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Jan 6, 2009 10:32 AM

Dinner Recs - Phoenix?

Hi, a friend and I are coming from San Francisco to Phoenix for the Rock and Roll marathon on Pres Day weekend later this month. I am a dedicated foodie, she wants good drinks! We need a good pasta place for dinner the night before, I am thinking Marcellino's, and then somewhere fun to go to celebrate on Sunday night. I want to treat her since she hopes to qualify for Boston on this run. Other spots I have seen mentioned on the board thus far include Coupe des Tartes, Noca, Kai, Quiessence at the Farm... Any one of those good for a celebration or is there somewhere else you recommend? Thanks for the advice!

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  1. From your post's title, "Dinner recommendations for SF visitors," I had understood that you were asking for recommendations in Santa Fe ("SF" here on the SW boards). You might want to edit your post to let people know that you're visiting Phoenix and that's where you need recs - you'll likely get a better response. Best of luck with it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Erich

      Thanks, I am a frequent reader, first time poster! User error on my part. I corrected and re-posted. BTY I LOVE eating in Santa Fe! Happy New Year!

    2. Noca, Kai, and Quiessence would all be good choices for a celebratory dinner.

      Each is pretty different so it will depend on what type of food and atmosphere you are looking for, but really of those three you can't go wrong.

      18 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        I don't want italian again after Marcellino's the night before, so I think Noca might not be right. Kai and Quiessence look a little "formal" and pricey based on what I can find on line, at least for two friends vs. romantic evening. I am looking for some unique great food, but in a lively happening type atmosphere.... Help??

        1. re: Kmcgee

          Wow, that's awesome, I hope she qualifies! You didn't mention where you are staying so I'll assume anywhere kind of close to NE Phx/S. Scottsdale is ok. I think I understand the vibe you're looking for, here's where I would want to go after running a marathon, to eat a lot, show off my medal, and be happy in the company of others who may have also ran, watched others, or at least known that the marathon happened that day.

          Noca would be perfect- awesome food, fun, worthy of celebration, plus it would be Sunday, and you could hit the Simple Sunday Supper, which usually ISN'T Italian. Its the kind of place where if you told them your friend just ran the marathon, they might do something cool (what, I don't know exactly- shoe-shaped amuse?)

          Alternately, downtown Scottsdale would be cool to eat, and then bar hop a little, so maybe Cowboy Ciao- it's not really Italian, don't worry. Or if you like Mexican, Barrio Cafe is lively inside, and outside too, but in a different, watch your purse way. Or in Tempe, if you're beer folks and want something more laid back, Four Peaks is a great microbrewery with great, but more casual, food as well and will definitely be hoppin(ha). And I will get flak on this, but my guests always ask to go back to Z Tejas. It's a mini-chain out of Austin, but the drinks rock, and the food is southwest fusion type stuff. There's locations in Scotttsdale and Tempe.

          1. re: yamalam

            NOCA, and then drinks at elements. Prado, although I have never been, might also be a good choice.

            5700 East McDonald Drive, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

            4949 E Lincoln Dr, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

            1. re: Kmcgee

              You may want to head down Mill Ave (Tempe, near finish line) after you're done for a lively atmosphere... more upscale options there would include House of Tricks, Cafe Boa (might not be the best choice if you've had enough pasta), or La Bocca..... there's also a ton more casual options for you to choose from as you wander down the street.
              I second Four Peaks, great beer & good food, also close to finish line.

              House of Tricks
              114 E 7th St, Tempe, AZ 85281

              Four Peaks Brewing Co
              1340 E 8th St, Tempe, AZ 85281

              Caffe Boa
              398 S. Mill Avenue, Tempe, AZ 85281

              La Bocca Pizzeria
              699 S Mill Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281

              1. re: achicken

                I think Tempe might be a bit crazy after the race...I think Cowboy Ciao is perfect, or NOCA, two of my absolute favorites in town.

                One thing about NOCA is I believe the entire menu won't be available...which could be good or bad, just be won't be the full NOCA experience.

                Sea Saw is a must-try, and feels like a "treat" place. Can't go wrong there.

                Coup des Tartes is fantastic. Love it. Cozy, tiny, great food. BYOB, so if you drink wine you'll want to plan ahead.

                Tarbell's is another great choice. Mark Tarbell is an Iron Chef winner and his popular-with-the-locals restaurant is just great and consistent.

                I work at the resort where the restaurant is located, so I can't actually recommend Prado per Chowhound rules, but I am sure they would be happy to welcome you. :)

                Have fun and enjoy your visit!

                1. re: HomeCookKirsten

                  Tarbell's is fantastic -- I have loved my meals there.

                  As for Cowboy Ciao, I have mixed feelings. It's a fun restaurant, certainly, and I have only eaten there once (last month) so it could have been an "off" night, but both of our entrees were really disappointing. I had the mushroom pan fry and to be honest, I don't know what all the fuss was about -- the mushrooms were mainly crimini and the sauce was overewhemlingly rich. My husband had the stuffed pork which was just "ok". That said, the appetizers we got (the carpaccio and a shrimp & grits) were spot on.

                  I think I am one of the few remaining people in town who hasn't had the pleasure of eating at Noca yet, but I can't wait to try it.

                  1. re: azravengal

                    We've eaten at Tarbell's, CC, and Noca all within the past year. Tarbell's didn't impress me at all. There were issues with my food and to their credit they bent over backwards to remedy it, but the food was still a shrug. CC is really good and the Stetson Chopped Salad is great, but as a whole, it seemed to be missing something. Between our first disastrous visit to CC and our revisit, we went to Noca. Noca for me has what is missing from CC. Noca is just fantastic on nearly all counts. Service, food, and atmosphere are all spot-on. My only gripe, and it's probably just a personal one, is that I haven't found a dessert that has been as good as the appetizers and entrees. I have loved the presentation and execution of the desserts, but for me, they just haven't been home runs. The duck confit, soups, fried chicken, and lobster rolls were all grand slams. It sounds like they have rolled out some new desserts and I can't wait to try them.

                    1. re: Firenza00

                      Funny. The dessert I had at NOCA (chilled spiced plum soup with vanilla mascarpone semifreddo) was definitely one of the 3 best restaurant desserts I ate last year. I remember telling Eliot that it was the best thing I'd put in my mouth in months. Next summer, I think they should sell the soup in growlers for take out. :-)

                      1. re: hohokam

                        Funny, for me too dessert was really memorable at NOCA and usually I don't get really excite about dessert. We were there in November and I had an apple "risotto" I still dream about.

                        1. re: ziggylu

                          Like I said, it's more my personal tastes than anything else. :)

                      2. re: Firenza00

                        add me to the list of people who really don't get the tarbell's appeal. sure, his food is solid, but barring an iron chef tasting menu add-on, his general menu hasn't changed in 10 years. ok i get the 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' school of thought, but it seems really dated there to me. the decor, menu, and one of my biggest pet peeves - tv's in the bar.

                        ok so maybe that's part of his whole neighborhood place appeal. fine - but 34 bucks for a porkchop at a neighborhood spot?

                        i'd rather have the 35 dollar 3 course sunday supper at noca. they're in the neighborhood too ;)

                        1. re: winedubar

                          "In the neighborhood"? Hell, they practically share a parking lot. I honestly can't see why anyone would take Tarbell's over Noca.

                          1. re: winedubar

                            We've only been to Tarbell's a couple times but we've never had a bad meal there. We've always had good service and found the environment to be welcoming and comfortable. It may not be the latest and greatest on the dining scene but they do still offer a solid experience. And there's something to be said sometimes for "familiar and comfortable." Same for Cowboy Ciao, the menu there hasn't really changed much over the years. Sure a few items here and there come and go but they're all in the same style and much of the menu has been the same for years.

                            As for the OP's question about where to eat on Sunday night after the race. I put the question to my husband who has run Rock and Roll a few times now(not this year however). He didn't have to think twice: "Richardson's!" Not quite the same experience as other suggestions here though so may not be what you're tlooking for.

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

                            1. re: ziggylu

                              I have never been unhappy with an experience at Tarbell's. They take care in sourcing their ingredients, they keep a very knowledgeable, well-trained, friendly staff, and the food and wine list are always on point. It's not molecular gastronomy, sure. But speaking for myself, I wouldn't want molecular gastronomy after a marathon. I would want a giant plate of Mark's mom's macaroni and cheese an half a roasted chicken and some impeccable service.

                              To the OP, though - if I'd just run a marathon or a half-marathon, I would be going for rich and indulgent. That would mean something like Coupe des Tartes, or T Cook's, or Quiessence. Multiple courses of sin. Sea Saw is wonderful, but the overall meal would be too healthy for me, if I'd just burned through four thousand calories ;).

                              1. re: themis

                                excellent points..if i had just ran a marathon and ended up in tempe i'd be at caffe boa, eating 4 plates of the chicken and cranberry ravioli with cream sauce. by the vat...

                                and then i'd head over to richardsons for carne adovada and the garlic shrimp pasta followed up by an ice cream sundae feeding frenzy at mary coyles

                                but thats just me ;)

                                1. re: winedubar

                                  You all rock and that's not just because this will be the Rock n Roll marathon! :) Thanks for all the tips, I especially dig the ice cream sundae idea.... I can't wait to get back to you all and detail our full experience!!

                                  1. re: winedubar

                                    Richardson's Carne Adovada. Yum. Definitely a good choice.

                2. I wanted to take time to reply to my original request for recommendations in PHX and Scottsdale. We ate at Z Tejas because it was super close to our hotel and we both loved it! I know it is a chain, but the menu was huge and really tasty. I loved my spicy chicken salad and sitting outside. We also ate at Marcellino's which I though was over priced for what we got and just so-so. The atmosphere was way to stuffy and "retiree-like" for me - I felt like I was dining with all the snow birds. Finally we ate at NOCA and loved it! Coincidentially - we did not realize before we made the reservation based on your recs - the chef is formerly from Danville - about 20 minutes from my home in Oakland, CA. We realized that NOCA probably stands for Northern California (??) - no wonder we loved the food and atmosphere! A real star, cannot wait to eat there again and since we are probably moving to Scottsdale in the Fall, looks like we will have a chance! Oh, the last funny thing is that we watched diners near us try to eat their complimentary cotton candy with a knife and fork - had a huge chuckle with the friendly owner over that one - a first according to him. Thanks to all of you for your recommendations!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Kmcgee

                    FWIW, the name derives from "North of Camelback" sort of like SF's SOMA (South of Market).

                    Thanks for the Seinfeldian image of people eating the cotton candy with their utensils.

                    1. re: Kmcgee


                      I am shocked to hear about marcellino's, given I haven't ate there in over a year..I love that restaurant it is such a goto for me. Do you mind me asking what you ordered?

                      I belive their prices have risen (due to the economy) so maybe that's why?? please share, just curious.