By Alison Bailin Batz
The flourishing foodie scene is something to be celebrated, from innovative menus and new restaurants to inspired cocktails and top chefs. In recent years, the Valley has truly become a feast of flavors, bursting with unique experiences and tasty temptations from dishes to drinks. Dig into our takes on the people and places that are putting Phoenix and Scottsdale on the culinary map.
Craving our cover? It’s tortellini with Swiss chard, mushrooms and winter squash ($24) from Geordie’s at the Wrigley Mansion (head by chef Christopher Gross) paired with Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rosé from France (8/glass, 72/bottle). While making the tortellini, chef Ashley Goddard, who created the menu item, adds activated charcoal, giving it the stark black color. In addition to the roasted mushrooms and delicata squash in the dish, it also features grilled acorn, asparagus, pesto and pink Swiss chard stems, which have been roasted, as well as greens and edible flowers for garnish. www.wrigleymansion.com.
In 2012, Dominick’s Steakhouse opened at Scottsdale Quarter. The ultra-luxe steak and seafood venue boasts one of the most popular and opulent bars in Arizona as well as an open-air dining option on the roof, complete with a reflecting pool that serves as the centerpiece of the elevated space. Here, everything is lavish and posh, from the dark decor and the crystal chandeliers to the prime-grade beef, twin lobster tails, and creamy mashed potatoes. For those looking to visit without breaking the bank, Dominick’s offers a specialty bar menu from 4 to 6 p.m. daily with dishes from just $10 and cocktails and wine starting at $7. www.dominickssteakhouse.com.
FnB, and its chef Charleen Badman, have earned national acclaim for richly flavored menus showcasing Arizona’s agricultural community. Badman honed her skills at Rancho Pinot, where she worked alongside chefs Chris Bianco and Chrysa Robertson, before moving to New York City to continue her craft. By 2006, she was back in the Valley and launched FnB, where she makes locally grown vegetables shine, often with globally inspired ingredients. Even carnivores rave over her creations. The menus change with the season, but are sure to pair harmoniously with the ample wine menu featuring many Arizona makers as well as other rotating favorites. www.fnbrestaurant.com.
With less than 40 seats, Restaurant Progress is technically small. But, the Melrose District establishment has become a big deal in the Valley. One of the most lauded Phoenix eateries in years, Restaurant Progress is headed by chef-owner TJ Culp, who worked for Fox Restaurant Concepts and at Zinc Bistro before becoming well-known when he launched a hyper-popular series of pop-up dinners across the Valley. Chef’s tastings and a la cart dishes are both available on Culp’s refined American menu, which is updated every four to six weeks. The cocktail menu is similarly small by design, with a focus on seasonal, spirit-forward libations. www.restaurantprogress.com.
Known for its wood-fired rotisserie and open-flame grill, Roaring Fork has one of the best, most popular happy hours in town. In the bar, saloon and on both patios Sunday and Monday from 4 to 10 p.m. and Tuesday through Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m., Roaring Fork pours up $5 specialty cocktails as well as an impressive selection of $5 wines by the glass. They also have a robust menu of $6 soups and salads and $8 to $10 appetizers that run the gamut from guacamole and green chili pork to fish tacos and flatbreads. www.roaringfork.com.
Offered daily from 4 to 7 p.m., EVO’s happy hour includes $7 red sangria as well as $5 well spirits, select wines, and both draft and bottled beers. But that’s just the beginning. In fact, it’s the food that really sets the happy hour apart. For $10 or less, nosh on items including bruschetta boards, mushroom pizza, an Italian-inspired burger, and fries two ways. In addition to that, stop by on Monday and Wednesday for a bonus deal during happy hour: The purchase of a bottle of wine gets you a free bruschetta board (Monday) and a free pizza (Wednesday). www.evoscottsdale.com.
Roka Akor specializes in contemporary robata (meaning “fireside”) Japanese cuisine and features award-winning prime-cut steaks and seafood along with sushi, sashimi and tempura. During happy hour, offered from 4:30 to 7 p.m. daily in the bar and lounge, get 30 percent off several wines by the glass; 40 percent off specialty cocktails, house sake, shochu, house cocktails, and house martinis; and 50 percent off beers. Sushi and several items made on the robata grill are offered at deep discounts, and there is even an omakase tasting menu where guests can sample small bites of restaurant specialties for $45. www.rokaakor.com.
Part of the public Grayhawk Golf Club, this lunch, dinner and brunch hot spot is for far more than just golfers. The patio of this upscale-yet-rustic Italian-American eatery and bar overlooks the immaculately manicured 18th hole and offers dramatic views of Camelback and Mummy mountains in the distance. The outdoor terrace, patio and multiple semi-private courtyards have seating for more than 100 and even offer rocking chairs to watch the sunset in absolute comfort. The from-scratch kitchen cooks up seaonally inspired takes on tried-and-true favorites such as pizza, pasta and bruschetta. www.isabellaskitchen.com.
Nestled at the base of Camelback Mountain, El Chorro’s patio is among the most beloved in the Valley. Its legacy is just as impressive as its view: It was originally built as the Judson School for Girls in 1934 and was purchased and converted into a restaurant and lodge in 1937. Every meal here – there’s dinner nightly, Sunday brunch, and happy hour Monday through Saturday – is complete with a side of Arizona heritage and charm. The patio, which features a wraparound indoor-outdoor bar, is flanked with cozy fire pits and fireplaces as well desert views as far as the eyes can see. www.elchorro.com.
Olive & Ivy
Dining and drinking under the shady trees along Olive & Ivy’s expansive patio while gazing at the Scottsdale Waterfront conjures the feeling of being in the French Riviera, which serves as the actual inspiration for the eatery. The menu similarly reflects the vibe, offering plentiful wine options and shareable small plates with thoughtful touches. As the sun sets, thousands of twinkling lights strung between the trees light up the sky, making the patio as romantic as it is lush. Insider tip: Stroll along the waterfront, accessible from the Olive & Ivy patio, just after dark. www.olivenandivyrestaurant.com.
The one and only Kevin Binkley moved his flagship Binkley’s Restaurant from Cave Creek to Phoenix in 2016. With the move came innovation unlike anything the Valley has ever seen. Today, Binkley’s offers a 3 1/2-hour, multicourse dining experience each night. He locally sources as many items as possible, including many from his wife’s own garden. Most of the ingredients, in fact, were growing in a garden or swimming in the ocean within 48 hours of landing on your plate. Binkley also invites his guests to join him in the kitchen to watch as he preps courses, or even just to chat. At the end of the night, he sends guests home with goody bags, to boot. www.binkleysrestaurant.com.
SumoMaya mexican-asian kitchen
Unique in both its striking decor and its fusion of Mexican and Asian flavors ranging from tacos and ceviche to wok dishes and a full sushi bar, SumoMaya is a multi-year winner of OpenTable’s “Top 100 Hot Spot Restaurants” in the U.S. The vibrant atmosphere features a towering tree as a centerpiece, an open kitchen, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a partially enclosed patio for year-round enjoyment. All of these set a backdrop to the creative cuisine that’s meant to be a communal experience – the chefs recommend choosing three to five dishes to share. Be sure to try the craft cocktails and the bottomless brunch on weekends. www.sumomaya.com.
The Churchill is a marketplace made of repurposed shipping containers. Yes, really! The laid-back concept alone is innovative, as are each of its 10 tenants. Within it, food and drink options include The Brill Line, a craft brewery; The Pobrecito, a cocktail concept; Freak Brothers Pizza; Sauvage, a wine store; Foxy Fruit, a smoothie and acai bowl shop; Provecho, a central Mexico-themed eatery; and Breadwinner, a sandwich concept by the team behind EVO. At the heart of it all is a 9,000-square-foot courtyard. A bonus: Each business at The Churchill is committed to devoting time each month to local community service efforts. www.thechurchillphx.com.
The Phoenician’s J&G Steakhouse, a 2018 Wine Spectator “Best of Award of Excellence” winner, reopened in September after a three-month-long refresh and revitalization. But fear not, the wine program was not only maintained, but enhanced. The menu has 450 selections and more than 3,000 bottles. The offerings especially excel in pairing varietals from California and Burgundy, France, with the restaurant's award-winning menu, which was developed by lauded chef de cuisine Jacques Qualin. If you’re a first-timer, opt for the five-course chef’s tasting menu with sommelier-chosen wine pairings. You certainly won’t be sorry. www.jgsteakhousescottsdale.com.
Lon’s at The Hermosa Inn
Lon’s features nearly 700 selections on its wine list and is a 2018 Wine Spectator “Best of Award of Excellence” winner. The diverse selection is a perfect mix of small, sought-after boutique winery offerings with limited-production and well-known favorites from across the globe. The price points are similarly diverse, with budget-friendly options as well as those worth a splurge on a special occasion. The 6,000-bottle inventory is housed in three separate climate-controlled rooms, one of which is an underground functioning wine cellar. Lon’s even offers the chance for guests to dine in the subterranean wine cellar. www.hermosainn.com.
With 900 different varietals and more than 6,000 bottles in-house, the Wrigley Mansion – including Geordie’s Bar and Lounge, Jaime’s Wine Bar, and Geordie’s Restaurant – boasts the largest wine selection in Arizona. It is a 2018 Wine Spectator “Best of Award of Excellence” winner that goes beyond offering wine by the glass or bottle, but also offers an actual wine membership. At $75 per year, the membership includes significant discounts on wine at all venues on property as well as complimentary Champagne during Sunday brunch. Plus, members have access to privately arranged tours and tastings with partners in Napa and Sonoma. www.wrigleymansion.com.
Different Pointe of View
Located 1,800 feet above the city at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort, Different Pointe of View is the longest consecutively awarded AAA Four Diamond restaurant in the Valley. Beyond the incomparable views, chef Anthony DeMuro serves up romance nightly with his modern take on high-end American cuisine. If you’re seeking something extra special, book the Insider’s View Dinner, which is offered monthly and limited to 12 guests. During the evening, guests can snuggle up to watch DeMuro cook a four- to six-course tasting menu paired with wine – and accompanied by a story from its winemaker, who joins the group for dinner. www.tapatiocliffshilton.com.
Quiessence at The Farm
Set in an actual farmhouse at The Farm at South Mountain, Quiessence is surrounded by a beautiful patio and trees for alfresco dining, complete with candlelight that sets the mood for the evening. To indulge in the ultimate night of romance, a reservation for the signature Brick Oven experience is a must. This eight-course chef’s tasting – like all food at the restaurant – features true farm-to-table cuisine and is situated at an exclusive table with only one reservation per evening. A private arbor with dreamy curtains sets the scene for any special occasion, whether you are on a first date, celebrating an anniversary, or proposing to your future fiancee. www.qatthefarm.com.
Elements restaurant is the heart of Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa’s food and beverage operations, offering farm-fresh American cuisine with Asian accents. Executive chef Beau MacMillan’s local ingredients are procured from a network of artisans and organic farmers to ensure that menus change monthly to reflect seasonal harvests. Food presentation is as compelling as the beautiful landscape that surrounds diners through floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides of the restaurant and large skylights to view the stars. Slide-away glass walls open to an intimate dining patio, which provides the perfect place to cozy up to your special someone. www.sanctuaryoncamelback.com.
Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour
The legendary Bitter & Twisted is not your average cocktail haunt. This year alone, Tales of the Cocktail – which are the awards that honor the world’s top bars, bartenders, spirit and beverage writers, and cocktail experts – named the bar among the top “High Volume Cocktail Bars in the United States” and its menu as one of the “Top 10 Best Cocktail Menus in the World.” They also just released their newest mixology menu featuring 32 pages of often-cheeky craft cocktail creations. While the previous offerings were focused on fairy tales, this menu took inspiration from the darker, more sinister sides to those stories. www.bitterandtwistedaz.com.
Honor Amongst Thieves
Accessible through a “secret” door at Stock & Stable or a separate entrance upstairs behind the 7th Street restaurant, Honor Amongst Thieves tempts with a sultry, speakeasy vibe complete with dim lights, wood accents and plush booths lining the space. The drink menu itself, which often has new additions, is accessible to cocktail novices as well as seasoned sippers and is divided into four main categories: Single Cube, Served Up, Served on the Rocks, and Crushed Ice. On its menu, note it says, “We have secret neat stuff” at the bottom. Ask about it to uncover (and sample) their coveted collection of wines and spirits. www.honoraz.com.
This restaurant created by locally loved chef Matt Carter is quickly becoming as known for its hand-curated, seasonal cocktails as it is for its regional Italian cuisine. A chief reason: They barrel-age their spirits in-house. The aging process, a minimum of six weeks inside charred oak barrels, has an especially profound impact on their vermouth, bourbon and whiskey, bringing out complexities and subtle flavors over time. These spirits are expertly used in many of the cocktails, each of which has an Italian influence. Cocktails range from $12 to $17, but imbibers in the know visit during apertivo time (aka happy hour) from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. daily for specially priced beer, wine and cocktails. www.ilovefatox.com.
Sara Garrant serves as the executive chef of Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, providing fine cuts of beef, poultry and fish, all slow-poached in butter and grilled over mesquite wood. A native of Alaska, she grew up cooking fresh salmon brought in daily by local fishermen, then honed her talents at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa, Ontario, before training at the award-winning Noca in Phoenix. She began working with the Mina Group in 2013, eventually moving to Miami Beach to join his acclaimed Michael Mina 74 at Fontainebleau in 2015 before making her way back to Bourbon Steak in 2017. www.scottsdaleprincess.com.
When Gio Osso opened Virtu Honest Craft in 2013, Esquire magazine named it among the best new restaurants in the U.S. By 2014, the James Beard Foundation had similarly nominated it as among the best new restaurants in the country. Osso earned his cooking stripes on the East Coast before coming to the Valley in 2002, notably working with HMS Host to bring some of Arizona’s best restaurants to Sky Harbor Airport before opening Virtu. Osso’s vision is to transform his progressive, Mediterranean-inspired cuisine into – as he says himself – a beautifully composed symphony of sights, scents and tastes. And he is succeeding over and over again with his artfully crafted dishes. www.virtuscottsdale.com.
Growing up on a dairy farm in the Midwest, Cory Oppold lived the farm-to-table life quite literally. Though he initially moved to Phoenix after high school to pursue a career in architecture, after a few fine dining experiences he was inspired to instead study the culinary arts. Oppold was named executive chef of Atlas Bistro in 2014, where he not only dreams up a seasonal menu based on the concept that “food is art,” but a multicourse one that has a strong focus on vegetables. In fact, though he cooks up innovative takes on fine meats and seafood, veggies are often the colorful stars of Oppold’s visually stunning plates. www.atlasbistrobyob.com.
SanTan Brewing Company
More than 10 years ago, SanTan Brewing Company opened its doors in Chandler’s historic downtown district, just in time for the recession to ravage Arizona. Yet not only did the brewery survive, it thrived, driving the Arizona beer industry forward. This summer, SanTan opened a 7,000-square-foot location in Uptown featuring flagship menu items, a massive patio, and, of course, beer. Among the brews are the hugely popular Devil’s Ale, HopShock IPA, Gordo Stout and Mr. Pineapple, as well as seasonal offerings including Sex Panther (available now through January) and Oktoberfest Lager. www.santanbrewing.com.
Huss Brewing Co.
Founded in Tempe in 2013 by a husband-and-wife team (Jeff and Leah Huss), Huss Brewing Co. opened a taproom in Uptown in 2017. It offers both Huss and Papago beers (they acquired fellow local brewery Papago in 2016), including Scottsdale Blonde and Orange Blossom, two of the most popular craft beers ever sold in Arizona. Thanks to Leah, who is a culinary school alum, the small bites menu stands up to the beers, and they also give the option to order heavier items from nearby restaurants including Lou Malnati’s and Shake Shack. www.hussbrewing.com.
McFate Brewing Co.
McFate, which has two locations – the actual brewery in South Scottsdale and the original Tap + Barrel in North Scottsdale – is the result of one man getting sick of suits and ties. In 2010, owner Steve McFate left his job in corporate America and headed to Denver to study craft brewing. By 2012, he made his way back to the Valley to focus on small-batch beers and opened his namesake concept. This time of year, don’t miss his seasonal Candy Bar Milk Stout. It’s the closest thing to a “dessert beer” perhaps ever produced, and it’s brewed with cacao nibs, vanilla bean, roasted peanuts and sea salt. www.mcfatebrewing.com.
Snooze serves up eclectic twists on American breakfast classics, including everything from breakfast potpies and corned beef hash to quinoa porridge and breakfast tacos. The “Art of Hollandaise” section of the menu, offering six types of Benedicts or the option to mix and match two Benedict flavors, is a homerun. Similarly spectacular is the “Sweet Utopia” section with 10-plus pancake and French toast flavors as well as a pancake flight. The cocktail menu has over 20 cocktails, including twists on mimosas, bloody marys, and coffee plus local and regional beer selections. www.snoozeeatery.com.
Tucked into a nondescript strip mall on 7th Street, Otro Cafe is truly one of Phoenix’s hidden culinary gems. It’s owned by chef Doug Robson, who also founded the hip Gallo Blanco in Downtown Phoenix. Born in Mexico to parents of French, Vietnamese and English descent, he explores bright flavors from across the globe, especially Mexico. Tamales and chilaquiles are offered in several styles, and there are at least half a dozen dishes with spicy chorizo. Frequent diners know to always order the fluffy flapjacks – they make a great shareable side or even dessert. Their brunch is so popular, they actually offer it daily until 4 p.m. to keep up with demand. www.otrocafe.com.
For 30 years, Richardson’s has brought the flavors of New Mexico to the Valley, especially at brunch. Offered daily, Richardson’s brunch is tailor-made for spice lovers with its jalapeno hollandaise and both red and green chile sauces offered with nearly every dish. The carne adovada and eggs and the carne adovada Benedict, both riffs on their ultra-popular carne adovada dinner entree, have the some of the most tender, flavorful pork you’ve ever tasted. Oh, and every day until 6 p.m., mimosas are just $6 each. A final wow: The Southwestern-inspired covered patio added in recent years makes for a beautiful backdrop at breakfast … or otherwise. www.richardsonsnm.com.
La Hacienda by Richard Sandoval
La Hacienda by Richard Sandoval at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess unveiled an impressive multimillion-dollar facelift, not to mention a new cocktail program and dinner menu, in September. The update includes an expanded bar and lounge, the addition of both indoor and outdoor lounge seating featuring fixtures directly from Mexico, a new tequila display, and an artistic agave wall. To help develop new features on the menu, executive chef Forest Hamrick and Sandoval traveled to the hottest restaurants across Mexico over the past year and brought back some inspired recipes. The cocktails, which include 21 new options plus extensive tequila-tasting flights, are similarly spectacular. www.scottsdaleprincess.com.
In October, chef and restaurateur Cullen Campbell transformed his award-winning Crudo into Bar Pesce. Visually, the re-envisioned restaurant includes contemporary lighting and striking, gold-hued wallpaper, and the addition of a partition wall to add variation to the main dining room. There is also now an on-site wine cellar and a menu of 10 all-new creatively crafted cocktails. Of course, the most sweeping changes are to the menu, which now combines the twists on modern Italian cuisine that Crudo was famous for, plus exciting new dishes inspired by Japan, Vietnam and South America. Don't miss the fan-favorite crispy pig ears, the crab mi roll with lobster roe aioli, or the squid ink risotto with crab, chilies and uni (yes, sea urchin). www.barpesce.com.
As of October, The Macintosh replaced Grassroots Kitchen & Tap in Phoenix’s Town & Country shopping center at 20th Street and Camelback Road. Originally opened in 2014, the initial restaurant was a spinoff of Common Ground Culinary’s Grassroots concept in Scottsdale, which continues to operate. The new venue pairs bold, brassy and energetic decor with a hearty yet approachable menu of modern comfort classics with distinct Southern influences — and nothing is over $24. The central bar was redesigned to feature soaring library shelves brimming with more than 30 different whiskeys; 20-plus domestic beers; and a smaller, more refined domestic wine program, accented with cocktails barrel-aged in-house. www.themacintoshaz.com.
Parma Italian Roots
Only open since September, Parma is already making waves across Arizona’s culinary community. Helmed by 28-year-old chef Chris Gentile, Parma offers ultra-flavorful, West Coast-influenced Italian cuisine among a comfortable yet chic ambiance. Think elevated pizza, daily handmade pasta, and charcuterie as well as hearty main courses with rich sauces and savory sides. The drink menu has an Italian vibe as well, with eight crafted cocktails for $12 each, as well as beers and wines, some imported directly from Italy. The restaurant has been on such a roll, it extended its hours and is now open for lunch daily and brunch on the weekends in addition to dinner nightly. Two musts? The fresh-baked bread and the gnocchi. www.parmaitalianaz.com.
Roland’s Cafe Market Bar
In April, Arizona culinary icon Chris Bianco partnered with Nadia Holguin and Armando Hernandez of Tacos Chiwas fame to open Roland’s, which is housed in a 101-year-old historic building oozing with character. Inspired by ingredients used in northern Mexico – especially from the state of Chihuahua – and the “simple is best” mantra Bianco has lived by his entire career, the menu is basic, but the flavors are anything but. You’ll find a steak sandwich that resembles a torta but made with bread by Pane Bianco, enchiladas, and a selection of desserts including scrumptious ice cream cookie sandwiches. Roland’s offers all-day dining; a coffee bar; a bar featuring craft cocktails, beer and wine; and to-go options like takeout burritos. www.rolandsphx.com.
Blue Clover Distillery
Blue Clover opened in February and launched its first run of housemade vodka in March, with plans to expand to other spirits in 2019. Guests who visit can watch the distillation process firsthand thanks to a floor-to-ceiling wall, all the while being treated to American and New Mexico-inspired dishes and drinks. Food options include a green chile cheeseburger, chorizo poutine, fish tacos, and the Southwest-infused house flatbread, which uses jalapenos, cilantro and green chile crema for a spicy finish. The bar itself, which boasts Blue Clover’s own spirits plus a full cocktail, beer and wine list, has a very industrial feel and an inside-outside concept with retractable garage doors and a massive, buzzy patio. www.bluecloverdistillery.com.
Restaurants developed by the Mastro family always cause a scene. But the scene at Steak 44 — even four years after its acclaimed opening — is something out of a movie. Both the bar and dining room are prime spots for people-watching from open to close, and it is only getting better very soon. In 2019, Steak 44 will complete a million-dollar expansion to add a new dining bar, state-of-the-art butcher shop, and another intimate dining room. In total, the expansion will add another 2,000 square feet and 80 seats to keep up with demand. www.steak44.com.
There are power lunches, and then there are lunches at Hillstone. On any given day, both well-heeled members of the community and industry titans from across the Valley gather at this upscale eatery to drink, dine and likely make major business deals. The open kitchen, the patio, and the massive bar (bigger than most restaurants in town on its own) add to the electricity buzzing throughout the sophisticated space. The menu is meant to impress, featuring everything from sushi rolls to USDA prime steak. Hillstone transforms into more of a date night spot for dinner, but with similarly well-to-do clientele. www.hillstone.com.
Follow the arrow to The Henry any time of day, quite literally – there is an arrow just outside the door that makes the perfect meeting spot. From morning until night, The Henry is a place where people meet and greet, gossip and gab, or even work. A truly versatile concept, guests can grab coffee to go on their way into the office, stop in for a lunch meeting or happy hour with friends, and then have dinner with the family. The Henry also buzzes with a flurry of morningtime activity during weekend brunch. It’s the kind of place where the baristas and bar staff know you by name, and you’re always bound to run into a familiar face. www.thehenryrestaurant.com.