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Making a list for top chow mexican recommendations (PHX)

Will be in Scottsdale area for 5 nights and looking for some authentic non chain type restaurants. After reviewing several threads I have come up with a list and wanted to get feedback on these. Also are these close of a drive from where we are staying near the Chapperal Suites and Homewood suites area on Scottsdale north?
Also if some are better for lunch or others dinnner. We will also have kids with us and grandpa.

Phoenix Ranch Market (pick up lunch in market and walk the grocery stores)

El Nopalito (shrimp tacos)24th street

Carlsbad Tavern

Los Taquitos on Elliot (carne Asades) food channel diners/dives

Americas Taco shop on the 7th (carne asada)

Richardson Cuisine of New Mexico(burrito)

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  1. Most of the places named are about 10-15 miles away in Central Phoenix.

    Your situation is a common one. Visitors stay in a Scottsdale resort and want to find authentic Mexican nearby. That's difficult because most of Scottsdale is predominantly white non-Hispanic . Other parts of town often offer better options due to demographic differences.

    1. Answers to a similar query I posted a couple of years ago...


      1. You will love all of your choices. Do NOT bother with the chips and salsa at Americas Taco Shop. They're awful.

        Unfortunately, none of your choices are near your location in Scottsdale but they are worth the drive.

        Enjoy your visit!

        5 Replies
        1. re: JerryMe

          Thankyou Jerry. Cant wait! I love do my research on food recommendations. Too many times you hear of travellers not enjoying good restaurants as they just walk in and judge by the outside appearance.

          I take it none of the above have good lively atompsphere with mariachi's? or happy hours?

          1. re: palmtree38

            Tradiciones, the sit-down Mexican restaurant adjacent to the Ranch Market, has a festive atmosphere, Happy Hour with a variety of margaritas, including those made with fresh ingredients such as cilantro or cucumber, and mariachis. It's one of our favorite Mexican places to take out of town guests.

            And while you're in Sedona, be sure to visit Elote Cafe.

            1602 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

            Elote Cafe
            771 State Route 179, Sedona, AZ 86336

            1. re: Rubee

              WE have reservations booked at Elote Cafe for our first evening in Sedona. I must say I didnt find the owner or who I thought was the owner the most pleasant on phone or email. (jeff smedstad) I hope the food/service is better then my first contact with the restaurant.

              I will see about getting reservations for Tradiciones my kids would love this.

              1. re: palmtree38

                Elote is wonderful. Probably the best restaurant in Sedona.

            2. re: palmtree38

              i love the chips and salsa and america's, they are top notch. they have 3 or 4 different kinds of salsa, give 'em all a try.

          2. I would not do both Carlsbad Tavern and Richardson's -- they're both New Mexican food, which, frankly, you can get better in New Mexico. Of the two, I prefer Carlsbad Tavern as being more authentic. Richardson's is more of a chop house. Or rather, do Richardson's or the associated Dick's Hideaway for brunch instead of dinner, you will go away with a major case of happy tummy :).

            There is an outpost of Carolina's Mexican in Scottsdale that I would send you to. Not as seedy as the original location in CenPho but seriously good food -- they are known for their toothsome fresh tortillas and the "brown sauce." To get both of these taste sensations on one plate, choose a burrito variety and order it "foot-long, enchilada style."

            5 Replies
            1. re: themis

              Do you mean the Carolina's location in north Phoenix? I know there is a new location in Peoria, but don't think there's one in Scottsdale. From the OP's hotel, the original loation and the north Phoenix location are virtually equidistant; both are about 12.5 miles.

              Carolina's Mexican North
              2126 E Cactus Rd Ste 100, Phoenix, AZ 85022

              1. re: silverbear

                Blasted CH software won't let me add a placemark in edit mode. Here's the original Carolina's location.

                Carolina's Mexican Food Restaurant
                1202 E Mohave St, Phoenix, AZ 85034

                1. re: silverbear

                  Carolina's has a couple of websites. This one seems a little more up to date:

                  1. re: johnseberg

                    Yes, that's the one I was looking at. Still no Scottsdale location.

              2. re: themis

                That's the first time I've heard of Richardson's as a "chop house." Although I agree with you that Richardson's and Carlsbad are very similar, I think they are both good enough for separate visits and have found the menus differing quite a lot recently.

              3. You know, there's one I just remembered... it gets overlooked all the time because it's in an ancient strip mall in Gilbert, on Gilbert Road south of Guadalupe: Lulu's Taco Shop. Lulu has been running the place since I was a wee chowpup. I will admit I haven't been there since... well, since I lived in Gilbert, but I have heard that the food is every bit as good now as it was then.

                Lulu's Taco Shop
                610 N Gilbert Rd Ste 302, Gilbert, AZ 85234

                2 Replies
                1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                  How far away is Gilbert Arizona?

                  I tried calling Carolina's mexican last night to find out about the location in Scottsdale but they had me on hold for 10 min so I end up hanging up. Good thing I dont pay long distance charges from Toronto.

                  1. re: palmtree38

                    Trust me, there is no Scottsdale location of Carolina's. I believe Themis was referring to the north Phoenix location, but as I noted earlier, it's not much closer to your hotel than the original location in south Phoenix. See for yourself: http://tinyurl.com/ncryr7

                    As for Lulu's in Gilbert, it's nearly 20 miles away from your hotel.

                    To cut down on the long drives and potentially unhelpful recommendations, maybe you can clarify your needs. Which of these criteria are *most important* to you:

                    -- proximity to hotel (if so, how close is close enough? How far is too far?
                    )-- type of cuisine (Is Mexican essential?)
                    -- authenticity (Does this have to be a place frequented by numerous people of Mexican descent, or is something that appeals more to a non-Mexican crowd okay?)
                    -- kid-friendliness (Seem to remember this being important from another thread)
                    -- cost
                    -- atmosphere (Is an informal taco stand good, or do you prefer a sit-down restaurant?)
                    -- anything else

                2. I am not a fan of either Richardson's or Carlsbad Tavern as they are simply not authentic Mexican. There is definitely no Carolina's in Scottsdale but Carolina's belongs on your list. The north Phoenix location is closer to you and is very good but the "atmosphere" of the original is not to be missed. I love Phoenix Ranch Market but I'd eat inside at one of the many food stations that ring the store - walk the entire store before deciding and definitely try an Agua Fresca. They'll give you free samples.. My favorite at PRM are the tortas and the best is the Cubano. There is a new Phoenix Ranch Market in Mesa that would be a little closer but it does not have a sit down restaurant. I'd make the trek to the 16th street store. Missing from your list are two huge winners; First, Barrio Cafe on 16th Street is chef owned and has a national reputation. Do not think tacos or enchiladas here. Second is Pepe's Taco Villa on Camelback just east of the I-17. I've actually never had tacos there but everything else is great. Want an adventure? Do a taco truck near downtown Phoenix. Most only come out at night. Just pick one with a crowd. Agree totally on the chips at America's. They are very, very weak. Don't understand that with everything else homemade and great. BTW try the Mexican Coca Cola.
                  16th street is like a Mexican restaurant row. Worth trying for dessert are one of the Mexican Ice Cream shops.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Poerz

                    No experience with Carlsbad, but I just remembered that the OP is traveling with young children. In that case, Richardson's is a no go -- no high chairs, no boosters seats, and a blatant message on the menu advertising the lack of both. Fortunately, the cigarette smoke is gone due to the wisdom of Arizona voters, but it's still clear that Richardson's wants to be perceived as adults-only.

                    1. re: Poerz

                      I'm right there with you Poerz,Don't much care for Richardson's and really don't care for Carlsbad.Not so fond of NEW Mexican food.
                      Your recs are all spot on.I would add one more though,Rosita's Place 2310 E.McDowell.

                      1. re: twodogs

                        Are you saying that you don't care for New Mexico-style food (as in food that one would be served in the state of New Mexico) or you don't care for "Nuevo" style Mexican cuisine?

                        Just trying to understand which recs you're seconding, given that Barrio Cafe was mentioned in Poerz's post.

                        1. re: hohokam

                          I was seconding all of Poerz's recs but Richardson's and Carlsbad,sorry didn't mean to be confusing.I don't consider either of them to be in the "Mexican food" category.
                          I was refering to New Mexican(state) style cuisine.Not sure what you would consider Nuevo style.

                      2. re: Poerz

                        Neither Richardson's nor Carlsbad puts themselves out there as "authentic" Mexican. It is New Mexican as in the US State. That's the beauty of living in AZ and in the Southwest in general, we have a plethora of different cuisines.

                      3. If you end up in S Scottsdale/Tempe for some reason (like a hot morning at the zoo splash pads or the botanical garden with the kids), I'd add lunch at Restaurant Mexico to this list. It's not worth a special drive from north Scottsdale, but it has a different, lighter style of Mexican food from the other places on your list and is very family-friendly, with quick service and toys to borrow during your visit. Somewhat closer to you, I second adding Barrio Cafe to your list of possibilities; they have a good weekend brunch if that fits in with your plans.

                        As you've probably gathered from this site, Richardson's, Carlsbad Tavern, and Barrio Cafe are somewhat more "upscale" and the others all pretty "downscale," so deciding on lunch vs dinner depends on the ages of your kids and how they feel in the evenings. If you sense a rough kid night looming, the really informal places will be full of other sympathetic families. If the kids are feeling good, I'd probably go more upscale for dinner.

                        Los Taquitos (like Lulu's) is quite a drive from N Scottsdale, I'd choose a closer option for your carne asada/tacos unless you're headed south for some other reason.

                        Barrio Cafe
                        2814 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

                        Restaurant Mexico
                        423 S Mill Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: bortukan

                          OKEY I am totally lost now haha. So much to choose from and hard when you dont know your bearings of travelling.

                          We will be looking for a lunch on the way from Grand Canyon to Scottsdale. AND 4 lunches in Scottsdale area. 3 dinners in Scottsdale area. We were looking at doing the Rawhide Cookout but I didnt read too many good vibes on here about it.

                          Kids are 3 1/2 and 5 and are well travelled and love restaurant eating. We love to eat and try all types of food but mexican is very hard to come by where we live so we are excited about all these options.

                          WE have not even decided what events we will be doing in Scottsdale except hubby playing golf at TCP and that is the day I was going to take the kids to the zoo or some other kid friendly attraction. Restaurant mexico we could do for lunch this day.
                          Vito Richardson's!
                          Check for Phoenix Ranch Market for lunch
                          15 min drive from hotel is about what I was looking at.
                          Not really looking at $30 plus entrees.
                          Enjoy trying fun atmosphere, good value, meals that you talk about later of the adventures. Some restaurants that you can walk to so we can have some wobbly pops and happy hours is ideal as well. or Mariachi's.

                          1. re: palmtree38

                            Thanks for the clarification. I'm going to go out on a limb and blow up the whole absolute best Mexican food part of your request. I think a lot of visitors request Mexican food because it's what they think they should eat while here, but the Phoenix Metro Area has so much to offer beyond Mexican food.

                            Instead, I'm going to focus on kid-friendly and within 15 minutes of your hotel -- some Mexican, some not. As for walking distance, about the only choice is the assortment of restaurants at Scottsdale Fashion Square, and I can't think of any place there that thrills me right now.

                            Here's what I'd consider driving to:

                            -- Chelsea's Kitchen -- "Roadhouse cuisine" with Southwestern influences. Family friendly, but not in an Upchucky Cheese sort of way. Bonus: Eat dinner about 90 minutes before sunset and then walk along the canal after. Your kids might enjoy seeing the nearby "bat cave." Google < Phoenix bat cave > for more info.

                            -- El Molino -- a reliable place for a casual Mexican lunch in southern Scottsdale; on the way to the zoo. Counter service.

                            -- Fiesta Burrito -- similar to El Molino

                            -- Humble Pie -- artisan pizza, salads, accommodating of kids, but also with a great selection of adult beverages. Open for lunch and dinner.

                            Fiesta Burrito Mexican Food
                            7402 E McDowell Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85257

                            Chelsea's Kitchen
                            5040 N 40th St, Phoenix, AZ 85018

                            Humble Pie
                            6149 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85250

                            El Molino Mexican Cafe
                            3554 N Goldwater Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

                        2. I am very surprised that Gallo Blanco has not been listed yet. Perhaps it is because it is so new. For those that haven't been yet, it is owned and run by the chef that created the pizzas at LGO. He is originally from Mexico City, I believe, and he has created an simple yet amazing menu. They even serve fresh griddled tortillas! I haven't seen a lot of kids in there yet but I am usually there for lunch time. Best tacos in town, imho.

                          Gallo Blanco Cafe
                          401 W Clarendon Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85013

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: drobe30

                            Drobe is this location close to where we will be staying?

                            I dont need to have just mexican for all meals just a few good ones I wanted to include.
                            Roaring fork we may go for happy hour and a few around the area.

                            1. re: palmtree38

                              If you click on the Gallo Blanco Cafe link in drobe30's post (or on any other place link that has been provided thus far) you will be taken to a web page that has a map on the right-hand side near the top.

                              You can then click on the red teardrop-shaped place marker in the center of the map and bring up a box labeled "Directions" that will allow you to type in your starting location (e.g., the street address of your hotel) in the field labeled "From:".

                              Once you've entered the starting location, you can then click on the the "Map It" button. This will take you to a page with map of a suggested route, text-based directions, and an estimated travel distance and time.

                              1. re: hohokam

                                Thanks, hohokam. It looks like Gallo Blanco is about 9 or 10 miles away from Chaparral Suites over surface streets.

                                Another great option that is very close (maybe 2 or 3 miles to the south of Chaparrel Stes.) and considered one of the best in town by many, is Los Sombreros.

                                I am surprised at its lack of mention as well considering its proximity to the area you'll be staying! It is also a little more "modern" as opposed to hole-in-the-wall, but still authentic and delicious!


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

                                1. re: drobe30

                                  Gallo Blanco and Los Sombreros are both good options. Though, with the summer heat and the fact that the somewhat limited indoor seating at Los Sombreros can fill up fast, I'd probably give the nod to Gallo Blanco.

                                  But maybe Torontonians(?) are a hardier lot than I give them credit for. ;-)

                                  1. re: drobe30

                                    I think the op is going to Elote Cafe, which, I assume, is very similar to Los Sombreros.

                                    Carlsbad Tavern has some great large booths that can seat six, and the atmosphere could be fun for kids. It's only 3 or 4 miles away. I went last night and had my usual green chile burrito with carne adovada.

                                    Carlsbad Tavern
                                    3313 N Hayden Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

                                    1. re: johnseberg

                                      I second Carlsbad as kid friendly, both in service, atmosphere and food.

                              2. re: drobe30

                                Gallo Blanco is indeed very nice, but it's more than a 15-minute drive from the Chaparral Suites, and the OP requested restaurants within that range.

                                I will say that if the OP is looking for a place in Central Phoenix, GB is a good choice -- not only in terms of food, but also in terms of kid friendliness. There's no kid's menu or crayons on the tables, but there are high chairs and a casual atmosphere in which children are welcome. We brought out toddler there last week and did not feel the slightest bit unwelcome or out of place.

                              3. I was surprised no one recommended Rosita's--they have an awesome chili relleno, great refried beans, and an indoor goldfish pond.
                                Had some mariscos last nite at Casita del Mar and would recommend it to anybody. Ceviche is always great in the heat and theirs was outstanding! Also had a very delicious crab tostada. Be aware--it's helpful to speak a little spanish here, but the menu is also in english.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: jezebeljones

                                  Rosita's is one of the first suggestions in the thread I linked above (assuming you mean the restaurant on McDowell near 24th St):


                                  1. re: hohokam

                                    Just checked it out--I think Tacos Mexico is closed now--what a loss. Ok, I owe you a ceviche tostada.

                                    1. re: jezebeljones

                                      Yep. Tacos Mexico is no more. Definitely a big loss--their pollo asado was some of the best I've had.

                                2. Not that you'd necessarily plan your kids' activities around what you feel like eating, but... If you decide it's just too hot for a morning at the zoo on your husband's golf day, the Arizona Science Center (a large, interactive kids' science museum) and the Children's Museum of Phoenix (interactive art, science, and fun stuff to play with) are both less than 10 minutes' drive from the downtown Phoenix Carolina's, El Nopalito, and America's. Convenient, eh?

                                  Another alternative is the Arizona Museum of Natural History (lots of dinosaurs, a Mars exhibit, and some local prehistory/history), in downtown Mesa: very near the Blue Adobe Grill (New Mexican and pretty good, although not as well liked as Richardson's/Carlsbad in general), Mango's (also decent), and 15 minutes from Restaurant Mexico or Lulu's, or 20 from Los Taquitos. Searching around or asking would probably point you to more Mexican food options in that area too.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: bortukan

                                    Thanks so much! Awesome suggestions......
                                    Yes we will be at Eltoe cafe one night in Sedona for dinner. Ranch market for a lunch for sure. I have read alot about Carlsbad so I think we will include this one as well.

                                    I will then make a list of places all suggested and look at menus and locations and narrow them down.
                                    Has anyone been to Georges in La jolla San diego? Wonderfull view on the roof top great food and bit fancier. this type of enviroment we love too (not just mexican) Kids love getting dressed up too for fancier meals without fancier huge prices
                                    Any restaurants that tourist must try that give you a feel for Arizona would be awesome too. Seems on other threads. thai and falafal and pizza places suggested but that does not appear to be too Arizonian..

                                    We will be in Scottsdale 5 nights I hope this is not too much time.

                                    1. re: palmtree38

                                      Is Los Sombroros a higher end restaurant? Looking at the menu the dinner entrees are $17 and up.

                                      1. re: palmtree38

                                        I think of Los Sombreros as upscale for a Mexican restaurant (most of which are ultra-casual in Phoenix), but more like upper-middle for a restaurant in general, similar to Barrio Cafe. No kids' menu as far as I can remember, but kids do show up there now and then. We tend to reserve it for nights when our 3.5-year-old is at grandma's, but just for the "guaranteed calm adult dinner" factor, not b/c she'd be at all unwelcome there.

                                        1. re: palmtree38

                                          Yes, as bortukan said, the food (and, correspondingly, the prices) are higher end, but the atmosphere itself is very casual. No need to get dressed up, or be terribly anxiety-ridden having the kids along.

                                    2. hey palmtree..
                                      Since we live in SD, I don't know all the great places but have had great Mex at Carolina's..super dive but so good and cheap.
                                      Tee Pee in Phoenix is excellent and Carlos O'Brien's..yeah, its Americano but its really good..imho
                                      Elote Cafe is excellent in Sedona too.
                                      Have fun!


                                      53 Replies
                                      1. re: Beach Chick

                                        Hi Beach chick. Did you have a good visit? Did you try any fish tacos in Phoenix area? i can still taste them now from SD vacation. Tried making them at home and my house stunk for a week and they did not taste quite the same :O)

                                        I have Carolinas Mexican food on my list
                                        Ranch Market for lunch and then maybe a dinner at Tradiciones

                                        We dont have Carolos and O'Brians here in Toronto area but have heard of the chain. Would this be a good date night out place? As my dad is coming and this will be our first holiday that hubby and I can get out in the evening for some drinks and nibblies. So would want to go somewhere a bit more happening not quiet and romantic.

                                        We are staying at Kings Ransom and have dinner reservations made for our first dinner in Arizona.

                                        Thanks so much for heads up on Carolina's

                                        1. re: palmtree38

                                          Carlos O'Brien's is a local restaurant with two locations -- not really a chain. I wouldn't consider it a date place.

                                          1. re: silverbear

                                            Isnt this chain like a Senor Frogs?? or like a TG Fridays?

                                            1. re: palmtree38

                                              I'm not familiar with Senor Frogs and have managed to live 43 years without ever eating at TGI Fridays, so I can't really compare.

                                              What I can say about Carlos O'Brien's:

                                              -- It's Mexican/Sonoran border food. Popular locally, but not necessarily the best of Mexican cooking.

                                              -- It's casual and family-oriented. Decent place to take the kids, but I'd probably be sleeping on the couch if I suggested it as a date night place.

                                              -- It's perfectly fine as an in-the-neighborhood place, but not really a destination restaurant.
                                              -- It has two locations -- one in North Central Phoenix and the other in North Scottsdale. It is not a chain beyond those two sites.

                                              1. re: silverbear

                                                I wouldn't suggest Carlos O'Brien's for a date but great for the kids and the whole family..it is your classic Gringo Mex and they're not afraid to use lots of cheese..which I love!

                                                1. re: Beach Chick

                                                  Carlos O'Brien's sounds a lot like Los Olivos (2nd location and all). I'd go to Los Olivos, if I wanted to stay in the Old Town Scottsdale area.

                                                  Los Olivos
                                                  7328 E 2nd St, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

                                          2. re: palmtree38

                                            Carlos O'Brian's is fine if you want cheap food and alot of it. It's simply not in the same dining category as Carolina's, Los Taquitos, America's Taco Shop, Phoenix Ranch Market and certainly Barrio Cafe. I would never include COB on a foodie trip.

                                            1. re: Poerz

                                              Poerz. of your above choices Barrio Cafe is the most highest on the pocket book and the others are inespensive good ethentic correct?

                                              1. re: palmtree38

                                                That is correct. However, I don't think of Barrio Cafe as being overly expensive but certainly compared to the others, it is.

                                                1. re: palmtree38

                                                  There is a string elsewhere on this board about Barrio Cafe with some negative comments. I don't necessarily agree with most of those as BC is much more of an authentic Mexico City style restaurant that incorporates some regional cuisine. People who frankly like Carlos O'Briens may not understand what BC is doing. One person complained about the guacomole being "chunky" which is how it's supposed to be. Anyway, some entree prices were noted in the $17-20 range. $17 was for Cochiniti Pibil, slow braised and seasoned pork, which I have had at BC and it's fantastic.

                                                2. re: Poerz

                                                  And you can get large quantities of inexpensive food at Carolina's and PRM, but the qualitiy is far superior to Carlos O'Brian's.

                                                  1. re: ajs228

                                                    I am going to take Carols Obrians from my list.

                                                    Carolina's Mexican and Ranch Market III/Tradiciones for sure

                                                    List to narrow down
                                                    Los Sombraors
                                                    Carlsbad Tavern
                                                    EL Nopalito
                                                    Los Taquitos
                                                    Americas Taco Shop
                                                    Bariro Cafe
                                                    Gallo Blanco

                                                    1. re: palmtree38

                                                      Richardson's is closed, due to fire. The menu will be available at Dick's Hideaway and Rokerij.

                                                      Dick's Hideaway
                                                      6008 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016

                                                      6335 N. 16th St., Phoenix, AZ 85016

                                                      1. re: johnseberg

                                                        Do you know if Richardson's will re-open?

                                                          1. re: johnseberg

                                                            Thanks. We'll be visiting in late Nov. & we like Richardson's (I guess from reading these posts, we are some of the few that like it)...we don't go there for mexican, but just b/c we like it.

                                                          2. re: synergy

                                                            I am rebuilding right now at 16th st and Maryland, hope to open by nov1.

                                                        1. re: palmtree38

                                                          This was implied in an earlier post, but it should be noted that while Los Sombreros has great food, there may not a big point in going there, since you're going to be eating at Elote Cafe in Sedona. The chef at Elote was the chef/owner of Los Sombreros until he moved to Sedona, opened Elote, and left or sold LS to his ex-wife. Much of the menu has stayed the same, but there seems to be a decent amount of overlap b/w the two, and the style of food is obviously going to be very very similar. Just a heads-up, since you might be looking for more diversity on your trip.

                                                          1. re: crsin

                                                            crsin. Thanks for the heads up.. We are going to Cafe Elote dont need the same meals pretty much two different nights. cross that one off list now..

                                                            Good to always check updates as you never know when they could go belly up or a fire etc.. I dont really want to get their menu at a alternative
                                                            location so thats two off my list now...

                                                            El Nopalito
                                                            Carlsbad Tavern
                                                            Los Taquitos
                                                            American Taco Shop
                                                            Bariro Cafe
                                                            Gallo Blanco

                                                            WE will be driving to old town to go to Ranch Market./Tradicions as will be in North Scottsdale road around Chapparel Suites.

                                                            I dont want to drive more then 20 min is there any restaurants that could be taken off this list that are more then 20 min??? unless they are the CAT'S MEOW OF CHOW that I should make the drive.
                                                            OR I will be driving from Scottsdale to Sedona if one of these spots is on the way for a run in takeout for lunch after flying in would be good too.

                                                            1. re: palmtree38

                                                              1) As mentioned before, none of the places listed are between your hotel and Sedona as the crow flies. They all lie south of where you will be staying; Sedona is north of where you will be staying.

                                                              If you are dead set on eating your 1st day lunch at one of these places, Carlsbad Tavern will require the least severe detour. Barrio Cafe, El Nopalito, America's, and Gallo Blanco require more severe detours. In my opinion, Los Taquitos is simply too far out of your way to consider. America's is the only place that I think of as being a take-out joint, but I guess any of the places will box up food for you if you ask.

                                                              A check of the maps associated with the place links will show you where restaurants are, with respect to your hotel and Sedona.

                                                              2) Barrio Cafe, Gallo Blanco, America's Taco Shop and Ranch Market are going to be just outside of the 20-minute driving radius. Same for Los Taquitos, which you will probably want to avoid driving to between 4pm and 6pm due to rush hour traffic. El Nopalito will be inside your limit, but just barely. Carlsbad Tavern is the only place that will be inside your limit.

                                                              Again, a look at the maps will give you a sense of where these places are and how long it will take you to get to each of them.

                                                              Good luck.

                                                              1. re: hohokam

                                                                ok so all these places once back in Scottsdale are going to require a car and drive at least 20 min to get to them..

                                                                WEll maybe we will just pick up something quick that looks good on our travels.. Once we get on the highway I 17 there should be something along there.

                                                                1. re: palmtree38

                                                                  Although it would require a bit of a detour, why not take the 101 down to Indian School and use that to get to I-17? Taking Indian School to I-17 will put you in range of El Nopalito and Gallo Blanco for a pleasant luncheon. Sure, it will add time to your trip, but you drive through Old Town Scottsdale and the border of Arcadia in East Phoenix, through Phoenix's central core and then onto I-17 (roughly 23rd Avenue in Phoenix).

                                                                  That route gives you access to two on your list and gives you a nice taste of Scottsdale and Phoenix.

                                                                  1. re: Seth Chadwick

                                                                    I think Seth's advice is good, but, from the Chaparral Suites, you would simply drive about 2 miles South to get to Indian School Road. There would be no benefit to going to I-101 for that short distance.

                                                                    I was also thinking that Carolina's North was somewhat on the way to I-17. Just go North on Scottsdale Road, and West on Cactus.

                                                                    Maybe I'm confused about where you are staying, but, I thought you said you are staying at the Chaparral Suites, which I show as being on Scottsdale Road and Chaparral.

                                                                    1. re: johnseberg

                                                                      I have my map and Chapparel suites is at Chapparel road and scottsdale road where we are staying. I see the distance to cactus road which seems like a short jaunt and then i would to 2126 East Cactus road where Carolina's is at? This was mentioned to be a nicer location then others? So I would take a right and go east a few blocks and would see the restaurant?

                                                                      Then once finished take the 101 to the I17 to Sedona? This does not appear to off the radar of our route,,

                                                                      When we come back to scottsdale for last 5 days of holidays we will be going to old town and such to try some of the others. I just think it would be nice to pick something up cheap and cheerfull without the long seating waits after travelling from 2am to noon.

                                                                      1. re: palmtree38

                                                                        Carolina's is near the corner of Cactus and Cave Creek Road. There is a Denny's and a Taco Bell on the same corner. Everything is served in a take-out container, even if you eat in. When you're done eating, you could continue on Cactus, which becomes Thunderbird, to I-17, or, take Cave Creek Road North to I-101, like you suggest - not much difference, IMO.

                                                                        The pictures currently on this website are of the Cactus location:

                                                                        1. re: johnseberg

                                                                          I got my map mixed up . going north on my map I would turn a left then on Cactus this is going east and Cave Creek is by north mountain park correct?

                                                                          1. re: palmtree38

                                                                            I can't completely agree with what you're saying. You'll be going west on Cactus. You have the address, and some landmarks.

                                                                            I think you need to figure this out on your own, at this point. You've got an extraordinary amount of help, here.

                                                                            1. re: johnseberg

                                                                              Ok thanks for everyones help. We will make this our first lunch in Arizona..
                                                                              Just wanted to make sure I had the same landmarks is all.

                                                                              1. re: palmtree38

                                                                                Carolina's north is actually much nicer and more comfortable than the original and the food is at least comparable. However, you will miss the dive atmosphere of the original. CN is in a former Chinese buffet. For the food, it's great. For the overall experience, it's just not the same.

                                                                                1. re: Poerz

                                                                                  hmmm well food sounds good.. how divey is the place to bring in a 3 1/2 and 5 year old? As long as the food tastes good. for 5 is it better to order several pieces of different items or combos?

                                                                                  1. re: palmtree38

                                                                                    Dive maybe isn't the best description but it is a unique atmosphere in a strange neighborhood. You'll see everyone from politicians to firefighers to gang bangers (as best I can tell, Carolina's is neutral territory and safe). Personally, I think the combos are the way to go. My favorites are the machaca plate (with an extra tortilla) and the crispy taco combo (various options).

                                                                                    1. re: Poerz

                                                                                      drolling over the menu.. machaca from the menu is a t ype of enchilada and the crispy taco you mean hard taco? Wow these prices are great $5.45 for a combo.. I could just order a 1/2 order of tortillas .. Do they have a salsa bar?? Where you can have take out in various salsa's? Or do they give you a standard type..

                                                                                      1. re: palmtree38

                                                                                        Machaca is seasoned shredded beef. It's the same beef that shows up in their tacos, Etc. I just get the machaca combo that has a generous portion of the meat that can either be enjoyed by the forkfull or placed in the great tortillas. Crispy tacos are the traditional tacos that are fried tortillas. They are about as similar to crispy tacos at Taco Bell as a Chevy is to a Porche. Carolina's is not a salsa bar kind of place. There is a picante sauce available.

                                                                                        1. re: Poerz

                                                                                          thanks for the machaca info.. Will be stopping there.

                                                                                          Of all the other places do they have salsa bar's? I went to Mama Testes in San Diego and they had about 10 to choose from. Had takeout containers and you could help yourself to the various salsa's for take out.

                                                                                          1. re: palmtree38

                                                                                            You are not going to find that in many real Mexican places. I can't think of any of the reallly outstanding Mexican places here that do that. I have seen this in a few fish taco places so maybe that's why Mama Testas has it.

                                                                                              1. re: crsin

                                                                                                Fish taco's are more known food in San Diego then? They were the best thing I had every tried. Had them the first time at George's at the cove in La Jolla..

                                                                                                Bobby Flay was doing a cook off on fish tacos against restaurant owner of Mama Testes last week. I love those cooking shows..

                                                                                                WEll I got a good list of restaurants and I can go from here. Thankyou very much everyone for your time and suggestions.

                                                                                                1. re: palmtree38

                                                                                                  Ok 2 mths later and closing in on my holiday for October. Hoping these restaurants are still opened. I have been pinning out on my map the restaurants I have chosen. This los Toquitos looks way too far south west of tempe in awhwatukee?? Do I have the right location if so this looks far south for my travelling. sooo... here is my list. 5 lunches 3 dinners
                                                                                                  Carolina's (first lunch in Phoenix on way to Sedona)
                                                                                                  Ranch Market III
                                                                                                  ZTejas Happy hour/bloody mary bar fun
                                                                                                  Humble Pie
                                                                                                  Last lunch before flight at hotel's 5th Floor Grill

                                                                                                  Carlsbad Tavern
                                                                                                  Roaring Fork happy hour/dinner
                                                                                                  Tradiciones in old towne

                                                                                                  Hoping to find a street taco vendor for the experience~

                                                                                                  How is this for a taste of Scottsdale/phoenix???

                                                                                                  1. re: palmtree38

                                                                                                    As far as I know, those choices are all still open. I've never been to Los Taquitos. Google says they're at 4747 E Elliot Rd # 17, Phoenix, AZ 85044-1628, (480) 753-4370. That's a drive, 20-25 miles. I haven't thoroughly read this whole thread, but, I don't know anything about this place.

                                                                                                    Tradiciones and Ranch Market III share the same basic location, and it is not in Old Town. Old Town is a term that refers to downtown Scottsdale, and Ranch Market III is slightly East of downtown Phoenix.

                                                                                                    I don't see many street vendors, just the Sonoran Hot Dog, and I can't think of the exact location. Somewhere is the area of 24th St and Indian School, maybe?

                                                                                                    1. re: johnseberg

                                                                                                      This is the place I was thinking of. It's linked to a lot of threads looking for similar vendors.

                                                                                                      Nogales Hot Dogs
                                                                                                      1945 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

                                                                                                    2. re: palmtree38

                                                                                                      All are still open. Just for clarification, Tradiciones is the sit down restaurant at the Phoenix Ranch Market on 16th Street just east of downtown Phoenix. Los Taquitos is a bit of a drive but it's all freeway so it doesn't take very long. It's a family run, order at the counter Mexican that is very good. Was on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives on the Food Network not too long ago.

                                                                                                      1. re: palmtree38

                                                                                                        Just not feeling the love for Carlsbad Tavern. I guess it's because it's New Mexican (as in the state, not the genre) and this is Arizona. Just opened up the new issue of Phoenix Magazine that lists the 23 best new restaurants in the valley and number one is America's Taco Shop! Maybe stop by for an appetizer Carne Asada Taco on your way to dinner at Tradiciones which is about 9 blocks away.

                                                                                                        1. re: palmtree38

                                                                                                          Even with my whining in my other posting, you've got a very good list and definitely will enjoy yourselves. While you are visiting Tradiciones/PHoenix Ranch Market you might want to drive up 16th which is becoming a Mexican Restaurant Row with plenty of good torta shops and lots of Mexican ice cream, paletas, Etc. I do think you are making a mistake with Carlsbad Tavern. I'd trade that out for Barrio Cafe.

                                                                                                          1. re: Poerz

                                                                                                            Poerz. you seem very knowledgable.
                                                                                                            I just thought it might be more appealing with a happy hour and the bat cave for children.
                                                                                                            We are also going to Cafe Elote for a bit finer mexican in Sedona and this is kinda why I thought I would pass on Barrio Cafe.

                                                                                                            Was looking for some Cheap and Cheerful places to not kill the pocket book every night eating out.
                                                                                                            The American's Taco Shop listed number one that would be closer then Los Taquitoes?

                                                                                                            Yes aware of the Tradiciones being part of ranch market. We thought we woudl browse the stores and grab take out and then go back to the area for dinner. If Taco shop is down the road we could go there too.
                                                                                                            Looking for fun atmospheres too maybe some live action, people watch etc.

                                                                                                            And thanks for approving my not too bad list :O)

                                                                                                            1. re: palmtree38

                                                                                                              Carlsbad is great for kids and the food is excellent. Don't be put off by the New Mexican aspect, it is still excellent with some unique choices. They do everything really well. Barrio Cafe is way overrated, IMO.

                                                                                                              1. re: palmtree38

                                                                                                                Ah yes, I keep forgetting about the kids...

                                                                                                            2. re: palmtree38

                                                                                                              In terms of your list, you might rethink "using up" an entire meal at Roaring Fork and Z'tejas. There are plenty of great restaurants nearby, in the Old Town area, and less than 10 minutes away down Camelback (as well as in between, and beyond, of course).

                                                                                                              I don't see why eating New Mexican would be a problem. If you were to eat ONLY food indigenous to Arizona, that would be pretty narrow, difficult, and pointless.

                                                                                                              1. re: crsin

                                                                                                                Try The Mission instead of these two. You will not be disappointed. It doesn't get nearly enough pub on these boards, but it is a great place with some really exciting food. Try the pork belly and do NOT MISS the peruvian stew. It is ridiculously good.

                                                                                                                1. re: danieli10

                                                                                                                  It doesnt have to be all mexican food/new mexican..I chose lots of these type of places as this type of food is far and few where we live.
                                                                                                                  I dont know if Arizona has a dish or food type that is a must have.

                                                                                                                  Geeze with all these foodies will come back as big as a house!

                                                                                                                  So if we go to roaring fork in the late evening for drinks and happy's we could have a earlier dinner somewhere else.

                                                                                                                  Where are you suggesting in old town area?

                                                                                                                  1. re: palmtree38

                                                                                                                    A few I would recommend off the top of my head are The Mission (as danieli10 mentioned), Cowboy Ciao, Digestif. Kazimierz for wine and small plates.

                                                                                                                    Nearby places I haven't had the opportunity to try yet, but have generally very good feedback on this board include Posh (in building right next to RF), Prado (<5mi. from you), and the new location of Lolo's Chicken and Waffles (original Phoenix is beloved, new location ~3mi. from you). Also, Petit Maison (open for a month or less) is at the top of my personal list to try.

                                                                                                                    1. re: crsin

                                                                                                                      Ok will google them and check out their menu.
                                                                                                                      These are all places that are child friendly too? (my kids are not run around the restaurant type) howerver they are younger.

                                                                                                                      Are these high end as I have read a few but are $30 plus entress. This would be nice perhaps one meal.

                                                                                                                      1. re: palmtree38

                                                                                                                        Sorry, forgot about the kids.

                                                                                                                        In terms of cost, it obviously depends on what you order, but yes they are all higher-end, with the exception of Lolo's. At most, it is likely possible to keep the bill reasonable by ordering just an entree, or just a couple apps per person (as opposed to a multi-course meal). For example, one could make a fairly hearty meal from the aformentioned peruvian stew and a salad for just over $20 at The Mission. From what I've read, Petite Maison is "moderately" priced (several entrees <$20). Take a look at the menus and see what you think.

                                                                                                                        I can honestly only think of a couple of places in Phoenix that outright discourage people from being kids, but Kazimierz is 21+ (only mentioned for a drink rec), and Digestif recently moved into a much smaller space where much of the seating is at a bar surrounding the kitchen, which could be tough with kids. There is some regular seating, though, so I don't know if this would really be an issue. The other places--so long as your kids don't mind sitting still, and enjoy that kind of food--should be fine. Sorry if these recs were way off base from what you are looking for.

                                                                                                                        1. re: crsin

                                                                                                                          no worries! crsin.
                                                                                                                          We are not the type of family that goes all the way to Arizona and goes to appleby's TGIF, Olive garden type chains. If it is a chain from the south west like ZTEJAS its different as not around where I live. Love going off the beaten path (within reason) to find hidden gems or diners/drive ins from Food Network. Something you can come home and right home about ..

                                                                                                                          My daughter just turned 5 and wants to go somewhere fancy for dinner tonight.. I said how fancy she says napkin on the lap and wine glasses with lemon water :O) ....

                                                            2. As a Phoenix native who loves to eat (and hates to cook), Mexican food is one of my favorites. I'd recommed Via Delosantos on Central Ave. north of Dunlap (probably a 20-30 min drive from where you're staying). It's a dive kind of place, but a dive with really good food and an hour's wait on Friday/Saturday nights. We order their green chili corn tamales enchilada style as part of our Thanksgiving meal. I'd take Via's any day over Carolinas.

                                                              I agree w/crsin on recommending Cowboy Ciao. Food w/a Southwestern twist instead of Mexican, but quite yummy in its own right.

                                                              I also agree about Carlos O'Brien's, though I do eat there occasionally, the last time being 2 nights ago. It's a great place when what you want is very predictable, unsurprising Mexican food with lots and lots of cheese (especially if you don't want anything at all spicy, which our guest didn't), but there are other places that are better for a trip.

                                                              Fry Bread House on 7th Avenue is a bit of a drive (probably 35-45 minutes from your hotel), but it's a fun way to experience Native American food. It's casual. You can get savory (topped w/beans, meat, etc. like a taco but on fry bread) or sweet (open faced, topped with powdered sugar, chocolate, etc.) Fry bread is a staple at the state fair (which is also happening here in October), but better at Fry Bread House.

                                                              Richardson's recently burned down in a fire, so good call on taking it off your list, as it's no longer an option anyway.

                                                              Also, though you didn't mention breakfast, one pick that's in your area: Butterfield's Pancacke House on Shea just east of Scottsdale Road. Technically it is a chain, but it only has this Az location and three in Illinois, so if you haven't been there before, it's worth considering. It was my birthday pick this summer - we did breakfast instead of dinner for a change of pace.

                                                              They have some unique variations on French toast, including one that uses lemon poppyseed bread. I have a big sweet tooth, so I like that sort of thing, but they also have good egg dishes. And, ironically, better guacamole than a lot of Mexican restaurants, according to my husband and his family. (I'm not an avacado fan, so I can't say.) They also have fresh-squeezed orange juice.

                                                              Enjoy your trip to the Valley!

                                                              10 Replies
                                                              1. re: RebeccaR

                                                                Semi off-topic, but it's worth noting if the OP wanted to eat at Richardson's, their sister restaurants Rokerij and Dick's Hideaway are still up and running, and I believe I read somewhere that they are serving Richardson's full menu over at Rokerij. Many Richardson's favorites also overlap on the menu at Dick's. Excellent food, and hugely recommended if you're in the area. This was, however, one of the exact spots I was thinking about when I mentioned places that seem to actively discourage bringing kids. However, it sounds like your kids are old enough to not need high chairs or anything of that nature, so I'm sure it'd be fine.

                                                                1. re: crsin

                                                                  Another Link

                                                                  Via Delosantos
                                                                  9120 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85020

                                                                  1. re: crsin

                                                                    Thank you for the kind words. Richardson

                                                                  2. re: RebeccaR

                                                                    Via Delosantos is my new favorite Mexican place in Phoenix. I think they might put too much tomato paste in the salsa, but, I've loved everything else. Amazing lard-free Mexican!

                                                                    As their menu states, Butterfield's Banana Nut French Toast is decadent. If you have a sweet tooth and like pecans, it's a must.

                                                                    Rebecca, I also pretty much agree with everthing else in your post, except I decided that I would gain about 50 pounds if I was a regular at Carlos O'Briens, and I don't think the food is worth it. I get your point, though. And, I like Carolina's and Via Delosantos for different reasons.

                                                                    Butterfield's Pancake House and Restaurant
                                                                    7388 E Shea Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85260

                                                                    1. re: johnseberg

                                                                      HOLLY CHOW...
                                                                      Just when I thought my list was complete! I have some more homework to do on all these new suggestions!

                                                                      Confirmed that Ranch market is good for lunchie and Carolina's
                                                                      Roaring Fork and Ztejas now for nibblie/drinks not dinner

                                                                      Carlsbad so so maybe Cowboy Ciao instead.
                                                                      Humble Pie was on here for proximity to scottsdale rather then making the trip to the big lineup Bario Cafe I believe it was .

                                                                      Tradicones no comment on this one?
                                                                      America's Taco Shop #1 in 23 best restaurnts in phoenix area so I better check the scoop on this.

                                                                      so little time and so much food to pack in :O)

                                                                      1. re: palmtree38

                                                                        America's Taco Shop is number 1 on their 23 best NEW restaurants in Phoenix. I think it's great but believe they got on the list as much for the redo of an old house and a neat concept. You order at the counter and food is delivered to your table. They claim to have the best carne asada in Phoenix and I can't dispute that.

                                                                        1. re: Poerz

                                                                          Never had a carne asada..

                                                                          Well you have been very helpfull Poerz and everyone else.
                                                                          Hard to narrow them down as when you finalise your list their is always a critic that will say vito this one add this one so your change your itinary. then you get a critic saying no way on that one..
                                                                          All the fun of chowhound dining decisions!

                                                                          1. re: palmtree38

                                                                            Carolina's Mexican and Ranch Market III/Tradiciones for sure

                                                                            List to narrow down
                                                                            Carlsbad Tavern
                                                                            EL Nopalito
                                                                            Los Taquitos
                                                                            Americas Taco Shop
                                                                            Bariro Cafe
                                                                            Gallo Blanco
                                                                            Chino Bandido

                                                                            Would going to a night at Tradicions with happy hour and mariachi's be alot like going to Carlsbad Tavern ? for fun atmosphere and would prices be comparable? good people watching atmosphere??? If these are both the same or similar we could take one of these off for dinner.

                                                                            1. re: palmtree38

                                                                              No, completely different. Carlsbad Tavern is New Mexican (as in the state) and Tradiciones is Mexican as in the country. No Mariachi's at Carlsbad Tavern that I know of. That's a great list. You can't go wrong.

                                                                              btw, Carne Asada is marinated steak that is either grilled or cooked over an open fire. You won't find ground beef tacos in Mexico. Beef tacos there are made with carne asada.

                                                                              1. re: Poerz

                                                                                DARN.. I am really trying to narrow down my choices here as I cant do them all!! Plus I have White chocolate/roaring fork/Ztejaz/Humble Pie and Cowboy Ciao to nibble through for my NON mexican..

                                                                  3. I'd pick just one taco place from your list-- either America's if it's more conveniently located, or Los Taquitos if you're willing to take a longer drive in order to visit a place from the Food Network. To me at least, the small, good taco places in town aren't all that different from one another.

                                                                    Carolina's is different from the above in that it's not a taco shop. If you're really looking to narrow things down, El Nopalito is the most similar thing on your list to Carolina's.

                                                                    1. Hopefully this link will help bring clarity instead of further cunfuzzlement :) Chino Bamdito is a hike, but so unique it's worth it. Phoenix Ranch Market is same as it ever was, but is now called Phoenix Pro Market....don't miss the aguas frescas and fresh cut sticks of fruit. I can't believe nobody has chimed in for Los Dos Molinos...it's at least as far away as many other picks. Careful, everything is spicy there. At Carolina's, be sure buy extra flour tortillas to take with you...the craving will surely hit you later. Get your hands on simply some butter to slather on them and a way to warm them up back at your hotel.....MMMmmm. If there is no microwave, maybe a hairdryer would work???? Barrio Cafe is known for it's mole' sauces (they make two....red and black) Try to sample both but don't miss the cochinita pibil...roast pork w/ anchiote and sour orange ($19). Mole can be too aggressive for uninitiated tastebuds but give it a chance...it'll grow on you. I still vividly remember my first taste of authentic mole'35 years ago....wasn't sure about it at the time...and now it's maybe my favorite sauce across all cuisines.

                                                                      check this link for more....good eating to ya'


                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                      1. re: pgrant8258

                                                                        pgrant Thanks so much for the link as I just found out that the Arizona State Fair is held while we are there. Any foodies on here try the new items at the fair ie chocolate covered habaneros and scorpions?? I saw the fry bread that was mentioned on here served at the Fair.

                                                                        I saw a Arizona Crave Food Festival with local restaurants. I was looking for wine and food show but this is as close to what I found. Does any chowhounders go to the Arizonia Crave festival?

                                                                        Bortukan thanks so much for your input! Thats exactly what I wanted to do was eliminate a restaurant that was similar to the other. Ie We are going to Carolina's s owe can now take off the El Napalito from our list.. Pg Rant I can taste the tortilla's now.!!!

                                                                        1. re: palmtree38

                                                                          This is actually the first year for "Crave Arizona". It's inaugural year - last year - was called "Eats3". I went to one of the Wine Luncheons (Louis Latour at Razz's) with a friend, and it was a lot of fun:

                                                                          For CraveAZ 2009, I'm planning to go to the Top Bar Chef Competition & Kick-Off Party on Thursday (went to Crave's Top Bar Chef semi-finalists earlier this year):
                                                                          and the Grand Tasting on Saturday, though all the events sound like a great time - Wine Luncheons, Library Wine Tasting Series, BBQ and Bubbles, Artwalk, etc.

                                                                          Link to schedule of events for Crave Arizona 2009.

                                                                          1. re: Rubee

                                                                            It doesnt look like your typical wine/food event that we have been to. You pay $15 to get in and buy wine tickets to sample different wines at 2-5 ticket price (tickets 2 for $1)depending on the wine and food samples are complimentary. This looks like a more hotey totey dress up event??

                                                                            Carlsbad Tavern
                                                                            Ranch MArket III/Tradiciones
                                                                            Los Taquitos
                                                                            Bariro Cafe
                                                                            Gallo Blanco
                                                                            Chino Bandido

                                                                            Taking off Americas taco shop and El Napalito

                                                                            1. re: palmtree38

                                                                              Yes, this is definitely not a $15 wine and food festival - not quite familiar with that type of event. I don't consider it "Hoity-toity" or fancy dress-up - it's held outdoors starting at noon. I think it's just a much larger culinary festival than you were thinking of.

                                                                              More info for chefs and restaurants involved at http://cravearizona.com/talent/index.php
                                                                              and pictures from last year:

                                                                              Whatever you decide, have a great time in Phoenix!

                                                                              1. re: palmtree38

                                                                                Crave is open only to guests 21 and older -- no children allowed.

                                                                                The closest thing to a $15 culinary festival here is the Great Arizona Picnic, part of the Scottsdale Culinary Festival held each April.

                                                                                1. re: silverbear

                                                                                  ok looking at the venue pictures it doesnt look like a big event! The ones that I have been to have hundred plus booths. wines and beers from all over and food is complimentary to sample with admission just your drinks are extra.

                                                                                  1. re: palmtree38

                                                                                    Not sure quite why this is being argued since you asked what Crave AZ was like and I offered what I hoped was helpful information for a first-time visitor. As I did mention, I now agree that I don't think it's what you're thinking of - those may be more popular in Canada? I've been to a food/beverage expo however that sounds similar to that - lots of booths with charges for food and beverage tickets once you enter, but in addition to restaurants they included chains, food purveyors, national companies, etc.

                                                                                    Anyways, this is to clarify for those interested: The Grand Tasting focuses on supporting local (i.e, all Arizona independent restaurants, no national chains, etc.) ,and Crave AZ is a large event spanning three days. Guests chefs last year included Ming Tsai and Jacques Pepin. This year includes TC's Stephanie Izard (so nice - got to meet her at a Digestif dinner) and Sam Talbot, among others. It's in its second year, and takes place outside: http://z.about.com/d/phoenix/1/0/0/i/... Didn't get to the Grand Tasting last year, but really looking forward to it this year!

                                                                                    1. re: Rubee

                                                                                      My intentions were not to argue this what is was is to get the peticulars. Coming from out of Country I wanted to know if it was worth the time and money to go to one of these events or spend my travelling vacation time trying out other foodie chowhound suggestions..

                                                                        2. If you want VERYcasual mexican in Scottsdale try ElMolino at 3554 Goldwater Blvd. (Scottsdale Rd & Osborn) (Order at the counter kind of place.) Food is very good Sonoran style that has been featured in Sunset Magazine. www.elmolinocafe.com