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Jan 27, 2008 08:08 AM

Questions re: Scottsdale, Tucson, and some smaller southwest destinations

Yes, I am yet another traveler seeking advice from locals re: dining options. My wife and I are flying into Phoenix in early May, then embarking on a 2 week road trip with most of our destinations in New Mexico. I will endeavor to be specific with my criteria as I am aware that a general search of this board would yield hundreds of recommendations.


1) In major cities, proximity to hotels where we are staying so that we can utilize taxis and do not have to worry about restricting our alcohol intake.
2) No seafood or sushi: I live in the Pacific Northwest and get amazing fresh seafood all the time.
3) Moderate price range (specifically, entrees in the $20-$30 price range. We can stretch for one or two meals, but we are not looking for restaurants in the "Mary Elaine" price range).
4) Food that is specific to the region would be a bonus. (i.e. I can get good French food or Chinese food in Vancouver; I cannot get good southwestern, Mexican, or New Mexican food, plus there is a dearth of decent steakhouses in Canada). When possible, food with in-season, local and organic ingredients.
5) Restaurants with good wine or beer lists.
6) Seeking recommendations for breakfast, lunch, and dinner

OK, I better stop there or else no one will read further.

Destinations: Phoenix (Sat, May 10): Staying at the Doubletree Paradise Valley Resort, 5401 N. Scottsdale Road (Not far from Camelback Mountain). Staying at the same place on Friday, May 23. Looking for a restaurant close enough to be able to taxi to and from.

Tucson: Sun-Mon May 11-12: Staying at the Windmill Inn at St. Phillip's Plaza.

Close to Silver City, NM May 13-14. (actually in Gila NM).

Santa Fe: May 15-19 (one night in Taos during this stretch): we will be close to the Plaza, so we can walk.

Carlsbad: May 20-21

Las Cruces: May 22

Phoenix: May 23 (fly home on May 24).

Any advice would be appreciated, and I'd be happy to return the favor for chowhounders traveling to Vancouver/Victoria (I regularly post on the Western Canada board).

Thank you in advance.

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  1. First of all, it sounds like you are flying in and renting a car. Please be aware that there are huge fees and taxes associated with renting a car at the airport. For the length of time you are going to have the car it is your interest to take a cab to an offsite rental agency and get it there. You can always drop it off at the airport with no problem. I believe Avis has an offsite not far from the airport. Will save you big bucks.

    You picked a good spot for lodging in Scottsdale. You are very close to the following:
    Roaring Fork
    Humble Pie (Just opened, nice upscale pizza place)
    Rancho Pinot Grill
    Method Bistro

    Your are also close to the Waterfront area and your choices are endless there, you simply don't have enough time to hit them all. Do some research on the site, especially the super bowl post above, lists most of them.

    In Carlsbad, hit Danny's BBQ. He is a legend in the competetion bbq world and does his thing there in an old DQ building.

    Good luck and have a nice visit.

    6 Replies
    1. re: duck833

      Thanks for all the tips, Duck. My wife got really excited about the Danny's BBQ tip (she loves good BBQ, which is non-existent in Canada).

      1. re: anewton

        Silver City has about a dozen different restaurants - Shevek & Mi, Diane's - and check out Silver city Brewing or Isaac's, which I believe has a large selection of New Mexican wines and live entertainment on weekends. Stop in at Alota Gelato, too. Silver City also has many artist/s studios/galleries - great fun.

      2. re: duck833

        I strongly agree with Duck's rec. regarding the Superbowl post - great asset to ALL visitors, not just the Sb crowd.

        For French in the Scottsdale/Phoenix, Silverbear (the force behind the Sb post) listed Vincent's on Camelback. Not often can one get classic French with a Southwest lean. Do check out Cowboy Ciao in Scottsdale. I'd rate it very high on the food and the wine scales. Either might take more of your budget, than you specified, but they are both worth the $'s (Canadian, or US).

        In Tucson, I'd look at Janos, or his J-Bar, at the La Paloma Westin Resort (North Tucson). He does some takes on SW, that are just not to be missed. J-Bar should fit the budget, and Janos just above it, assuming that you are not specifying $30 for two for a full dinner, but for mains. Still, J-Bar might fit to the latter, though just barely.

        In Las Cruces, there is a wonderful Mexican restaurant, about 1-2 miles on US 70, south-side of the highway. Wish that I could recall the name, but I cannot. It is a small spot, but the food is exellent and the prices will help off-set some of my other recs.

        Enjoy the trip and the dining.


        1. re: Bill Hunt

          Hi Bill.

          You probably recognize my name from the wine board, which is where I usually hang out on chowhounds. Thanks for the tips! I'll make sure to make a reservation at J-Bar (and yes, you are correct in assuming that I am aiming for $30 for mains, not for the entire meal!)

          Looking forward to eating some food I would not normally get to try!

          By the way, Bill, can you recommend any good wineries near the areas I am visiting. Where is Gruet in New Mexico? Any other good NM wineries?



          1. re: anewton

            Yes, I recognized the nym, and wanted to give you the best info, that I could.

            As for wineries in the area, you cannot go wrong with either Dos Cabezas, or Callaghan. At one time, Kent Callaghan was a winemaker at Dos Cabezas, and was then responsible for some of their single varietal offerings. Now, with his eponymous winery, near-by, he seems to be concentrating more on blends. This is not a bad thing, but I'd love to see him going back to the single varietals for some of the whites. His Bdx. blend is quite nice, and was a Holiday gift from me, to my wife's Senior Management Team, especially as most had never had an AZ wine, in their lives.

            There are probably others in the Elgin/Sonoita area, but I've not had them, so will not comment. Looking at the area (we've yet to actually get down there), I think one could easily spend a day in those environs, and have a good time.

            In NM, do not miss the Gruet sparkler winery. Also, NM has been really working hard to build a vitacultural area. Some, that I have had, have been more "tourist wines," than "serious wines." I just looked for my bookmark for NM wineries, but could not find it. Google should turn up some decent hits on NM and "wine."

            Remember, you will need to do a review, of what you find, both in NM and in AZ, when you return! [Grin]

            Have a safe and enjoyable trip. If you have any specific questions regarding dining in the PHX/Scottsdale Area, please do not hesitate to ask them. Do take a look at the Superbowl post, as it hits the high points. It also includes some spots, in areas of PHX-Metro, that are not yet considered food-mecas. Also, remember that Oct - April are "high-season" in the PHX-Metro Area, and reservations are almost always a must, even for locals, with pull.


            1. re: anewton

              Oops, sorry, but I hit "Post My Reply," before I had done my work. Gruet is: and just out of Albuquerque, NM. Their sparklers are really quite nice. Only place that I see them is in high-end San Francisco restaurants. Do not know why more semi-local wines do not appear on the lists in PHX.

              BTW, the Dos Cabezas' Viognier is a fun little wine. Do not let them serve it to you too cold, and insist that they pour into a nice Bdx.- styled stem. Play with that guy for a bit.


        2. Sounds like a great trip. Check out Gil's Thrilling Web site for some really thorough reviews of restaurants throughout New Mexico. In Taos, the Taos Diner, just north of town has great breakfasts. In Silver City, Diane's is a good dinner choice.

          It's not on your agenda, but here's a thought. La Posada in Winslow, Arizona is a wonderful lodging and dining experience. Check out Gil has reviewed the Turquoise Room restaurant at La Posada on his web-site.

          Jerry Saywell

          1 Reply
          1. re: Jerry Saywell

            Yes, I've only done breakfast at La Posada (hope to do a long weekend with the full menu), but it is NOT to be missed. If you are heading to/from via I-40 (looks more like I-10 going then... ) Mr. Maestas' in Holbrook, just N. of the RR tracks, off of the Interstate (if one goes from PHX to Holbrook via one of the "back roads," it's on their right), is a great Mexican/Sonoran lunch spot. Great food and the $ will count towards Geronimo in Santa Fe.

            I often miss it, as I must stop at La Posasda for a late breakfast, and just cannot imagine eating, when I hit Holbrook.


          2. If you have never had Carne Seca (thin sliced beef soaked in lime juice then air dried) try El Charro in Tucson go to the orignal location downtown. If you are looking for a burger on your way out of Tucson hwy 10 south (east) to 19 south(you will only be on 19 for about a block. Get off at Ajo turn right and go about 8-10 miles to Tinys Saloon. Even though it is right next to a Mcdonald you feel way out in the middle of no where. Very good cheap burgers excellent Tequilla selction if it not your turn to drive.
            Almost forgot its not cheep but you could get pint of Carne Seca to take home last time it was $20 I saute some onions and pepper in a fair about of oil add some Carne Seca it wiilll drink up the oil then us that as part of your Quesda or Burrito there is no substiute.


            10 Replies
            1. re: don515

              No, I have never tried carne seca; looking forward to it! Will have to get to some of the wineries recommended by Mr. Hunt.

              Not going until May (I just like to plan wife thinks I am a bit obsessive when it comes to trip planning, but it always pays off when we end up eating one gorgeous meal after another).



              1. re: anewton

                There is nothing wrong with planning ahead. AZ suffers from two seasons: snowbirds in Winter, and then tourists the rest of the year. I always have a spreadsheet with all of my dining mapped out, six mos. out, and this is for almost anywhere in the world.

                There is also good dining in the wine country. I have seen several articles, but cannot recall the name of the establishment. Maybe a call to Callaghan, or Dos Cabezas, will reveal that spot. I have not been, or I'd probably have the name firmly implanted.

                Safe trip,

                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  Cabela's restaurant is right next door to Dos cabezas wine tasting room. I believe one of the chef's is from the Northwest, they are friends with the owners of Dos cabezas and the food is supposed to be amazing. It was closed last time we visited our friends at Dos cabezas. Their is also a great coffee shop in Patagonia, that had wonderful coffee and freshly made baked goods. can't remember the name but it's the only one on the main street.

                  1. re: travelchow

                    That does not ring the bell, that I had anticipated - sound more like a sporting goods store... Still, it might be the one, that I was referring to. The place, in question, got rave reviews in the Repugnant, er, Repuclic. If this is close, and has some ties to the wine country there, it must be it, and my memory is just too foggey. Maybe too much Zinfandel...


                2. re: anewton

                  LOL! My husband thinks I'm obessive, too, but I tell him it's fun to eat/live vicariously before the fact. So far, he's liked all of my choices except French Laundry and Manresa.

                  If you go to El Charro for the carne seca, order the sampler platter that contains several styles of their meats, including the barbacoa (which we like better than the carne seca).

                  However, I'd encourage you to go to Poca Cosa and order the Plata du Jour - Mexican food like I've never encountered on my drives across Calif, AZ, NM, all of Texas, down to Matzatlan, and up all of Baja.

                  1. re: Claudette

                    What's not to like about the French Laundry (other than the bill)?

                    1. re: anewton

                      I am with you on this one. The finest meal, Michelin 3 stars and all, that I have had was there. Bar none. Now, it was in the upper end of the high-priced meals, but worth every $ from me. I'd do it agian at 2x the price, and so would my wife.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        My husband and I had a very unmemorable meal (taste, presentation, service) for a very memorable price: $700 for two, before tax/tip. (This conundrum has been discussed ad nauseum on the SF board for years, so I won't go into details here.)

                    2. re: Claudette

                      Cafe Poca Cosa in Tucson is wonderful. We always get the chef selection plate it makes it fun and interesting, never had anything we didn't love. If they have the mexican chocolate mouse, it's definitely worth getting.

                    3. re: anewton

                      If you feel like doing a comparison, I actually prefer the carne seca at Casa Molina, though I will happily eat El Charro's version as well. Casa Molina's is slightly moister.

                      I definitely second the recommendation for the chef's plate at Cafe Poca Cosa. In fact, if you both get it you will likely get to try 8 different dishes. The last time I was there, 4 of us got the chef's plates and just kept passing our plates in a clockwise rotation so we could all taste everything. It was great!