Greg Esser's 5 Best Places to Take an International Artist to Dinner in Metro Phoenix

Categories: Personal Best

Katie Walter
Prickly pear lemonade at the Heard.
The countdown to Best of Phoenix is on. Mark your calendar: This year's issue will be on newsstands September 26. What better way to warm up than by asking some local "experts" to list their own personal bests? This week, Greg Esser -- director of the International Artist Residency program and the Desert Initiative at Arizona State University -- offers up his five favorite spots to take an artist to dinner.

Greg Esser
An amazing chalk drawing by visiting artist Bassim Al-Shaker on a recent Friday night at Combine.

By Greg Esser

One of the many tasks for my day job is figuring out where to take new visiting international artists, sometimes arriving in the United States for the first time, to create the perfect first impression of Phoenix. The ASU Art Museum International Visiting Artist Program brings artists from around the world to develop new artwork in collaboration with diverse individuals and community organizations throughout Arizona with support from the expansive research and other resources of Arizona State University. Artists live in downtown Phoenix at Combine Studios from a few weeks to a few months while developing projects.

See also: Georganne Bryant's 5 Best Sunday Breakfast Spots in Metro Phoenix

Katie Walter
Green chili at Los Dos Molinos.
Los Dos Molinos
There is no better place in the city to watch the sun go down than Dobbins Lookout at South Mountain preserve. The panoramic view at 2,330 feet is like the view from the airplane window for arriving international artists. How fortunate that at the bottom of the return drive into the city Los Dos Molinos (make sure you hit this particular location, the most picturesque of the local chain's various spots) happens to serve one of the best margaritas in town along with a killer New Mexico Hatch Valley Green Chili.

Heard Museum Cafe
The Heard Museum is undoubtedly the best place to give an overview of the 22 different indigenous communities that call Arizona home through artwork and exhibitions. The exhibition "Remembering Our Indian School Days: The Boarding School Experience" remains one of the most moving narratives and the mural "Fear of Red Planet" by Phoenix artist Steven Yazzie is one of the city's best public art installations, graphically portraying histories that most history books omit. The real draw is the perfectly spiced posole with roasted pork at the Heard Museum Café, itself worth the trip. The prickly pear lemonade or margarita also gives a perfect culinary introduction to the foods and cultures of the Sonoran desert.

Katie Walter
Wedge salad at Durant's.
Little else compares to the experience of walking through the back door into the kitchen of Durant's to make a first impression. The deep red velour wallpaper and crisp black and white dress reinforce the impression of a lost era. Long a hangout for theater professionals and artists, Durant's still offers some of the best mixology, wines, steaks and seafood in central Phoenix. It is an excellent choice for artists, curators and collectors. My personal menu favorite is the wedge salad.

Location Info



Los Dos Molinos

8646 S. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Music

Heard Museum

2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ

Category: General


2611 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Music

Gallo Blanco Cafe

401 W. Clarendon Ave., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Cocina 10

308 N. 2nd Ave., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Courtyard Café

2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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