I have been visiting Scottsdale, Arizona, the largest suburb of Phoenix, for almost twenty years now, and the restaurants in the area improve year after year. I recently visited family there over the winter Holidays, and then again over Super Bowl weekend, which was also at the same time as the Waste Management Phoenix Open. It was great to get away from the cold Chicago winter and enjoy some al fresco dining and activities.
This week’s installment of Chritiques’ Travel Guide will cover Scottsdale, and Part I will focus on some new restaurants that I discovered during both visits.
Covering 184 square miles, and with a population of over 225,000 people, Scottsdale is quite large, and a car is necessary to get around town. While visiting, you may be confined to the hotel in which you are staying, but I encourage you to get out and explore the burgeoning culinary offerings of the city.
Our first stop was to Chelsea’s Kitchen, located in Phoenix, and down the street from two of my favorite shopping centers, the outdoor Biltmore Fashion Park and the indoor Scottsdale Fashion Square, as well as two of my favorite hotels, The Phoenician and the Arizona Biltmore.
Chelsea’s, an Arizona roadhouse on the canal that pays tribute to the heritage and history of the area, boasts a spacious outdoor patio and bar, so that is where my husband and I headed for lunch with a friend who lives in the area. I started with an excellent and refreshing basil gimlet, and my husband ordered a margarita. Perfect way to kick off our vacation.
The food was outstanding. We started with the guacamole and chips, and I loved the charred tomatillo salsa served alongside the generous portion of freshly made guacamole and house made tortilla chips. I then enjoyed the Del Mar Salad, with shrimp, crab meat, iceberg lettuce, avocado, and olives. It was light and refreshing and the perfect lunch. However, I was quite jealous of my husband’s Surf & Turf Tacos, with French braised shrimp and grass fed filet mignon. They were served build-your-own style with corn tortillas, guacamole, pico de gallo, and a terrific kale slaw. The food and service were all great at Chelsea’s, and they even have freshly baked cookies waiting for you on your way out. I will definitely be back.
Our next stop was The Herb Box, located at DC Ranch in North Scottsdale. It was another beautiful day, so we opted to dine outside for lunch.
While the service was, unfortunately, horrendous – we had to ask numerous times for water, plates, and silverware – the food made up for it.
We started with the Avocado Love shared plate to start, and it was delicious. Whole grain toasts were topped with an avocado-lime schmear, and topped with organic arugula, fennel, lemon-honey, and a sweet-hot Serrano glaze.
For lunch, I absolutely loved, and I mean LOVED, the vegetarian sweet potato tacos, with grilled onion, spicy roasted corn-avocado salsa, cotija cheese, baby greens, and a black bean and mango salad. The flour tortillas were grilled and the flavors were just outstanding.
Other winners during our lunch included the market street short rib tacos, the serrano-avocado shrimp salad, as well as the chicken-arugula and goat cheese wrap, with dried cherries, goat cheese, and organic arugula. The sweet potato chips served alongside were completely addicting. Thankfully the food at The Herb Box was wonderfully pleasing, in order to make up for the lackadaisical and somewhat rude and absent service.
The next day, we met up with my good friend Whitney, along with her Mom who lives in the Phoenix area, at a favorite new restaurant of mine, Isabella’s Kitchen, located at Grayhawk Golf Club. Though it was quite chilly, we bundled up to sit outside on the expansive patio overlooking the Golf Club’s driving range and first tee.
I started with the spicy, yet refreshing, Mexican Mule, with Hornitos lime tequila, house ginger syrup, lime juice, sparkling water, and jalapeño, served in a copper mug. This drink warmed me up in no time.
The menu at Isabella’s focuses on American Italian favorites made with fresh ingredients, so we started with a trio of bruschetta, including the burrata, with blistered cherry tomatoes, basil, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the Fuji apple, with brie, and fig spread, and the prosciutto, with fig and ricotta. My favorite was the traditional burrata – the cheese was perfectly creamy and delicious.
The Italian hummus was also fantastic, especially with the house made grilled flatbread. The hummus was made from ceci beans, and was served with seasonal vegetables. It was outstanding.
We then all shared a wonderful quinoa salad, with mixed greens, pomegranate, chickpeas, shaved red onion, feta cheese, and a citrus vinaigrette, as well as two outstanding pizzas – the classic margherita, with mozzarella and basil, and the mushroom, with roasted mushrooms and mozzarella. The mushroom pizza was my favorite, but both were delicious and had a perfectly chewy crust with just enough crispiness.
The atmosphere at Isabella’s is extremely relaxing, with friendly service and tasty food. I look forward to returning for drinks and pizzas on the patio.
One of my favorite healthy restaurants in Scottsdale is True Food Kitchen, located at the Scottsdale Quarter. True Food Kitchen has a number of locations in the west/southwest, and they all offer a healthy selection of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options, as well as standard fare, just made healthier.
Whitney and I enjoyed dinner on the patio at True Food during my most recent visit. The patio is comfortable and relaxing, with a lovely view of the landscaped courtyard of the Scottsdale Quarter, and outdoor shopping center.
I started with the Green Arnie, made with matcha green tea and honey lemonade. I have been addicted to anything with matcha, which has a very earthy taste and is used in drinks and both sweet and savory dishes, so I enjoyed this refresher.
We then shared the fantastic and flavorful herb hummus, which was topped with a Greek salad of sorts, and served alongside fresh vegetable crudités, rather than pita bread.
I have been reading so much about recipes using spaghetti squash, so when I saw it on the menu and heard that it is one of True Food’s best-selling dishses, I had to try it. I ordered mine sans mozzarella, but added grilled shrimp for some extra protein, and I absolutely loved it. The organic tomato sauce and zucchini paired perfectly with the tender spaghetti squash. I did not miss the pasta at all. I now need to learn to replicate this at home!
All of the restaurants that I visited in the Scottsdale area were outstanding. Each used fresh ingredients – many made in-house – and all focused on healthy offerings. I am happy to see Scottsdale becoming a burgeoning food-centric town, and I hope to see it continue to grow.
Be sure to stay tuned this week for Parts 2 and 3 of my Scottsdale travel guides, where I will be highlighting my favorite hotels and activities in the area.
What are your favorite restaurants in Scottsdale?