Last week the Phoenix area hit 100 degrees for the first time this year and it was the fourth earliest date on record. Thus, one would think that the season for outdoor events would be coming to an end. One would be wrong, as this past weekend brought in the Scottsdale Culinary Fest and the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, an outdoor Taste of Chicago-esque festival showcasing food from all over the area and of all types.
Some were household names with tons of locations around the Valley of the Sun, like Grimaldi’s and Zoe’s, but others seemed a bit more special and I sought them out (along with some booze, of course).
I’d been hearing murmurings of how great this place was for a while now, and its victory at Burger Battle 2018 further cemented my desire to get there. This burger wasn’t perfect, nor would I expect it to be in such a situation, but the combination of mozzarella, bacon, basil garlic aioli, balsamic reduction and a discarded tomato made me more eager to seek out the real deal.
Steaks aren’t cheap. At least, that’s the tale we’ve all been told. But what if I told you that the beautiful ribeye steak to the left there was only $18? Well, it’s the truth. Because Tuesdays in Scottsdale are apparently not the most popular nights to go out, so Hand Cut Burgers Burgers and Chophouse offers its steaks for half off. Thus, on a night that I had been intending to order a burger, I found myself ordering that ribeye instead.
Once again, I found myself at one of the Phoenix area’s seemingly endless supply of breakfast/brunch spots. This time it was a place called Scramble in Scottsdale. Scramble is one of those places where you order at the counter, which is all good and well until there’s only one person at the counter with a line out the door and a bunch of empty tables inside. But I digress, as even with that wait to order it probably took just as long to get my food as it would have if I had sat down and ordered at the table.
I’m a sucker for gnocchi. If you’ve read this blog long enough, you know this. You also know that I will even forego meat to get some delicious gnocchi. Thus, I was happy to find that Stone and Vine in Scottsdale had itself some gnocchi on the menu. It was called Gnocchi Pomodoro, which obviously means that it had tomato in some way (in this case sauce), but also came with fresh mozzarella.
Old Town Scottsdale is basically the touristy mecca of Scottsdale. And while touristy doesn’t often translate into delicious food, there are a few gems among those crowded streets. On the outside, Farm + Craft seemed like such a place with a great open concept and an “order at the counter” or “order at your table” that seemed to depend on the whim of the workers that day.
Americanized spins on Asian food scares me. There. I said it. Maybe it makes me seem like a spoiled brat, but I need the real authentic stuff. So, with much trepidation I made my way to Ling & Louie’s in Scottsdale. But, what makes Ling & Louie’s different is that they own up to the fact that they know they are not authentic and fully embrace making food that is more of a fun spin on Asian-inspired than any real attempt of authenticity.
It’s not hard to appreciate a burger. And like many fine restaurants before it, The Herb Box in Scottsdale’s DC Ranch made the wise decision to include a burger on its menu surrounded by dishes like steak and free-range chicken. Often, the burger represents a cheaper alternative, but with the burger running $17 at The Herb Box one could hardly be called cheap for ordering it.
I love old school greasy Mexican places. The types that have been around from years, have a stable menu and don’t try to introduce something crazy to the menu (I mean I like those too, but there’s a special place in my heart for the former). Ajo Al’s in Scottsdale is one of those old school places. Maybe it hasn’t been around since some of Phoenix’s older spots, but it opened in 1986, which is like 100 years ago in Arizona years.
Another year, another move. This time, the year was split between LA (Pasadena) and Phoenix (Scottsdale). While LA is certainly more of a melting pot of cultures, Phoenix certainly has its fair share of good food driven by transplants from all over the country, if not the world. And what year would be complete without a bit of travel as well? As is usual, I’m keeping the travel out of the Best of, but you can see it all here (including some amazing food from a trip to Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan). So without further adieu, bring on 2017.
I’ve probably never thought that Middle Eastern food is the type of food that needs innovation and modernization. Give me some well-executed schwarma nearly any day of the week and I will be a happy man. Yet, Pita Jungle not only exists in the Phoenix area, but it has multiple locations that demonstrate a pattern of success. Oh, and it just oozes modern Middle Eastern.