PHX Restaurant Ambiance

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Posts: 107
Joined: 8 years ago
Location: Scottsdale, AZ


I would love to hear your opinions on ambiance in valley restaurants.

This has always been big for me. I took restaurant mgt courses in college before switching to business. I probably should have stayed with the restaurant stuff, but at the time I felt they were setting me up to run a Cracker Barrel. Not to say Cracker Barrel does not have does, just not the kind I am looking for. I would dream up restaurant ambiance concepts. I remember one I kept coming back to. Rural setting/farm to table type restaurant (best ON a farm). Dark, creeky wood plank floors, candles, small bubbling water features, low volume Leonard Cohen..... you get the idea, but all this completely enclosed in a greenhouse/ herb garden. Glass walls (I would like them to naturally collect tons of condensation so the view is blurry green), pitch black ceiling with "skylights" above each table. The greenhouse lights ARE the restaurant lights. A small square box. Maybe 10 tables. All the food is prepared in another building close by and on and on and on. Restaurant name Blurry Green.

The restaurant that brought me back to this old friend was unlikely. El Pollo Supremo in Tempe. It is a bizarre ambiance, but I really like it. They built a little "house" inside. Inside the house the strange red chicken is grilled. I was sitting next to the little house facing the back of the restaurant and was able to hear the chopping and grilling going on inside. My wife and I got into a long conversation and at some point I forgot where I was. I really could have been in Mexico or anywhere. I had to think for a second and remember I was in Tempe on University in a strip mall. Once I realized this I took a better look at the restaurant. Cool paint, cool little house, simple everything, slightly creepy framed photos and somehow ...warm. The brand of sugar on the table was Ambiance.

I probably ran this thread into the ground a ways back, but if anyone made it this far please post your valley favorites for ambiance and why. High end, low end, no end...
Posts: 355
Joined: 9 years ago


I'm not the creative type that comes up with concept-driven design like that, but I will say that there's a Mariscos place here in SoPho at the beginning of a fun taco crawl that is an old Denny's or similar, painted all aqua with fish and sea creatures on the exterior. Now, that kind of design is not that uncommon around here, but the place also has round-ish windows, so at night it particularly looks like the people eating inside are sitting inside of an aquarium. It just tickles me. They all look like they're underwater! They're eating fish. :P It's like a little zoo exhibit right on the street.

I am very sensitive to scale and design, though, and there's a restaurant around here that's a family-friendly coffee and wine bar with gastropub leanings, and it's made to look like a modern European Cafe, all white walls and bright modern chairs, and that's the last thing I want surrounding me when I'm in the mood for that kind of food. I want warm colors, cozy, warm lighting, dark woods, organic forms and materials. I really like the food and people there, but I kind of have to brace myself for the atmosphere when I go. So yeah, sometimes I'm in a restaurant and I think, the food's great here but that lamp is wrong and why did they pick THESE chairs, they're all wrong.

Don't get me started on bathrooms. The ones that look and smell like a Kirkland's threw up on them. You should not be able to taste potpourri after you leave a restaurant bathroom. It ruins the meal.