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

t
TNT Adventures Nov 29, 2009 05:15 PM

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.

  1. t
    TNT Adventures Jan 24, 2010 09:39 PM

    Here is a report back on my experience at Matt's Big Breakfast.

    Pictures can be viewed at:

    http://tnt-adventures.blogspot.com/

    Matt's Big Breakfast motto is "food tastes better when prepared simply with better ingredients." I think that Matt and his crew are on to something here. The restaurant uses only cage-free eggs from humanely raised chickens, grain-fed natural Iowa pork, Angus beef, and local and organic produce. An interesting fact that I learned was that Matt's doesn't have a freezer or a microwave! Sounds like we're off to a good start.

    Matt's Big Breakfast is actually not big at all - a small place as a matter of fact. The restaurant is housed in a one-story brick building. We arrived on a Saturday around noon and were greeted with a long line of people who had the same goal in mind. Good Food!!! The wait was about 30-40 minutes, which wasn't too bad. Thankfully, there was a farmers market going on down the street that occupied our time.

    Whole grain toast with homemade local strawberry preserve - complimentary
    Each piece of toast comes from an uncut whole loaf of bread that is cut upon order. The strawberry preserve had wonderful true flavor of strawberries that wasn't overly sweet.

    Three meat scramble with fresh jalapenos, hash browns and tortilla. This dish had so much flavor with the addition of the chorizo, jalapenos and cheese. The combination of these three elements really melded so well together. I can see why this is a classic Mexican food pairing. The hash browns at Matt's are perfectly browned on the top and bottom to an excellent crisp, while the inside is simultaneously soft. Part of the reason why the potatoes and most items taste so good is they use real butter for everything.

    Waffle - Big homemade Belgian style waffle, sweet cream butter, and real maple syrup with two thick cut bacon slices.
    I only tried a piece of this Belgian style waffle and it was excellent. The waffle was perfectly cooked, and it was light and fluffy. Real maple syrup as opposed to Aunt Jemima, nothing against Aunt Jemima. I was raised on that stuff, but I'll take real maple syrup any day.

    The Chop and Chick - two eggs and a skillet seared Iowa pork rib chop.
    These eggs were perfectly cooked to a specific over easy, real easy. I also opted for the home fries instead of the hash browns. The homes fries had a bit too much of rosemary flavor (must be the use of fresh rosemary). Next time, I would go with the hash browns. But the pièce de résistance was the Iowa pork rib chop. This rib chop is first marinated for at least 3 hours in a homemade pesto sauce and then cooked to perfection. The rib chop ended up being juicy and still tender. I enjoyed this dish quite a bit!

    Hog and Chick - Two eggs any style and off the bone ham.
    Another order that I only had a taste of was the off the bone ham. Forget Honeybaked Ham and all those Oscar Mayer hams - this is what ham is supposed to be like. This was a piece of thick cut ham that was unexpectedly tender and full of that salty, meaty, and hamy flavor.

    The restaurant looks and runs as though it has been in business for 50+ years when in reality the restaurant has only been around for a little over 5 years. Matt's Big Breakfast has made big strides within the five years that it has been around. After eating at Matt's, I have to agree that food does taste better when prepared simply and with good ingredients.

    1. r
      RTee Jan 21, 2010 05:37 PM

      I finally went on my own trip to Phoenix (over Xmas actually, so this is a bit late, but still apropos), and I figured I'd share some of my findings here.

      Pizzeria Bianco - arrived at 9:00pm, but thought it was 8:00pm because of daylight savings time, and Arizona's lack thereof, which led to confusion but the gf and I were eventually seated around 10:30pm I would say. We actually started off at Bar Bianco while we waited to be seated, so I'll discuss that too...

      Pane Bianco - I had the goat cheese on toasted brioche (or some kind of bread) with some marinated olives. I can't for the life of me remember what kind of olives they were (pincholine, maybe?), but they were so incredible we ordered another bowl full to snack on. They were out of goat cheese and replaced it with ricotta. If this is the case when you go, pass on it. The ricotta simply doesn't have enough flavor to make the small dish pop. But seriously, the olives were amazing.

      Pizzeria Bianco pt. 2 - I met a nice older gentleman at Bar Bianco who said he and his wife had been coming here for years. So I, of course, asked him for recs, and he told me to get a pizza with fennel sausage and extra tomatoes (not sauce, fresh tomatoes!). Which I've decided is now called the RJ Special. We ended up ordering the Wiseguy pizza with extra tomatoes and the waiter stared at us for a second until I mentioned our new friend RJ recommended it, and then we were set! I forget if we were supposed to add mushrooms too... but I'm going to say no for now.

      We also ordered a plate of the roasted vegetables that, I think, change based on availability/season. The pizza was very good, and RJ was right on about the combination, but it didn't blow me away, which you might expect from a place that has multi-hour-long waits. But the roasted vegetables.... my God were they exceptional! Purple cauliflower, red bell peppers, onions, broccoli(?), the best brussel sprouts ever, and a few more that I can't remember, plus a bit of salami and cheese (mortadella is my guess) and two slices of toasted bread. I think i would actually wait an hour just for the veggies, and I *HATE* waiting. The moral of the story is definitely olives and roasted veggies.

      We took a trip to Sedona while we were there, so this next one's a bit out of the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, but..

      Elote Cafe - Wonderful. The Elote corn must have crack in it because our entire party couldn't get enough of it. In fact, we ordered an extra one to go! The Green Corn Tamal was also very good. Avoid the Braised Lamb! We came in shortly after opening (5:20pm or so) and felt that the lamb hadn't been braised long enough, so it wasn't particularly tender and hadn't absorbed much flavor. The sauce was also a bit overwhelming. The Chile Relleno was like none other I've ever had. I can't even recommend getting or not getting it, the flavors were so... unexpected. But the Smoked Chicken Enchiladas were brilliant! I could eat them all day. The enchilada sauce was good and not overpowering, the chicken was still tender inside, and the flavor of that smoked chicken was just perfect. The amount of smokiness and whatever type of wood they used to smoke it were in complete harmony. It was the winner of the table, for sure (not including the elote).

      Chino Bandido - How kitschy is this place!? I'd read about Chino Bandido, obviously, before going there, but was really not expecting to see what was essentially Hainan Chicken and sweet and sour pork and jerk chicken and carnitas all in the same place. Luckily they had the foresight to have a little tasting table where I could sample the dishes first. I got the Emerald Chicken (Hainan chicken, essentially), and Carnitas with the jerk fried rice. All three were good, especially the jerk fried rice, but I think the black beans were the star of the show. Creamy, beany, well-spiced, and probably made with lots of butter. I recommend Chino Bandido to any prospective tourists, especially because I don't know where else you could possibly find a restaurant like this.

      Nogales Hot Dogs - Now this is what I call a hot dog with all the trimmings! Truth be told, they were very good, but did not stand up to the Sonoran style hot dogs I got at BKTacos in Tucson on a different trip. But they were cheap and delicious! Plus, the proprietors were extremely nice and served old-school coke from a bottle. That's a winner in my book. I like that you basically get the hot dog and add the fixin's as you please. The mushrooms are a nice touch.

      Gallo Blanco- Ah we had quite a bit here, let's see if I can break it down... The Elote Callejero was pretty good - spiced with crumbled queso fresco all over it. Although for corn on the cob it might be a tad overpriced. The Chicharron de Queso was a fun app to share, and had a great sauce to go with it, but I thought the cheese might have been a bit over-fried so it was just passable. The Pork Belly taco was also OK, but not good enough for me to miss. The Verduras de Temporada were not well received by my vegetarian friend. The ingredients didn't seem special, although I can't speak to the quality. But it seemed like the general impression was, "I can make this at home." well. The Chilaquiles Verdes looked great, but I didn't even get a crack at 'em! A *very* picky eater did not complain about them, so that is very much high praise. The Conchinita Torta was spiced well and really delicious too. But the winner was the Naco Torta was exactly what you'd expect out of a steak torta, and it was executed perfectly. The sauce had a great chile flavor, the meat was cooked to my liking (med-rare), and the two eggs top it off perfectly. I only wish there was more sauce to mop up! I also really like that Gallo Blanco uses a lot of local sources, even their coffee!

      If you're still with me after this VERY long post, thanks for reading! And thanks for the recs, I had a great food trip. =)

      4 Replies
      1. re: RTee
        t
        TNT Adventures Jan 21, 2010 08:01 PM

        RTee - Thanks for your report back. Looks like you were able to go to a few places I wasn't able to get to. I am jealous!!

        Was able to get to Four Peaks Brewery, Matt's Big Breakfast, Elote Cafe, St. Francis, Lolo's Chicken and Waffles, and PastBAR.

        Still working on the write-ups.

        Here is the report I did for Four Peaks Brewery. I posted this on chowhound a few days ago.

        Thanks to all the Southwest Chowhounders we had a great time in Arizona and had the opportunity to eat some good places, making things all the more fun.

        Picture can be viewed on my blog at:

        http://tnt-adventures.blogspot.com/

        Housed in what was once an ice plant, creamery, and warehouse that was built originally built in 1892, Four Peaks Brewery is a favorite amongst ASU students and beer lovers. Our original plans when we arrived into Phoenix (thanks to Southwest $25 deal) was to go to the highly lauded Pizzeria Bianco. I was so looking forward to trying out the pizza here, but unfortunately there was a delay in our flight. By the time we arrived into Phoenix, we only had about 5 minutes to get to Pizzeria Bianco. The pizza gods were not smiling down on us. Like the good food itinerary planner that I am, I had a back up. Four Peaks Brewery here we come.

        Pictured below is the inside of the restaurant with the exposed piping and ducts. This restaurant has ample seating in the outside and on the inside. As ample as the seating is, this place still gets packed.

        Beer Sampler of 8 (9) - Kiltlifter, 8th Street Pale Ale, Hefeweizen, Sunbru Kolsch Style Ale, Hop Knot IPA, Oatmeal Stout, Raj IPA, and Arizona Peach Ale

        Not being much of a beer drinker, I actually found myself really enjoying this sampler of beers. Each beer was unique and distinct enough in flavor to distinguish from one another

        Brickhouse Wings - 8
        After examining the menu while doing this write-up, I just realized that you can choose to have these wings flavored as buffalo, Oatmeal Stout BBQ, or Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce. Had I known, I probably would have sampled a few of each flavors. The wings were good, with a nice amount of meat and good buffalo, vinegary, spicy flavoring.

        Spinach Artichoke Dip - 8.5
        Creamy cheese blend with artichoke hearts, spinach, red peppers, and roasted garlic served with tri-color tortilla chips and grilled pita bread. I appreciated that they gave pita bread and chips to dip. Enjoyed this dip, but wasn't anything out the ordinary.

        8th Street Ale Chicken Strips - 9
        Strips of 8th Street Ale battered chicken breasts pieces served with beer battered fries. Take a look at the picture and marvel at the golden crispiness of these chicken strips. I may not be a gourmet food connoisseur or a connoisseur of many things, but I do claim to be a chicken strip connoisseur of all things. These were the best chicken strips I have ever had. Perfect amount of breading to meat ratio and the crisp of each strip was excellent. There was one strip left out of the two plates we ordered and we all eyed each other while we eyed this last chicken strip, as if to say go ahead see if you can snatch the last chicken strip before I do.

        Also have to comment that the beer battered fries were excellent as well. The battering gave an extra crunch to these already crunchy spuds.

        Although I was disappointed in the fact that we weren't able to try out Pizzeria Bianco on this trip, things actually worked out in the end. We all really enjoyed all the food and beers that we had at Four Peaks Brewery and definitely would come back for some more beer sampling and those chicken strips.

        1. re: TNT Adventures
          r
          RTee Jan 22, 2010 02:37 PM

          And I thought my post was long, yours was only of one brewery! I'm sorry you missed Pizzeria Bianco, but it looks like you got to a lot of your other options. And I'm definitely jealous about the brewery visit, as I'm a big beer guy. Great review, I can't wait to see what you have to say about the other places on your list, especially St. Francis and Matt's. I'm always really impressed with good diners/breakfast joints because I think they're few and far between.

        2. re: RTee
          Joanie Jan 22, 2010 02:46 AM

          I wrote up a wicked long report in Dec. of our 8 days there. We tried to get to Nogales but they weren't open on a Sun. afternoon but did enjoy my stop at BK's (and El Guerro... and Oops hot dog truck in Tucson). We were told to skip Chino Bandido and I don't think I feel too bad about missing it.

          1. re: Joanie
            r
            RTee Jan 22, 2010 02:29 PM

            I wouldn't feel too bad about missing Nogales either, really. I took a real liking to Chino Bandido, which surprised even myself. It's hard to go wrong with good prices, tasty food and extremely friendly service. I'm going to call it King of the Taco Bell Tier (in Phoenix... from my limited exposure =P).

        3. Beach Chick Dec 3, 2009 05:22 PM

          Though I love the Coffee Pot for breakfast, Sunday will be packed and you'll wait forever..
          Maybe Wildflower Cafe in downtown Sedona or Yavapai at the stunning Enchantment resort.
          Elote Cafe is excellent..
          Carolina's for the dive Mex.
          Lon's at the Hermosa or T. Cooks at the Royal Palms in Phoenix would be my choice.
          House of Tricks in Tempe would be a nice stop before you head out to the airport.

          www.enchantmentresort.com
          www.lons.com

          11 Replies
          1. re: Beach Chick
            t
            TNT Adventures Dec 4, 2009 07:51 AM

            Beach Chick - Thanks for info on Sedona. I'll make sure to look into those other two places in the event that Coffee Pot is way too packed. Thanks for the other recs as well.

            1. re: Beach Chick
              t
              TNT Adventures Dec 4, 2009 07:53 AM

              Do you happen to know what the prices of Entree and Apps at Elote Cafe go for? I was looking on the website, but they don't list their prices. Thanks for any help you can provide.

              1. re: TNT Adventures
                Beach Chick Dec 4, 2009 08:53 AM

                Elote Cafe was reasonable and app's were around $10..entrees around $15-20..we had the mole chicken tacos and the chile relleno...excellent!
                It's a small place that fills up quick..its located at the King Ransom Hotel.
                I like Coffee Pot for their extensive omelettes but I'd rather see you go to Yavapai at Enchantment for the stunning views and the food is pretty good..you need to make reservations so the guard can let you in.
                Have a great time TNT and report back!

                1. re: Beach Chick
                  t
                  TNT Adventures Dec 4, 2009 09:14 AM

                  Beach Chick - Do you happen to know what the price of their breakfast entrees go for at Yavapai? Trying to stay within my food budget. Not much info on the website. I see that they also state that collared and slacks are required for dinner. Do they have a policy for their breakfast/brunch too?

                  1. re: TNT Adventures
                    Beach Chick Dec 4, 2009 10:36 AM

                    there used to be a Sunday Brunch and it was around $50+ per person but call them and tell them you want to have off the menu breakfast and where at the resort could you dine for Sunday breakfast besides the brunch..
                    I've seen people for lunch without a collared shirt but I don't think Daisy Duke's and a wife beater will be acceptable..it will be cold up there so I'm sure you will be fine.
                    Phone: 928-282-2900

                    If not, Wildflower is pretty cheap and good and Coffee Pot can be pricey for those omelettes with no view..

                    1. re: Beach Chick
                      t
                      TNT Adventures Dec 4, 2009 11:06 AM

                      Hahhhahahhahah. How did you know I was planning to wear daisy dukes?? I guess I won't be going here then.

                      Just called them and they said entrees were from 13-17. Within my range. Have to consult with my travel companions on this one too.

                      Thanks again for all the info. You have been very helpful.

                      1. re: TNT Adventures
                        Beach Chick Dec 4, 2009 11:29 AM

                        Great price point for Yavapai..you'll spend that much at the Coffee Pot with no floor to ceiling red rock views...you will be the hit of the group on this one.
                        Boynton Canyon has a great hiking trail and is considered one of the most sacred sites.

                        1. re: Beach Chick
                          j
                          janeh Dec 6, 2009 08:55 AM

                          Heartline Cafe is lovely for breakfast or lunch in Sedona - an interesting menu, everything well prepared and reasonably priced in a beautiful, cozy setting. After that you can drive to Boynton Canyon, park outside of Enchantment Resort and still hike there.

                          1. re: janeh
                            Beach Chick Dec 6, 2009 09:17 AM

                            I've always seen that place but have never stopped..good to know janeh..Thanks!

                            1. re: Beach Chick
                              j
                              janeh Dec 6, 2009 09:38 AM

                              Beach Chick, do give Heartline a try. I've heard that their main restaurant - the blue building - is about to re-open after a fire several months ago. That's always been excellent and we locals will be happy to see it up and running (yum).

                              1. re: janeh
                                Beach Chick Dec 6, 2009 09:41 AM

                                will do..I'll be there in March..to be a local in Sedona..priceless!

            2. a
              AllPhoenix Dec 3, 2009 10:05 AM

              Have a great trip TNT Adventures. Please let us know where you ended up and how things were. Restaurants have an amazingly short lifespan here for some reason, so we need constant updates!

              1 Reply
              1. re: AllPhoenix
                t
                TNT Adventures Dec 3, 2009 02:20 PM

                AllPhoenix - I will definitely report back after we get back from our trip to Arizona.

                Keep an eye out on my little food blog for postings.

                http://tnt-adventures.blogspot.com/

                Thanks again to everyone who has helped me out. Couldn't have done it without your help.

              2. t
                TNT Adventures Dec 2, 2009 11:09 AM

                AllPhoenix - Thank you for the additional info on the Roasted Pig Sundays. Makes the choice even harder. I am going let the group decide on this one. Between Lolo's and Mission.

                Phoenix99 - I definitely know what you mean about those types of restaurants. I myself actually prefer the smaller hole in the wall-esque, I did it myself by restaurants. There is some honesty and soul to these types of establishments that are hard to duplicate. Might just have to add Over Easy to our list. Thank you for your honest and insightful input.

                1 Reply
                1. re: TNT Adventures
                  p
                  Phoenix99 Dec 6, 2009 07:45 AM

                  An additional note on Over Easy: It's in a converted Taco Bell for heaven's sake. How they were able to make it feel as comfortable as they have is beyond me.

                2. ipsedixit Nov 30, 2009 08:46 PM

                  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
                    t
                    TNT Adventures Nov 30, 2009 09:36 PM

                    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
                      ipsedixit Dec 1, 2009 05:01 AM

                      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
                        t
                        TNT Adventures Dec 1, 2009 10:41 AM

                        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
                          a
                          AllPhoenix Dec 1, 2009 11:08 AM

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

                          1. re: AllPhoenix
                            azhotdish Dec 1, 2009 11:36 AM

                            Yes, still doing it.

                            1. re: azhotdish
                              m
                              Mattoclock Dec 1, 2009 12:53 PM

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

                          2. re: TNT Adventures
                            p
                            Phoenix99 Dec 2, 2009 06:44 AM

                            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
                              globocity Dec 2, 2009 06:08 PM

                              "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
                                t
                                TNT Adventures Dec 3, 2009 02:19 PM

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

                                1. re: TNT Adventures
                                  ipsedixit Dec 3, 2009 05:16 PM

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

                      2. t
                        TNT Adventures Nov 30, 2009 01:35 PM

                        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
                          c
                          contemporaryscarlett Nov 30, 2009 04:41 PM

                          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
                            silverbear Dec 1, 2009 01:20 AM

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

                            1. re: silverbear
                              t
                              TNT Adventures Dec 1, 2009 10:09 AM

                              Thanks again Silverbear for the restaurant help.

                            2. re: TNT Adventures
                              a
                              AllPhoenix Dec 1, 2009 07:09 AM

                              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
                                t
                                TNT Adventures Dec 1, 2009 10:23 AM

                                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. a
                              AllPhoenix Nov 30, 2009 10:33 AM

                              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
                                Jen76 Nov 30, 2009 01:41 PM

                                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
                                  r
                                  RTee Dec 8, 2009 10:28 PM

                                  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
                                    t
                                    TNT Adventures Dec 9, 2009 07:14 PM

                                    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. t
                                TNT Adventures Nov 30, 2009 09:45 AM

                                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
                                  silverbear Nov 30, 2009 10:14 AM

                                  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
                                    Joanie Nov 30, 2009 10:50 AM

                                    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
                                      silverbear Dec 1, 2009 01:54 AM

                                      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. silverbear Nov 30, 2009 03:43 AM

                                    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.

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