A Foodie Weekend in Scottsdale
Where to eat now in the Valley of the Sun.
One of the major advantages Scottsdale has over other resort cities is that it’s an actual living, breathing part of a cosmopolitan city. That means there’s no need to make do with what passes for resort dining at other getaways (we’re talking to you, Palm Springs and Wailea). So between tee times, spa treatments and hiking Camelback Mountain, you can take an up-to-date survey of what’s new and exciting in American cuisine and work on your tan. Try doing that in Chicago this winter.
Take Camelback in from Sky Harbor Airport so you can make a quick pit stop at Kaleidoscope Juice (4014 Goldwater Blvd., Scottsdale, 480-980-8677, kaleidoscopejuice.com) for a cold-pressed antidote to whatever was swimming in the stale air on your flight down. Then hook around Camelback Mountain and check into Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain (5700 E McDonald Dr., Paradise Valley, 480-948-2100, sanctuaryoncamelback.com). The resort is that rare bastion of truth in advertising—not only is it perched on the side of Camelback Mountain, it is also a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of town. So why not chill out and stay put night one? Iron Chef alum Beau MacMillan’s Elements is one of the classics of relaxed fine dining, so grab a quick drink at the bar (it has a great view of North Scottsdale) and hike the 20 steps for a starter of octopus a la plancha with pickled mustard root followed up with some Mexican wild shrimp with cheddar corn grits and chorizo chili broth.
Head to untamed (or at least less developed) North Scottsdale to work off the previous night’s dinner. Pinnacle Peak is a 3-1/2-mile round-trip, but with a 1,300-foot elevation you’re not ever at a Grouse Grind level of exertion. Best of all, a short walk from the base is the new spot Proof (10600 E Crescent Moon Dr., Scottsdale, 480-513-5085, proofcanteen.com), tucked into the Four Seasons. Who can say you don’t deserve some eggs with brisket, white cheddar and Yukon gold potatoes (and maybe a coffee by the pool).
Head back to the waterfront in downtown Scottsdale for a late lunch. This area is thick with restaurants, including the infamous Amy’s Baking Company of Kitchen Nightmares fame. Give that sideshow a pass and instead check out Barrio Queen Tequileria (105–7114 E Stetson Dr., Scottsdale, 480-656-4197, barrioqueen.com), a spin-off of popular PHX eatery Barrio Café. Expect Mexican cuisine of the type that never makes it north of the 49th parallel, like cochinita pibil tacos full with spiced pork for half the cost of a grilled cheese at a Vancouver food truck.
You had your exercise already, so your options are relaxing by the pool (rubbing your belly with sunscreen aids digestion) or zipping back north to the insane wine and spirits emporium Total Wine, which stocks pretty much everything ever made. Either way, dinner sees you hitting a note you don’t expect in these parts—history. Chef Matt Carter has created a subtle and deft take on re-imagined Franco-American classics in Old Town at The House Brasserie (6936 E Main St., Scottsdale, 480-634-1600, thehousebrasserie.com)—in a circa-1939 house that claims to be the second-oldest house in Scottsdale. (Ask for a sample of their homemade cinnamon whiskey.)
Hopefully you slept well, because breakfast is at a spot that defies any rational description. Tom’s Thumb Fresh Market Barbeque and Grill (9393 E Bell Rd., Scottsdale, 480-513-8186, tomsthumbfreshmarket.com) is a gas station with chandeliers and a premium car wash that sells Silver Oak cabernet. And, while so doing, serves superlative fare like pulled pork breakfast tacos for $6. Lunch is even better. The car washes are good too.
On the basis that you have to find something to do between meals, head to the Royal Palms and force yourself to skip past the just re-opened T. Cooks restaurant and sneak into the spa for a citrus ritual—an exfoliation and massage that channels the state’s past as an orange-producing powerhouse. In most cities, you’d be trying to squeeze in one last meal before hitting the airport, but Phoenix has eschewed the usual slop suspects that pass for food purveyors in favour of a cutting-edge approach: invite the area’s best chefs to actually feed visitors properly. Run past the Wendy’s to the outpost of the La Grande Orange Grocery (4410 N 40th St., Phoenix, 604-840-7777, lagrandeorangegrocery.com)—Scottsdale’s reigning king of casual cool for the past decade—and pick up a commuter sandwich with salmon—for the same $8 that it costs at their Camelback mainstay. Eat on the plane while planning your next trip.