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Two meals in Phoenix -- please recommend

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I'll be in Phoenix on business next week with my girlfriend. We only have two unscheduled (non-work) meals the entire week -- dinner on Wednesday and Saturday. I would love to try something unique to the Southwest (I'm from the midwest, she's from the south). I found Vincent's on Camelback, but then on this board I've read that it has gone downhill. I swear I've looked, but I can't fine alternate recommendations for good phoenix restaurants with a local flavor. My price range is very flexible (I'm considering Mary Elaine's for one of the meals, because everyone raves about it, but if someone says that a mom-and-pop shack off the highway is the best, then that's even better).

I apologize if this has been asked many times before. I'm new to ChowHound, and I'm not used to the search mechanism -- also, I find the sheer number of posts intimidating, to be honest.

Please help!

Thanks.

--Rafi (aka Clueless in Columbia, SC)

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  1. My first suggestion would be Kai at Wild Horse Pass. It is expensive, but not as expensive as Mary Elaine's, but probably one of the best dining experiences in the Valley. The cuisine is Native American and the experience is wonderful. It's too hot to sit on the delightful patio, but the restaurant faces West which means if you time it right, you will get a view of our desert sunsets.

    Since you are looking for unique and also willing to head for anything, I don't think you can beat a trip to Phoenix Ranch Market. The market itself is wonderful and the food court has some excellent tortas, tacos, horchata and other items. Yes, it is a food court but it serves an excellent array of choices and it is an experience I doubt you will ever find in Columbia (plus the savings will help pay for your dinner at Kai :o).

    Please report back on your excursions!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Seth Chadwick

      Thanks for the lightning-fast reply! I googled Kai and found this amazing review:

      http://www.azcentral.com/ent/dining/a...

      My favorite line: "Why are the schoolkids out in the fields plucking microgreens instead of in the classroom? Is there an overseer?"

      Seriously, it sounds like exactly what I want for the fancy Saturday night meal. The phoenix ranch market sounds perfect for saturday lunch. Now I just have to find a less serious place for Wednesday night.

      Thanks again.

      1. re: Skidmark

        For less serious, with a local flavor, you might consider Cowboy Ciao on Stetson Drive in Scottsdale, or Roaring Fork, also Scottsdale. For truly dressed-down but very local, you could also consider Carlsbad Tavern, on Hayden Road - yup, Scottsdale.

    2. A report back is definitely in order. Just to emphasize it, if you really want something you can't get in South Carolina, you must go to the Phoenix Ranch Market. If you're not quite sure what you've ordered after figuring out the lines, don't worry, it'll be wonderful no matter what.

      I'm not familiar with any of the finer dining places around town, so I have no opinion on Kai. If I were going back (on my current budget), I'd probably end up with a meal at Richardson's Cuisine of New Mexico.

      1. Does anyone have anything to say about Latitude 30? It turns out that I'm staying at the resort where it is located, but I didn't want to go just because it's close. Any good or bad experiences?

        3 Replies
        1. re: Skidmark

          We've had some good meals at Latitude 30. Pan-Asian/Hawaiian seafood. The chef came from Roy's some similar themes and ideas. We've always enjoyed it but don't know that it's unique to the Southwest. I wouldn't opt for this over Kai but for another meal you won't be disappointed at Latitude 30 either. They do a nice job with Butterfish and if it's on the menu the Barramundi preparation was very nice the night I had it.

          OTherwise can only rrepeat what's been said above - all of them are great recommendations. A couple others to toss in would be Los Sombreros and Barrio Cafe.

          You're goign to be close to Guadalupe as well...you might enjoy driving over there...it's a reservation right in the middle of Tempe and probably unlike what you see in SC. It's not a big area so a quick detour on the way to central phoenix or scottsdale. The produce market is nice...I haven't been to the seafood restaurant there but it seems to get really good reviews here on Chowhound.

          Definitely do not miss the Phoenix Ranch Market.

          1. re: ziggylu

            If it was me, I I think Kai for Sat night, Ranch market for Sat lunch and Cowboy Ciao for Wed night would be my dream lineup.

            Other good choices (some already mentioned) for Wed are Richardson's or Roaring Fork...or Barrio Cafe or Los Sombreros.

            Have fun and happy eating in Phoenix!

            1. re: HomeCookKirsten

              not too many choices it just depends what you like if you are an italian fan you must try marcellino's on northern and 13th street it is the best hmemade pasta, romantic little restaurant. their website is fivestaritalian.com

              another goodie of a place is los sombreros in s scottdale, richardsons is heavy but good and mastros for steak

        2. I've been a big fan of Vincent's on Camelback for nearly a decade now. Yes, I take heat on this board, from time to time. Just did two board dinners, plus a catered Greater Phoenix Leadership dinner there, and all was great.

          That said, Cowboy Ciao and Richardson's are unique. Roaring Fork was, and might still be, but I have not dined there, post-McGrath, so I do not know.

          For high-end, I have heard so very many recs. for Kai, that I would have to place it into the mix. Were it not for the calibre of the posters, I might dismiss it, but the top-guns seem to love it, so it MUST be good.

          As for ME's, I've had my problems, but then a lot has changed, so I will not comment. Nothing current, so nothing said. Gonna' give it another go.

          As for the Search mechanism, it works... to a degree. Most of my posts show up on Google, but NOT on CH. I have many of them bookmarked, just to give a URL, when someone asks about restaurants covered. They changed systems about 6 mos. back, and it has not seemed to work well. Anyway, the folk here (in metro-Phx.) are always glad to tout our dining spots.

          Hope you have a wonderful trip, and that you will post reviews of your choices.

          Hunt