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Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Sedona Food Itinerary Help for LA/OC Hounds

Hello Hounds,

My wife and another couple will be flying into Phoenix. Gotta love Southwest airlines $25 each way. We will have a car so drives are no problem. We are all adventurous eaters and in our mid to late 20's. Looking for hole in the walls or restaurants with average prices (entrees in teens to low twenties is fine). Not looking for high end dining on this trip.

We will be in Arizona from the 12/11 - 12/14. Looking to get some feedback and thoughts on some of the places we were thinking about eating and general tips on Arizona.

I have read many posts and checked out a few other websites and came up with a list of restaurants we were considering.

Friday - We will be arriving at around 9:00 P.M. Would it be possible to get to Pizzeria Bianco at 9:45 to 10:00 and get seated. Is this place still impossible to get into around this time? Or horrible idea? Back up plan is Four Peak brewing in Tempe.

Saturday - Heading out to Grand Canyon early morning and doing a hike during the day. We will be staying in Sedona.
Breakfast - Something quick???
Dinner - Elote Cafe or Fork in the Road?

Sunday - Heading back to Scottsdale area. Staying near Camelback road.
Breakfast - Coffee Pot in Sedona
Lunch - Lolo's Chicken and Waffles?
Dinner - Chelsea's Kitchen? Cowboy Ciao? Rokerij?

Monday - Will be hanging our Phoenix/Scottsdale until we fly out around 9:00 P.M.
Breakfast - Matt's Big Breakfast - Heard good things about this place.
Lunch - Chino Bandido? Carolina's? Phoenix Ranch Market? Gallo Blanco?
Dinner - Cibo

Any input, suggestions, comments are very welcomed. Nothing solid as of yet. Just ideas at the moment.

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  1. A few reactions & thoughts:

    -- If you get to Pizzeria Bianco before 10, you'll probably still get on the list to be seated that evening, but you may still have to wait for all those in line before you to eat -- so dinner might be later than 10. Pizzeria Bianco and Four Peaks are quite far apart. If Bianco doesn't work out, consider other late night alternatives much closer: Sens, PastaBAR, Nine 05 all come to mind.

    -- Lolo's has two locations. The original location is in South Phoenix; the newer one is in southern Scottsdale. The latter is probably closer to your hotel. Meals at either location are usually so rich and filling that they leave the diners stuffed and in need of a nap. For that reason, I would recommend following a Lolo's lunch with a light supper -- maybe sushi, tapas, wine bar, etc. -- or else eat late. Cowboy Ciao, & Rokerij are all well-regarded, but they're also pretty substantial meals -- maybe a little less so at Chelsea's. To appreciate them, you might not want to pair them with a heavy lunch earlier in the day at Lolo's.

    -- Matt's Big Breakfast is closed on Monday. You'll have to try that place another day.

    -- The other restaurants listed are quite good, but also quite spread out around the Phoenix Metro Area. The tiebreaker should therefore be what else you'll be doing that day and what part of town you'll be in.

    By the way, this sounds like an extremely ambitious schedule. From Phoenix to the Canyon is nearly a four-hour drive, and from the Canyon back to Sedona is about two hours. That's a lot of driving and a challenging hike all on Saturday.

    1. Silverbear - Thank you for your insight and thoughts. I have seen you post on many of the Southwest request, so really appreciate your feedback.

      I am going to try to make Pizzeria Bianco and if I don't get in, we'll try out PastBAR, can't go wrong with fresh made pasta. What do you think between CIBO and PastaBAR?

      Thank you for the thoughts on Lolo and heaviness. That is a good point.
      Is Lolo's worth going to in your opinion? We have Roscoe's Chicken and Waffle but I wouldn't put it as a must go to destination if one were in LA.

      Thanks for informing me about Matt's too. I'll have to move that to Saturday morning at 6:30, before we head out to Grand Canyon.

      Would you say that Chelsea's is in the same league as Cowboy Ciao or Rokerij? what would be the best of the 3?

      Yes, I do realize that it is quite ambitious to go from Phoenix to Grand Canyon. Don't come to Arizona often and not sure when we'll return, so had to fit in Grand Canyon. Besides, I heard the speed limit is 75 in certain parts!!

      3 Replies
      1. re: TNT Adventures

        Cibo vs. PastaBAR -- like both places. Cibo defnitely has the edge in terms of ambiance -- a warm atmosphere in a renovated house with patio dining available. PastaBAR is more stark, but really puts the emphasis on ingredients quality. Since it's essentially pizza vs. pasta, it's hard to compare the two, though.

        Lolo's vs. Roscoe's -- Haven't been to Roscoe's, so I can't say. I think Lolo's is a great choice for a rich meal of comfy soul food, but I'm not sure I'd say it's a special destination for visitors.

        Chelsea's vs. Cowboy Ciao vs. Rokerij. I've never been to the last one, but I think of Chelsea's as a casual neighborhood place (admittedly in an upscale neighborhood). The other two are more for a special night out. Another way to look at it: We take our toddler to Chelsea's all the time, but we'd get a sitter for either Cowboy Ciao or Rokerij.

        Some other ideas:

        Noca -- Simply Sunday supper is a good value with three courses for $35.

        St. Francis -- Modern American food in a sharply remodeled building.

        Caf
        fe Boa (Mill Avenue) -- Market-to-table menu (as opposed to prior Italian menu)

        There are other possibilities in Scottsdale (as opposed to Phoenix and Tempe as those above) that I haven't tried yet: Petite Maison, FnB, etc. I hope some of the more Scottsdale-focused regulars on the board will speak up with opnions on those.

        -----
        Cowboy Ciao
        7133 East Stetson Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

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

        Cibo
        603 N. 5th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 850103

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

        Cibo
        Phoenix, AZ, Phoenix, AZ

        Noca
        3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

        Rokerij
        6335 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016

        1. re: TNT Adventures

          I'm going to hijack another thread but have some specific questions that are somewhat related. Staying in Scottsdale, going to art walk this Fri. then I want to be in Tempe by 11PM. Would you eat at PastaBar or Gallo Blanco after the art (or anywhere else that's fun)? The original plan was to try The Mission but it seems like eating downtown makes more sense for driving purposes.

          Would we need reservations for Cowboy Ciao on a Sun.?

          Is the original Lolo's worth the drive?

          Are there good Sonoran hot dogs in Phoenix?

          For anyone who's stayed at the Hotel Monte Vista in Flag, is it really as run down w/ loud train whistles as they say? Do they serve food there? Trying to decide whether to go for cool uniqueness or cheap generic cleanliness. Thanks.

          1. re: Joanie

            Are you referring to the First Friday event? If so, keep in mind that Gallo Blanco isn't really near the First Friday action. It's three miles to the north in Midtown. Good choices near Roosevelt Row, the heart of the First Friday street scene, are PastaBAR, Sens, Moira, and Nine 05. Of course, some might argue the real spirit of First Friday is found over on Grand Avenue, but that's a discussion outside the scope of this board.

            Original Lolo's worth the drive? -- The food is the same in both locations; the south Phoenix location has more of the "house in the 'hood" original ambiance; the Scottsdale location is in a modern strip mall and has later hours. I'd go to whichever one you are closer to.

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

        2. You got it Silverbear. Around the Scotts/Camelback area, Petite Maison is an excellent casual french bistro with nice patio seating. In addition to dinner, they serve lunch M-F and weekend brunch. Currently the best food in the area IMO, and the prices are low for the quality.

          Another option in the area is The Mission. They serve south american inspired food, and would be a better alternative to Cowboy Ciao, which isn't what it used to be. Mission does both lunch and dinner, and would be a good place for margaritas as well.

          Let's see...you mentioned two of my favorites - Chino's and Carolina's. If I had to choose one, it would be Chino's just because it's so unique. Their food is nap-inspiring, though, in that you'll want a nap afterward. I think they put something in the snickerdoodles.

          About the drive, I have to chime in with Silverbear that the drive to the Grand Canyon is longer than you think it'll be. And - not to nag or anything - both local and state law enforcement throughout AZ has become incredibly nit-picky about any infraction. The penalties are ridiculously onerous as well. So be careful, and have a wonderful trip!

          3 Replies
          1. re: AllPhoenix

            About the drive, I have to chime in with Silverbear that the drive to the Grand Canyon is longer than you think it'll be. And - not to nag or anything - both local and state law enforcement throughout AZ has become incredibly nit-picky about any infraction. The penalties are ridiculously onerous as well. So be careful, and have a wonderful trip!

            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

            Just had to ditto this. It's not a "quick" drive and I'm not sure there are very many places where the speed limit really is 75 between here and the GC. Speed limits are camera enforced in Metro-Phoenix, highway patrol is always out on the rural roads between tourist destinations, and speed limit penalties here are STEEP. Watch those speed limit signs because they love putting cameras up right after a speed limit sign lowering the limit. I question how much daylight you'll have to really "hike" in by the time you get there, too (it is winter afterall). Please be very careful.

            1. re: Jen76

              I have to third this sentiment. I recently went on a road trip across the country, going through AZ. We saw more cop cars on the road in AZ than in every other state combined! We made sure to get up to the speed limit and set the car on cruise control from there on out. I wasn't sure if it was an aberration but I guess the AZ police are really trying to make bank on those traffic violations.

              More on topic, thanks for starting this thread, TNT! I'm planning on visiting Phoenix for about a week around the Christmas time and this has been a great thread to sort out my culinary needs. I can't wait to hear your recap!

              1. re: RTee

                RTee - I will definitely take your advice on the cruise control and be on the look-out for cops on top of that. Good to know about those sneaky AZ cops.

                No problem on starting the thread. I want to thank all the chowhounders for contributing to the thread. Couldn't have done it without them.

                I'll definitely report back. We'll be leaving this Friday.

          2. Silverbear - You are making things even more difficult for me. Those places you mentioned sound excellent. I was thinking of St. Francis instead of Chelsea's or Cowboy Ciao. The prices at St. Francis are so reasonable, cheap even. Are their portions tiny?
            I think I am going to give PastaBAR a try, since we'll hopefully be having pizza at Bianco.

            AllPhoenix - Thank you for your input as well. Really appreciated. Thanks for the rec on Petite Maison but not looking for French on this trip. I'll take a look at Mission. I am glad to hear that you like Chino Bandido. The concept sounds so odd and intriguing that I just might have to try it out. Anything I definitely need to order there? Thanks again!

            I've never done the drive to Grand Canyon. I just assumed it would be something similar to a drive to Vegas from OC or LA about a 4 hour drive, which is not a big deal for me. Thank you for your concerns. I'll be on the lookout for those cops.

            Too many places to try, in so little time.

            5 Replies
            1. re: TNT Adventures

              I know this isn't a travel board, but if you have to miss the Grand Canyon and only make it to Sedona (2hrs from Phx), you've seen the prettier of the two places in my opinion. The Grand Canyon is one of those "okay, I've seen it, looked better on tv- lets go" kinda things for me.

              Also, eating breakfast at Matt's may take longer than expected. We never go as early as you are attempting, but the wait is usually 30 mins or so. Another possible alternative to Matt's would be Over Easy.

              And I like LoLo's, but wouldn't necessarily make a special trip just to eat there- however, if you do go be sure to try the lemonade.

              1. re: TNT Adventures

                I have found the portions at St. Francis reasonable in size -- neither huge nor tiny.

                1. re: silverbear

                  Thanks again Silverbear for the restaurant help.

                2. re: TNT Adventures

                  At Chino's, I always get what they've told me is their most popular combination plate: Jade Red Chicken, Jerk Chicken Quesadilla, Jerk Fried Rice and Black Beans. They initiate/educate new customers, though, by giving samples of their most popular items and any others you ask for. Once you choose your favorite, they'll help you fill out the order form. When you arrive, go straight up to the counter to the left of where everyone else is ordering. Don't worry if there's a line to order, they'll make way for you if you tell them you're a gringo and need your samples! Once you place your order, get your self-serve drink and stake out a good table. While you wait you can check out the huge granite panda they had custom made during the owners' trip to China a while back. The server will bring your order, but listen carefully for your name because sometimes they're not that loud and I think your meal may become their lunch if you miss it. Snickerdoodles come with, or you may have the option for another flavor cookie if you go on a weekend - the chocolate lava cookies are heaven for a choc. lover if you can get them.

                  1. re: AllPhoenix

                    AllPhoenix - Cookies too? This place is really odd, but in a good way. Thank you for initiating me in the brotherhood or sisterhood of Chino Bandido. I think I am ready for it now. Appreciated!!

                3. I would skip Matt's (even if it wasn't on a Monday). It's good, but not really worth the wait or the hassle. You can probably get comparable, if not better, breakfast in LA at places at Nickel Diner or Square One.

                  I think Chino Bandido would be interesting to visit, just because it is sort of unique to Phoenix.

                  I would go ahead and try Bianco even at 9 pm. But be comforted that if you do miss out on Bianco, Pizzeria Mozza in LA is about as close a facsimile as you'll find in all of the U.S.

                  Skip Lolo's.

                  Other places to consider: Noca and Posh.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Jen76 - Thanks for the tips on Arizona driving. I'll make sure to watch out for the change speed limits.

                    contemporaryscarlett - we figure if it takes two hours to get to Sedona and another 2 to get to the Grand Canyon. I have been to the Grand Canyon, but no one else from the group has. I think it is worth seeing once in a lifetime. Thanks for the concern though. I might have to rethink the Lolo's, but if we do go, I'll me sure to get the lemonade.

                    ipsedixit - LA hound on the Southwest board too? Where are actually from? Yeah, I agree very intrigued by the odd flavor combinations of Chino Bandido. Thanks for the comforting words about Bianco and the similarity to Mozza, which I have enjoyed a few times. Yeah, rethinking Lolo's. Thanks for the recs on Noca and Posh. Restaurant overload!!

                    1. re: TNT Adventures

                      TNT, I should add that you should cross off Ranch Market from your list. If you've ever been to the Grand Central Market in downtown LA then the Ranch Market will feel like the proverbial red-headed step-child.

                      One place you might want to consider along the same lines of Chino Bandido is the Fry Bread House. Not health food, but interesting nonetheless.

                      Also, if you like ice cream, then head out Sweet Republic if you're in the north Scottsdale area. http://www.sweetrepublic.com/home.html

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        ipsedixit - I have been to the Grand Central Market and I can understand what you mean by comparing it to Ranch Market. LA/OC is very strong in Mexican food, so probably just skip the market.

                        Thanks for the rec on Fry Bread House, considered that too but Chino Bandido sounds so strange that I have to try it.

                        I love ice cream!! Although, it might be cold in mid December. I'll try to make it to Sweet Republic.

                        I think I have my itinerary somewhat down now.

                        Friday
                        D - Pizzeria Bianco

                        Saturday
                        B - Matt's Big Breakfast
                        L - something on the road??
                        D - Elote Cafe in Sedona

                        Sunday
                        B - Coffee Pot in Sedona
                        L - Lolo's ? Undecided any other recs? The Mission?
                        D - St. Francis

                        Monday
                        B - sleep in. zzzzzzz
                        L - Chino Bandido
                        D - PastBAR

                        How does this list look so far?

                        1. re: TNT Adventures

                          Don't know if they're still doing it, but Mission used to do whole roast pig on Sundays.

                            1. re: azhotdish

                              I would imagine that's pretty good. Had some very tasty pork at the mission.

                          1. re: TNT Adventures

                            I think you've got a great list. I'd keep LoLo's in there as well as Matt's and maybe add Over Easy for breakfast on Monday. You won't have to get there early during the week to avoid a long wait. If you get to Matt's at 7 or earlier there shouldn[t be a wait.

                            One thing I like about Matt's, Over Easy, LoLo's and Carolina's (sadly no room during your visit) is that it is easy to see how the owners struggled to put together a successful restaurant on a shoe string and made it work by delivering a very good product. Each of these places has that special ambiance (at least in their original locations which are the only ones I'd visit). While many of the better known food restaurants are supposedly chef owned, the reality is that most are majority owned by investors. While these places are good they generally do not have the soul of the four I mentioned so am glad to see some of them on your list.

                            1. re: TNT Adventures

                              "LA/OC is very strong in Mexican food, so probably just skip the market."

                              I respectfully disagree. Having lived in West LA and the Valley for 10 yrs then Laguna Niguel for two, I find the Mexican food lackluster. I get my Mexican food fix in Phoenix and Albuquerque. There is a lot of food to brag about in LA but Mexican ain't one of 'em. It's my less-than-humble opinion.

                              1. re: globocity

                                I'll have to respectfully disagree with you as well.

                                1. re: TNT Adventures

                                  I think the Mexican in LA/OC is amazing and both better and more diverse than what can be found in Phoenix.