12 Favorite Places to Eat Outdoors in Greater Phoenix
|The House at Secret Garden|
Housed in a lovely Spanish Colonial mansion built in 1929, The House at Secret Garden, which sits right on bustling Baseline Road, is everything its name suggests -- a glittering gem hidden in plain view. Owner Pat Christofolo and her chef-son Dustin have created a peaceful, gracious retreat indoors and out, but unless your heart's set on happy hour (offered indoors only) you'll want to head straight for the cozy, flower-filled patio, finished in flagstone and bordered by orchid trees. Once you've taken in its other charms -- a small fish pond and stone fireplace -- you'll be ready to concentrate on Dustin's Italian-inflected, Modern American menu, which runs to lemon chicken with smashed potatoes and rosemary, hand-made pappardalle with wild boar sausage and shrimp and grits.
It's just a cozy little 20's era house, nothing fancy, really, fixed up like a 19th Century French bordello. Although the interior, with its flocked wallpaper, eye-popping, mirrored backbar and crystal chandeliers is a lot of fun, it's impossible to resist the charming bricked patio, edged by curling cat's claw and a row of shade trees (including one great big shady monster at the patio's far end). An imposing brick fireplace promises to be fun when winter arrives. Meanwhile Matt Carter's outstanding European-influenced modern American food, which includes wood-grilled crab leg with aji amarillo-lime butter, steak tartare and duck confit meat balls with foie gras is good enough to put time and place right out of your head.