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Jul 17, 2009 04:24 PM

Are there "tourist trap" restaurants in Phoenix?

What places do you consider, if any, to be a typical tourist trap restaurant in Phoenix/Scottsdale?

Not necessarily concerned about the merits of any such restaurants, just curious to know if such restaurants exist in Phoenix.

I suppose the most obvious place might be the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown.

Are there others? Would Pizzeria Bianco be considered a "tourist trap" type of restaurant? I would say, "nay" but others might differ.


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  1. I'd say the most obvious would be all the western themed dealies, Rawhide, Pinnacle Peak Patio, Rustler's Roost!

    I haven't been to Mill Ave in a while, but when I first moved here, it was very Disney-fied.

    2 Replies
    1. re: yamalam

      Yep. Those "Old West" themed places are the first ones to come to my mind.

      To my mind, food tourist destinations like Pizzeria Bianco (The French Laundry, Alinea, Au Pied de Cochon, The Fat Duck, elBulli) do not fit into the "tourist trap" category.

      When I think of a tourist trap, I think of a place that trades on and succeeds due to a kitschified/faux ambiance specific (or thought to be specific) to the locale, rather than due to the excellence of its food. The restaurants around San Francisco's Pier 39 and many of those along Columbus in North Beach fit this description for me.

      After my recent visit to the convention hotel area in downtown San Diego, I'd probably expand my definition to include "incidental tourist traps", i.e, places which succeed simply by virtue being near some kind of tourist attraction, but don't necessarily have any inherent tourist appeal of their own.

      1. re: yamalam

        That is a pretty good list, though I'd have to say that PPP and RR (have not gone to Rawhide) do offer some decent "chuckwagon food." Yes, the decor is a tad over the top, but does appeal greatly to many. I think that families, who want some sort of "Western experience," will enjoy them.

        Now, the term "tourist trap" will have different connotations to different people. To me, it's something that I would attach to a place like Rainforest Cafe," or to "Dick's Last Resort." Still, many love those. I attached this term to a describe Mad Dog's British Pub in San Antonio, on the Riverwalk. These places usually have great "curb appeal," less than mediocre food, but possess some "hook" to get people to enter.

        I actually find more charm in the above list, than most chain spots, but that is just me. While they are not really my thing, I do see their place, and feel that with the exception of RR (because of the Pointe), the others probably have more locals, than tourists. Maybe i'm wrong.

        Still, they did jump into my mind too.


      2. Perhaps "The Old Tortilla Factory", in old town Scottsdale

        7 Replies
        1. re: duck833

          Agreed. That place is pure tourist trap.

          1. re: Seth Chadwick

            Haha, good to know. My boyfriend was talking about this place last week, saying they had really good Mexican food. Then again, he grew up in a small western Mass town, where the only Mexican food they had was a Taco Bell that opened when he was 16.

            I'm putting in my vote for Macayo's, "birthplace" of the chimichanga.

            1. re: meleyna

              Macayo, your kidding, and you better check your stats. The chimi was "invented" at the "El Minuto Cafe" in downtown Tucson.

              1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                I agree with all the suggested tourist traps so far, especially Macayo's!

                1. re: hungryinaz

                  Macayo's may be a tourist trap, but it's also patronized by long-time Phoenix locals. Ditto for Valle Luna. I don't pretend to claim that either one has particularly good food but I do like Macayo's burritos, cheese crisps, and margaritas.

                2. re: mrbigshotno.1

                  mrbigshot: I've never heard of El Minuto laying claim to the chimi--unless you're just implying that they have a definitive version or some such.

                  The only two specific restaurants I'm aware of that tout themselves to be the originators of the chimi are Macayo's in the Phoenix area, and El Charro in Tucson.

                  1. re: crsin

                    Which is exactly why I put "birthplace."

          2. How about Barcelona for a tourist trap? Seems everyone I know that visits from out of town requests to go there, and it always looks full of tourists of the adult variety.

            2 Replies
            1. re: AllPhoenix

              As the former sommelier, and head random trivia guy there....I can assure you that Barcelona is no more. It closed it's doors on the 28th of July, and will purportedly re-open as a high scale Mexican style place similar to La Hacienda formerly in the Fairmont Princess

              1. re: odogg0351

                I heard they were doing this. Barcelona is a HUGE space--what exactly are they planning on doing with all of it?