Hi all; I hope everyone had a great Easter weekend! Mine was lovely – I got to enjoy some much-needed downtime, fun with family, and lots of delicious food. On Saturday, Tania and I hosted my parents for breakfast, then on Sunday we went to their place for brunch and visited with Tania’s family afterwards. We were also celebrating Tania’s birthday – she turned 31 yesterday! All in all, it was a wonderful weekend.
As I promised in my latest post about the best things to see and do in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, today I’m back sharing my picks for the best places to eat in these two fabulous cities. From fine dining restaurants to laidback cafés to delightful dessert shops, Phoenix and Scottsdale have something to cater to every foodie. I got to check out so many great eateries during my trip and wanted to share my favourites with y’all – so without further ado, here they are!
AZ/88 – This legendary bar and bistro has a sprawling patio with views of the Scottsdale Civic Center Park, and indoor art installations that rotate frequently – when we visited, it was a massive disco ball installation, perhaps more ’54’ than ’88’! The bar is famous for their martinis, which are said to be the best in Scottsdale. Appropriately, their drink menu dedicates two pages to martinis alone, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. I enjoyed a fruity and refreshing Fleurtini (Smirnoff Raspberry, framboise liqueur, lime, cranberry and champagne) while my friend stayed on-trend with an espresso martini (Smirnoff vodka, Kahlua, Irish Cream, creme de cacao, and a shot of espresso.) The drinks were delicious – and huge! We enjoyed them alongside a plate of waffle fries served with remoulade, spicy chili ketchup and buffalo-blue cheese dips.
Chantico – This elegant Mexican restaurant showed us such a good time that – save for this photo my friend Liv and I took out front – I forgot to take any photos of the food or interior! (I know, I can barely believe it myself.) But I wanted to write about it anyways, because it was too good to exclude. The vibe is chic and sophisticated: from the fairy-lit trees greeting visitors at the entrance, to the sleek cane furniture and intricately patterned floor tiles inside. We started with margaritas, which were outstanding. (Chantico is known for their extensive range of high-end tequilas, and even offers tequila flights.) Complimentary chips and salsa are served before your meal, but we also got some guacamole to share. The portions are impressive – we were a group of five that shared a single guacamole appetizer, and there was more than enough to go around! For my main, I got the Birria Quesa taco plate. For those who haven’t tried birria tacos (I hadn’t until then), they’re made by simmering beef in a traditional stew until it’s juicy and tender. The beef is then placed inside a tortilla, dipped back in the stew, and pan-fried until golden and crispy. After tasting my first birria taco, I can see why it’s such a popular dish: I’m an official convert! I only wish I had photos to show you, but you’ll just have to take my word for it and check Chantico out for yourself.
The Farm at South Mountain – If you’re into farm-to-table dining, you will love this delightful outdoor destination. The sprawling property is home to three restaurants, a home-and-garden boutique, some adorable resident farm animals, and a lush organic garden where they grow their own fruits, vegetables, herbs and even edible flowers. In 2012, The Farm was purchased by local caterer Pat Christofolo, a culinary industry veteran and visionary who helped transform it into the agritourism hotspot it is today. A popular wedding, event and foodie destination, The Farm hosts over 200 events and welcomes over 100,000 visitors every year. We had lunch at one of their three onsite restaurants – The Farm Kitchen – which serves casual favourites like sandwiches, soups and salads. They also have a liquor license, so you can enjoy a cocktail while you wait! You order from a walk-up counter, and can then enjoy your meal at a picnic table under their grove of pecan trees (or bring your own blanket and picnic on the grass!) We shared a charcuterie box, which consisted of local cheeses, fresh and dried fruits, glazed pecans and house-baked bread. We also enjoyed Chicken BLTA sandwiches (chicken, bacon, field greens, dates, apples, tomatoes and basil mayo on homestyle ‘country bread’) with a side of French onion soup. Our cocktails (I got a pink margarita and my friend Liv got a Greyhound) came in to-go cups, so we could enjoy them while strolling around the beautiful property. The food was simple, wholesome and delicious: everything a picnic lunch should be. Just be prepared for a wait if you come during peak hours like we did: this is a popular spot! We came on a Saturday in the early afternoon, and from the time we got in line until the time we got our food, it was probably 1 1/2 hours. I will say it was worth the wait, though! If you’re looking for a table service experience, try The Farm’s breakfast restaurant The Morning Glory Café, or treat yourself to a gourmet meal at their upscale Quiessence.
LON’s at The Hermosa Inn – My first full day in Scottsdale was on a Friday, and my friend had to work, which meant I was on my own for the day. Luckily, I’m a pretty good solo traveler who happens to enjoy her own company, and I have no qualms about dining out on my own. In fact, one of my favourite things to do is to take myself on a solo date at a nice restaurant. So when I thought about the best way to kick off my vacation, I knew I wanted to treat myself to a fancy breakfast somewhere. Located just northwest of Scottsdale in idyllic Paradise Valley, the Hermosa Inn is a luxury boutique hotel, originally built by cowboy artist Lon Megargee as his personal residence in 1935. Named in his honour, LON’s Restaurant is an AAA four diamond restaurant with one of the prettiest patios I’ve ever seen. I guess I’m an early bird because I came at 9:30 and had the patio all to myself – tables didn’t start filling up until after 10. I treated myself to the buttermilk pancakes, which came served with banana compote, maple syrup, strawberry jam and vanilla-infused whipped cream. They were delicious, and my server Angela was so friendly and hospitable. Highly recommend this place!
Nook Kitchen – This Italian spot is my friend Liv’s favourite restaurant in town, and after coming here for dinner, it’s easy to see why – everything we ordered was amazing! We started with cocktails: I got the ‘She’s Electric’ (Tanqueray Sevilla Orange, strawberry watermelon gin, tarragon syrup and citrus soda) and it was so fruity and refreshing! We shared the Brussels Chips appetizer to start – these are fried jumbo Brussels leaves served with maple bacon aioli, and they were to die for. (Crispy Brussels sprouts are one of my favourite sides any day, but these were next-level!) For our mains, we ordered pizzas: I got the Mela e Gorgonzola, which is topped with three cheeses (mozzarella, parmesan and gorgonzola), green apples and caramelized onions. My friend Liv got the Diavolo (mozzarella, parmesan, spicy soppressata and basil). Afterwards, we ordered espresso martinis and shared the restaurant’s signature dessert, The Nookie: a warm, skillet-baked chocolate chip cookie, drizzled with caramel and chocolate sauces, and topped with vanilla bean ice cream and a hefty dose of whipped cream. It was the perfect sweet treat to end our meal. If you’re looking for a decadent and indulgent meal, look no further than Nook!
Ruze Cake House – Located off an unassuming alleyway in the Old Town Arts District, you wouldn’t expect this small bakery to be so bustling – but I suppose IYKYK! The shop has become super popular for its Instagram-worthy interior and its gourmet assortment of macarons in all sorts of unique flavours, from Prickly Pear to Fruity Pebbles to French Fry Milkshake (yes, you read that right!) I went classic with the Pistachio Rose macaron, which tasted just as amazing as it looked. Ruze is also known for their over-the-top, cotton-candy-topped bubble tea creations and for their custom cakes, cupcakes and sugar cookies – a popular choice for local weddings and events. Don’t forget to snag a selfie with their neon “Stop & Taste The Roses” sign!
Sprinkles Cupcakes – This classic chain – that first opened in 2005 – was the world’s first cupcake bakery, and is widely credited with spearheading the 2000s gourmet cupcake trend. While other trendy foods like mochi donuts and artisanal croissants have since taken over the dessert scene, I’m still a fan of the cupcake – after all, you can’t go wrong with a classic! Sprinkles has 24 outposts throughout the United States, and is famous for their cupcake ATMs, which dispense cupcakes 24 hours a day – perfect for your late-night sugar cravings. If the thought of vending machine cake grosses you out, fear not: the cupcakes are freshly baked and restocked regularly, and between late-night and early-morning shifts, the bakery guarantees that your ATM cupcake will never be more than a couple of hours old.
The Sugar Bowl – My friend told me that this is one of Scottsdale’s most iconic dessert spots. Of course, it was already on my radar before she even mentioned it! If there’s one thing I love more than ice cream, it’s retro décor, and when I saw this spot frequently mentioned on lists of Scottsdale’s best dessert shops, I was immediately intrigued. Founded in 1958, the old-fashioned soda fountain claims they’ve hardly changed their décor or their menu items since they opened. (If only the prices were the same… that said, they’re still quite reasonable!) The whimsical and nostalgic interior boasts pink leather banquettes, retro pink barstools, colourful murals and Tiffany chandeliers. If The Sugar Bowl sounds familiar to you, you may remember it from fan-favourite newspaper comic The Family Circus. Cartoonist Bil Keane, who lived in Scottsdale, featured the restaurant regularly in his cartoons, and they adorn both the walls and menus of The Sugar Bowl. The restaurant has a full lunch/dinner menu, but of course, they’re most famous for their sweet treats. I ordered a Pinnacle Peak Sundae, which consists of two scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with whipped cream and your choice of syrup (I chose cherry). I also added nuts to my sundae for $1.50. These aren’t your classic peanuts, but salted Spanish peanuts, which are very salty and flavourful – I wasn’t expecting them to have such a kick, but they paired perfectly with the sweetness of the sundae.
The Grotto Café – Located in the Wild West-style tourist town of Cave Creek, The Grotto is where we stopped for lunch en route to infamous experimental desert city Arcosanti (see my previous post to read all about that experience!) The family-run café is renowned for their award-winning locally roasted coffee, freshly baked pastries, and extensive sandwich menu. You can grab food to go, or you can enjoy your meal on their lush leafy patio – or inside, in their homey, laidback space that’s lined with vintage music posters. I had a tough time choosing between all of their delicious-looking sandwiches, but ultimately went with the ham and swiss sourdough panini. My friend Liv ordered the BLTA (bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado) sandwich and her partner Andy got the meatball marinara sub. We all upgraded to a side of fries and ordered fresh, house-made lemonades to go. No photos of the food, unfortunately (we were starving and on a tight timeline to make it to our Arcosanti tour) but everything was delicious and I can’t recommend this spot enough!
Rock Springs Café – This popular roadside stop is located in Black Canyon City, approximately 22 miles north of Phoenix. We stopped here on our way back from Arcosanti because my friend told me their pie was to die for! Indeed, Rock Springs Café is famous for their home-baked pies, which they bake in a wide variety of flavours, from apple to pecan to coconut cream, and everything in between. You can enjoy a full meal in their historic restaurant, which was originally a general store back in the early 1900s. (Before that, it served as a military camp and water stop for miners and travelers on the Black Canyon Trail – and before that, the area was an encampment for Yavapai Indians.) You can also just order an individual slice of pie, or pick up a whole pie to take home. By the time we arrived in the late afternoon, they were all sold out of individual slices, so we had no choice but to buy an entire pie (poor us!) We opted for key lime, which we enjoyed later that night while watching a movie, and I can confirm that this truly is one of the best pies I’ve ever tasted. Key lime is also a personal favourite of mine, so it was perfection all around.
Well, there you have it – my picks for the best eateries in Phoenix, Scottsdale and beyond! As always, if you have any questions about any of the places I’ve recommended, simply leave a comment or send me an email – I’d love to provide info or suggestions wherever I can.
In the next few days, I’ll be back to sharing some fun things to do closer to home – stay tuned!
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