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Need Scottsdale dinner recs please!

Greetings, I will be working at a conference at the Kierland all next week (Sun-Sat) and would love to get dinner recommendations for nearby good food (lunch/breakfast provided so we're covered for those meals). We are coming from San Francisco and are adventurous diners hoping to find local gems and regional specialties. We're more concerned with food quality than views or stunning grounds but will put up with anything if the food is worth it (even cramped space with fluorescent lighting, but it's got to be really good)!

We also are limited to $50 pp range for dinner, don't want to drive very far nor do we wish to dress up very much. This is an annual conference that we've been several times, and we loved Los Sombreros. and the Havana Cafe on our last visit.

I wanted to try these restaurants, but I'm not sure they fall within our budget:
See Saw
Cowboy Ciao
Zinc Bistro
Sol y Sombra.
Ocean something in Kierland

I've looked through the boards here and on yelp and would appreciate any feedback/opinions on these possible restaurants too:

Roaring Fork
San Carlos Bay Seafood
Barrio Cafe

Also, if there are any not to be missed dishes anywhere, we need to know about them! Thanks for any help.

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  1. My favorite restaurant in Kierland is The Greene House. The menu is very fresh and seasonal. I would definitely recommend over Zinc or Ocean Club. And if you go on Sunday, all bottles of wine are half price!! If the goat cheese ravioli are on the menu, they are a must-try!


    1. Well, you're in luck, none of those places call for any kind of dressing up! Business casual or resort wear serves you well at all but a few fine dining establishments in the Valley.

      I would bump Barrio Cafe to near the top of your list; it fits your budget and the food is excellent. There'll be a wait, maybe you want to try to go a little early or a lot late. Roaring Fork would be fantastic for a happy hour or a noshing kind of dinner; they are running summer specials, you're in luck! And Zinc Bistro should also be one of your first choices.

      Cowboy Ciao works with your budget but Sea Saw would be harder. It is amazing, though. Worth a stop to Kazimierz' World Wine Bar after, whichever you pick; it shares the cellar with both the restaurants and it's right around the corner.

      3 Replies
      1. re: themis

        You may want to call Sea Saw and see if their "Summer Special" is still available. We had lunch a Cowboy Ciao a few weeks back and in the bill holder there was a card about a prix fixe tasting menu Sun - Wed at Sea Saw. Thought it said $50/pp and that may have included wine.


        1. re: Bazel

          I ate there a few weeks ago on a Sunday, and they did not offer me that price for the four course prix fixe. It was $90 before wine. I checked their website(s) and there's no mention of it, but that shouldn't surprise me -- they haven't touched their websites since 2006.

          1. re: themis

            Thanks for the feedback, I think we should try to squeeze Sea Saw into our budget either way, I'll be sure to check about the special summer prix fixe! Between Cowboy Ciao and Sea Saw, we should definitely be able to make a stop at the wine bar too...

      2. Ocean Club right by your hotel is great for seafood and a fun atmosphere
        La Hacienda at the Princess is the only 4 star mexican restaurant in the country
        Cowboy Ciao in Old Town has become my new favorite with a fun eclectic menu.
        Sol Y Sombra will fall in your budget as will Cowboy Ciao
        Greene House is very popular with my guests for the lighter more american menu
        Barrio Cafe is an INCREDIBLE mexican restaurant
        Olive and Ivy, the new hotspot known for its great medeterranian deli fare.

        and just an FYI, I get sick of people saying scottsdale this and scottsdale that, your precious scottsdale hotel is in Phoenix... hehe :)

        4 Replies
        1. re: AZBconcierge

          Just so ya know, the Westin Kierland is in fact in Scottsdale. I think that the one that many think is in Scottsdale but is in Phoenix is the JW Marriott Desert Ridge. I remember hearing that Deseo at the Kierland was amazing, but the last I heard that was at least two years ago, then they just kind of dropped off the radar.

          Deseo: Westin Kierland Resort and Spa
          6902 E Greenway Pkwy, Scottsdale, AZ 85254

          1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

            Actually, from Cactus to Jomax, the city line is Scottsdale Road itself, rendering everything on the west side of Scottsdale Road within Phoenix city limits, despite often having a Scottsdale mailing address.

            If you're really interested:


            Of course, the Westin uses this anomaly for marketing purposes, thinking that a Scottsdale assocation will be more prestigious. I'm often the one to point these things out in Scottsdale-associated threads, although I try to be gentle about it. If the resort identifies itself with Scottsdale, it's not reasonable to expect an out-of-town visitor to be aware of the technicalities of city boundaries.

            1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

              I believe AZBC is technically correct. That address lies outside of the Scottsdale city limits (the boundary at that "latitude" being at Scottsdale Rd--7200 East), despite having a "Scottsdale" ZIP Code. 85254 is one of those weird ZIP Codes that encompasses part of the "wrong city"--most of the area in 85254 lies within the city of Phx, but the post office is in Scottsdale.

              94608 is another example of this anomaly--even though the post office is Emeryville, CA, the ZIP Code itself actually encompasses a non-trivial part of Oakland too. If I put my old Oakland address into the Google mapping application using just the street name and number and ZIP Code, the app outputs the address as being in Emeryville.


            2. re: AZBconcierge

              To be fair, it's the hotels that market themselves as being in Scottsdale.

            3. As long as restaurants as far away as Barrio and San Carlos Bay are in play, I'd like to put a plug in for Asi es La Vida/Such is Life. Though pricier than Barrio, the food at SiL is, in my opinion, at a higher level. Barrio has been quite good in the past (my last visit being disappointing), but never as good as SiL, I think. $50 pp might be tight, but I think if you watch the alcohol tab, you'll be OK.

              Also, I might recommend Lola for Spanish tapas. It's not stupendously amazing food, but to my mind, one of the best bangs for the buck Phx has to offer. Definitely can get a good meal (with wine and an after-dinner drink) for less than $50 pp.

              Another option down here in Central Phoenix is Trente-Cinq, which offers some high quality Belgian and Belgian-inspired cuisine. My only quibbles were their relatively meager beer selection (only 4 labels, none on tap on my last visit) and a server who seemed a bit inexperienced.

              some links (I hope):

              800 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85014

              Such Is Life
              3602 N 24th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016

              2333 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

              4 Replies
              1. re: hohokam

                Trente Cinq is a chef owned neighborhood restaurant and very casual and reasonably priced. The chef starts cooking the lamb for lamb shank in the morning. It is that kind of place.

                Barrio café, and this goes against every other poster, is way overrated. Would be twice as nice at half the price. And wine by the glass is so over priced that it is offensive.

                See Saw is a great treat but $150 per person is more realistic. And with sushi restaurants like Kiss in SF where $60 buys a wonderful 6-course omakase not sure it is worth the splurge.

                Do try some of the lower end Mexican restaurants, e.g. El Bravo for green corn tamales, Rito’s for burros and Pepe’s Taco for babacoa de cabeza.

                1. re: au lait

                  hohokam, thanks for putting that in terms I understand (I used to live in Emeryville), I am geographically challenged to begin with... and speaking of which, is the Barrio cafe far from the Kierland?

                  And au lait, your comments about the cost of dining at See Saw makes me think we should skip it! We do have some very good Japanese food in the Bay Area (I agree about Kiss too). I am very interested in checking out Mexican restaurants in the southwest, so we may end up checking out the ones you mentioned so we can stretch out our eating budget! How's the lengua at Pepe's?

                  Thanks again for all the information!

                  1. re: foodhoe

                    Barrio is not exactly close distance-wise, but if freeway traffic is not too awful, you should be able to get there from the hotel in under 30 minutes--think of it like a weeknight trip from north Berkeley to the Ferry Building without that pesky toll plaza. ;-)

                2. Good opinions by all. Cowboy Ciao (try the chopped Stetson salad and the mushroom pan fry) and Sol y Sombra (everything is really good and all small plates so you can try a bunch of things) are great and likely within your budget if you don't drink too much. (I'll be at Sol y Sombra tonight). You might want to consider Deseo in your hotel. Great latin influenced food and pretty unique with lots of different ceviche starters. We ate there a few months ago, and everyone thought the food was great. Even if you don't eat there, stop into their lounge from 5:30 - 7:30 every night for the Westin wind down (or something like that). Cheap appetizers and major discounts on their signature fresh fruit mojitos. Good stuff.

                  Ocean Club is right by the hotel, but very pricey. Zinc Bistro is also right there and a favorite. Barrio Cafe and some of the Mexican places listed are fantastic, but you will have to drive a bit. You're hotel is actually somewhat centrally located (on the Scottsdale/Phoenix border), and the area is not difficult to figure out, so don't be afraid to drive a little. Another place you might consider is Richardson's on 16th St and Bethany Home Rd. New Mexican style food in a great little restaurant. Good luck.


                  1. The Persian Room is just north of Kierland on Scottsdale Rd and offer great kabobs, and other medi fare and a wonderfull wine list. Prices are suprisingly reasonable.

                    For Mexican in the area, try the Carlos O'Brien's also just north on Scottsdale, not gourmet Mex cuisine, but hearty Sonoran style dishes, served almost family style. and good margarita's

                    for sushi in the area there is a local chain in Kierland called Ra that is better than average and reasonable, but for a little higher end experience try Pure over on Hayden.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: kmarg

                      Ra? Better than average? HA! A date tried to take me there to impress me once. There was no second date. The fish was flavorless, mussels in a supposedly spicy dynamite sauce fizzled like a wet firecracker, and they didn't provide a fork for thin mashed potatoes, leaving me trying to figure out how the hell I'm going to use chopsticks to pick up something that soft. One does not go to Ra to eat sushi; one goes to Ra to be *seen* eating sushi. If you absolutely must have scene with your unagi, Sapporo and Stingray are much better choices. I'd rather skip the pretentious Scottsdale bimbos and go somewhere that concentrates on sushi, like Hiro Sushi in north Scottsdale or Sushi Ken in south Phoenix. As for the original poster's query, I'd shy away from sushi in general; not that we don't have some terrific sushi places here, it's just that any city near an ocean already has the bar set pretty high for seafood of any sort.

                      I have heard from our wonderful Japanese maitre d' at work that Toyama up on Scottsdale and Pinnacle Peak (same shopping centre as Mastro's, I think) is fantastic. Has anyone else been there?

                      Sushi Ken
                      4206 E Chandler Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85048

                      Hiro Sushi
                      9393 N 90th St, Scottsdale, AZ 85258

                      Toyama Restaurant
                      23415 N Scottsdale Rd Ste 105, Scottsdale, AZ 85255

                      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                        I'm not a huge fan of Ra, but I think your critique is a little harsh. A few things that make Ra a reasonable choice under certain circumstances:

                        -- It has a broad menu. Even if its sushi is not the best or most innovative, the noodle dishes such as udon and yasisoba are good. It can be a good choice when you have a mixed group of the sushi-loving and the sushi-averse.

                        -- It is within walking distance of the Westin Kierland. Sometimes it's nice to give an out-of-town visitor a few places that don't require driving.

                        I agree that the OP could have better, more authentic Japanese food at other places within five miles, but I don't think a lukewarm recommendation of Ra is inappropriate.

                        Ra-Sushi Bar Restaurant
                        7012 E Greenway Pkwy, Scottsdale, AZ 85254

                        1. re: silverbear

                          The harsh review aside, JK has a good rec in Sapporo. The food is great, though definitely more expensive than Ra. The teppan is a little over priced, but the quality has been good. The "scene" factor is high though. Fortunately for me, I'm shallow and don't mind eating with good looking people. :)

                        2. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                          We went to Toyama a couple years back. It wasn't overly memorable to me. Nothing stood out either way. Tara, however, smelled some smell that made her nauseous. I didn't detect it, but she was nearly green. We haven't been back. She's scared of that place.

                          1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                            My experience parallels both JK’s at RA and Firenza00’s at Toyama.

                            RA is about the scene and not the fish, which at best is lackluster. Ones report should not be described as harsh when it provides what we all look for: an honest, need not read between the lines, description of the food.

                            At Toyama I took small bites and left the rest, of most pieces, uneaten. Sushi should not smell fishy. If it has a fishy smell this is not good. Period. Following great reports on this board I arrived with great expectation. I left very disappointed. Another meal wasted on another restaurant that uses substandard ingredients in a pretty setting. How can people eat at places where a fishy smell reaches the nostrils before the plate touches the table top and then write glowing reviews?

                        3. of course i'm going to chime in with rancho pinot, one of my fav's and its in scottsdale. definitely will fit into the 50 pp and its great regional fare.


                          there's a great french neighborhood bistro called fenix that isn't too far from you, on 40th st and camelback


                          i also like tapino - tapas-ishy stuff and great wine list


                          and sol y sombra - love their thoughtful wine list


                          Rancho Pinot
                          6208 N Scottsdale Rd, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

                          Fenix Bar & Eatery
                          3943 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85018

                          1. I think you are totally on the right track already! Also, everyone has offered great tips, so I think you'll be just fine.

                            I'll weigh in briefly to say that everyone is right that Ocean Club and Sea Saw will not meet your target budget requirements and I don't know about you, but when a restaurant is more expensive than the original target, it can make for a less than stellar experience and sometimes you'll feel limited. Both are excellent though - Sea Saw is all about the food and the experience, Ocean Club is all about affluence and scene (and plastic surgery) although the food is quite good - quite expensive as well.

                            Cowboy Ciao is great. Nothing else to say! I enjoy Zinc and it will fit your price range - also nice that it is so close.

                            Sol y Sombra is good...but the plates are truly rather small and the food and wine are not cheap, so if you have any larger appetites in the group, you may hear grumbling. For example, 1 glass of wine may be $13-$15 at a minimum and an order of 2-3 tapas on average per person might be $10-20 each for a grand total of $60-$75 per person. For me that is enough food, but anyone wanting more than one glass of wine or more food (more like "dinner") it could be expensive and/or dissapointing. Just my warning, although I found everything to be deliciousl. Also I thought it was quite loud and I couldn't hear my date without forcibly talking louder...and I like loud! :)

                            Barrio Cafe is great, Richardson's is another great one. Hope you are enjoying the week so far!

                            Richardson's Cuisine of New Mexico
                            1582 E. Bethany Home Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85016

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: HomeCookKirsten

                              wow, such excellent insights! I'm still working (7pm) and hoping we'll be able to leave in time to get out for a decent dinner... last night after a 14 hour workday, we were so tired we ended up going to Sushi RA, which was surprisingly good. (I was nervous being the only japanese person in the restaurant, and after living in tokyo for a year, I am kinda picky...) but the uni was sweet and fresh tasting and all of the nigiri was fine. The weakest dishes were the fusion dishes, and anything with a sauce was pretty heavy handed.

                              The comments about portion and price are very important for us to consider, as we don't want to go over budget! Our first night we went to Los Sombreros, which everyone loved. The only downside was that we had to sit outside and it was hot for us San Franciscans... But the food was really good and different from the usual dishes we see at Mexican restaurants.

                              We are planning on Cowboy Ciao tonight if time permits and thanks everyone for all of the suggestions, I'm looking forward to trying the bacon toffee with ice cream! It is so helpful to get all of the insight and information. There are 5 of us coworkers and we're all opinionated, so sometimes it is hard to corral a consensus on where to go.

                              1. re: foodhoe

                                Thanks again everyone for your very thoughtful responses! My favorite was Cowboy Ciao after all was said and done. When we went, we did get a little insert with the bill containing the following info: They are serving a selection of 7 bottles at $19.97 each on Tuesdays during the summer to commemorate their 10th anniversary. Also, See Saw is offering Sunday through Weds a 4-course omakase with sake & wines for $50+++. I posted pix and stuff


                                Roaring Forks was great too, but not as creatively out there as Cowboy Ciao (but I loved the bacon biscuits in the bread tray) and somehow we ended up at Wildfish one night which was surprisingly good.

                                Hope to visit again without the perdiem requirements!