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Greater Phoenix Dining: Where To Eat?


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Hey, I want in on this "where to eat in Phoenix" thread, too.

What's your take on Cooperstown? I realize this is not fine dining. But how about it as an "Only in America" experience?

Does Alice care enough about his customers to put some quality in the kitchen? Or is it another Margaritaville?

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Seems like more questions than answers in this topic, so I'll share what I've found. Today I was looking for a good Oaxacan restaurant. Two are listed in the phone book - one on Van Buren and one on 16th. I started at the Van Buren one, sat down to some nice live salsa music, ordered a decent margarita (my second on this journey) and looked at the menu - not one traditional Oaxacan dish. I asked the server and she didn't know what Oaxacan dishes were. She brought the owner over and I asked more simply - any molè? He smiled and said jokingly, "I'll go get a Hershey bar." He later said that when he visited Oaxaca they didn't like any of the food so they started hanging out at the American style steak houses...okay dude - then pick a different name for your restaurant - it was called Oaxaca something or other.

So then I headed off for the one on 16th (also with Oaxaca in the name), slightly buzzed and really needing some food in me. It was very confusing not knowing the system so we started on a 16th that was on the West side - correction, the wrong side. Then we headed to the East side 16th and ended up on the South side, wrong side, so we headed to the North side of the East side 16th and I think we were in the right place, but that address appeared to be a closed down strip mall with nothing in it - urghh!

In that vicinity, on 16th, we passed a huge Mexican grocery that had a restaurant attached called Tradiciones. It looked good and turned out to be really nice. Very friendly staff, good prices and serving sizes. I had the pork loin with cream chipotle sauce and it was good. They let me sample their molè and I passed. We're going to try again to see if there is a Oaxacan restaurant somewhere in the PHX area. BTW, that Mexican store was amazing - well worth a visit.

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Wow. Mole in Phoenix is a tough one to find. Sonoran Mexican style rules here. I have heard Rancho de Tia Rosa has a mole dish on the menu. I'm not a mole lover so I can't judge if its good or not.

We have Mexico City style food here at La Parrilla Suiza (The Swiss Grill). The serve grilled meats and chorizo on table grills. I LOVE their trio of salsas, the chicken soup, and the pork filet chuleta. The nopalitas dish is very good also. I also think their house margarita is one of the best around. It doesn't taste like lemon-lime koolaid like 99% of the margaritas made around here. There are 3 locations of La Parrilla, Mesa, Paradise Valley and Glendale. Glendale seems the best (it was the first one here) with Mesa being the next best choice. I have never really liked the PV one, the food just seems different there, not as good as Glendale or Mesa's.

For a different Sonoran Mexican food adventure:

Nogales Hot Dog

and similar stores in the East Valley:

Sonoran Dogs and Tortas

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Thanks L for the tips. I can squeeze a few dogs into my tight eating schedule I think.

Tonight was Pizzaria Bianco. This forum is dominated by New Yorkers so pizza is a serious thing to you. For me, I love Imo's in St. Louis still, so I'm no judge. I can say that since I got in for the first seating it was very good. Had I had to wait 1, 2, 3 or even 4 hours as others did, I would not be as pleased. We arrived at 4 and were the last seats for the 5 o'clock. That means, if you want to guarantee a seat at door opening at 5, shoot for arriving no later than 4 - that means parked and in line at 4. Other tips - they allow you to get 2 pies each, so most people ordered extra to go. And they allow you to split, so we were able to try 4 flavors on our 2 pies. My favorite by far was the biancoverde with Fresh Mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, Ricotta, Arugula - outstanding. I had the Spiedini appetizer which I will do my best to re-create at my place. I was surprised at how much local sourcing they did - and now need to find time to visit the Arizona Olive Oil Co (or something like that) which is where they get all of there oil.

Switching gears. I hit Scratch at the suggestion of a friend. A small strip mall pastry shop and deli. Scratch was very nice - decent technique and good flavors. I'm spoiled I guess by my own kitchen, but I could easily recommend Scratch. This was good since yesterday I visited Au Petit Four - hard to find! There the technique was good but the flavor was wayyyyy short in my estimation, although, again, I would recommend it to folks because its so hard to find good pastries.

Tomorrow is going to be Los Dos Molnillos. I was telling my saga of finding good Mexican food to the cool couple next to us at PB and they suggested Los Dos. They said its not Oaxacan but an amazing New Mexican restaurant. The irony, since I'm from New Mexico, is that I can't get good NM food in Silver City, so this will be a treat. Thursday is the highlight of my trip with a visit to NOCA - looking forward to meeting MoltoE in person after all these years of online talk.

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So, I have been in Phoenix for 3 nights and will be here for four more. Last night, I had a car, and I dined at Tarbells. It was good. Tonight, no car. Walked around downtown. Pizza Bianco seemed like a reasonable idea, but there was a 3 hour wait on a freaking Tuesday night! Either that is great pizza, or downtown Phoenix blows. Ate at Kincaid's steakhouse. Great if you like hot Oysters. Seriously, though, the steak was good, but everything else was ho hum, and I spent $100+.

Is there any cool place to eat downtown? Casual or fancy? I don't care about venue, other than good quality at what they do. Where can I walk to from 3rd?

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Or, better yet, where should I go, assuming I have a ride. Seems like my #1 choice would be Binkley's in Cave Creek. Everything about that restaurant sounds great. Except, it is about 40 minutes from downtown Phoenix. Assuming I will want to drink wine with dinner, I am not sure that a power drive through the desert is a great idea. So, where is Plan B if Binkley's is not an option? Assume I like to eat out, regardless of price, but may not be back to Phoenix before death. Thx

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So, I have been in Phoenix for 3 nights and will be here for four more.  Last night, I had a car, and I dined at Tarbells.  It was good.  Tonight, no car.  Walked around downtown.  Pizza Bianco seemed like a reasonable idea, but there was a 3 hour wait on a freaking Tuesday night!  Either that is great pizza, or downtown Phoenix blows.  Ate at Kincaid's steakhouse.  Great if you like hot Oysters.  Seriously, though, the steak was good, but everything else was ho hum, and I spent $100+.

Is there any cool place to eat downtown?  Casual or fancy?  I don't care about venue, other than good quality at what they do.  Where can I walk to from 3rd?

Downtown-Roosevelt Tavern-great selections of beers and good comfort bar food

Sens-soup gyuza dumplings very good

Breadfruit-Jamaican, I have not been there but heard good things

Lo-Lo's Fried Chicken and Waffles- Lunch

Matt's Big Breakfast-Breakfast and Lunch

Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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Downtown-Roosevelt Tavern-great selections of beers and good comfort bar food

Sens-soup gyuza dumplings very good

Breadfruit-Jamaican, I have not been there but heard good things

Lo-Lo's Fried Chicken and Waffles- Lunch

Matt's Big Breakfast-Breakfast and Lunch

Eliot: Thanks for the tips! Tonight, though, I made a good decision. We hopped in the car and dined at your restaurant, and I love NOCA. I had the heirloom tomatoes and the halibut. While I loved the tomatoes, the halibut was truly outstanding. Just great. The post-meal cotton candy was a treat. I wish I could have found room for dessert, because they looked great as well. Service was outstanding, from the waitstaff to the gentleman who greeted us at the door (you?). On top of that, the atmosphere was a great mix of casual elegance, and the value was terrific. Just a great restaurant. Congratulations!

Edited by Zeb A (log)
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Zeb -we're passing in the night! I'll be at NOCA tomorrow. Tonight was Los Dos Molinos (spelling corrected from the earlier post). Being a New Mexican I can say that this was better than any NM food in my town. Certainly not high dining, but a great meal with the heat I love.

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Zeb -we're passing in the night!  I'll be at NOCA tomorrow.  Tonight was Los Dos Molinos (spelling corrected from the earlier post).  Being a New Mexican I can say that this was better than any NM food in my town.  Certainly not high dining, but a great meal with the heat I love.

You will enjoy NOCA, I am sure. You probably saw me last night while you were munching on your pizza. I was #456 in line. The waitress at the bar next door told me that if you come at like 9:30 or 10, the wait drops to an hour!

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I'm back on my pastry quest. This morning I hit the Old Heidelberg Bakery - some nice breads, a little market, and of course, heavy, sweet German pastries. They were all exactly like Oma would make.

Right now I'm back at Scratch which I'm thinking is the best pastry shop in town. Today I had the rose strawberry dome which tasted a bit freezer burned and floury. The Chocolate mousse topped with raspberry was very tasty. The mousse was great, but they should have strained the seeds out of the topping. Just nitpicking now, because if you want pastries this is a great place to go. As I said previously the flavors are just slightly off to my liking.

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Well, I bit the bullet and decided to make the trek to Cave Creek.

What a treat!

While Binkley's has received some incredibly favorable reviews on this site, I don't think they do it justice. Simply put, if you enjoy fine dining, it would be a terrible mistake to come to Phoenix and miss Binkley's.

I sat at the bar this evening and had one of the best meals I have ever had the opportunity to enjoy. I tried the 6 course tasting menu, selecting: mackeral tartare, goose egg (filled with marscapone scrambled goose egg and a braised short rib ragout), Moi (a wonderful fish from Hawaiii that I had not tried before), duck two ways, cheese, and tres leches. Of course, the labels do not do the food justice and, sadly, neither can I describe them nor did I photograph them. I will simply say that every course was thoughtfully prepared, with surprising and interesting elements, and, best of all, everything was delicious -- and I mean everything.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the restaurant was the barrage of amuse. I am a sucker for small bites of food (and, yes, there was a small lollipop amuse). I believe that I had well over five amuse before the first course, and I would guess that there were over 20 courses in total. I can't begin to remember them all (notwithstanding the fact that I drank little), but they ranged from fried okra, to foie gras, to peach soup, to a chocolate souffle, to a mini charcuterie, to peanut butter and chocolate shake, to a pretzel/cheese/ham? skewer thrust in a mustard froth, to a lava lamp beverage, to a rice krispie treat, to a proscuitto powder, etc etc. The range of techniques and ingredients was amazing, but even more amazing was Chef Binkley's ability to keep it all together and create super tasting food. Flavor was never sacrificed in favor of creating novel and interesting food.

I had a chance to talk with Chef Binkley a bit. Seems like a great guy.

In all seriousness, if you really enjoy food, then you have to visit Binkley's when you are in Phoenix.

PS: The drive from Cave Creek to downtown Phoenix at 9 pm was not bad at all. Maybe 30 minutes. The drive to Cave Creek was traffic-ridden, but I went at the worst time -- 5 pm.

PPS: I forgot to mention the incredible value. The 6 course tasting runs $89 (keep in mind the total number of courses is over twenty). My final bill, with alcohol and tip was $140. In Chicago, for example, the same meal would cost twice that amount. A terrific deal, and a terrific meal.

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  • 2 months later...

I'll be in PHX next weekend so I'm looking for a few places to eat, especially local specialties and institutions. I'm staying in Tempe so either that area or maybe in the downtown Phoenix area as I'll probably do some sightseeing there. I'll be traveling alone so I'm not looking for anything fancy. Los Dos Molinos looks interesting, so perhaps something along those lines. Thanks.

Edited by sheetz (log)
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I'll be spending Thanksgiving with my sister who lives in Goodyear, my parents are coming too.

Thursday night is at my cousins who loves to cook Janet LaDue

She has helped me for the last year with all the cooking 101 questions. I cannot wait to eat at her house!

Every year my parents go and rave for months about the meal.

Anyway, I will asking a week or two before for suggestions for restaurants. We will have my Nicolas, age 5 with us

and I can probably get him to sit thru one 'fancy' restaurant's meal.

Any chance Binkley's is kid friendly or at lest tolerant?

FYI, before moving to HI, I lived in Scottsdale for 3+ years. I do remember eating some great meals.

edited for grammar & spelling. I do it 95% of my posts so I'll state it here. :)

"I have never developed indigestion from eating my words."-- Winston Churchill

Talk doesn't cook rice. ~ Chinese Proverb

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  • 4 months later...

Thought I'd bump up this thread... I'm heading to Phoenix from NYC for Easter weekend... my wife and I have one dinner that's not scheduled already, and we were looking for something that we can't get in NYC - from what I've read above, New Mexican food is good there, and I'd like to hear if some of the places already mentioned are still as good... or if anyone has any other advice for somewhere we shouldn't miss, it would be welcomed.... We're staying in Scottsdale, but have a car and don't mind driving for something worthwhile... Thnaks!

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new mexican food - my favorite.

los dos molinos is great especially if you can stand the heat.

I've heard very good things about carlsbad tavern in scottsdale though I haven't eaten there - too far from my home on the other side of the valley.

richardsons was excellent but it burned down and is being rebuilt. meanwhile the richardsons menu is being served at rokerij just up the street. the taos trio is excellent as is the carnnitas burrito. red white and blue enchiladas w/ red chile is superb as well.

a couple other (mexican) possibilities...barrio cafe is very highly regarded and excellent. authentic mexican cuisine (not yer typical gringo sonoran slop). I especially like the carne asada torta (rib eye!) and cochinita pibil tacos, my wife loves the mole. los sombreros in scottsdale is similar - everything I've tried there has been outstanding. suggest the lamb adobo again the wife loves the mole. ritos is in an old house, no indoor dining (patio dining at picnic tables) is incredibly busy and rightfully so. red and green chile burros enchilada style are awesome. finally las tradicciones is also very highly regarded, I've only eaten there once and it was good, but I'd go to every other place I mentioned rather than las tradicciones.

I doubt you'll be disappointed in any of these recs.

Edited by twoshoes (log)
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Here's what my friend has to say:

For a taste of old Arizona, I'd hit a Cowboy Steakhouse, especially, Riata Pass in the desert north of Scottsdale, I know that you can get steaks in NYC but can you sit outside under a Palo Verde tree and smell the wood burning open fire.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Any comments on Gallo Blanco at the Clarendon? Looks like great modern-classic Mexican food. http://www.galloblancocafe.com/

Another place that looks fun is Hula's Modern Tiki. (This is an Arizona outpost from the home restaurants in Monterrey and Santa Cruz).

http://www.hulasmoderntiki.com/

Last question is regarding the Metro Brasserie and Bar in Scottsdale. Again, comments online and the menu and drinks look interesting but would be happy to hear about anyone's personal experience.

http://www.metrosouthbridge.com/

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was taken to dinner last night (Thursday, March 11) by friends who live in Phoenix.

The restaurant has an odd name, House of Tricks but there was nothing at all odd or tricky about the food.

It was all exceptional. I had the Mustard Braised Rabbit with Celery Root Puree, Glazed Baby Carrots, Black Mission Figs and Watercress, which was absolutely delicious. Had I been alone, I would have licked the plate - the sauce was that good!

My friend had a starter, the Miso Marinated Foie Gras with Ginger Snap and Warm Black Mission Fig Chutney and her entree was Ahi Tuna Wellington with Shiitake Mushroom Duxelle, Wasabi Potato Fondue and Two Color Tobiko Cream.

Her husband also had a starter, the Smoked Korean Style Baby Back Ribs with Spicy Red Chile Paste and Barely Pickled Cucumber Salad and for his dinner Ballotine of Chicken Stuffed with Brioche Foie Gras Stuffing, Cognac Demi Glace, Sautéed Spinach And Butternut Squash Puree

It is located in Tempe, very near the University and it was extremely busy, reservations are recommended and are necessary.

I didn't have a starter because I intended to have dessert (lemon panna cotta) and my friend had something with loads of chocolate.

I would recommend this place to anyone who wants something different. It is a bit pricey but I have paid more for much less quality and in my opinion the food is certainly worth it.

It is within walking distance of the Tempe Mission Palms hotel. Dress is entirely casual and there is both indoor and outdoor dining. The service was excellent, prompt but no pushing - sufficient time between courses for conversation and appreciation of the foods - lingering over coffee was certainly not a problem.

I truly can't recall the last time I so enjoyed a restaurant with this decidedly not-at-all ordinary menu.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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