If your image of Scottsdale is all swimming pools and golf courses - well, you're not too far off the mark. But Scottsdale is also home to an ever-evolving scene of local restaurants, ranging from sandwich shops to grand resort dining rooms. But for those of you looking for a great meal that won't break the vacation budget, we present to you our top choices for best value restaurants in Scottsdale.
There's no need to sacrifice taste and quality at neighborhood restaurants such as Defalcos Italian Grocery, a venerable local favorite that has been dishing out hot, delicious gooey Italian pasta dishes and pressed sandwiches for decades. Come for the authentic antipasto, stay for the cannoli.
Next up, there is Tacos Jalisco, where the humble dining room belies the magic happening behind the kitchen doors. This is a great stop for take-out on those days when you're craving Mexican comfort food but only have a few bucks in your eating-out budget.
Looking for a sweet spot for breakfast or lunch? Check out Noci Cafe in north Scottsdale. The cozy cafe is home to great homemade breakfast specialties and lunch options like sandwiches, soups, panini and a small selection of Italian pasta plates. You'll also find good gourmet coffee and dessert pastries. Most breakfast and lunch options are priced less than $10.
Finally, if you want a meal that is both wallet-friendly and healthy for you, head to YC's Mongolian Grill, where you can pick out fresh meats and veggies and watch expert chefs create masterful stir-fry dishes for a fraction of what you would pay at a sit-down restaurant.
YC's Mongolian Grill
Fresh and tasty is the operating culinary philosophy at YC's Mongolian Grill, where diners are invited to create their own stir fry creations. Simply choose from the assortment of enticingly fresh ingredients and step back and watch as one of the grill's experienced stir fry chefs cooks up your creation. Guests are invited to come up with their own combinations of meats, vegetables, noodles and sauces for a one-of-a-kind stir fry. Sauces range from bold and flavorful to tangy, spicy and sweet. This is a popular lunch spot for diners seeking a healthy and budget-friendly alternative to greasy diners and fast food options. ((480) 948-8011)
Coconut's Fish Cafe
Coconut's Fish Cafe is a Hawaiian-style, fast-casual taco joint decorated with surfboard tables, bamboo, bright colors and a soundtrack of island music. The ambiance is fun, casual and friendly, but you'll come for the expansive menu of fish tacos, fish fillets, salads, and fish and chip plates. The tacos are the house specialty, which you can enjoy with the house wasabi coleslaw balanced with coconut milk and topped with fresh tomatoes and mango salsa. If you choose the house fish fillet, you can have it cooked in a variety of styles with your choice of signature sauce, which includes tartare, Thai chili, sriracha aioli, Asian flair and the spicy South of the Border. ((480) 596-2987)
For a hearty breakfast, lunch or dinner in Old Town Scottsdale, Karsen's Grill delivers on lots of flavor and friendly, neighborhood ambiance. The menu is filled with comfort food favorites, including hot wings, quesadillas, meatloaf and a full menu of specialty salads and sandwiches. Menu stand-outs include the Cuban sandwich, or the classic Reuben. Try the sweet potato fries on the side, which are crispy and savory. This small, family-owned restaurant is also a great place to grab a drink before or after a Giant's game at nearby Scottsdale Stadium. The drinks are reasonably priced and the service is consistently friendly. ((480) 990-7660)
There's nothing fancy about the small dining room at Tacos Jalisco in Scottsdale, but sometimes all you need is good food served up by expert cooks. This is the case at Tacos Jalisco, a tiny neighborhood restaurant located next to a laundromat that is dishing out tacos, burritos, tostadas, tortas and enchiladas that rival the best in town. Creamy beans, fluffy rice and a long menu of take-out classics make this a must-stop destination for those days when you're craving Mexican comfort food. Easy, fast and always flavorful, a great stopping point for a quick lunch, or order take-out for those long nights around the pool. Friendly service and fresh agua frescas (traditonal Mexican fruit coolers) offer further incentive for making a stop here. ((480) 941-9095)
Butters Pancakes & Cafe
"Egg-ceptional eggs," moist and fluffy omelettes, original skillets, scramblers, eggs benedict, fruits and grains, pancakes, French toast, and Belgian waffles are just some of the breakfast specialties you'll find at this bright Scottsdale cafe. Despite the name, don't expect a breakfast platter dripping in butter. The food here is prepared fresh with the most wholesome ingredients available. The orange juice is fresh-squeezed (no slushy concentrate here!), and the bright, impeccably spotless dining room makes this an ideal breakfast spot to get your day started right. For a one-of-a-kind breakfast specialty, try the eggs rojo or verde, two eggs topped with red or green New Mexico chile sauce and served with corn tortilla, black beans, jack cheese. ((480) 629-4333)
Looking for a nice breakfast or lunch spot in Scottsdale? Check out Noci Cafe, a family-owned cafe serving wholesome, home-style breakfast plates and Italian-inflected lunch options. For breakfast, you'll find options like omelettes, pancakes, Belgian waffles and homemade hash browns. Lunch includes a menu of panini, salads, and Italian pasta plates. You'll also find a pastry counter filled with treats and gourmet coffee. Most items are priced south of $10, making this a good place to fuel up on wholesome, homemade fare, without having to break your dining-out budget. ((480) 922-5201)
If cozy breakfast spots are your thing, plan a stop at the Alo Cafe in Scottsdale. The cafe, which is tucked away in an old house in Charles Miller Square in Old Town Scottsdale, is a take on the classic Eurostyle breakfast and lunch cafe. The cafe features menu items from across the globe, with a focus on the cuisine of Estonia, but you'll also find dishes inspired by Argentina, South Africa, and Spain, as well as classic American breakfast favorites. Highlights from breakfast menu include the French Toast, a breakfast sandwich on an Old Heidelberg Roll, and the Tortilla Espanola, a classic Spanish pancake made from eggs and potatoes.This hidden gem is also a good place to enjoy a good cup of joe. The cafe serves high quality local Cartel Coffee, and there a number of refreshing chai drinks too. ((480) 878-4172)
Mucha Lucha Taco Shop
If you're craving tasty Mexican grub in Scottsdale, Mucha Lucha Taco Shop is here to serve. As its name implies, you'll come to this stylish fast-casual restaurant - which features bright pink walls and oversize murals of Mexican luchadores - for its craveable menu of classic Mexican street tacos like carne asada and barbacoa. But the expansive menu also includes specialty burritos, chimichangas, seafood, taco salads and classic snacks like nachos. Almost everything is prepared on site, including an assortment of homemade salsas. If you can't decide what to order, try the five street taco combo, which gives you a taste of the various meats on the menu. Of course, you'll want to top off your meal with an order of hot churros. ((480) 636-8619)
Foosia is a fast-casual Asian restaurant in Scottsdale that marries fresh ingredients with the exotic yet familiar spices and flavors of Asia. The Foosia experience is full of sweet and tangy smells, tastes and flavors, infusing authentic Asian street fare into fast-casual American dining. Each meal is hand-crafted for fresh, aromatic meals that are both delicious and healthy. Start with a rice or noodle bowl, then top it with your choice of proteins, veggies, sauces and toppings. The combinations and flavors are endless. In the mood for Korean BBQ sauce? It's here. How about a lime-infused thai bowl? Be sure to ask for the Muay Thai sauce. The menu at Foosia is fun, quirky and full of healthy ingredients. ((480) 389-1520)
Defalcos Italian Grocery
If you're looking for an original, family-owned Italian deli, Defalco's Italian Grocery is the real thing. This local treasure is located just south of downtown Scottsdale, on the border between Tempe and Scottsdale. The menu features traditional pasta dishes and hot sandwiches. You'll see a lot of loyal customers coming in before dinner to carry out one of the take-home dishes, or shopping for high quality Italian products such as hand-made ravioli and imported olive oil. Enjoy the outdoor patio with a plate of eggplant parm, chicken cutlet, or lasagna. The dessert menu includes traditional Italian classics like cannoli and tiramisu. (480-990-8660)
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.