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Mar 19, 2008 06:23 AM

Scottsdale Area - Unique?

NYC hound visiting Scottsdale in a couple of weeks with the wife on business and we'll have two free nights for dinner. Will be staying at the Fairmont Princess and will have transportation. I've done some searching on the SW board here and hope "yous guys" might be able to provide some guidance. Good wine list a plus.

Ideally, we'd like to find something that we can't really get here in the Big Apple: Excellent southwest fine dining or some variation thereof. So places like Italian Grotto, Frazier's (pizza) Voltaire's ("old") Humble Pie (more pizza!) and Village Tavern (noisy!) appear out of the running. Methode Bistro's menu does not appear to be anything special.

NY Times had some recs from their "36 Hours in Scottsdale" travel piece some time ago and one of the mentioned restaurants, Fusion, did not appear to have a particularly ground breaking menu to me.

That seems to leave us with:
Vincent's on Camelback,
Binkley's or Tonto at RM in Cave Creek,
Cowboy Ciao, Sophies, or perhaps Rancho Pinot Grill.

Are Binkley's and it's 6-course tasting menu or Tonto at RM truly "destination restaurants" i.e. worthy of leaving your home for perhaps a long drive?

TIA for your input!

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  1. Binkley's is definitely a solid choice and one you won't regret.

    I would put in my recommendations for the following two places which is something out of the ordinary for you:

    La Hacienda is an upscale Mexican restaurant right there at the Princess. It it slated for closing in April, but my recent meal there was outstanding and offered lots of tastes that surprised me.

    Although a bit of a drive for you (and outside of Scottsdale), Kai at Wild Horse Pass is worth every mile and then some. It is a high end Native American restaurant in the southeastern part of the Valley, but it is exquisite.

    Cowboy Ciao and Rancho Pinot are also excellent choices.

    6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

    5594 W. Wildhorse Pass Blvd, Chandler, AZ 85226

    La Hacienda
    7575 E Princess Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85255

    1. Binkley's definitely is, and it's not that much a drive for you. Kevin Binkley worked with Kevin O'Connell and Thomas Keller. The food is on par with what you would see at Alinea or Per Se.

      I have, frankly, never heard of Tonto -- but locals would have less reason to seek out resort venues far from our own neighborhoods.

      Kai is on par, serving indigenous foods, highly unique menu and elegant service, but it's a haul from where you're staying.

      Cowboy Ciao's wine list can't be beat, and they probably fit your bill. I would also propose T Cook's at the Royal Palms, just over the Phoenix border. It is a gorgeous resort; the food or ambiance have never disappointed me.

      I have to say, some of your proposed picks are puzzling, as they aren't anywhere near southwestern and certainly not unique from a NYC perspective. Do you mean that you are also open to upscale Italian and French venues as well?

      4 Replies
      1. re: themis

        Thanks Seth and themis! The list I presented was mostly from looking at some previous posts - I realize some of them might not have been quite upscale. Italian and French, unless it has a unique SW influence would be out.

        1. re: scoopG

          Oh, well then. Vincent's and Sophie's are both classic French. You should take them out of consideration.

          1. re: themis

            I would disagree regarding Vincent's. They are actually French with a unique SW influence.

            They might wish to hit Vincent's market on Saturday morning, great place for breakfast and lunch. Good people watching.

            1. re: duck833

              My apologies, you're right. I guess I have only ever seen their nouveau menu.

      2. I can't say enough about Binkley's. I'm sure you would enjoy it. I haven't been to Kai yet, but I have heard great things. Vincent's is unique in that he uses French technique with southwestern ingredients. It will remind you more of a French restaurant than anything, but it is certainly different.

        Rancho Pinot Grill would be a great choice for you. Southwestern ingredients prepared very well. Their wine list is great, although certainly not the size of Cowboy Ciao (which I also enjoy), and offers excellent variety and depth.

        Another "destination" restaurant not mentioned yet is Sea Saw. Your post doesn't mention Japanese, but the chef just won the James Beard Award Southwest, and the omakase menu is amazing. It is a very small restaurant, and you sit at the kitchen bar watching them put together your meal right in front of you. I can't recommend it enough.

        Have a great trip.


        Sea Saw
        7133 E Stetson Dr Ste 1, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

        Rancho Pinot Grill
        6208 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ

        1. scoopG,

          I think your list is a good one, but I'd add SeaSaw (right next to Cowboy Ciao), as it is unique and wonderful.

          Did Methode Bistro a few months back, after much buzz and great recs. It was truly nothing special, food or service-wise.

          As far as Tonto vs Binkleys, well for me, at least, it is no contest. Binkley's wins.

          Sophie's is really good for a FR bistro mid-scale dining spot. We love it, but it pales to the others in the list. I'm also of the same mind with Rancho Pinot Grill - nice, and we enjoy it, but it is nothing out of the ordinary.

          We are great fans of Vincent's and his SW take on classical FR cuisine is something that one does not find every day. We've always had excellent food, service and wine, but they know my wife well, so I have to admit that I/we have a bias. It is still the location for our board meetings, candidate's dinners and a ton of "special occasions," plus we dine there about 1x/month with no good reason, except that we really like it.

          Only complaint that I have with Cowboy Ciao is the noise level, but Peter (the owner) knows how I feel about that. Still, the food has always been excellent and I love the wine lists and wine flights.

          Binkley's has always impressed me, except that it's a ways away from me, so we do it, when we have a meeting up in that area. Binkley's IS a "destination restaurant," IMO. We dine well, around the world, and Binkley's holds its own with the best - and it's closer (still not close to me) than French Laundry, Greenhouse (Mayfair), or Stella! (New Orleans). It's a bit down-scale in the setting, compared to the above, but the food and service cover that.

          Two more possibilities would be elements @ The Sanctuary and T. Cook's @ The Royal Palms. Both are good, but maybe not totally unique. Hey, we could also add Deseo @ Westin Kierland and Lon's @ The Hermosa Inn.

          Still, you have a very good list.


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

          Lon's At the Hermosa
          5532 N Palo Cristi Rd, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

          T Cooks At the Royal Palms
          5200 East Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ 85018

          1. Binkleys is good as a destination, but not if you are looking for something uniquely southwestern. It is probably similar to what you would find in NY in a lot of respects.

            I agree with Lon's, T Cooks (more mediterranean). Others to consider are Los Sombreros down near Tempe, and Atlas Bistro (a BYOB off a good wine shop)

            Los Sombreros Cafe & Cantina
            2534 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85257

            Atlas Bistro
            2515 N Scottsdale Rd Ste 18, Scottsdale, AZ 85257