Al Fresco Advisory
At press time, restaurants are still operating at limited capacity. Reservations are strongly recommended, as is calling ahead to verify hours of operation and health protocols.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for Phoenicians: patio season.
Whether your goal is social distancing or basking in the glorious weather, restaurants Valleywide have outdoor dining offerings to whet your appetite.
The scenery is just as delicious as the food at these stunning spots.
The new ADERO Scottsdale resort’s premier restaurant has a meaningful moniker: “cielo” is Spanish for “sky,” something you’ll see a lot of on its patio, which sits 2,500 feet above sea level. We suggest a late dinner so you can see the McDowell Mountains and Four Peaks just before sunset and then revel in the stars above you come nightfall, since ADERO is in a Dark Sky Community.
Must-order dish: Apple cider-glazed smoked Berkshire pork T-bone with brown butter, sweet potato gnocchi and fried sage ($32)
13225 N. Eagle Ridge Dr., Scottsdale
Top of the Rock Restaurant
The desert feels immediate when you’re plopped on the patio of this Valley institution at Marriott Phoenix Resort Tempe at The Buttes. Cacti, succulents and desert trees are within arm’s reach, and landmarks Papago Park and Camelback Mountain loom nearby. The food is eclectic – fine dining favorites like Arctic char and duck are gussied up with global flavors like yuzu butter and chana masala.
Must-order dish: Smoked tofu with sesame-tomato barbecue sauce, heirloom beans, bok choy and cashew crema ($22)
2000 W. Westcourt Way, Tempe
Get the stunning vantage point of a Camelback Mountain ascent sans the sweaty hike by booking an outdoor table at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa’s signature restaurant. Chef Beau MacMillan’s Asian-inflected American cuisine reflects its Paradise Valley environs: beautiful and elegantly spare. Time your visit for sunset, and take photos.
Must-order dish: Faroe Island salmon with somen noodles, snow peas, heirloom carrots, gai lan, ginger and coriander ($40)
5700 E. McDonald Dr., Paradise Valley
Different Pointe of View
The view is so central to the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort’s centerpiece restaurant, nestled atop North Mountain, that it’s literally part of the name. A tiered patio provides various perches from which to marvel at the splendid sprawl of the Valley below. Low-slung red dividers and desert flora separate intimate tables larded with chef Anthony DeMuro’s fine dining delights.
Must-order dish: Short rib braised with port and rosemary, with chimichurri butter, polenta and caramelized shallot demi-glace ($40)
11111 N. Seventh St., Phoenix
Glitzy steakhouse vibes meet gorgeous desert views at this sleek and sophisticated refuge in The Phoenician resort. Walls of windows give even indoor diners an eyeful, but the patio offers unimpeded views of the foothills of Camelback Mountain – not to mention the stately resort grounds and pool. Fire pits and burnished wood furniture keep everything warm, even on chilly nights.
Must-order dish: 30-oz. Wagyu Tomahawk ribeye ($130, serves two); potato gratin with comté cheese ($12)
6000 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale
TBD: A reopening date had not been announced at press time.
Love is in the air on these patios for paramours.
Riotously colorful flowers, a burbling fountain, beautiful mountain views, a Mexican horno-style fireplace and blessed remove from the bustle of the city core – those are the mood setters making The Hermosa Inn’s destination restaurant patio a must for lovers. New executive chef Rebecca Tillman has been putting her sprightly spin on the menu’s classics since taking over this summer.
Must-order dish: Pan-seared halibut with whipped celery root and Castelvetrano olive-citrus salad ($44)
5532 N. Palo Cristi Rd., Paradise Valley
Unveiled this fall, these three Tillman creations are surefire crowd pleasers.
Lobster tempura: Tillman updated the LON’s classic with sweet, ultra-rare Tristan lobster from the deep South Atlantic. Stunningly good. ($24)
Tortellini with local mushrooms: Served in a porcini broth so fresh you can almost taste the forest, these will delight vegetarians. ($16)
Pork osso bucco: Tender, fall-apart pork shank lies over whipped Hubbard squash and zesty citrus gremolata. Fall is here. ($38)
House of Tricks
Tempe’s most romantic restaurant earned its reputation. The patio that links the two historical homes that make up the eatery is strewn with twinkling lights and lush with greenery and flowers. It’s like an enchanted garden you wouldn’t mind getting lost in for a few hours with your sweetheart and a bottle of wine.
Must-order dish: Sweet fig-glazed pastrami-spiced duck breast with goat cheese grits, pan-seared baby carrots, cucumbers, radishes and sunflower sprouts ($29)
114 E. Seventh St., Tempe
The patios at Nick’s Italian restaurants might not scream “romance” (though they are intimate, which facilitates canoodling), but the food is so sultry you’ll be humming “Come On-A My House” by the time the tiramisu is delivered. After all, what’s more romantic than slippery strands of fresh pasta and lots of vino with your main squeeze?
Must-order dish: Lobster ravioli with creamy tomato “pink” sauce ($19)
Three Valley locations, nicks-italian.com
The patio at this Downtown pizza haunt is rustic and intimate, ensconced by a canopy of tree branches and draped with ropes of soft lights. It’s the perfect place for a swoony yet low-key first date (the bill will be reasonable), or to rekindle romance after quarantining together sucked the spontaneity out of your long-term union.
Must-order dishes: Noce pizza, topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, arugula and walnuts ($15) and a Nutella-mascarpone crêpe for dessert ($7.50)
603 N. Fifth Ave., Phoenix
Ladera Taverna y Cocina
You feel a bit like you’re having a rendezvous at a nouveau Mexican hacienda when you’re dining on the patio at Ladera. Its stone fireplace, plentiful cacti and gleaming wood, leather and tile tables and chairs lend a welcome air of comfortable luxury. Sip margaritas and cuddle your beloved on a low-slung loveseat.
Must-order dish: Baja enchiladas stuffed with lump crab, shrimp and menonita and cheddar cheeses, with green chile cream sauce, hominy rice, guacamole, pico de gallo and crema ($19)
8729 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
Fun & Games
Let loose with a little cornhole, karaoke or sports talk.
Waddell’s Longhorn Corral
“Under-promise and over-deliver” appears to be the ethos at Waddell’s, where the tagline is “Warm Beer. Bad Food. Lousy Service.” But if you’re looking for a place to play some horseshoes, sing a little karaoke or watch a NASCAR race, this rustic hideaway is the honky-tonk for you.
Must-order dish: Order a bunch of dishes and share: jalapeño poppers ($11), battered pickles ($11), tater tots ($10), battered zucchini ($11), french fries ($10), pizzas ($14-$20), “wings your way” ($14 for eight; $20 for 16)
1629 N. 195th Ave., Buckeye
Luci’s at the Orchard
Plentiful shade, bountiful greenery, an old-fashioned water tower and varied seating options – from barstools to bistro tables to picnic benches – make this an idyllic spot for a girls’ brunch or family dinner. But the real draw for parents is the splash pad, where kids can frolic freely but close enough for grown-ups to maintain a watchful eye.
Must-order dish: Green chile burger with roasted poblanos, cheddar cheese, chipotle aioli and lettuce on a challah bun ($13.99)
7100 N. 12th St., Phoenix
Fate Brewing Co.
Each of this craft brewery’s locations has a patio, but the ones at the South Scottsdale and Tempe outposts are the most expansive. Long picnic tables provide ample social distancing, and cornhole and a stellar kids’ menu (adult-size burgers and pizza at child-size prices) keep parents lingering over Twist of Fate pretzels and seasonal releases like the Candy Bar Milk Stout.
Must-order dish: The Grape Escape pizza – garlic oil, mozzarella, roasted grapes, goat cheese, rosemary and balsamic glaze ($12)
Three Valley locations, fatebrewing.com
Does anyone go to The Vig and not sit outside? At each of the restaurant’s locations, the patio feels like the eatery equivalent of a town square, the hive from which all activity buzzes. All five boast a fireplace, sports screens and regular live music (in regular times, at least), and the Arcadia and Fillmore joints have bocce ball.
Must-order dish: Red pozole with pork, hominy, avocado, radish, red onions, cabbage and cilantro ($12)
Five Valley locations, thevig.us
The Yard at Culinary Dropout
Challenge your pals to a game of table tennis or cornhole at this breezy, shaded outdoor haven, which has fans for summer and heating lamps and fire pits for winter. Embrace the casual vibe and order a spread of snacky dishes to enjoy while plopped on a plush armchair or a low-riding Adirondack chair. Great cocktails and beer specials, too.
Must-order dish: Soft pretzels and provolone fondue ($13.25), barbecue pork belly nachos ($14)
5632 N. Seventh St., Phoenix
Rooftop & Pool Scene
Raise the roof? Jump in the pool? Why not both at these see-and-be-seen spots?
Lylo Swim Club
The new poolside bar at ARRIVE Phoenix hotel is like Candy Land for adults. Everything is bright, colorful and cartoony, but instead of lollipops and gumdrops, there are candy-colored cocktails like the Dole Whipped and Strawberry Sbagliato, and punchy Polynesian-inspired bites like Spam musubi and Hawaiian mac salad. And a pink foosball table, of course.
Must-order dish: Mochiko chicken ($26 for a bucket that serves two), ahi bowl with cucumber, red onion, jicama, tobiko and poke sauce ($15)
400 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
This CityScape hot spot blends two of our favorite things: amazing Downtown views and a smoking pool scene. Lustre is located on the roof of the Hotel Palomar, whose sleek design touches extend outside. Lounge on a poolside chaise and sip a strawberry spritzer during the day or splurge on a bottle of Decoy Cabernet on a brisk autumn afternoon.
Must-order dish: Impossible tacos – plant-based chorizo, avocado, micro cilantro, lime cashew aioli ($13)
2 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix
The Clarendon Hotel
Get up close and personal with the Downtown skyline on this retro hotel’s rooftop Skydeck. Order dinner and drinks at Fuego, its resident Latin fusion restaurant, and then meander upstairs to sip sangria on cushy bench seating and watch the sunset. It’s great for intimate gatherings and staycations, too.
Must-order dish: Pernil asado – slow-cooked pork with mojo, sugar-cured cabbage and tortillas ($26)
401 W. Clarendon Ave., Phoenix
Upstairs at FLINT
FLINT by Baltaire took the Valley by surprise when it opened last fall, with its moody lighting, midcentury modern-ish décor and jaw-droppingly good wood-fired Mediterranean fare. But its rooftop cocktail lounge takes the sexy cake with panoramic views of the Valley punctuated by crystal chandeliers and a canopy of undulating drapery.
Must-order dish: Charred eggplant spread with pomegranate, pine nuts and mint ($13), spicy fried chicken with harissa, tahini, ranch and lime ($16)
2425 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
You could certainly have worse alibis than drinking and noshing at a rooftop hotel bar. The new Alibi at Canopy by Hilton Tempe Downtown is inspired by tropical coasts, which you can see in the décor (beachy, midcentury modern woven chairs; colorful prints) and the drinks (tamarind-infused Moscow mules, spicy mai tais). Kick back and pretend you’re on vacation.
Must-order dish: Empanadas stuffed with pork, with ginger, green onion, soy and ponzu sauce ($9)
108 E. University Dr., Tempe
Primo People Watching
Who needs TVs when you’re in the thick of an urban milieu?
A Scottsdale nightlife classic, AZ/88 has been pouring legendary martinis for more than three decades. Modern white chairs and tables constellate on the patio under a striking art installation that is illuminated at night. Slurp a lemon drop while watching the nocturnal creatures of Old Town slink and sway on weekend nights.
Must-order dish: Burger Au Poivre II – black peppercorn-crusted burger with red onion-Burgundy sauce, melted blue cheese and Nueske’s bacon ($17)
7353 Scottsdale Mall, Scottsdale
Chef Justin Beckett’s Southern-inspired, industrial-meets-traditional space anchors The Newton, an adaptive reuse project that honors the Camelback Road hot spot’s early tenants. Head to the patio for freewheeling views of Camelback from barstools facing the storied street and a fire pit come cooler weather. Beckett maintains an impressive list of Arizona wines as well.
Must-order dish: Fried chicken with Yukon gold mashed potatoes and sautéed seasonal vegetables ($26)
300 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
the larder + the delta
The patio is petite, but it puts you right in the Downtown Phoenix action on Central Avenue and Portland Street. Feast on chef Stephen Jones’ nouveau soul food and watch all manner of city dwellers walk, jog, skate and drive by en route to the Japanese Friendship Garden, Burton Barr Central Library or brunch.
Must-order dish: Barbecued Mexican sweet shrimp and grits with smoked andouille, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, charred lemon and “wet nap,” per the menu ($27)
200 W. Portland St., Phoenix
Arizona Wilderness DTPHX
The original Gilbert location has a sweet little patio, but it pales in comparison to Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.’s beer garden in Downtown Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row arts district. Hunker down at a picnic table or in an Adirondack chair, or post up at the wraparound bar that faces the street to people-watch with pint in hand.
Must-order dish: Downtowner burger with fire-roasted corn guacamole, pepper jack, crispy onion strings, lettuce, tomato and chipotle ranch ($14)
201 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix
12 West Brewing Co.
The bi-level patio at this craft brewery provides ground-floor and second-story views of Mesa’s historical Main Street, which is sometimes sleepy and sometimes bustling. The space is industrial chic, with lots of brick, wood and metal, and the beers are a fun mix of traditional and experimental. There’s a decent patio at 12 West’s Barnone location in Gilbert, too.
Must-order dish: Spicy katsu chicken thigh sandwich with Asian slaw and Thai chile aioli ($13)
12 W. Main St., Mesa
Friendly to Fido
Man’s best friend wants to go to brunch sometimes, too. Just bring a leash.
Canine companions are so beloved at this Old Town (hot) dog house that it has a dog birthday party package. Not kidding. For two-legged friends, there are tasty brats, beer and games, including pingpong, bag toss, darts and life-size Jenga. And if a bit of your artisanal bratwurst fell onto the ground for Fifi to gobble up, we’re sure she wouldn’t mind.
Must-order dish: Sausage board with Haus, spicy and sweet brats ($13)
3622 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale
O.H.S.O. Brewery + Distillery
In the Valley, O.H.S.O. is synonymous with “dog-friendly patio.” Each of the craft brewery and distillery’s locations has an expansive patio with its trademark orange umbrellas. And for your furry friends: complimentary treats and bowls of fresh water. The Paradise Valley and Gilbert locations also have yard game so humans can have fun, too.
Must-order dish: Green chile pork with corn, cotija, rice, poblano aioli, pickled onions and tortillas ($15)
Four Valley locations, ohsobrewery.com
Cornish Pasty Co.
Of its handful of locations, this pasty peddler’s Scottsdale and Mesa spots have the most sprawling patios for you and your puppy posse. The aesthetic is minimalist: long wooden bench seating, picnic tables and fans. Scottsdale’s outdoor bar seating and plentiful trees give it a verdant hideaway feel.
Must-order dish: The Oggie – steak, potato, onion and rutabaga ($11, also available in a vegan version)
Five Valley locations, cornishpastyco.com
If we’re stereotyping, sushi bars are usually a bit quieter and buttoned-up – not the sort of places you’d expect to welcome your slobbery sidekick. And yet Squid Ink says irasshaimase to pups and their owners on its barebones patios in Downtown Phoenix and Peoria. The CityScape Squid Ink has urban bustle, while the Lake Pleasant Pavilion outpost has suburban placidity.
Must-order dish: Double yellow roll – spicy yellowtail, fresh yellowtail, avocado, jalapeño, green onion, cilantro, sweet miso, spicy ponzu and sriracha ($15)
Two Valley locations, squidinksushi.com
Pedal Haus Brewery
Restaurateur Julian Wright loves dogs so much that he frequently brings his own to work with him. And what did the brewery owner name his pooch? Barley, of course. Dogs of all names and breeds are welcome on the spacious patios of Pedal Haus’ locations. Prost, pups!
Must-order dish: German-style flammkuchen – mozzarella, béchamel, bacon, caraway, caramelized onions ($13)
Two Valley locations, pedalhausbrewery.com
Special Events & Food Trucks
Don’t limit your plein-air repasts to restaurant patios.
Farmer and entrepreneur extraordinaire Carrie Schnepf is always cooking up something new and fun at her family farm. The Forage with the Farmer dinner takes place this month (date TBD at press time) and includes a guided garden tour where guests pick their own produce and flowers for an intimate meal on the farm.
Must-order dish: The menu varies by season and by what people pick. A sample meal: zucchini bread and a vegetable medley on a bed of couscous.
24810 S. Rittenhouse Rd., Queen Creek
Dr. A.J. Chandler Park
To give restaurants with limited capacity a boost during COVID-19 restrictions, the city of Chandler now permits patrons of downtown restaurants to enjoy their meals, including alcohol, in the park. Some restrictions apply – only beer and wine are allowed, and only during certain hours – but it’s still a boon for businesses and diners.
Must-order dish: Maffyletta sandwich ($11.75) and cheese board (prices vary) from Mingle + Graze
3 S. Arizona Ave., Chandler
Cloth & Flame
Matt Cooley and Olivia Laux are masters of outdoor dining, having coordinated hundreds of community dinners, engagements, weddings, birthday parties and more with their “temporary venue” model of pop-up events. The husband-and-wife team work with the Valley’s best chefs to create original menus for spectacular destination meals, which can be booked privately as well.
Must-order dish: The thrill is in the surprise!
Mesa Feastival Forest
Food truck feast meets music festival at this weekly event, held every Saturday from 5:30-9 p.m. in downtown Mesa’s Pioneer Park. More than 12 food trucks are slotted for each “feastival.” Seating is provided, but guests are encouraged to bring their own chairs, tables, picnic blankets and leashed pets.
Must-order dish: It depends on which food trucks are there! We say order several dishes to sample as much as possible.
526 E. Main St., Mesa
5 Food Trucks to Track Down
Randizzle’s food truck slings juicy gourmet burgers and tasty crunchy tacos. Instagram:
Cuties Lemonade’s citrusy creations are a step above, with real fruit and slushy options. Instagram:
Ni De Aqui Ni De Alla specializes in authentic Mexican food, from tacos to pambazos. Instagram:
Native Coffee Co.’s menu boasts indigenous cuisine-inspired drinks like desert sage iced tea. Instagram: @nativecoffeeco.az
Biscuit Freaks turns biscuits and gravy up a notch with green chile, nacho and fajita versions. Instagram: