[an error occurred while processing this directive] Runaway Holiday - Arizona Biltmore Hotel Review, October 2006 [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]
Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa
2400 East Missouri Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85016
(602) 955-6600

Date of Visit: OCTOBER, 2006

With high summer temperatures "cooled" to high 80's and low 90's, and the summer crush of tourists gone, October is one of the best times of year to visit the American southwest. So it should come as no surprise that this Runaway Reviewer headed for the spa and pool at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. 

"The Jewel of the Desert," the Arizona Biltmore first opened its doors on February 23, 1929. The concrete block structure carries in its design and construction the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright who was consulting architect on the project. Its boxy and "modernistic" shape may not appeal to everyone but its harsh lines are beautifully softened by the lush landscaping that surrounds the hotel buildings lending it a very gracious and refined air.

My visit to the Biltmore was a surprise birthday trip for a friend who is an avid Frank Lloyd Wright fan. (It was such a surprise that he didn't know where we were going until we pulled up on Missouri Avenue.) 

I had booked a standard room (online 5 months prior to our visit) and registration was fast and efficient. Upon hearing it was my friend's birthday, the friendly and vivacious front desk staff upgraded us to a suite. The huge room featured a separate sitting area and dining area with a coffee buffet, complete with full size coffee pot and supplies, well-stocked refrigerator and mini-bar, sumptuous bath with a rainshower shower head and a simply glorious bed. (The bed and pillows had to be some of the most comfortable that I have enjoyed away from home - ever.) The room, decorated in soothing desert tones of beige, amber and rust, was well appointed with mission-style furnishings that lent themselves to the history of the place.  However, the true genius of the concrete block construction became immediately apparent when the noise of nearby visitors faded as quickly as shutting a door.

Overall, the other guests were a nice blend of business people (there were several conferences going on,) families and some singles. Everyone was warm and friendly adding to the overall feeling of welcome.

There is one lounge and four eateries on site: 
Squaw Peak Lounge, an outdoor terrace that offers appetizer and cocktails in the late afternoon and evening.
"The Cafe," a deli-style... well.... cafe that serves breakfast and lunch in an open-air setting. 
The Cabana Club, a poolside restaurant and swim-up bar offering up the three S's (sandwiches, salad and seafood) and, of course, libations. 
The Biltmore Grill serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a casual setting. 
Wright's, the Biltmore's elegant dinner restaurant which features extraordinary cuisine as well as boasting one of the largest wine cellars in the southwest. Serves dinner as well as Sunday brunch.

While at the Biltmore, we sampled the fare at two of the restaurants, "The Cafe" and The Biltmore Grill.

Not feeling like partaking of heavy fare, we ate at "The Cafe," on the night of our arrival. We both chose salads (the Hibachi Salmon Salad for my companion and the Chicken Caesar Salad for me.) The counter help was less than stellar as the girl waiting on us intimated at the lousy day she had been having then, proceeded to box up our order "to go" without asking us (we wanted to dine in.) Once we were able to get her attention, she corrected the error and we soon found ourselves eating outside and looking past the stunning Biltmore lawn and behind the hotel to the mountains of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve which were just spectacular in the light of the setting sun. The salad was fresh and tasty though a little pricey for what we got but, the view more than compensated. However, the highlight of the meal had to be the huge sugar cookie that we shared. Actually, it was more like a sugar cookie cake since it was about an inch thick and about 5 or 6 inches wide. Yum!!

Two days later found us having breakfast at The Biltmore Grill which has a nice, but limited, breakfast menu. The tables were beautifully set with linens, china and glassware as expected. The seating time was a little slow despite the relative lack of clientele but the service was exemplary. We ordered the Morning Fruit Bowl and the Mediterranean Vegetable Frittata, splitting the order between us. Service was delightful as we conversed with Scott, our waiter, a young chef in training. When our breakfast came we were very pleased to see a beautiful, large bowl of succulent, fresh fruit (melons, pineapple and berries all at the peak of ripeness) as well as a lovely, egg white frittata which was already split on separate plates and presented beautifully. Breakfast was healthy, tasty and very reasonably priced.

Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to sample the cuisine at The Cabana Club or Wright's Restaurant.  Do I smell another trip in the air?

Overall, our stay was very nice, however, a few minor complaints...

  • There were only two large towels in the room just enough for bathing but, not enough for swimming. 
  • The hair dryer in the bathroom was not working (which, of course, was not discovered until it was needed.) However, there was air before hair dryers and that, too, did the trick. (And, fortunately, this was a pleasure trip where I could lounge around waiting.) A complaint to the maid produced a new, working model in the room later the same day.
  • And while our in room coffee supply had been replenished, the creamers and sweeteners had not. What should have been a simple request, "Please send up more creamer, sugar and sweetener" produced everything but sugar (which my traveling companion used.) He noticed it and chased down, in the hallway, the maid who brought the partial supplies. She, in turn, said she would be back with the sugar right away. Minutes stretched on to about 20 and he began to fume ("Cap'n! He's slipping into caffeine withdrawal!") So, he called the front desk again. Another ten minutes, and finally a maid showed up with a ziploc bag full of sugar and creamer. Finally, the caffeine pangs were slaked!  However, about 30 minutes later there was another knock on the door and another maid this time with a tray containing more cups and another coffee pot!! When it rains it "pours" I guess.

Other hotel amenities:

For your use, in room plush terry robes from the spa (which may be purchased for $125 each.)
Bathroom well stocked with complimentary Shampoos and Creams from the spa.
A complimentary turn down service is available upon request.
For chess afficionados, there is a "giant" lawn set near the main building.
There are a few retail shops on site which, while a little pricey, were not really too bad for the Biltmore.
The hotel shuttle runs to the nearby mall every hour on the hour.
Parking you may self park in the lot away from the hotel for $7 per night or valet parking (extremely fast and friendly) is $21 per night.

Say "Biltmore" and the average person thinks green manicured lawns, crystal clear pools and pointed attention to detail. Well, our Runaway Reviewer found that the Arizona Biltmore almost lived up to that expectation. Our stay was restful and relaxing and the patrons and staff, alike, were very warm and hospitable. But, in our minds what sets a hotel up as "great" is something a little more intangible the atmosphere, the guests, the feeling that pervades your visit that you have stumbled upon something quite extraordinary that invites you to explore every facet of their amenities and service and in this "specialness" rating we found the Biltmore to fall slightly short of perfect.

Our rating: 4 Dashes out of 5.


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