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Week of Thanksgiving in Chandler w/ Parents: Very picky eater!

Spending a week in Phoenix with my parents. We're staying at the Sheraton Wild Horses in Chandler.

We're from NYC and appreciate great food, particularly special local places, but my mother is a very picky eater. She has a 4-page list of allergies and likes/dislikes--at home she eats organic/macrobiotic, mostly a lot of vegetables and certain fish (I think it's salmon, sturgeon, halibut). My father eats everything, and I like most things, but not garlic or hot peppers.

I'd love suggestions for 6 dinners plus Thanksgiving and a great late buffet brunch. I've tried to call the hotel concierge twice, but she's never there and doesn't call back. (Is this hotel any good?)

Personally, I particularly like innovative cuisine that is exciting but not "intellectual." My favorite NYC restaurant is Eleven Madison Park (also like Picholine and Dovetail). We were in Tucson in 2009; our favorites were Janos and Hacienda del Sol.

So we need places that is flexible and accommodating for my mother plus excellent and innovative for me. My father will enjoy the good food but he's the easy one.

If there are only a couple places that fit the bill, we don't mind repeats. Personally, I'd enjoy eating at a couple of the great hotels in the area if any would meet our various needs. I'd take some extra time to admire the property and maybe shoot some photos (I like architecture though I don't know much about it--glad to see some of the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings).

We might(?) take a trip to Sedona or some other place (we want to hike and sightsee). Otherwise, we don't mind a little driving (20-30 minutes?), but closer to the hotel is generally better so please factor that into your suggestions. We arrive Saturday afternoon and go home midday the following Saturday. We'd probably like to eat in or near the hotel the first night, but not absolute.

Any good suggestion would be one more than I have so far.

Thanks very much!

Steven

PS: This is our first trip to Phoenix (though I had a work trip to Scottsdale once, but all I did was work).

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  1. Well, very much in the "close to the hotel" category (seeing as it's actually *at* the hotel), one very obvious recommendation would be Kai. It's simply one of the finest restaurants in the Phoenix area.

    2 Replies
    1. re: boingo2000

      It looks great. I'll definitely aim for that on the first night and at least one other night, too, maybe Thanksgiving. Thanks!

      1. re: StevenCinNYC

        Kai isn't open Thanksgiving but the resort's 2nd best restaurant, Ko'sin, is open and offers a "Traditional Four- Course Prix Fixe Thanksgiving menu for lunch and dinner". Ko'sin isn't as good as Kai (not many places in Arizona are) but is still pretty good.

        http://www.wildhorsepassresort.com/th...

        Also, Cork has a Thanksgiving special dinner planned. It's in Chandler, about a 15 minute drive from Wild Horse Pass. http://www.corkrestaurant.net/?page_id=7

    2. Oh, the hotel is good, and the hotel restaurant is about the best we have :)

      Quiessence would also be a nice experience for you, and is in South Phoenix, not far, on a lovely old farm. Their sister property, Morning Glory, does a terrific brunch on the weekend, but not buffet. I don't have any buffet brunch recommendations, mass food grosses me out just a little. The resorts on the PHX/Scottsdale border could probably handle this.

      The House at Secret Garden will hit innovative, local/organic, and accomodating for fussy diners. They are new enough to still be hoping to build their foodie reputation. Also South Phoenix.

      My other top non-ethnic dinners: FnB, Binkley's, Noca.

      -----
      Binkley's
      6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

      Quiessence
      6106 S 32nd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85042

      Noca
      3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

      Morning Glory Cafe
      6106 S 32nd St, Phoenix, AZ 85042

      FnB
      7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

      The House at Secret Garden
      2501 E Baseline Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85042

      3 Replies
      1. re: themis

        Thanks, these seem great!

        I'm especially struck by Quiessence, The House at Secret Garden, and Binkley's. Between these and Kai, I think I have five dinner covered.

        -----
        Binkley's
        6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

        Quiessence
        6106 S 32nd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85042

        The House at Secret Garden
        2501 E Baseline Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85042

        1. re: StevenCinNYC

          Binkley's is phenomenal but you should know it is about an hour's drive from wild horse pass (could be more if you are going on a weekday at rush hour). You're staying at the very southern edge of the Phoenix metropolitan area and Binkley's is at the very, very northern edge of the Phoenix area.

          -----
          Binkley's
          6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

          1. re: PHXeater

            Thanks. I had no idea. Maybe we can coordinate with being in that area prior or something.

      2. I found Wright's for buffet brunch? Is that a good choice? Anything you think is better for a buffet?

        Thanks!

        Steven

        2 Replies
        1. re: StevenCinNYC

          Friends have told me the brunch at the Camelback Inn is great. Give a call to make sure it's still going on.

          http://www.camelbackinn.com/scottsdal...

          -----
          Rita's Kitchen at Camelback Inn, A J.W. Marriott Resort
          5402 East Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85253

          1. re: scaheld

            Thanks. I noticed that one online, but I couldn't tell how it compares to Wright's. Anyone?

        2. What do people think of Elements? That's another I found online. Thanks again!

          8 Replies
          1. re: StevenCinNYC

            I recently dined there & thought it was great; both food & service were excellent. It's a perfect place to be at sunset due to its placement on the North slope of Camelback Mtn. Grab some cocktails first on the patio & then dinner inside overlooking the twinkling lights of Paradise Valley.

            -----
            Elements
            5700 East McDonald Drive, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

            1. re: scaheld

              Sounds promising! Glad I found a place you like.

            2. re: StevenCinNYC

              I haven't been to Elements in a year or so, but last time we went it was wonderful, and it has one of the nicer settings and views in the Phoenix area. Plus, for those that care about such things, Elements does boast Phoenix's primary "celebrity chef" at this point. Beau McMillan has been a fairly visible presence on various Food Network shows.

              And it hasn't been mentioned yet, but Phoenix does boast one of the finest pizza spots in the country: Pizzeria Bianco. I believe a writer for the NYT even rated it as the best pizza in the US at one point.

              -----
              Pizzeria Bianco
              623 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

              1. re: boingo2000

                Thank you. I've added Elements to the list, and Bianco looks good, too!

                I finally heard back from the concierge at the Sheraton, but she really hasn't added much yet. She did mention a place that sounded like Churro's or something, but I couldn't find it online.

                1. re: StevenCinNYC

                  She's probably referring to El Chorro. It's a place with a wonderful view and setting, but since it re-opened a year or two ago, it's gotten spotty reviews at best. I haven't been, so I can't personally speak to the quality of the food.

                  1. re: boingo2000

                    Thanks. Doesn't sound like it's worth addinb, but at least I have the name now. On the phone she said she'd email it to me but hasn't.

                    1. re: StevenCinNYC

                      El Chorro is a beautiful place to grab a couple drinks before or after a meal if you're in the area - Elements is just down the street for instance. I haven't tried food there since they reopened, but went for cocktails a couple times and enjoyed the experience.

                      1. re: PHXeater

                        Jade Bar (next to Elements inside the resort) is a fantastic spot for drinks too. (Plus you can order from the full menu at the bar.) Beautiful view and really great happy hour with well-crafted drinks. Last time we went, the bartender even stepped outside to the herb garden in the middle of making my drink to pick some thyme for it.

            3. Stayed at week at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass and a heads up this is a glorified 2-3* hotel..

              'I've tried to call the hotel concierge twice, but she's never there and doesn't call back. (Is this hotel any good?'
              Good luck on getting any type of service..if you can switch hotels, I would in a NY minute.

              T. Cooks at the Royal Palms resort is lovely..perfect for Thanksgiving
              Binkley's in Cave Creek
              Lon's at the Hermosa is fab for brunch/lunch or dinner..gorgeous patio.

              If you head up to Sedona, Elote Cafe for dinner is exquisite!
              Garland Lodge is one of the best to dine for dinner..
              2 hours from PHX.
              Go for lunch at Enchantment Resort..stunning views..make reservations.
              Expedia has $250 a night for casitas..5* resort and fab food.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Beach Chick

                Thanks. I'm going with my parents, and they chose the hotel. They did get a very good rate (my mother is there for a conference), but I don't think it would have been my choice. So far, I did hear back from the concierge, but the only reservations she's made were at Kai.

                People on this board have been far more helpful, responsive, and informative than she has!

              2. What do you think of Thanksgiving dinner at the Ritz Carlton Phoenix? Koi is closed at our hotel and the other restaurant doesn't look as good. I'd sort of enjoy a buffet. Are there other choices to consider. The RC seems to end their meal at 4:00 which is a bit early in my book. Thoughts?

                Thanks!

                So far, we have (booked via concierge who is now doing some stuff):
                Saturday: Dinner at Koi
                Sunday Brunch: Wrights
                Sun-Wed Dinner: Hoping for Quiessence (maybe twice?), House at Secret Garden, Elements,
                Thu: Ritz Carlton???
                Fri: Koi

                What do you think???

                Thanks.

                Steven

                PS: Binkley's seems too far. Plus we need to figure out one day for Sedona/Grand Canyon, I think. Not sure if we'd be back in time for dinner???

                PPS: I just found the Four Seasons which has a buffet in Crescent Moon and the Biltmore which has a buffet in The Gold Room. Any thoughts on these???

                -----
                Binkley's
                6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

                Quiessence
                6106 S 32nd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85042

                The House at Secret Garden
                2501 E Baseline Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85042

                18 Replies
                1. re: StevenCinNYC

                  Just a side note: the Grand Canyon is really too far for a day trip....you're looking at about 4 hours each way. Sedona is certainly doable in a day, however.

                  1. re: boingo2000

                    Thanks. Maybe just Sedona then. It's just that none of us has ever been to the Grand Canyon. I looked at going via helicopter from Phoenix (sounds fast and fun!), but it's super expensive from what I could find.

                  2. re: StevenCinNYC

                    I finally got the menu for the Gold Room (couldn't find online, but they emailed it to me very quickly once I called). Looks great so I booked that for Thanksgiving. The Four Seasons and Ritz also looked very good, but Gold Room edged them out for me with a late enough start and maybe a slightly better menu (or at least better suited to us).

                    I'm hoping the concierge will be able to book Quiessence for Sunday and Wednesday and House at Secret Garden and Elements for the remaining two days.

                    I looked at Cork and Noca, both of which look good, but not quite right for our palettes and food sensitivities.

                    I appreciate all the help and would welcome any other thoughts. I plan to report back once we've had the meals!

                    -----
                    Quiessence
                    6106 S 32nd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85042

                    Noca
                    3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

                    Four Seasons
                    , Gilbert, AZ 85233

                    The House at Secret Garden
                    2501 E Baseline Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85042

                    1. re: StevenCinNYC

                      If you decide that Koi or Quiessence twice is not your cup of tea, perhaps not enjoying the first experience as much as you'd hoped, I'd like you to consider FnB as the backup plan. Chef Charleen Badman has just rotated her melted leeks back onto the seasonal, organic, veggie-heavy menu, and it was awarded one of the ten best dishes of 2010 by Food & Wine. All of the dishes sound very simple, but are incredible combinations of flavors. You can be sure all of their ingredients are very carefully sourced and prepared with care, and their FOH, Pavle Milic, will make you feel very, very welcome. It's a small space with counter views of the kitchen, so reservations would be smart.

                      I just think everyone in the party would enjoy that experience, it fits your dining wishlist nicely.

                      -----
                      Quiessence
                      6106 S 32nd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85042

                      FnB
                      7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

                      1. re: themis

                        Thanks very much for the strong recommendation for FnB. Based on other recommendations, I had looked at the menu. It seemed limited, but if it's that good, perhaps the limited number of choices shouldn't matter, especially if they're accommodating. I did like some of the choices (the leeks do sound good!) and think my parents would, too (unlike Cork and El Chorro which seemed less suited to us).

                        -----
                        FnB
                        7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

                        1. re: themis

                          Secret Garden couldn't deal with my mother's requests so now I'm aiming for FnB instead.

                          -----
                          FnB
                          7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

                          1. re: StevenCinNYC

                            Here is what we finally worked out:

                            Sat Dinner: Kai
                            Sun Brunch: Wright's
                            Sun Dinner: FnB
                            Mon Dinner: Elements
                            Tue Dinner: Kai
                            Wed Dinner: Quiessence Brick Table Dining
                            Thu Dinner: Gold Room
                            Fri Dinner: Kai

                            Thank you all very much for all the wonderful suggestions and thoughtful advice. I'm looking forward to the trip all the more as a result.

                            I'll post back to let you know how it goes. I want to say that this has been a great experience, and it really reinforces for me how great Chowhound is because it gives me access to all of you.

                            Steven

                            -----
                            Quiessence
                            6106 S 32nd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85042

                            FnB
                            7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

                            1. re: StevenCinNYC

                              Wow, three meals at Kai in one week! I'm impressed.

                              (Going back for my 12th trip to Kai in the past two years next week)

                              1. re: StevenCinNYC

                                Thanks, everyone!

                                We had a great trip and excellent meals.

                                Here is our final list:

                                Sat Dinner: Kai
                                Sun Brunch: Wright's
                                Sun Dinner: FnB
                                Mon Dinner: Elements
                                Tue Dinner: Ko'sin
                                Wed Dinner: Yavapai (Enchantment Resort, Sedona)
                                Thu Dinner: Gold Room
                                Fri Dinner: Quiessence Brick Table Dining

                                Kai: Very good service though they didn't manage my mother's requests very well, and the chef never came out to speak with her.
                                I really enjoyed my meal.
                                The innovative highlight was the Lobster Degustation:
                                Butter Braised Tail, Avocado Mousse, Tear Drop Salsa & Lobster Coral
                                Lobster Knuckles in Sweet Corn Panna Cotta with Sour Radishes
                                Lobster Cobbler with Mesquite Meal & Burnt Irish Porter Cheese
                                This was a unique, original, and fun dish.
                                The Duck, Duck, Goose was also very good, and the buffalo tenderloin was great (though the first attempt was overcooked; they got it right on the second). My father had the ribeye which disappointed him and my mother wasn't thrilled either so we ended up eating there only once (I would have been happy to go back!).

                                Wright's (Brunch): This was really great and an incredible deal! I can't believe they only charge $35 for the buffet ($25) and as many of the five hot entrees you want ($10). Having said that the deal was great, what was really amazing was the food and service.

                                First, the cold buffet is extensive and excellent. I took pictures! I haven't posted them yet, but I'll try to add a link when I do. The specific items were too numerous to list, but they included sushi, caviar (sturgeon and salmon), cheese, salmon, shrimp, duck, a great mustard seed salami, numerous other savory items, and a whole bunch of desserts. They vary the hot dishes every week. I ended up ordering three of them. Each was great--I don't remember everything, but I think I had a duck dish with an egg, and my parents had polenta. I also had some dried cherry pancakes with lots of maple syrup. The donut was a little deconstructed, but not so great. Chef Jason came up with custom dishes for my mother, including a version of the polenta dish and what my mother said were the best poached eggs she ever had.

                                FnB: Great simple foods with strong flavors. The service was very accommodating and personable. But the atmosphere is a bit cramped and very casual. It was almost the opposite of Kai, but still a nice enough space. I had the leeks (great recommendation, thanks!), brussel sprouts, and halibut. It was all great. Each dish was nicely balanced, strong flavors, and very natural/locovore. They were very accommodating.

                                Elements: Another great choice, and my parents' hands-down favorite. Great modern atmosphere. I had the tempura goat cheese, market salad, and short rib (plus a side of truffled mac/cheese), plus the salted caramel banana parfait (just as good as it sounds!). Everything was excellent. Our server was very nice and gave us suggestions for hiking (he especially likes South Mountain and the Desert Belle at Saguaro Lake--we liked them, too!).

                                Ko'sin: very nice--not as fancy as some of the other places, but the food and service were very good. Plus, the chef came out to prepare a special meal for my mother (and also helped me avoid garlic on the menu). I started with the buffalo tartare which was really excellent--great dish, with a nice mustard flavor. My main course was the pork porterhouse which was also great. (I tried the breakfast buffet on my last morning, and it wasn't so good, but my parents said that the a la carte breakfast was fine.)

                                Yavapai: They are renovating the restaurant so they moved it into an oversized ballroom, combined it with a casual cafe, and stuck a bar in the corner. Giant glass doors let in cold air every time someone wanted to come in from the courtyard. Though the menu sounded great, the execution just wasn't, plus the food took forever to come out. I'm thinking that part of the problem might have been the temporary location throwing off the kitchen, but that's just speculation. On the flip side, everyone was very nice, plus the front desk at the hotel gave me a comb (we'd just hiked a little ways down into the Grand Canyon, and definitely needed a comb!). Everyone who worked there was very nice. One dish was outstanding--the dessert! This was the highlight of the meal for me (though sadly I can't recall what it was and can't find it on the web site)

                                Thanksgiving at the Gold Room: This was an incredible experience with regard to the service. Even though it's a buffet, the Executive Chef, Todd Sicolo, personally called me twice, spoke with my mother in advance, greeted her at the door, spoke with her again, and prepared a completely separate meal for her. He followed all of her special dietary requests. It was amazing--especially on a day when he was overseeing probably over a thousand covers between the restaurants and banquets service. The Executive Banquet Chef, Patrick, came over during the meal to make sure everything was OK. He was very nice, and spent additional time speaking with us, just to make sure my mother was happy. I was blown away by all this, and the meal they made for her was multiple courses with a printed menu and everything. The buffet itself was extensive and covered everything you might want/expect for Thanksgiving but not as sophisticated as the wonderful brunch buffet at Wright's. My highlight was the savory pumpkin tart with goat cheese.

                                Quiessence: The Brick Oven Dining Experience was very special. They prepared custom meals for us, at times delivering a course with three different dishes to reflect our various requests and allergies. They were very nice and very accommodating. Plus it was fun to eat outside (and they brought over space heaters to keep us warm because the brick oven only covered one quadrant). The food was good, and there were nine courses. It was a great experience. I think my favorites were the lobster and gnocchi dishes. I would have enjoyed it more if they told us in advance what we would be eating, and it would have avoided a miss on my mother's menu. On the other hand, the pastry chef put together the only dessert I've seen my mother eat in a couple decades, sticking to all her dietary requirements. Very impressive!

                                I want to thank all of you for the wonderful suggestions. I'm very grateful. And my parents were very appreciative, too.

                                Kind regards,

                                Steven

                                1. re: StevenCinNYC

                                  Thanks for the review Steve! We've been deciding on sunday brunch around town and would love to see the pics from Wright's.

                                  1. re: Da Beebz

                                    Here are the photos. Sorry they're not better. I shot them hurriedly, but they should give an idea of the atmosphere and the overall extent of the buffet even if you can't make out the specific dishes.

                                     
                                     
                                     
                                     
                                     
                                     
                                     
                                     
                                     
                                    1. re: StevenCinNYC

                                      Thanks for the pics! Looks wonderful! Will try before Xmas.

                                      1. re: Da Beebz

                                        Glad to hear it. They were so nice to us, and it was such a great meal, I really want more people to experience it!

                                  2. re: StevenCinNYC

                                    I wanted to mention a small thing about FnB--it's very hard to find. There is a sign, but it blends into the building, and the restaurant gets lost next to its much more prominent neighbor.

                                    1. re: StevenCinNYC

                                      Thanks Steven for the report!
                                      Sorry to hear that Yavapai at Enchantment resort was going through a remodel..
                                      It's a stunning resort and the dining room with the floor to ceiling glass with red rock views are off the chain..food is above average...too bad you didn't get to Elote Cafe for dinner...one of the best meals ever.
                                      Wright's at the Biltmore is quite good..been for breakfast and lunch and when we stay there, it's always been very good.
                                      Have to try the brunch..
                                      Glad you had a good time!

                                      1. re: Beach Chick

                                        Thanks. Yes, Elote looks good, but the menu wasn't good for my mother. Garland was closed for the entire (off) season. So we went with Enchantment, but they weren't at their best apparently.

                                        You like the Biltmore as a hotel? We felt like we should have stayed there because we were so impressed with the service in the restaurants, plus the architecture is stunning.

                                        1. re: StevenCinNYC

                                          I've stayed many times at the Biltmore but only in the new wing with great suites and concierge level food and drinks..includes wine and beer with hot food.
                                          Architecture is amazing to see and nearby Taliesin west too.

                                          Royal Palms is lovely and T. Cook's is a wonderful restaurant and great lounge with piano bar.

                                          Did you stay in one of the casitas at Enchantment?
                                          Elote Cafe has become one of my all time fave's..
                                          Garland Lodge is fab and the lodge for dinner as a non-guest was an incredible dining experience and the staff is awesome.

                                          We also enjoy Lon's at the Hermosa.
                                          5* resorts in the summer are the best deals in PHX with $100 room rates vs. $700+ for high season and to eat and drink and stay for super cheap, it's really a great way to go...expedia.com or kayak.com.

                                          Glad your family had a great meal at Elements.

                                          1. re: Beach Chick

                                            Thanks for the tips! We just stayed at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass and drove to Grand Canyon and back in one day with a stop in Sedona for dinner. The Sheraton isn't bad, and they have a good tennis instructor and spa, but it's a bit out of the way and not a great property overall.