Scottsdale boasts a thriving culinary scene of over 400 restaurants featuring everything from trendy gastropubs to rustic Western saloons. The Scottsdale restaurant scene is a melting pot of acclaimed chefs, innovative cuisine, and with over 300 sunny days every year, some of the best al fresco dining in the country. As home to a top-rated Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, the Scottsdale dining scene also enjoys a healthy population of raw young talent experimenting with bold flavors and culinary fusion. Cross-border influences from Latin America, California, traditional Continental, and beyond, make Scottsdale a major destination for diners seeking the latest in regional and global flavors and specialties. Whether you’re craving sushi or Mexican, chic or traditional, upscale or down-home, the Scottsdale restaurant scene is diverse enough to satisfy any palate or appetite.
See what this foodie paradise is all about for yourself with a meal at one of Scottsdale’s best restaurants. At the top of our list is Virtu, a tiny Mediterranean cafe tucked away in a B&B in downtown Scottsdale. The restaurant has been collecting accolades from chefs and food magazines across the country for its take on globally-influenced, homemade "honest craft" cuisine. Another Scottsdale gem is FnB, where the kitchen uses farm-fresh ingredients and culinary creativity to put together pleasing small plate ensembles. If you want to experience a quintessentially Scottsdale meal, head to Cowboy Ciao, where the delightful combination of New and Old World flavors, along with its irreverent and fun "border baroque" dining room, is simply unforgettable. BLT Steak and Mastro's City Hall Steakhouse offer top-notch takes on the modern American steakhouse, while Lon's at the Hermosa is the perfect place to enjoy wholesome, Southwest-infused American cuisine on one of the loveliest outdoor patios in the city.
10 Barrio Queen
Barrio Queen is the latest creation from Chef Silviana Esparza of Barrio Cafe fame. The menu is extensive, featuring authentic Mexico City-style dishes. Elaborate chiles rellenos, exotic tacos, cemitas poblanas (specialty sandwiches stuffed to the gills with a variety of fresh ingredients), and other culinary wonders await. Barrio Queen is also a panaderia and tequileria--meaning you can pick up fresh Mexican sweet bread and a variety of tequila-based drinks at this uniquely colorful restaurant. This busy cafe on Stetson Drive is quickly becoming the talk of the town, thanks to its high-energy, passionate take on traditional Mexican food and culture. ((480) 656-4197)
9 Lon's at the Hermosa
Lon's pays homage to Arizona's rustic Southwestern cowboy history in the most elegant of ways; the ambiance is strikingly different from what you would expect. The decor suggests cowboy, but the menu and staff dress it up and give the whole place an air of luxury. Menu highlights might include two-pepper roasted pork tenderloin or breast of duck with cranberry and jalapeno glaze. The unique Sunday brunch menu offers such things as braised beef short ribs with a sunnyside-up egg or strawberry- and mascarpone-stuffed brioche French toast. Additionally, everything on the menu is organic, humanely raised, and from ecologically sound sources. (602-955-7878)
8 Citizen Public House
Citizen Public House is what the English pub concept looks like in Scottsdale: thoroughly contemporary and upscale, yet still managing to retain the homey charm of a traditional public house. Nestled comfortably in Old Town Scottsdale, Citizen Public House has made a name for iself by serving craft beers, classic and contemporary cocktails as well as a full menu of award-winning gastropub cuisine. For cool nights, there is a cozy patio, a semi-private 12-seat dining alcove and lively public space. Mahogany accents, leather booths and a stainless steel-topped bar combine old and new design elements for a sleek, modern look. (480.398.4208)
7 Cowboy Ciao
This whimsical Scottsdale restaurant is a favorite with long-time residents for its unique take on traditional Southwestern cuisine. The "border baroque" decor marries Old World graciousness with Wild West kitsch, making for a fun and memorable dining experience. The menu is Modern American with an emphasis on Southwestern flavors, but anything goes at Cowboy Ciao. Expect the unexpected, such as their classic Pig n' Pudding, a pulled pork dish in a chipotle and balsamic barbecue sauce served with crumbly cotija cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds, polenta, and dried cranberries. Don't skip dessert--the Pumpernickel Bread Pudding is a local favorite. Truly unique. (480-946-3111)
Located at FireSky Resort and Spa in the heart of Scottsdale, Taggia brings fresh coastal Italian cuisine to the Sonoran desert. Seafood doesn't get any fresher than this (flown in daily) and seasonal salads feature organic and locally sourced ingredients. Gourmet pizzas come out soft, chewy and bubbling with the fresh made sauce from the restaurant's wood-fired ovens. The ambiance is exceptional. You can dine under the resort's soaring green palms in the comfortable outdoor patio, or in the sleek, inviting dining room. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is a great choice for a date night or special night with friends. ((480) 424-6095)
5 The Mission
If ever there was a place to enjoy a sophisticated dinner amid the flicker of candlelight, The Mission in Scottsdale is it. This casual upscale restaurant specializes in "modern Latin cuisine" skillfully prepared by Chef Matt Carter using a traditional "plancha" style grill. Kick your meal off with the Crispy Cola Pork, pork belly infused with cola, lime, chiltepin, peanut, pickled red onion and gem lettuce. Try the Pork Shoulder tacos, which features a house pineapple glaze, cilantro, red onions and ten hand made corn tortillas. Another stand-out is the Chorizo Porchetta, pork shoulder, chorizo, rosemary, cotija, white bean puree and sweet garlic crema. Dishes are infused with the traditional essence of pecan and mesquite wood and feature a creative fusion of Spanish and Latin American flavors. (480-636-5005)
4 BLT Steak
As if the cozy, adobe-inspired interior isn't engaging enough, guests at BLT Steak are greeted by spectacular views of Camelback Mountain at this celebrated resort restaurant. A menu of innovative American cuisine features steaks and seafood, all impeccably prepared and served by a knowledgeable staff. Terrific options include a bone-in sirloin, broiled Maine lobster, and braised short ribs. The comfortable setting is also ideal for savoring a bottle from the extensive wine list that offers something for just about every preference. For dessert, don't miss the delightful crepe souffle. This is one of the best restaurants in town, the perfect marriage of food and atmosphere. (480-905-7979, 800-582-2169)
3 Cafe Monarch
How about a late morning breakfast in a sun-drenched patio, with monarch butterflies fluttering at a respectful distance? Sound too good to be true? Fortunately, Cafe Monarch in Scottsdale is a very real place. Experience a truly unique dining ambiance in this cozy cafe, featuring one of the most unique brunches in town. The menu is small--choose from either a Sweet or Savory option--but the dishes are hand-crafted, fresh and seasonal, and utterly delightful. Frittatas, French toast, and other classic breakfast specialties receive special treatment here from owner, chef, server and all-around culinary maven, Chris, who will make you feel at home at this Scottsdale foodie destination. Lunch and four-course dinners are now being served as well. ((480) 970-7682)
Sophisticated yet down-home, FnB is the latest darling of the Scottsdale culinary scene. The menu, which changes frequently, is based on seasonal ingredients sourced from local vendors and farms. The farm-fresh ingredients are carefully selected to create unexpected and delightful pairings. On any given visit, you'll find succulent combos such as leeks and grilled broccoli, brussels sprouts with meyer lemon, chile, and mint, or roasted beets with yoghurt, oil cured olives, cilantro and pinenuts. Expect the unexpected at FnB, where the artful plates are served with locally crafted beer and native Arizona wine. FnB's new location also features a small wine shop and a bodega market. (480-425-9463)
Tucked away in the Bespoke Inn in Old Town Scottsdale, Virtu is a charming cafe with a world-class menu. After only a few months in operation, the small eatery made a big splash by appearing in Esquire Magazine's annual Best New Restaurants in America list. The menu incorporates Mediterranean flavors with Southwestern zest. Try the grilled octopus, which is cooked tender and served with fennel, arugula, lemon chick peas, and calabrese chile butter. Don't miss the hand-crafted cocktail menu. A seat in the tiny dining room here is in high demand, so make sure to make reservations to secure your place at the Virtu table. (480.946.3477)
About Patricia Escarcega
Patricia Escarcega has lived in the Arizona desert since she was a teenager. She works as a writer and editor in Phoenix with her four dogs and two cats.
She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and is working on a novel about growing up in the 1990s.
Read more about Patricia Escarcega here.