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Toronto CHer Visiting Scottsdale for the First Time - Recommendations?

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I'm a fellow Chowhound from the Great White North... well, maybe not. It's 90 degrees here in Toronto today. On to business... I and a few of my friends will be visiting Scottsdale in late September ona golf trip and are looking for recommendations for some memorable meals. I hope that you kind Arizonans? Arizonians? lol will be able to help us out. Can you recommend a couple of restaurants in the following categories in any of Scottsdale, Phoenix, Mesa, etc: fine dining and good ole comfort food. For the latter we are hoping for some good southwest, tex-mex or rib-tickling bbq. Any help and recs would be truly appreciated. Thanks!

Oh... we heard of a place called Heart Attack Grille. Is it all just hype and eye candy or do they actually serve a good burger and fries?

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  1. For mid-range Southwestern-influenced/Mexican comfort food, I'd recommend Los Sombreros (Scottsdale), Rokerij (Phoenix), Sierra Bonita Grille (Phoenix), and Padre's (Phoenix). For Mexican comfort food in less formal settings, I'd recommend El Nopalito (Phoenix), La Barquita (Phoenix), and the food court/deli at Ranch Market (Phoenix). Places in the second list are generally farther away from Scottsdale than those in the first list.

    Some people really enjoy Barrio Cafe (higher end nouveau Mexican) and Tradiciones (mid-range Mexican), but I've found them to be hit-or-miss on my visits.

    I've yet to try The Mission in Scottsdale (higher end Mexican), but maybe someone here can chime in on it.

    I don't know how _fine_ your fine dining experience needs to be, but if gracious, polished service and amazing food are enough for you, I'd steer you toward NOCA (Phoenix). My partner and I made a meal out of 5 starters and dessert there a couple of nights ago, and we were blown away by pretty much every dish (wild salmon crudo; burrata, squash blossom, & house-cured bacon bruschetta; mussels in smoked tomato broth; ricotta-filled pansotti in herbed butter sauce; pork belly confit with summer fruit; cherry semi-freddo and chocolate cremeaux with guava soup and tapioca cooked w/young coconut water; coconut sorbet and passion fruit sauce). If the law would allow it, I would marry that smoked tomato broth.

    I'm not a fan of their adolescent-male-fantasy/everything-that's-bad-for-you schtick, so I've never felt compelled to try Heart Attack Grille (or whatever it's called these days). Seemed like there were initially positive reports about the food, followed by downhill alerts, and then virtual silence.

    Once the technical glitches are resolved with the places database, I'll drop in some place links in a follow-up post.

    2 Replies
    1. re: hohokam

      Place links, as promised...

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

      Phoenix Ranch Market III
      1602 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

      Sierra Bonita Grill
      6933 North 7th St., Phoenix, AZ 85014

      Tradiciones
      1602 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

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

      El Nopalito
      2831 N 24th St, Phoenix, AZ 85008

      La Barquita Restaurant
      2334 E McDowell Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85006

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

      Noca
      3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

      Padre's Modern Mexican
      1044 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ

      The Mission
      3815 North Brown Avenue, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

      1. re: hohokam

        Thanks to all for the recommendations. The links are quite helpful. Looking forward to visiting, playing golf, and some good dining.

    2. You are in Arizona so if you find Tex Mex, I wouldn't order it. Go to Texas for Tex Mex. The Mexican recommendations are all right on although I disagree on Barrio Cafe. Have never had a bad experience. Just went there for lunch this week with two people who have never been and they were blown away by the Cochinita Pibil tacos. I had the Cochinita Pibil Torte and it was great.

      One of the chef's who started the southwestern cuisine movement is Vincent Guerithault of Vincent's on Camelback. He takes southwest ingredients and some techniques and marries they with French technique.

      For great burgers I like Delux although it gets a bad rap from some CHers. Also, there are some great deals on burgers at Happy Hour right now. The legendary Big Ass Burger at Roaring Fork (which is also a good place to dine - check out their menu), and both Morton's and Flemings have excellent burgers (only in the bar like RF). Fleming's is $6 from 5-7pm and I believe Morton's is similar. Heart Attack Grill is not in their league. If you've never tried, In N Out is a must for you. Order the number 1 combo. The best fast food burger on the planet and very inexpensive.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Poerz

        Funny you should mention the puerco pibil tacos. My partner ordered those on our last visit to Barrio, and it was the only dish I ate that night that seemed special. Everything else I tried was merely good (guac), OK (seafood relleno; satisfying, except for the Concealed Shrimp Tail Surprise aspect), or flat-out disappointing (grilled summer squash accompanying my relleno came out as par-cooked Flintstonian crudités).

        My beef with Barrio is that for the prices they charge (and the wait one has to endure), I expect nearly everything to be well executed and good tasting nearly every time. Unfortunately for me, over the past 3 or 4 years, they've batted only .500 on my visits. If their menu were in constant flux, I could understand and forgive the occasional miss, but given that 95% of the menu is the same day in and day out, the misses (on regular menu items, not specials) are harder for me to excuse.

        But as is the case with Tradiciones, I think I'm the odd man out here when it comes to my feelings about Barrio. From now on, I'll probably just stick to the guac and the tacos when I eat there.

        1. re: Poerz

          I probably wouldn't bother with Roaring Fork, although a few may disagree. Also, Morton's (and, to a lesser extent, Fleming's) is as ubiquitous a steakhouse as you get, with nearly 100 locations across the US and beyond, including Toronto. If you want a burger, I'd stick with Poerz's rec for Delux.

          Dick's Hideaway was one of the first spots to pop into my head when thinking of SW comfort (similar to Rokerij, as Hohokom suggested). You may also want to skim through other threads (such as: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/634305), which will give you a start for good/comforting Mexican. Hohokom mentioned The Mission and, while I like their food, it definitely would not fit the bill for "comfort food."

          For fine dining, you might think about doing a tasting menu at Binkley's (Cave Creek) or, if looking for a more casual and less time consuming option, Cowboy Ciao and Rancho Pinot are a few that immediately spring to mind..

        2. For burgers, I would also recommend 25 degrees in citynorth (border of phoenix/scottsdale). The fries are outstanding.

          1. Well our trip finally arrived and we found ourselves in Scottsdale today. As we were tired from travel, our group did something I usually would not do... ate at hotel restaurant. We're staying at the Kierland Resort and tried Deseo. Actually, we thoroughly enjoyed the dinner. Tonight was the first night of some sort of food festival in Phoenix. Broke rule number two - had the prix fixe special, and it was quite good... shrimp ceviche, beef tenderloin and catalonia creme brulee. First dish was a bit overpowered by cilantro (an herb I despise) but the shrimp itself was done nicely in a light lime sauce. The beef tenderloin was well spiced with a 20-ingredient rub and prepared to perfection. The creme brulee was good, but really... how can you spoil it.

            Tomorrow - we start checking out some of the suggestions you were kind enough to provide.

            2 Replies
            1. re: cynalan

              Several of the restaurants mentioned previously (NOCA, The Mission, Cowboy Ciao, Flemings) are participating in Arizona Restaurant Week -- in this case the prix fixe specials are a great deal and worth throwing the rule book our for!

              While NOCA doesn't have their RW menu on the RW website, it's sure to be great whatever they serve. The Mission has some great choices on their menu, and Cowboy Ciao has a copule of their best known dishes on their RW menu. For 'fine dining" I'd also throw Prado in the mix here. Their RW menu also includes a glass of wine, making it an absolute steal of a deal!

              Enjoy your visit and all of the great dining!

              1. re: cynalan

                Deseo is very good and falls into the category of hotel restaurants that are ok to try. You lucked up being here during Restaurant Week. I think most places participating see this as an opportunity to impress first time guests and make them regulars. That's been my impression anyway. We went to three places last year and one last night and every meal has been outstanding.

              2. Thanks to all for your recommendations. The trip has come and gone. Here's a brief update on some of the dining experiences. Although I am a foodie, it was tough getting a group of guys who think beer and wings are gourmet dining out to a decent restaurant. At least I had a couple of success.... I think.

                As mentioned in a prior message, Deseo was really enjoyed. As the rest of our party arrived the next day and we were staying close by, we once again visited Deseo... this time for restaurant week . We lucked out, as they were fully booked they our group the private room next to the bar. Everyone enjoyed their Restaurant Week meals. The highlights were the shrimp ceviche and beef tenderloin.

                Next up, looking for local SW/Mexican... Cantina Laredo on Frank Lloyd Wright. The waiter was hopelessly inept: mixed up orders, missed orders, bungled the bills, but... the food was actually quite good. From the RW menu, the chicken flautas were quite good, the steak main over salted though. From the regular menu - the beef tenderloin and 16 oz rib steak received rave reviews. Other mexican dishes were well received with huge portions. The night was considered a success.

                The guys were intrigued by Heart Attack Grill, so we had to visit after playing golf in Chandler. Actually, they really enjoyed it. I found the burger to be quite juicy and tasty, though the bun was rather soggy. The fries, were tasty but over salted. When freshened up the second round was much better. As for the girls.... quite sensuous and sexy. Not a "gourmet" dining experience but the guys really enjoyed the burgers and eye candy.

                Finally, on my own for the last day, I gave Los Sombreros a try. I was a bit skeptical given the neighbourhood... not Scottsdales finest, i.e. surrounded by pawn shops, adult entertainment, etc. The patio was jammed and I had to eat inside, maybe not a bad thing given the 104 degree temperature. The meal was OK, nothing spectacular. i had something off the regular menu, not RW. Cannot remember the name but it was a mix of shrimp, tortilla bites, cheese, salsa. Quite filling but not something that I would go out of my to eat again. Service was good and quick, Margheritas were excellent.

                Thanks to all of yoy for your recommendations. Our group enjoyed our week so much that we're coming back next year.

                1 Reply
                1. re: cynalan

                  Glad you had a nice time- hitting Restaurant Week was nice timing- though it may not have mattered if you were on an expense account.

                  I'm happy you had a better experience than we did at Heart Attack Grill. We were there 3 months ago, and the food was disgusting. I'm all for gorging if the food merits the calories, but this did not. The burger was non-descript, but the fries were inedible. Self-served from a pile of limp, tasteless fries visibly soaking in their own grease, we both had 2-3 fries each and then stopped, despite the all you can eat promise. Valiantly, I went back when they brought out fresh, only to have the exact same experience. On the upside, I saw the nicest ass I'd ever seen in real life on one of the girls. :)