Advice for SF Hounds
We're a couple of San Francisco hounds planning a visit to Phoenix for a long weekend, staying at the Four Seasons in North Scottsdale. So far, I have Noca and The Mission on the agenda for dinner, along with Carolina's for lunch on the way from the airport. I'm looking for suggestions for two more dinners and some breakfasts. On the radar are Posh and Cowboy Ciao along with Tradiciones and Los Sombreros. If we feel like steak, should we consider Pinnacle Peak Patio (very close to the hotel) or is it a hopeless tourist trap? In addition, we'd welcome any recommendations for great Mexican breakfasts in the area.
Definitely check out Dick's Hideaway for breakfast. Incredible carne adovada, and one of the best (and spiciest) versions of huevos rancheros I've had. Portions are ginormous, which is pretty typical for Phoenix, so consider splitting if you're light eaters.
Dick's is run by the same people that own Richardson's and Rokerij (and actually I'd recommend Rokerij for dinner as well - they grill a great steak).
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Cafe Bink just up Scotts. Rd. from you in Carefree does a lovely breakfast, and I think it's just Sundays they do their eggs benedict. Many also love breakfast at Over Easy, just south of you on Bell Rd. My experience wasn't so good, but I could have caught them on a bad day. Carolina's can't be beat; just preset your expectations about their very basic atmosphere. After Carolina's food any Mexican place in Scottsdale will disappoint (Mission excluded- different type of Latin food). Pinnacle Peak Patio is a tourist trap, and I heard it's either closing very soon or is already closed, but I don't have a good alternative steak place for you. Another option is Petite Maison in downtown Scotts. very romantic and cozy french bistro with excellent food.
I agree with all the suggestions thus far, and you also mentioned "Posh" in your post. I would strongly recommend it...it's very unique, high quality ingredients, artful preparation, and a fun experience. Be sure to sit at the counter...that's where all the action is.
If you're looking for steak, I would recommend either Mastro's (located in North Scottsdale not far from where you are staying) or BLT Steak, which is at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn resort. People also rave about Bourbon Steak, but I think that BLT Steak does a much better job. You can't go wrong with their spice-rubbed Cowboy Ribeye, and the atmosphere is great too.
We had a very nice visit. The highlight (chow-wise) was undoubtedly breakfast at Dick's Hideaway. Put it on your must-try list. Los Sombreros was also quite enjoyable, warm and festive. We did go to BLT Steak. I know it's a chain, but it was really good, albeit pricey. Everything -- from the little complimentary chicken liver pate and popovers to the well-made cocktails, and of course, the steak was right on.
The biggest disappointments were The Mission and Carolina's. The Mission was a really attractive space, and the menu looked great, but the food missed the mark. I can't remember exactly what we had now, but I know my pork entree was on the dry side (I might be too accustomed to heritage-style pork from living in SF). Carolina's (the Scottsdale branch) was a dive. We expected that, but it truly was not very clean. My Machaca Burro was merely OK, not life-altering as implied from some of the posts. If you're from the Bay Area, I think you've experienced better at any number of tacquerias.
Actually, and I really mean no disrespect to the people of Phoenix, if you are from the Bay Area, you might want to adjust your expectations. After hearing how great The Mission was, and experiencing the disappointing reality, we shied away from higher-end sorts of places like Noca and Posh, and concentrated on more local-flavor type places.
re: mrs bacon
To clarify one point, there is no Scottsdale location of Carolina's. You may be thinking of the location at Cactus and Cave Creek roads in northeast Phoenix, approximately six miles west of the Phoenix/Scottsdale border. While it can be dirty in terms of uncleared tables, it's hardly a dive. In fact, it's immaculate compared to the original Carolina's in south Phoenix.
re: mrs bacon
Sorry that you missed NOCA. Have not done the Mission, but have never figured out the appeal of Carolina's. We've dined at two locations (yours and the one near us), and keep scratching our heads. Still, when Mexican in PHX is mentioned, that floats to the top of the heap.
Reviews have been mixed on Posh, and it's another that we have not gotten to - been dining more in DC, than where I am supposed to live.
There IS great food in PHX. The tables might have turned over the last two years, as some "winners" are no longer with us - been converted into high-end, chain steakhouses, like we needed a few more of those.
Now, we get to do Restaurant Gary Danko and Michael Mina's, plus many more, about 3-4 times per year. Still, we have some places similar - with differences. NOCA looks like a nice "neighborhood spot," but the cuisine jumps forth. Their short wine list is great with the food. You will not write to your wino friends about the list, but will smile, when you pair from it with your dishes.
Cowboy Ciao has always found innovative ways to do some almost mundane-sounding fare, and the wine list is worth exploration. I just spent a long weekend with Larry Turley, and his first question was, "do you know Peter Kaspersky (owner of CC)?" "Of course I do, and I treat my guests to your wine at his restaurant," was my reply.
There are others, like T. Cook's, that warrant a visit.
It ain't what it was, not THAT long ago, but we're still kickin' out here in the High Sonoran Desert.
Please come back, as we CAN do better.
Glad that you liked Dick's. We've never done breakfast, but after this thread, I know that we soon will.
Thanks for the report and for coming down. We greatly appreciate both.