One of the great joys of parenthood is, maybe not so surprisingly, getting away from the kids. As in "date night." Secure a baby sitter, make dinner reservations, check the movie schedule and flee the scene at home.
For the Mrs. and I, this usually means visiting a restaurant with linen tablecloths and napkins, actual lit candles and the complete absence of a kid's menu. No Dino Nuggets or mac 'n' cheese anywhere. Roy's, Fleming's, Top of the Rock at The Buttes and House of Tricks are a few long-time favs. And date night is never complete without a bottle of wine. After all, we need something to decompress from all the he-said, she-said fighting going on at home.
Wine is an important part of any date night, and some restaurants clearly take their wine programs and lists more seriously than others. Luckily, there are a number of good options in the East Valley. Use any of the aforementioned recommendations, or check out some of these venues with stellar wine lists.
How about having access to one of the largest wine shops in the Valley right next door in AZ Wine Co., and being able to pick something to match your meal (or have one recommended) on the spot? A mere $10 corkage fee ($5 for half-bottles), and this is a no-brainer. Better still, go with Atlas' multicourse tasting menu and have wine paired along the way. Solid and ever-changing international fare and an interactive experience makes for a fun evening. 2515 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale. (480) 990-2433.
The original on Mill Avenue is one of the few restaurants in the Valley to receive trade journal Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence for its wine program. And once you peruse Caffe Boa's selection of 400-plus bottles, featuring more than 50 wines by the glass, you know they take the award and its wine service seriously. Enjoy the fine Riedel stemware and taste your way through several wines with one of Boa's wine flights. 398 S. Mill Ave., Tempe. (480) 968-9112.
In the land of Rawhide, slot machines and emerald fairways remains this East Valley hidden gem at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa. A recipient of Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence and AAA Five-Diamond winner, Kai should be on any couple's short list for date night and an exceptional wine list. Forty-plus wine-by-the-glass options kick things off, but it's the rock star private list that raises an eyebrow. Cult wines like Grange, Insignia and Turley, among others, evoke a double take. Are we at the old Mary Elaine's? Nope. Let's hit the casino after dinner. 5594 W. Wild Horse Pass Blvd., Gila River Indian Community. (602) 225-0100.
Any restaurant or wine bar that has Alsace on its menu is a winner in my book; it shows passion and understanding of some of the finest white wines on the planet. And 98 South at last check had three or four on its menu. But in addition to those beauties from northeastern France, the wine list shows a thoughtful mix of bottles from across the globe in styles that work well with food. Regional bottles from Arizona and New Mexico show a commitment to our community. 98 S. San Marcos Place, Chandler. (480) 814-9800.
THE MELTING POT
This may be the ultimate date night spot. Plus, Melting Pot features an amazing wine list. Secure a cozy table for two where you can draw the curtains, get the cheese melting and let the games begin. A terrific bubbly list and more than 20 half-bottles and splits encourage intimacy and sharing. If you want to sample around the Melting Pot's California-centric by-the-glass list, there are more than 30 red and whites to choose from. Dessert wines, scotches and specialty drinks offer lots of options. 3626 E. Ray Road, Phoenix. (480) 704-9206.
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