Scottsdale Mall
Scottsdale , Arizona
Tel: 480 994 5576

AZ88 is one of the best people-watching places in Scottsdale because its giant windows and deck look out on the Scottsdale town square. The food (burgers, waffle fries, Cobb salad, chicken sandwiches) is all good and fairly inexpensive for this area, but come for the massive drinks (martini big gulps) and the hookup possibilities—both gay and straight.

Closed for lunch Saturdays and Sundays.

Barrio Café
2814 N. 16th Street
Phoenix , Arizona
Tel: 602 636 0240

We should probably keep Barrio to ourselves, as it doesn't take reservations and the wait can push an hour on a Tuesday night. Thankfully, there's a wall full of tequila to help pass the time. The place is small, loud, and not in the nicest part of town, but it also happens to be one of the best Mexican restaurants in the entire Southwest. Prettiest dish: tilapia fillet rubbed with achiote (a Yucatán spice) and wrapped in a banana leaf with chunks of onions. Most complicated: Pescado del Mar, with layers of shrimp, scallops, and crab and lobster over a pan-seared halibut fillet, all steaming in a white wine and shallot cream sauce with pieces of chorizo and poblano peppers. Best: four simple, slow-roasted pork tacos that will have your mouth watering for days—guaranteed.

Open Tuesdays through Fridays. No lunch on Saturdays.

Breakfast Club
4400 N. Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale , Arizona
Tel: 480 222 2582

Breakfast all day—that was the idea of owner Kyle Shivers when he opened up this airy, pleasant eatery. Here, you choose between chocolate-chip pancakes served with whipped cream, or cinnamon French toast made with challah, dusted with powdered sugar, and strewn with sweetened walnuts, almonds, and fresh berries. Pancakes and Belgian waffles arrive gussied up with candied nuts, blueberry preserves, or strawberries with whipped cream. And if you want something a little more south-of-the-border, they serve huevos con masa and breakfast burritos.

Open every day until 3 pm.

Caffe Boa
398 S. Mill Avenue
Tempe , Arizona
Tel: 480 968 9112

Located right in the midst of Arizona State University's bar scene, this is not where you would think to find a worth-the-trip restaurant. But Caffe Boa is just that, and has been since 1994. Owners Jay and Christine Wisniewski injected new life into the restaurant in 2008 by hiring chef Payton Curry, a ballsy and outspoken young talent who was advised to shake things up. His menu includes handmade pastas like fettuccine saltimbocca with braised sweetbreads, crispy pancetta, and a sage-tinged cream sauce, plus comfort food dishes (try the killer fried chicken). There is a locavore bent, as well, with olives and oil coming from Queen Creek Olive Mill and produce sourced from area organic farms. The wine list is global, but forgo the Italian bottles and ask your server what Jay is drinking. It will likely be something from his homeland of Croatia.—David Tyda

Open Mondays through Wednesdays 11 am to 10 pm, Thursdays and Fridays 11 am to 11 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays 10 am to 3 pm and 4 to 10 pm.

Cowboy Ciao
7133 E. Stetson Drive
Scottsdale , Arizona
Tel: 480 946 3111

The unique (some say odd) combo of Southwest and Italian translates into heavy dishes that shun simplicity. For example, as if rubbing a filet mignon with espresso weren't enough, it's also prepared with a cabernet demi-glace. Or how about the really tasty elk strip loin served over mushroom risotto? Two guarantees: You will walk away stuffed, and you will have trouble deciding on a wine from the 3,000-plus list. Avoid the Bordeaux blues by asking for the Nifty Fifty, narrowing the cellar down to 50 guest favorites. Witty and attractive servers keep this spot high on our "restaurants with personality" list.

Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
6902 E. Greenway Parkway
Scottsdale , Arizona
Tel: 480 624 1030

There are plenty of quality sushi restaurants in the Valley that prove raw fish is not an anomaly in the desert. But Latin-minded Deseo proves that the fish doesn't have to be inside a roll, either. Sit at the Ceviche Rail (like a high-chair sushi bar) and chat with the chefs about whether the garlic chips are appropriate for the lobster ceviche or how the beer sorbet is made. Then order a rainbow ceviche—akin to a rainbow roll, except that the yellowfin, ahi, and salmon are cured in lime juice alongside jalapeños. Go early and have a drink at the Muddle Bar, where you can choose ingredients such as mint, berries, mango, or basil—think of a Subway-style operation, only with rum.

Dinner only.

15024 N. Scottsdale Road, No. 160
Scottsdale , Arizona
Tel: 480 948 2055

Red brick (a rarity in Arizona), high ceilings, and a loud, fast-paced dining room make a great setting for the simple, modern Italian cuisine, right in the middle of Scottsdale's toniest outdoor shopping mall, Kierland Commons. It's a great spot for lunch, with six types of pizza cooked in a brick oven (the prosciutto and goat cheese is the best) and a host of sandwich options. North is easy on the pocketbook, too: A fillet of salmon over strips of roasted squash and sweet onions is the most expensive thing on the lunch menu, at $15.

Olive & Ivy
7135 E. Camelback Road
Scottsdale , Arizona
Tel: 480 751 2200

Olive & Ivy is one of the hippest and most attractive dining spots in town (for both the interior design and the look of the patrons). It draws businesspeople as well as wealthy wives, who salad late in the day after shopping at Neiman Marcus across the street. At night, the Mediterranean-influenced menu keeps the drinking, flirting crowd happily nibbling on prosciutto flatbread, bacon-wrapped dates, or lamb curry. There's also a sofa-dotted patio that is quite a social scene, with house music in the background. As it's located in the new Waterfront development across from Fashion Square Mall, we recommend using the valet rather than navigating the confusing underground garage.

Petite Maison
7216 E. Shoeman Lane
Scottsdale , Arizona
480 991 6887

Petite Maison has been serving a menu of simple French bistro classics at pleasing prices in Old Town Scottsdale since late 2009. The tiny room is lit by candles and dainty chandeliers, and the kitchen turns out soft and plump escargots in ponds of butter and steak tartare topped with an egg and served with air-thin house-made potato chips. Go Thursdays through Saturdays after 10 pm for the quirky late-night menu they call Staff Meal. Chefs are given free rein to go off-menu with dishes like foie gras tacos and spicy Thai sweetbreads (the selections change weekly and are announced on the restaurant's Twitter feed). Affable chef/owner James Porter usually kicks back at the bar about this time, as well.—David Tyda

Pizzeria Bianco
623 E. Adams Street
Phoenix , Arizona
Tel: 602 258 8300

When Oprah mentioned Pizzeria Bianco on her show, the wait at this no-reservation pizza joint went from about an hour to more than three—yet it didn't discourage locals. Waiting is the easy part: There's a historic home next door that owner Chris Bianco converted into a bar so folks can order marinated olives, focaccia, and other snacks while they wait. The hard part is deciding on one of the six Neapolitan-style pies. They're a little larger than a plate, and some of the heavier ones, such as the Wiseguy—wood-roasted onions, house-smoked mozzarella, and fennel sausage—are big enough for two. Unless you've got extra-good karma, you won't find parking in the small lot on Seventh Street, so enter the garage on Fifth Street, just south of Van Buren, and have the restaurant validate your ticket.

Open daily. Exceptions: Open Tuesday through Saturday the first week in May; closed late August through mid-September.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.