Special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and date nights don't stop for anyone, even a pandemic. That's why it's important to still celebrate these milestones even though the circumstances might be a bit different this year (this writer had 20 plus people at a murder mystery birthday last year but definitely not the case this time around). Restaurants still provide a perfect setting for marking the day, even with social distancing measures in place (hello patios and cooler weather!). We've put together a series on places to go around the Valley to get that celebratory drink and piece of cake and also offer a fun and unique time, from the Westside to Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe. Tempe is up first.
If you want an experience like no other, head to Top of the Rock Restaurant at the Marriott Buttes Resort. The view alone is stunning along with the delicious food. Popular dishes include the Filet Mignon, Thai Shrimp and Chicken and Doughnuts. It can be a bit pricey, so save this spot for an anniversary or a birthday instead of just a regular date night. Due to spacing restrictions with COVID-19, the restaurant is not taking table requests right now, but it's a good idea to head there early anyway to get a glimpse of the sunset. It also may be helpful to pick an off day or time to be able to get a good seat outside. The current dining hours are 5:30 to 9 p.m. on Thursday through Sunday. Top of the Rock Restaurant is located at 2000 W. Westcourt Way, Tempe; 602.431.2370; www.marriott.com/hotels/hotel-information/restaurant/phxtm-marriott-phoenix-resort-tempe-at-the-buttes
Cotton & Copper took a six month break during the pandemic but is now back and better than ever, observing all health and safety guidelines. It has a fun, speakeasy feel, and chef Tamara Stanger focuses on highlighting local ingredients, many of which are foraged directly from the Arizona desert (in line with the restaurant's name which is reminiscent of Arizona's 5 C's or the pillars of Arizona's early economy — Copper, Cattle, Cotton, Citrus and Climate). The menu changes regularly along with the seasons, but the drinks are just as much a reason to go. Sean Traynor takes the lead over at the bar where he's designed cocktails like the Agua Caliente, with Agave de Cortes mezcal infused with roasted New Mexico ancho chiles. Cotton & Copper is a good date spot for new and established couples or even for a small birthday gathering with friends. Cotton & Copper is located at 1006 E Warner Road, #113, Tempe; 480.629.4270; www.cottonandcopperaz.com
There is a reason that House of Tricks has been a Tempe mainstay for 30 plus years. Named after owners Robert and Robin Trick, it's a charming eatery off the beaten path and away from the hustle and bustle of Mill Avenue. History goes that the Tricks remodeled a 1920s cottage before purchasing the house next door and building a wooden deck and outdoor patio bar in between them. The outdoor area has misters and umbrellas when it's hotter and a fireplace and heaters during cooler times. It's a perfect spot to sit and spread out and a romantic setting for an anniversary dinner or a hangout spot with friends during happy hour or as they call it "Hours of Tranquility." Guests swear by the Sweet Fig Glazed Pastrami Spiced Duck Breast and the Whole Grain Mustard-Cider Braised Beeler's Pork Volcano Shank. Save room for the Salted Caramel Apple Bread Pudding as well. House of Tricks is located at 114 E 7th Street, Tempe; 480.968.1114; www.houseoftricks.com
It's always fun to gather around the table and share a bunch of food especially if it's as good as it is at Gen Korean BBQ House. It's the place to go for a date night or to celebrate a birthday, and staff members are taking all of the necessary precautions by wearing masks, having you order on your phone and also by installing protective barriers between seats. Be prepared for some louder music and a party-like atmosphere, and it's 90 minutes for all you can eat premium meats and sides that you cook yourself on the grill. Try the Spicy Pork Bulgogi, Gen Signature Galbi and the Seoul Fries. For drinks, the Capri Soju Pouches are like adult, alcohol-spiked Capri Suns in flavors such as strawberry and green apple. Gen Korean BBQ House is located at 2000 E Rio Salado Parkway, Suite 1056, Tempe; 480.939.2650; www.genkoreanbbq.com/tempe
If you're looking for a place to celebrate a birthday with the ladies or even a cute daytime date, head to Drink Me! Tea Room. Afternoon tea is always a pleasurable experience, and Drink Me! does it in a unique way, offering a selection of different tea menus with everything plant based and gluten free. It's a great chance to throw on a sundress and a hat and dress up for a bit! Order the Wonderland Afternoon Tea that comes with selections like an "Egg" Salad Sandwich, Lemon Curd and Coconut Cream Scones and Key Lime Tart with your choice of tea. From October 21 to November 1, there's also the Edgar Allan Poe Afternoon Tea which is sure to put you in a spooky mood just in time for Halloween. The tea room is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Drink Me! Tea Room is located at 1730 E Warner Road, #5, Tempe; 602.206.5469; www.drinkmetearoom.com