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Looking for interesting birthday suggestions-phx/scottsdale

c
crsin Nov 23, 2007 07:55 PM

Hey everyone-

As someone who frequently reads through the board, and dines out often, I'm fairly well versed in many of the area restaurants. However, I'm having a tough time coming up with an interesting place to try for a birthday. We've stuck with Cowboy Ciao (always fantastic) for several birthdays over the past few years, so I'm looking to stir the pot a bit. Been thinking about giving Methode, Rancho Pinot, or Tarbell's a shot (never been to any of these options). Any opinions amongst these choices? Been dying to try Kai for a while, although the drive (30-45 minutes) makes it considerably less desireable. Anyone here have any interesting standout suggestions, aside from those I proposed?

Open to all types of food, any price point, and any location in the phoenix/scottsdale area (preferably within ~20-25 minutes of Scottsdale/Cactus crossroads). Bring on the suggestions, I'm open to anything. Thanks.

  1. c
    crsin Dec 1, 2007 11:57 PM

    I wanted to thank you all for the great suggestions. We ended up at Rancho Pinot, and it truly was fantastic. The atmosphere was really warm, unique, and fun with a definite upscale and sophisticated bent, which made for an original, classy/comfortable environment. Unfortunately, they did not have either the squash blossoms or asparagus, which I would have loved to try, but I ordered the ricotta gnocchi which I was equally excited about, and they were great. Had the flat iron steak for an entree, which was incredible. Also tasted the butternut squash soup with creme fraiche and bacon, which was really warm, rich, and delicious. A bass dish was also ordered, which I was told was exceptional, and impeccably cooked. The deserts (there were several) were great, as was the coffee and service, a perfect end to the meal. All around, a wonderful experience. Thanks for the input.

    2 Replies
    1. re: crsin
      azhotdish Dec 2, 2007 01:31 AM

      It's too bad they didn't have the asparagus, which is one of my favs at RP. Glad you enjoyed your birthday!

      1. re: crsin
        winedubar Dec 2, 2007 08:11 PM

        glad you liked it! rp is one of my favorite spots, it never disappoints!!!

      2. c
        crsin Nov 27, 2007 12:36 PM

        There doesn't appear to be an ourpour of support for Methode, Tarbell's, or T. Cooks (although they clearly have their fans), so I think I'm down to Rancho Pinot or Binkley's (Kai is still in the back of my mind, as well). Still would love more recommendations...

        12 Replies
        1. re: crsin
          z
          ziggylu Nov 27, 2007 12:41 PM

          We went to Tarbell's for the first time several weeks ago. We really enjoyed it. The seafood dishes were particularly well done. I really liked that it was both a great place for a special occasion and high end meal and also a great neighborhood place where you could eat fairly inexpensively(the pizzas looked great and if lived nearby we'd often be stopping at the bar in the evening to have a pizza and glass of wine). The menu really offers a wide choice depending on your mood on a particularly evening. Service was excellent as well.

          1. re: ziggylu
            t
            travelchow Nov 27, 2007 01:11 PM

            I second Tarbell's we went back several weeks ago and found the food to be great, everything was cooked perfectly, the desserts had some great unusual ingredients. we are having our company dinner there this weekend, can't wait to go back.
            I also agree that Sassi is not worth a visit, we went there for an anniversary dinner, the evening ended up being a comedy of errors. The artichokes were burned, the white beans were undercooked and the men standing around like the secret service just creeped me out.

          2. re: crsin
            ciaogal Nov 27, 2007 01:13 PM

            If you are deciding between Binkleys and Rancho Pinot.....I would definitely go w/ Binkley's. It is really a special place....
            Superior to anything else you will find in AZ. It is a one of a kind experience...If you haven't been I highly tout it!
            Had my Birthday dinner there last year and they could not have been more accomodating.....even printed the menu's w/ my name and birthday on it...which I had signed by Kevin Binkley and is framed and hanging in my kitchen.....
            Just waiting for him to be nominated for the James Beard Award!

            We did the 5 course tasting w/ wine....
            Get the Foie Gras if it's offered that evening. The preparation and presentation was flawless.

            It was a magical meal!

            http://www.binkleysrestaurant.com/

            1. re: ciaogal
              c
              crsin Nov 27, 2007 01:55 PM

              I just called to see if they even have any openings (which they did a little on the late side). Anyone know why they require a CC# to make a reservation? Is it charged if not canceled on time or something?

              1. re: crsin
                geg5150 Nov 27, 2007 04:57 PM

                That's becoming more and more common, particularly during peak season. I think it's just to get people's attention and make sure they're serious. I don't think they can charge you anything for not showing up, but clarify when you make the reservations.

                1. re: geg5150
                  b
                  barry Nov 28, 2007 07:28 AM

                  Many restaurants now require a credit card with a reservation usually with the caveat that you will be charged a set amount per person reserved if you do not appear for your reservation. In NYC some restaurants are now faxing you a confirmation page that requires your signature and return to confirm the reservation. Some restaurants do in fact charge the card if you do not show. Obviously, these restaurants simply want people to call and cancel if they cannot make it, which unfortunately many people do not do. However, they can charge your credit card if you no show. I don't know if most actually do it, but they can. It's just courtesy...if you can't make it, call and let them know.

                  Barry

                  1. re: barry
                    c
                    crsin Nov 28, 2007 07:58 AM

                    I already cancelled. The reservation was too late, and I was really only making them in case we decided to go there. This is most likely the exact thing they are trying to prevent from happening and, well, it apparently worked...

                    Anyway, I think I finally settled on Rancho Pinot. In less something else influences me in a different direction, that's where I'll be (and looking forward to it).

                    Thanks for the info.

                    1. re: crsin
                      azhotdish Nov 28, 2007 06:27 PM

                      Winedubar knows that I'm a fan of Rancho Pinot, and would not hesitate a moment to return, but for a birthday, I don't know. It may not be an "everyday" kind of place (unless you have the budget), but at the same time, the general scene might be a bit "sleepy" and atmosphere a bit subdued for my personal tastes if it were MY birthday. That said, the food is great, the preparation straight-forward, you barely notice the service and the wine list is very good. After all the buzz surrounding Binkley's and all the rave reviews (why have I still not been there???), I would find a way to make that happen.

                      As has been mentioned, I would not waste my money at Sassi again after having a couple very mediocre meals there. Sure, the atmosphere is top-notch, but it doesn't make up for the abysmal service.

                      1. re: azhotdish
                        c
                        crsin Nov 28, 2007 06:46 PM

                        I'm actually on a waitlist at Binkley's. The earliest reservation was a bit late, and I doubt that anyone will be cancelling, so it's probably not an option. Where else would you suggest?

                        1. re: crsin
                          Seth Chadwick Nov 28, 2007 07:19 PM

                          While it is not everyone's cup of tea, I would but a shout out to Trader Vic's at the Valley Ho. The menu is pricey, but the atmosphere, food and (especially) the beverages are great for a celebration.

                          -----
                          Trader Vic's - Scottsdale
                          6850 E. Main Street, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

                          1. re: crsin
                            azhotdish Nov 29, 2007 08:11 AM

                            If I had to take a pass on Binkley's, although it's not nearly as interesting, given the criteria Zinc Bistro in Kierland is always a solid choice. I'm a fan of their steak au poivre and pommes frites, and the place always has my favorite aperitif campari. I've even had some good oysters there, surprisingly enough.

                            But if you really don't mind a less "festive" atmosphere, I can't see you going wrong with Rancho Pinot. Enjoy your birthday.

                          2. re: azhotdish
                            winedubar Nov 28, 2007 08:59 PM

                            i know you are, hotdish :D if you're looking for a full on party vibe, rp ain't it. they do some special event stuff from time to time that is down right festive tho. the 7 course red waddle pig dinner comes to mind. now THAT was a party. a porcine-centric wine fueled night to remember ;)

                            you're so right about the service there, i can't stand obsequious service at places. rp is just right, i think.

              2. tastyjon Nov 26, 2007 06:30 PM

                What's the personality of the group?

                Formal? Somewhat wild? Do you want a private, intimate experience or to be in the middle of a festive room? Big group or small? Close friends or associates? I ask because all of these could be a factor.

                For example, a younger pal of mine just turned 30. The intial plan was to go to a chain but I suggested Furio as she and many of her friends are single and swank. Furio is swanky but also has great happy hour deals, so people of every budget could drink, order a nicely priced plate of food or simply hang out and enjoy the scene. $10 manicures were also a hit. It was perfect for this group.

                Now for my b-day, I'd like my best friends taking up the entire back room of Dick's Hideaway enjoying great food, drink and laughter. But I'd also plan a 2nd part of the evening to allow everyone the opportunity to branch out.

                10 Replies
                1. re: tastyjon
                  c
                  crsin Nov 26, 2007 08:41 PM

                  Thanks to everyone for the great suggestions so far. Tastyjon, the group is my family and I. I would prefer an upscale atmosphere, but none of us particularly like anything terribly formal or stuffy. No real preference in terms of atmosphere, just an all around good experience. Geg, I think that I may have actually noticed that Coup des Tartes is booked on the night I would need, good suggestion, though. Quinessence looks fantastic, as well, although it is a bit of a drive...

                  Keep 'em coming.

                  1. re: crsin
                    winedubar Nov 26, 2007 08:44 PM

                    thanks for clarifiying :) then i would fully re-iterate my endorsement of rancho pinot. not at all stuffy, great food, great service. upscale but not uptight :)

                    1. re: winedubar
                      Seth Chadwick Nov 26, 2007 08:53 PM

                      Rancho Pinot is a great idea. There is something on the menu for everyone and a very Southwestern/Cowboyesque setting.

                      -----
                      Rancho Pinot Grill
                      6208 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ

                      1. re: Seth Chadwick
                        l
                        ljero Nov 27, 2007 09:23 AM

                        How far is that from the four seasons in troon?

                        I will be in AZ for xmas. We have Barrio Cafe Fri, Skye Sat, and T. cook's for Christmas night.

                        What do you all think of Skye-parents' friends live in Az and made res there--does not look like quite my scene (prefer Cowboy Ciao, etc).

                        We need a few other spots...

                        1. re: ljero
                          b
                          barry Nov 27, 2007 10:09 AM

                          The Four Seasons is pretty far north east in Scottsdale. Skye is on the NW side of the valley. I haven't been there, but I understand it is an upscale steakhouse. It will be a 30 minute drive from your hotel, and there are plenty of other options close by (Mastros is about 5-10 minutes away). However, if you are meeting your parent's friends Skye might be closer to them. Otherwise, I wouldn't bother with the drive.

                          Near your hotel, you may want to take a look at Mosaic and Sassi, both of which are within walking distance. Cowboy Ciao would be a great choice, and I would second Rancho Pinot as a great choice and very local. It's about 20 minutes from your hotel. Have a great trip.

                          Barry

                          1. re: barry
                            drewb123 Nov 27, 2007 11:16 AM

                            I would pass on sassi, so horrible. I know for a fact I am not the only person with that opinion. Mastro's is one of the best steakhouses here along with donovan's

                            1. re: drewb123
                              c
                              crsin Nov 27, 2007 01:50 PM

                              I think Sassi is worth a visit. I went a few years back and, while I don't recall being absolutely "wowed" by the food, it thought it decent. Really, the best part is the restaurant itself, which is gorgeous. The location and restaurant alone, in my opinion, make for a really nice experience.

                            2. re: barry
                              z
                              ziggylu Nov 27, 2007 11:47 AM

                              We had dinner at Mosaic back during the summer and enjoyed it. They will take you there from the Four Seasons and pick you up after dinner. It's right next door but there are no sidewalks and the road is dark so not to pedestrian friendly.

                              Also if you are up at Troon you aren't far from Binkley's...which is definitely worth the visit. Especially since you are up on that side of town I would definitely consider Binkley's over Quiessence(we were very disappointed in our visit to Quiessence but seem to be in the minority on that view).

                          2. re: Seth Chadwick
                            c
                            crsin Nov 27, 2007 12:17 PM

                            Thanks for the suggestions. I guess I'm a little confused as to the atmosphere at Rancho Pinot. The descriptions seem somewhat casual (kitschy decor, etc.) is it a "special" place, or more of an upper-end everyday place? Would you think the food is a standout relative to other restaurants in the area (better than most of the other touted restaurants around)? Thanks for the clarification.

                            1. re: crsin
                              winedubar Nov 27, 2007 12:52 PM

                              they have a website that gives a tour - i wouldn't consider it an every day place. they've gotten tons of accolades, with a focus on local ingredients. it's a great spot, a favorite, and is a standout.

                              feel free to check for yourself

                              http://www.ranchopinot.com/

                    2. winedubar Nov 26, 2007 11:46 AM

                      i am a huge fan of rancho pinot, i love everything about that place. fantastic food, great service, fun kitschy oldschool az decor, wonderful wine list...

                      and i love quiessence, it might be a bit out of the way tho. it's relaxing, beautiful, and like leaving phoenix for awhile :)

                      1. b
                        barry Nov 26, 2007 11:06 AM

                        Both Methode and Elements are great, and you can't go wrong with either. I think the menu at Methode is more interesting, only in that they serve items you may not have seen anywhere else in this area. Methode is also a bit less expensive. Basically, I agree with everyone Ciaogal said :).

                        Barry

                        1. ciaogal Nov 24, 2007 05:40 AM

                          I love Methode Bistro....a very pretty spot, great food and not too far too drive....
                          or Razz Restaurant in the Windmill plaza?
                          www.razzsrestaurant.com

                          Binkleys in Cave Creek?
                          http://www.binkleysrestaurant.com/

                          or Elements @ Sanctuary.....you can't beat the food or the ambiance.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: ciaogal
                            c
                            crsin Nov 24, 2007 08:16 AM

                            Thanks. How do you think the food quality compares between Elements and Methode?

                            1. re: crsin
                              ciaogal Nov 24, 2007 09:16 AM

                              I think the food offerings @ both restaurants are above par. Methode's setting may be a little more intimate and not as frenetic as Elements (being a much smaller venue.)
                              Though you can't beat the view @ Elements!

                              The menu, presentation and preparation @ both restaurant are unique and creative....it's hard to compare.

                              I think Methode may be more favorably priced.

                              It's a tough question to answer since I am partial to both....

                              1. re: crsin
                                drewb123 Nov 27, 2007 07:43 AM

                                Honestly, I am so unimpressed with both elements and methode. Binkleys is fabulous I was there last Wed.

                                1. re: drewb123
                                  c
                                  crsin Nov 27, 2007 12:12 PM

                                  Interesting, why so disappointed with elements and methode?

                                  1. re: crsin
                                    t
                                    travelchow Nov 27, 2007 01:06 PM

                                    I have to agree with drewb123 at least about Elements. (haven't tried Methode) I have been to Elements three times and have had bad service and below average food with the third and last try the food was actually inedible. My steak was completely rare inside as in cold (ordered medium) sent it back and was brought back the same piece just charred on the outside and still rare. Waiter did not come back to check on us and we had to ask for the manager because the waiter disappeared. I do not like complaining and will go back to a restaurant if a mistake was made as long as it was handled appropriately. They did not offer me anything else, my husbands food was also sent back for the same reason and the cut of meat was completely filled with fat & grissle. I would not go back I found the service to be somewhat arrogant and have never found any of the items on the menu to be great. Not sure what the buzz is all about, besides the obviously gorgeous setting. Go for drinks, plenty of other great restaurants to try in Phoeni.

                                    1. re: travelchow
                                      drewb123 Nov 27, 2007 01:46 PM

                                      here here travelchow. Totally agree. i love the bar area, especially the cantalope martini and wasabi peas.

                                      The menu looks so much better on paper.

                              2. re: ciaogal
                                geg5150 Nov 26, 2007 05:09 PM

                                Without a doubt Coup des Tartes! They just changed their menu for the season...it's fantastic and a deal since it's BYOB! Bring champagne for a toast!

                                www.nicetartes.com

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