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Dec 16, 2012 09:30 PM

Three nights in PHX/Scottsdale -- Recommendations?

OK, except for possibly the world's longest walk when changing planes, I haven't spent any time in Phoenix since I drove through on my way from LA to New Orleans in 1970 . . .

That said, my wife and I will be staying at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale at Gainey Ranch -- quite possibly the longest name for a hotel -- for three nights in January while attending a law conference.

By way of further explanation, we live in the San Francisco Bay area, and travel to New Orleans and New York relatively often for great meals/cuisines we cannot get at home. So, we are turning to the Phoenix-based Chowhounders for help -- any suggestions for "real" Southwest dining, great food we can't get at home?

Thanks in advance for your help and ideas!


P.S. We'll have a car, so . . .

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    1. re: ipsedixit

      Uh . . . perhaps you could provide a bit more detail?

      No, seriously -- I got it, Kai @ the Sheraton. Anything specific we should try?

      1. re: zin1953

        Tasting menu.

        Then just sit back and enjoy.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          I will give a very strong +1 for the tasting menu at Kai.

          Though Binkley's (in Carefree/Cave Creek, north of Scottsdale) comes close on a good night, Kai is really almost in a class by itself, at least for us.

          We will usually get a room (and play a bit of golf over the weekend), just to dine there, or hire our driver for the trip, as they have a good wine list, and about 35 miles away from us.



    2. Binkley's
      Lon's at the Hermosa for breakfast/lunch/dinner
      Drinks at T. Cooks at Royal Palms
      Happy hour at Bourbon Steak at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
      Pizzeria Bianco
      Only had apps at Kai..average but its a haul from Gainey Ranch.
      If you get up to Sedona (2 hours from PHX) Elote Cafe for dinner is one of the best for Southwest Mex cuisine.
      Carolina's for divey Mex behind the airport.

      11 Replies
      1. re: Beach Chick

        Love the list but OP was looking for stuff not available at home - home being SF.

        Not sure there's much in the way Phx/Scottsdale can offer that SF does not already have in spades, Pizzeria Bianco included.

        Short of things like the Fry Bread House and a place like Kai that offers Native American inspired cuisine, Phoenix is rather limited vis-a-vis SF.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          PHX isn't breaking the door down with Southwest cuisine, except Kai and being a good 45+ haul each way..definitely a dinner but then what after that?

          1. re: Beach Chick

            Chinese buffet? :-)

            I think Phoenix must specialize in that. There has to be more Chinese all-you-can-eat buffets in Phoenix on a per capita basis than anywhere else in the world

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Never had Chinese in PHX..does it exist?
              ; )

              Friends love Nobu Teeter house but it is $$.

              Lon's, Royal Palms, Fairmont has such a lovely architectural Southwest/Spanish Med design and the food is great too.

              Elote in Sedona is off the chain..go up for hiking at lunch, then hit it up Elote at 5pm and down to PHX and at the hotel by 9pm.

              1. re: Beach Chick

                Chinese exists as much in Phoenix as it does in SD.

                Wouldn't be a bad idea for OP to maybe check out Chino Bandido ...

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Didn't DD just go to Chino Bandido?

                  Kaz bar in old Scottsdale is something a wine guy would like.


                  1. re: Beach Chick

                    Says quite about Phoenix doesn't it that two 'Hounds who spend a majority of their time in San Diego are the most active participants in this thread ...

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      Well here's a phoenix person to chime in. The reason there's not a lot of input from the Phoenix group is just that this is a very common request. Just a few recent threads which might be helpful:


                      I'd personally check out:
                      Citizen Public House
                      Carolina's - divey and not close - near airport on your way to/from possibly
                      The Mission
                      Fry Bread House - divey, awesome, for lunch - 30 minute drive though
                      Roaring Fork - kind of a corporate feel since the chef sold out about 10 years ago and more high end with SW influences. But I have an obsession with their green chili mac'n'cheese and many of their appetizers.

                      Other options that I either haven't been to or I don't think are amazing, but aren't a far drive from you.
                      Los Sombreros
                      Carlsbad Tavern

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Sometimes I wish the San Diego and Phoenix boards were combined!

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          It says that I can make my point in a single post. ;-)


                    2. re: Beach Chick

                      We have tried many Chinese restaurants in the Phoenix Metro Area, and have always been disappointed. Our "standard" is Ming's in Denver, or the old Canton in New Orleans. Maybe we have just missed the "good spots," but then find many of those in SF's Chinatown, but never up to Ming's, or Canton.

                      Lon's has always come through (sometimes more, than others), and we also like Deseo at the Westin, for something a bit different.


            2. Here are some choices that you typically will not get in San Francisco, which I visit regularly since my granddaughter lives in the Bay Area.

              1. Barrio Café in Phoenix or Barrio Queen in Scottsdale;
              2. Fry Bread House - probably the only authentic native American taco in the Phoenix metropolitan area;
              3. Carolina's Mexican food-two locations - both dives- one by the airport and one at Cactus and Cave Creek Rd;
              4. El Molino Mexican Food - and other Mexican food dive-Scottsdale on Goldwater;
              5. Dick's Hideaway on 16th St. at Bethany Home Road (note there is no sign identifying the restaurant);
              the same owners own Richardson's up the street;
              6. Vincent's on Camelback-classic blend of Southwestern and French techniques;
              7. FnB focus on local ingredients including Arizona wines;
              8. You will get a lot of recommendations for Kai, but the shaft just left there for the District for the Sheridan downtown and I am not sure how the dust has settled.


              3 Replies
              1. re: RDBcooks

                Thanks -- appreciate the recs, and the "news."

                1. re: zin1953

                  Hi Zin, familiar with your advice/opinions from previous trips.

                  Definitely agree on Kai - nothing like it in SF, NY, or NOLA.
                  Binkley's, too, is not something in those cities (more Chicago, perhaps)
                  Pizzeria Bianco should be on the list - you can't get the Rosa in SF or elsewhere
                  Fry Bread House is a great choice.
                  Would strongly suggest La Grande Orange, as well.
                  FnB is good - particularly if you're looking for AZ wines - but for food there are 20 restaurants in SF doing the 'local seasonal' thing to a better degree imo.


                  1. re: uhockey

                    Thanks very much -- it's definitely appreciated

              2. Jason,

                You owe it to us - what did you decide on?

                Also, seems that I owe you a dinner, or maybe you owe me a dinner, and am so sorry that we were gone for all of December.

                Next time you are here, or in New Orleans, let me know, as I do not plan on dying, owing anyone anything.


                11 Replies
                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  I haven't gone to PHX yet; we're there Jan 16th-19th. I have reservations at Barrio Queen and FnB. One night, someone else is in charge . . .

                  As far as NOLA is concerned, we're there March 20th-26th -- with a trip to Washington DC in February.

                  1. re: zin1953

                    ...skip Barrio Queen unless you're only going for the tripe. The café is much better.

                    Will FnB be re-opened by then?


                    1. re: uhockey

                      Their FB page says January 8th...Jason, if they didn't mention it on the reservation they did move, or are in the process of moving.

                      I'm not a Barrio Queen fan either but to be fair I only went once for lunch.

                      1. re: PHXeater

                        In the FWIW Dept., FnB took the reservation, and failed to mention they were moving . . . I guess they simply presume that us out-of-towners will figure it out once we get to the ex-FnB . . .


                        1. re: zin1953

                          Bad move on their part, but then we have never been fans, like the majority of this board - a real "minority report."


                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            I've seen you comment about FnB before and while I'm not as 'wowed' by it as some I've had two really enjoyable meals there. Always curious as to why palates I respect dislike a place, what is your biggest issue with FnB?


                            1. re: uhockey

                              We have only been once, so it is probably not fair to rate them, totally on that.

                              We were walk-ins, but at the moment of opening. The FOH made it clear that they would accommodate us, but that we needed to order quickly, eat quickly, and be gone in an instant, as they were booked. OK, we agreed to that.

                              Our server was really good, but the FOH again made us feel very unwelcome, as when my wife, wearing a black sheath dress, was given a white napkin. All around us, that person (one of the owners), made a big deal of giving all those in dark clothes, a black napkin, though with my wife's obviously black dress, got a white one.

                              The food was just OK, with absolutely noting to recommend any dish. Still, our server was top-notch, and working his buns off. We did not want for anything, but a welcome and good food.

                              The AZ-centric wine list was welcome, even though we had most in our cellar, and had gifted many to friends, who did not know how good AZ wines could be.

                              We finished, and were leaving, while most tables were still vacant. As we approached the host (the same owner, who seated us), my wife asked about the rush, and the napkins - the one about which he made a big deal, with all around us. His comment was that they were booked 100% (though 90% of the tables were still empty), and that he was too busy to discuss her observations. We dine at some of the finest restaurants around the world, and my wife runs three of the largest hospitals in the region. We know something about "customer service," and FnB had no clue, to the point of being very rude.

                              So, let's dissect things: FOH, anything but welcoming. Food, with nothing to recommend any one dish - only one was even decent, service that WAS good, due to our server, and then, an AZ wine list, where almost everything was in my cellar already. All considered, I cannot imagine any reason to return - new location, or not. We were so unimpressed that we canceled two upcoming reservations with friends, who wanted to try it. No way. There are many, better restaurants, in my book. Luckily, unlike a professional reviewer, I did not have to return two more times, as I had no intention of doing so.

                              Others are more than welcome to enjoy it, but we found nothing, but our server, worth going back - nothing.

                              That is how I feel, and why I feel that way.


                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                Interesting and very fair.

                                No idea if you saw my first review, but the same "you have to order quickly and be out by 9:00" proposition was made to me on my first visit...and like you and your wife I left the restaurant with 4 tables open.

                                I guess where we differ is that I did find some of the dishes to be remarkable enough to make a second visit just a week ago and this time with reservations we were treated much more nicely by the front of house.

                                Having seen most of what the US and Paris have to offer in terms of 'the best' I most certainly do not consider it to be a 'world class' restaurant or even amongst my top 5 in Phoenix, but some of the things they do with vegetables are every bit as good as the temples of haute cuisine (at a substantially lower price point.)


                                1. re: uhockey


                                  I missed that review.

                                  In our case, it could have been what we ordered, but, as it was our first visit, we tried our best to "spread it around." Maybe we were just not that successful?

                                  Like "comedy," it is often about "timing." Maybe we hit them on a really bad, and about to be busy Summer night, though one does not usually see those, in Phoenix/Scottsdale.

                                  Some day, we will make reservations, and give them another try, though I will have to gag and tie my wife. As she runs three of the largest hospitals in the region, when it comes to "customer service," she is a major stickler.


                          2. re: zin1953

                            The move they're making is to a space that they've been using for their offshoot eatery (Baratin) and mini-grocery store (Bodega), which is, by Phoenix standards, right around the corner from the now-former FnB space.

                            The link below takes you to set of driving directions from the former location to current location.


                      2. re: zin1953

                        When you have a moment, e-mail me at info AT huntphoto DOT com. Right now, we have a bunch of other travels, but who knows. Also, many of our travels are to/from SFO. Might be something there?



                    2. one more to suggest the original barrio on 16th st over barrio queen. worth the extra drive. tacos at la condesa across the street from original barrio are well worth the trip too.

                      knowing that you are a wine guy be sure to try the dos cabezas reds while you are at fnb. imo the best reds made in arizona. my fave is the el campo.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: jock

                        Um-m, there are a few Dos Cabezas whites, that might be worth their visit, like the Viognier.

                        Imagine a "clean slate," with no preconceptions, and enjoy a few of the AZ wines, on your trip. Just kick back, relax, and enjoy. There ARE some surprises there.

                        +2 (?) for the original Barrio, at least from me.


                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          up until the past vintage or two the DC whites have been disappointing compared to the really good reds. The whites have caught up in the last vintage esp the viognier.

                          1. re: jock

                            Since a certain Phoenix restaurant closed (tears shed, but you know that), I have not been paying close attention.

                            We have been in San Francisco, London and Paris so much more, than in Phoenix, that I have just not had time.

                            Will do a tasting of the DC wines, when I have the opportunity, but trust your observations greatly.

                            Thank you,


                        2. re: jock

                          OK, ditched the "queen" for the original barrio -- probably for happy hour upon our arrival -- before heading to Scottsdale for the conference.

                          Thanks . . . .

                          Also, Dos Cabezas is one winery certainly on the list. I've also had one or two good reds from Callaghan . . .

                          1. re: zin1953

                            callaghan also does well. until about ten years ago they were pretty much your only choice.

                            for a while callaghan had a tca problem in the cellar but i haven't noticed it in the last couple of vintages.

                            1. re: jock

                              Interesting. I have not encountered any TCA from Callaghan, but then, maybe I just missed it.