6440 N. Campbell Ave.
READERS' PICK: Tucson boasts its share of fancy dining venues, but none is as consistently mentioned as Anthony's as the place to go for those special occasions. Perched on a lofty hillside in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, Anthony's delivers a knockout combination of fine food, an extensive wine list, fantastic views and stellar service. From fresh-cut flowers to the friendly and efficient staff, Anthony's pampers the diner completely. Start things off with an order of Anthony's escargots, tender mollusks sautéed in lavish amounts of butter and garlic. Several outstanding menu selections cover the range from continental to international. The restaurant seems to be at its best, though, when focusing on the classics. Rack of lamb, for instance, is always a delight: cooked to perfection, decadently succulent and lightly seasoned with a rub of garlic and rosemary. Exquisite. Fresh seafood is often a featured specialty, and these dishes also reflect the kitchen's deft expertise. If you find yourself at Anthony's at an off-peak time, ask someone if you can have a quick peek at the restaurant's hillside wine cellar. Housing 1,200 bottles of top-quality vino, it's a lovely sight to behold.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Janos at the Westin La Paloma, 3770 E. Sunrise Drive. When Janos Wilder shifted his operation to the Catalina foothills, some worried that the authentic grace and style of his original downtown restaurant couldn't be duplicated at a mere resort. But the jury has convened, and the consensus is that the master has prevailed! The same degree of innovation and intrigue greets the diner on the new menu, with every item utilizing only the freshest and most seasonably available ingredients, as is Janos' trademark. Chiles are one of Wilder's favorite foodstuffs, and can be found holding court in a number of dishes including a dense, bittersweet chocolate ice-cream laced with the fire of jalapeños. Baby vegetables (bought from a small organic farm near Green Valley) encourage even the most resistant souls to eat their veggies. Every item sings with Janos' characteristic blend of creativity and talent. The ambiance at the new location, while not as full of historic character as the Steven's House downtown, is nevertheless breathtaking with its window-encased dining room and vaulted ceilings and sumptuously colored walls of plum, gold and burgundy.
MORE MANIA: When five-star dining was the domain of the bigger cities, the Tack Room (7300 E. Vactor Ranch Trail) stood out as the only local contender in a field of heavyweights. Times have changed, and Tucson now boasts a number of nationally recognized eateries; but the Tack Room still stands out as one of the city's finest. By turns a racetrack, a working ranch, a resort and now a restaurant, the Tack Room has managed to hold on to the plucky character of its past while embracing a more daring and imaginative menu for its guests. Meat and potatoes may once have held sway here, but these days such blockbuster attractions as chateaubriand nuzzle alongside exotic choices like marinated Guaymas shrimp, skewered with lemon grass and grilled, served with purple Thai rice and a sauce of yellow tomatoes, poblano chiles, coconut milk, lime zest and cilantro. A roast duckling entrée finds its way into a pistachio crust, served with a jalapeño and lime glaze and an orange-fig chutney (capitalizing on produce from Arizona farms). Service is impeccable, and the classic dessert of baked Alaska is simply not to be missed.