FnB Makes You Feel at Home with Chef Charleen Badman's Take on Contemporary American Cuisine

Home cooking gets all the credit for being comforting and soul-satisfying, but every so often, a restaurant comes along that's as cozy as a warm blanket. Such a place transforms deceptively simple ingredients into something that lifts your spirit and makes you feel cared for — like you're meant to be right there, reveling in that delicious moment.

I haven't felt that way about a place in quite some time, but right now, for me, that restaurant is three-month-old FnB, in Old Town Scottsdale.

The brief moniker stands for "food and beverage," a modest way to refer to the cuisine here — contemporary American with a decidedly seasonal, rustic spin. It's as if these folks want you to make up your own mind about the food rather than teasing you with a splashy name.

Crispy rock shrimp with jalapeño tartar sauce (right) and farm-fresh fennel salad are only two of the reasons why three-month-old FnB is an instant classic in Old Town Scottsdale.
Jackie Mercandetti
Crispy rock shrimp with jalapeño tartar sauce (right) and farm-fresh fennel salad are only two of the reasons why three-month-old FnB is an instant classic in Old Town Scottsdale.

Location Info

Map

FnB Restaurant

7125 E. 5th Ave.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Central Scottsdale

Details

Rutabaga with ginger crème fraîche: $5
Braised leeks with mozzarella: $13
Boneless trout: $19
Grilled lamb tenderloin: $27
FnB
7133 East Stetson Drive, Scottsdale
Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 5 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday

Indeed, when I first spoke at length with owner Pavle Milic about the restaurant's impending debut, he hesitated to give too many descriptors for chef-owner Charleen Badman's cooking style, calling it "genuine" and "clean." He was much more eager to share the specifics of particular dishes — something he still does, to a mouthwatering extent, every night at the restaurant.

Milic, his wife Emily Pullen, and Badman (formerly of Rancho Pinot, and former chef-owner of Inside in New York City) partnered with restaurateur Peter Kasperski (of neighboring Cowboy Ciao and Kazimierz, as well as now-defunct Digestif, where Milic was the charismatic GM) to open the eatery in the small Stetson Drive space that was the longtime home to Sea Saw.

Badman and sous chef Sacha Levine slice, grill, and fry their way through the frenzy of dinner service with quiet determination, occasionally pausing to pass plates to guests across the counter. Smells of garlic and mesquite and freshly cut citrus mingle, and whenever someone orders a crème brûlée, there's a burst of sweet, caramel-scented smoke as Badman sizzles the custard surface with an old-fashioned crème brûlée iron.

If you recall Sea Saw's legendary open kitchen, this is it. Although now, the counter's edged in dark maple, and the whole room has a warm glow from vanilla-tinted walls and vintage globe lamps. Open kitchens may be in vogue all over the Valley, but few places give you such an intimate close-up of what the chef is actually doing. It's fascinating to watch Badman from a kitchen-side perch.

Her affinity for seasonal cuisine is evident on the menu, which has already undergone a few revisions since FnB opened. Romanesco and early asparagus are just a couple welcome reminders that winter has passed. As for Badman's use of local ingredients, that's not spelled out at all (in print, anyway), although Milic often name-drops local organic farmer Bob McClendon.

Turns out, local sources play a big role at FnB, not only with the food, but with the distinctive beverage program. Milic's decision to feature an almost-all-Arizona wine list (there's one sparkling wine from New Mexico) was an unusual gesture, one that even caught the attention of the New York Times. He has to hustle to win over people who have preconceived notions about the state's wine industry, but his expert recommendations usually do the trick.

One night, his suggestion of Dos Cabezas' Toscano, a red blend with a hint of cherry and spice, was a welcome pairing with juicy mesquite-grilled lamb marinated in pomegranate, garlic, and mint — a memorable way to usher in spring.

Cocktails don't claim any regional provenance (aged Chartreuse served as an after-dinner drink is made by French monks), but there are also local beers from Four Peaks, Prescott Brewing Company, and Sleepy Dog Brewing, a newcomer in Tempe.

The majority of FnB's dishes could be considered starters or sides (they're not labeled as either), but you could have a wonderful meal just from those. Humble braised leeks became something luxurious under a melted layer of buttery, handmade mozzarella, mustard breadcrumbs, and velvety yolk oozing from a fried egg. Thick slices of duck and pork pâté, brightened with green peppercorns, were tasty with coarse mustard, caramelized cippolini onions, pickled Romanesco and Thumbelina carrots, and grilled bread. And lightly fried rock shrimp, dunked in a side of jalapeño tartar sauce, were hard to stop eating.

Other veggie dishes were simply prepared with interesting twists, like grilled asparagus sweetened with beet chips and cauliflower purée, fluffy baked rutabaga topped with tangy ginger crème fraîche, and garlicky, chile-tinged spigarello (heirloom broccoli rabe). An inconspicuous salad of mache and shaved fennel was dazzling with citrus, radishes, green olives, and delicately acidic dressing.

At the moment, there are just four entrees. I loved that grilled lamb but was just as excited about roast jidori chicken. Say what you want about resorting to chicken at a nice restaurant, but this was frankly better than Mom ever used to make, a succulent hunk of crispy-skinned bird on a nest of tender spaetzle, exotic mushrooms, and green garlic.

Meyer lemon and crispy prosciutto created a craveable flavor dynamic with Romanesco, onions, and Parmesan in a plate of garganelli pasta (similar to penne). Meanwhile, fresh dill and a pinch of micro-greens boosted a lovely piece of trout, folded around tender sunchokes and caramelized onions.

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4 comments
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Jenna Ramey
Jenna Ramey

Nice review Michele! I just think Charleen's ability to juxtapose questionable food combinations into complimentary, craveable treats is nothing short of incredible.

Marianne Belardi
Marianne Belardi

Be still my heart! If I weren't already crazy about this place, your review would have me outside the door at 4:55 tomorrow afternoon, salivating for Charleen's cooking. My sister took a friend last week, a woman who lunches & dines out so often you'd think she was a food writer. She said (of Pavle): "He sure is fussing over us & giving us special attention." Replied my sis (with a smile): "Yes, and that's how he treats everyone."

Stuart Carnie
Stuart Carnie

This review echo's our wonderful experience at FnB. From the moment we stepped inside to the time we left, the service and cozy atmosphere remind me today that it's time to venture back. My wife and I sampled many dishes; however, for me the chicken was just delightful. ..and ohhhh, that crispy skin.

Cheers

Chris Lee
Chris Lee

Nice review! I totally feel similarly about FnB. Just such a great vibe and great food. Absolutely love it!

 
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