A Foodie’s Weekend Guide to Scottsdale
Food & Wine
Scottsdale is renowned as a top-notch vacation destination for many reasons. Five-star resorts are in abundance, which means that the spa scene here is also unmatched. World class golf courses can be found in every direction. Spring is host to an insane number of events and festivals that bring tourists to Arizona from around the world (events such as Barrett Jackson, Spring Training, the US Open, and even this year’s Super Bowl!). But what is often overlooked and frequently underrated is the incredible food, wine and cocktail scene that Scottsdale has to offer. It’s a foodie’s paradise! Check out my guide for some of the best places to wine and dine your way through a weekend in Scottsdale, Arizona’s desert gem.
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Hotel Valley Ho
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Hotel Adeline, Scottsdale, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel
Trendy hotel with vintage-chic rooms, plus an outdoor pool, cafe restaurant and whisky bar in Scottsdale.
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Luxury property in Scottsdale set on 53 acres of desert with manicured grounds, pools and award-winning facilities.
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Plan to arrive on a Thursday afternoon. Once you’re settled into your hotel of choice, get freshened up and be ready to head out the door around 5pm. Grab a drink at your hotel lobby while you wait for your uber (or walk, if you’re feeling outdoorsy) and then kick off your weekend of epicurean gluttony with an early dinner at Citizen Public House. Don’t let this unpretentious restaurant fool you, however. Winner of multiple awards, the food and spirits here can hold their own in a James Beard lineup. Social hour runs from 4-6pm daily, so you can sample the Bacon Fat Popcorn with a barrel aged cocktail before diving into the main course. For dinner, I recommend the Fair Trade Short Ribs or the Pan Roasted Nordic Halibut, but even if you’re just in the mood for something light, you can’t go wrong with the famous Original Chopped Salad - it’s so famous, it has it’s own Facebook page! The wine and spirits list is extensive, so whether you’re in the mood for a glass of Tempranillo or a flight of whiskeys or rums, they’ve got you covered.
After dinner, you’ll want (need) to walk off some of that decadent dinner, and you’re in the exact right spot to do so. Taking place nearly every Thursday night from 7-9 pm is the Scottsdale Art District Art Walk. Free to all, galleries in the arts district open their doors to art aficionados as well as casual collectors and curious patrons alike. Various artists are highlighted, refreshments are offered, and the overall experience is one of a general wandering through the streets of Old Town, popping into galleries that hold your interest and enjoying a free glass of wine along the way.
Once you’ve walked your way through Old Town, the choice is yours. If you’re exhausted from a day of travel, head on back to your hotel for some good sleep. However, if you’re still feeling like you need one last cocktail before bed, head to Kaz Bar for a nightcap. Let the soothing live music and cozy atmosphere lull you into relaxation. Bed is just an uber ride or quick walk away, whenever you decide to call it a night.
Once you’re up and moving on Friday, head north to the Kierland and Scottsdale Quarter shopping district. These outdoor shopping centers are host to a myriad of excellent restaurants, but one of my favorite breakfast spots is Breakfast Kitchen Bar, located at the Quarter. With an extensive brunch menu served daily, you’ll want to sample everything, but I recommend the Churro Waffle served with nutella as my go to. When I’m feeling crazy, I’ll also add the avocado fries and call it a day.
After breakfast, poke around at the shops at the Quarter, and then cross the street at the designated crosswalk that links the Quarter to Kierland. Check out those shops as well. After a few hours of working up your appetite again, it’s time to head to a Scottsdale staple located right in Kierland - Postino Wine Cafe. Known for its $5 glasses of wine until 5pm (ALL wine!) and it’s delicious bruschetta boards, this is where you’ll want to hang out for an hour or two (or three) this afternoon.
After you’ve had your fill of wine and bruschetta, take your pick. You can either head directly to dinner, or back to the hotel for a little nap before a later reservation. Once you’re ready for food, though, it’s time to head to FnB. Reservations are highly recommended, and can be made up to 2 weeks in advance. This restaurant has won award after award for its wonderfully rich and flavorful fare, and was even nominated for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Program of the year, an honor that only 20 restaurants received nationwide. The baquetta grouper with tomatillo, pima corn and peruano beans are to die for, as is the delicata squash with whipped goat cheese, dates and spiced pecans.
Start your day with some activity to work up an appetite! Head to the McDowell Mountain Preserve and choose your own adventure. Trails that range from easy, flat half mile nature walks to moderate 4 mile loops up and over the saddle of the lower McDowell mountain all begin at the Gateway Trailhead. While the trailhead is only a 15 minute drive from Old Town, as the crown jewel of Scottsdale’s outdoor spaces, it feels as though you’ve been transported to a desert wilderness teeming with cacti, wildlife and spectacular scenery you can’t see anywhere else in the world.
Once your morning hike is over, jump in the car for a quick 5 minute drive to your next dining destination - The Vig McDowell Mountain. While the location is casual (so your hiking gear is totally appropriate), reservations are encouraged for brunch, especially if you want to snag one of their desirable patio tables near the live acoustic guitar music. Start with the Blistered Sheshito Peppers, and (pro tip) order a side of the Noble Bread to soak up all of that yummy chile soy sauce. For your entree, you cannot go wrong with any of the food on their menu, but my favorites are the Smoked Mac & Cheese, the Pozole, or the Wild Mexican Shrimp Tacos. Mimosas are a must for me at brunch, and I always ask for the OJ on the side, so as to ensure my perfect OJ to Prosecco ratio (basically 1 part OJ to 99 parts bubbles). After brunch, head back to the hotel to freshen up (and maybe sleep off some of those mimosas) before it’s time to explore more of the City Center in Scottsdale.
When you’re ready, head to the Civic Center Plaza in Old Town. Home to the famous and very instagrammable LOVE Sculpture, this is your base for the rest of the day. From here, the world is your oyster. If you’re still needing to get your shopping fix, the historic shops around the Civic Center will fill that void. From Native American jewelry shops to Western-wear boutiques, you can truly find anything to remember your trip to the Old West. If instead, you’d like to soak in a bit more from the arts and culture scene, you can grab a timed open spot at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) or watch a performance at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Whatever you decide to do, however, all roads lead to the final dinner restaurant of your choice.
My top three restaurant suggestions for a dinner experience you won’t forget include: The House Brasserie, Cafe Monarch or The Mission. The House Brasserie is known for its historic origins and culinary artistry, combining cutting-edge, modern American cuisine with a French influence. The Mission blends influences from Chef Carter’s travels, taking you on a culinary journey across Spain, Mexico, Central- and South America with his menu (pro tip - the tableside guacamole is not to be missed, nor is the off-menu smoky mezcal mojito).
And the showstopper is our very own five-star Michelin rated restaurant, Cafe Monarch. Intimate, romantic and upscale, be sure you follow the strict dress code, and go all out with a 4 course tasting menu with wine pairings. All three of these choices require reservations far in advance, so make sure to plan ahead!
Once dinner comes to an end, and if you’re still standing, walk across the Civic Center lawn to AZ88 for a lively nightcap to end the night. All of their concoctions are delicious, but they are famous for their vodka dirty martinis and aged old fashioneds. The vibe at AZ88 is spirited and energetic - enjoy your last night in Scottsdale amongst tourists and locals alike at this gem of a bar.
Your final day in Scottsdale has arrived, and today we keep it casual. In Scottsdale, that means finding one of a hundred pools or patios to camp out at for the day, until you’re forced to grab your bags and head to Sky Harbor to fly back home. Hang out at the resort pool and snag some snacks and cocktails to enjoy, and reflect on the amazing food and drink scene you’ve just experienced. And no vacation is complete without posting an Instagram recap to showcase the highlights, and encourage your friends and family to join you on the next trip down to sunny AZ.
Need to Know
If this trip sounds like a dream to you, I can help you make it your own! Reach out to me directly to book your very own food and wine tour of Scottsdale, Arizona, and perhaps during your trip you’ll fall in love with this beautiful desert oasis like I have. The restaurant scene is calling, will you answer?
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