Whether your aim is to nosh on a gourmet burger, or fill up on authentic, straight-from-the-oven Italian paninis, the busy Scottsdale lunch scene has you covered. Lunch-goers wishing to see and be seen should head to Cafe Zuzu, the fun, hip eatery at Scottsdale's retro-chic Hotel Valley Ho. Not only is the people-watching great, the food is outstanding. American comfort food gets a gourmet makeover here: try the Truffled Grilled Cheese, or the Grilled Chicken Sandwich (featuring brie and arugula in a bacon vinaigrette). Other hot Scottsdale lunch spots include Culinary Dropout, the fashionable new Waterfront-area cafe featuring gourmet pub fare. Zinc Bistro, with its popular oyster bar, remains a favorite with foodies with a taste for fine French cooking. Craving Mexican food for lunch? Try the New Mexico-inspired food and decor at Carlsbad Tavern. If wood-fired cooking is more your speed, head to Roaring Fork for a savory, smokey lunch of classic Western American cooking. Come hungry, the portions at Roaring Fork are huge. Finally, for a delectable lunch in one of Scottsdale's most charming settings, make a date to spend noon at Arcadia Farms Cafe. This local institution has been serving up high quality fare for years, making it a great place to enjoy a fresh specialty salad, sandwich, or tart, handcrafted from local organic ingredients. Even better, the cafe now offers a speedy "lunch concierge" service so you can pick up your lunch or have it delivered.
10 Arcadia Farms Cafe
Arcadia Farms has been a favorite Scottsdale lunch spot for years, setting a regional standard for fresh, artful cuisine. Arcadia Farms Café uses wholesome, natural, and organic products to create signature menus that feature fresh pastries, desserts, sandwiches, salads, and entrees. Try the Wild Mushroom, Spinach and Goat Cheese Tart, made from caramelized leeks, fresh baby spinach, wild mushrooms, mozzarella and Fossil Creek goat cheese with organic baby greens. Specialty salads include the Pesto Grilled Shrimp Salad, made with marinated and grilled shrimp, baby lettuces, baby tomatoes, diced avocado, goat cheese, grilled corn and lime vinaigrette with crumbled, frizzled tortillas. You can't really go wrong with anything on the fresh, seasonal menu. (480-941-5665)
9 Hiro Sushi
This Scottsdale sushi house has been a local institution since 1997, back when sushi was still a curiosity with many diners. This cozy neighborhood sushi restaurant offers some of the city's best chirashi bento boxes. The inventive menu includes Italian-style whitefish with scallions and tomato with olive oil. Don't leave without trying the Arizona Roll, which features asparagus, scallop, cucumber, avocado, and a special house sauce rolled in cucumber. Also of note is their poke of tuna, yellowtail, salmon, octopus, surf clam, and scallions, served in a fresh vinaigrette. For lunch, the restaurant offers a selection of unique bento boxes. ((480) 314-4215)
8 Olive & Ivy
Old World meets New West at the Olive & Ivy Restaurant and Marketplace, one of Scottsdale's newest and most upscale casual dining destinations. The menu successfully fuses contemporary California cuisine with classic Mediterranean dishes for an exquisite dining experience. For the late-night crowd, the bar boasts a unique menu of specialty drinks, small plates, and desserts. Perfect for date night, Olive & Ivy delivers on great ambiance and fresh ingredients. The restaurant's patio is one of the city's best--dine under shade trees on the restaurant's charming, oversized patio. Olive & Ivy also has a sleek bar and lounge, and a fresh market bakery. (480-751-2200)
7 Zinc Bistro
Butcher paper-topped tables, wood-framed mirrors, and a sleek, zinc-capped bar give Zinc Bistro a distinctly modern and luxurious feel, making it the perfect place to enjoy a special lunch with friends or business associates. Chef Matt Carter has been drawing accolades for his casual take on classic French fare since 2001. Try the truffle-infused pomme frites, the white wine-steamed mussels, and steak au poivre. As would be expected, the list of French wines is outstanding. Cap off a fabulous meal with one of Zinc Bistro's French desserts. Authentic crème brulees and soufflés cap off a fabulous lunch at this favorite French bistro. (480-603-0922)
6 Carlsbad Tavern
Carlsbad Tavern & Restaurant in Scottsdale embraces New Mexico-style Mexican food and culture, making for one of the most colorful, fun lunch and dinner spots in Scottsdale. Authentic New Mexican grub uses fresh New Mexico chiles in a variety of creative and delectable meals, such as the luscious Crab Stuffed Poblanos, two poblano chiles stuffed with crab, peppers, onions, and cilantro served with smoked cascabell and yellow bell cream sauce with sides of rice and black beans. Or try the inimitable Machaca & Tomatillo Chimichanga, slow cooked machaca beef with roasted tomatillo sauce and pepper jack cheese wrapped in a deep-fried tortilla. (480-970-8164)
5 Roaring Fork
The wood fired cooking and classic American cuisine of the Roaring Fork makes this a favorite gathering spot for the Scottsdale lunch crowd. Inspired by the history and essence of the Old West, the Roaring Fork seeks to recapture and celebrate the simplicity of open fire cooking and the bold flavors of wood-fired cuisine. Choose from lamb, beef, chicken, pork, and fresh fish entrees, all cooked to perfection using wood fire rotisserie, open flame grill, or classic wood oven roasting. An inviting atmosphere and impeccable service make this a perfect lunch spot for fans of rustic, boldly-flavored Western American cooking. (480-947-0795)
4 Persian Room Fine Persian Cuisine
This North Scottsdale restaurant has established itself as the top destinations for fine Persian dining in the Valley. The dark, plush ambiance and aroma of exotic spices set the tone for a long, relaxing lunch or dinner. Delicately marinated prime beef, lamb, chicken, filet mignon, and sea foods are grilled to perfection and served on a bed of saffron-infused basmati rice. Many dishes are generously adorned with fresh pomegranate, fruits, nuts, turmeric, mint, basil, saffron, cardamom, and dried lime. Delicious, healthy, and always flavorful, with unbeatable ambiance, the Persian Room offers a welcome break from run-of-the-mill fast food lunch spots. (4806141414)
3 Culinary Dropout
This hip Scottsdale eatery, another brainchild from Fox Restaurant Concepts, is described as the city's "rebel child" gastropub where the uniform-free staff is free to create bold culinary experiments in a relaxed yet professional environment. Traditional pub-style appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and entrees receive special treatment here, made from scratch using hard-to-find meats, cheeses, and vegetables. Sample the Antipasti Menu for lunch, one of the best in town. The rustic wood floors, comfy, overstuffed leather benches, deep purple and green chandeliers and velvet chairs, and spacious outdoor patio, all make this a great lunch spot and designated foodie haven. Don't miss the house potato chips with the house onion dip. (480.970.1700)
2 Veneto Trattoria
Veneto Trattoria is modeled after the traditional trattorias of Northern Italy. The menu features fresh dishes prepared with the best ingredients. The healthy, satisfying flavors used at Veneto Trattoria are lightly prepared for a satisfying meal that is never heavy or greasy. The ambiance here is warm, friendly and casual. Try one of the hand-crafted pastas, such as the fresh gnocchi or luscious risottos. Traditional Northern Italian dishes frequently feature balsamic vinegar seasoning, and Veneto Trattoria is no different. Only the highest quality balsamic is used in the restaurant's house dressings and to add sweetness to certain dishes without having to resort to fatty butter. (480-948-9928)
1 Cafe Zuzu
Classic American fare gets a gourmet twist at this fashionable café, located inside the hip Hotel Valley Ho in downtown Scottsdale. The lunch menu is extensive, with the emphasis on seasonal comfort food prepared thoughtfully with a decidedly modern and gourmet approach to a range of small dishes, sandwiches, salads, and entrees. Lunch doesn't get tastier than The Famous Zuzu Burger, topped with Virginia bacon, stewed onions, and Maytag blue cheese. Or try the Truffled Grilled Cheese, featuring fontina cheese, arugula, and oven-roasted tomatoes on sourdough bread. Orechiette Pasta is cooked to perfection with butternut squash, baby spinach, mushrooms, Marsala wine, crispy sage, and parmigiano-reggiano cheese. ((480) 421-7997)
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.