Drive down Scottsdale Road and you'll come within reach of many of the restaurants that have helped put the Valley's dining scene on the map. Old Town Scottsdale is, of course, a destination for both tourists and local food lovers, but look just beyond the confines of that crowded dining scene and you'll find some of the neighborhood's real gems. From a restaurant that embodies the spirit of the local and seasonal dining trends, to a spot revitalizing the fine-dining experience, Scottsdale's best restaurants are sure to impress.
For a dining experience that manages to feel at once intimate and grand, Cafe Monarch in Old Town Scottsdale is hard to beat. This pillbox-size, family-owned fine dining staple features a seasonally-oriented, four-course, prix fixe dinner menu. Your meal might begin with a refreshing gazpacho garnished with microgreens, perhaps followed by a dish of beet gnocchi, and an entree such as lobster ravioli or a succulent Iberico pork chop. The restaurant has one of the stronger wine lists in the city, and knowledgeable staff to help you enjoy it: every server at Cafe Monarch is a certified sommelier. If you're looking for a refined and intimate spot amid the sports bars and nightlife of Old Town, Cafe Monarch satisfies on many levels.
Citizen Public House
Whether you're looking for the perfect salad, excellent meatloaf, or scallops that will have you swooning, Citizen Public House in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale delivers. This upscale gastropub from chef Bernie Kantak takes American classics and gives them a modern, creative twist to create instant classics, including pork belly pastrami that's smoky, salty, and just the right amount of luscious, and a chopped salad that's so famous it has its own Facebook page. The restaurant offers a comfortable but stylish dining room centered around the four-sided bar, behind which Citizen's talented bar team creates some of the Valley's best cocktails. For date night, late night, or just a few drinks, there's hardly a better destination in Scottsdale than this.
Sel is a small yet elegant fine dining outpost situated on a quiet stretch of Main Street in Old Town Scottsdale. Although the restaurant doesn't always push the culinary envelope, chef Branden Levine's take on the prix-fixe menu is consistently delicious, offering the sort of earnest throwback to the quiet pleasures of fine dining. The restaurant has the friendly airs of a neighborhood bistro, with an intimate dining room that seats around 50 (there is additional seating on an outdoor patio). You can dine a la carte, but the better value is in the four-course prix-fixe menu ($80), which often features seasonal ingredients and changes about every two weeks. Your dinner may begin with a roasted kabocha squash panisse, a take on the classic Provençal chickpea fritter — some version of panisse seems to show up on the Sel dinner menu pretty regularly, and chef Levine certainly has a way with the dish. From there, you might enjoy a mesquite-smoked blue marlin crudo, followed by a velvety roasted Romanesco soup. A salad of baby kale might be next, followed by your chosen entree. Entrees often include classic dishes like filet mignon, or perhaps a beautifully seared bigeye tuna. For dessert, the restaurant's strawberry marzipan shortcake has become a mainstay. It's a simple, light-as-air confection that features macerated strawberries with airy shortcake and puffs of chantilly crème.
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Virtu Honest Craft
Since opening in 2013, chef Gio Osso's Virtu has wasted no time becoming a local and national dining destination. It popped up on Esquire's Best New Restaurants list just months after opening, and then snagged a James Beard Award nomination in 2014 for Best New Restaurant. The food is simple but inspired, with the menu generally taking a Mediterranean slant. Osso turns pristine ingredients such as Spanish octopus and locally grown produce into plates that feel truly elegant. For brunch, which the restaurant serves every day, count on delicate crepes, cast-iron frittatas, and Benedicts made with luxurious ingredients such as duck confit and mortadella.
Though "seasonal" and "local" have become culinary buzz words for many restaurants, Scottsdale's FnB restaurant embodies the spirit of these movements. Chef Charleen Badman turns simple, local produce into fare that's at once comforting and novel. Drawing inspiration from international cuisine, she creates a menu that changes almost constantly, but often includes dishes such as perfectly roasted locally raised chicken, Swiss chard falafel, and Badman's well-loved braised leeks, topped with mozzarella, fried egg, and mustard bread crumbs. The service is always friendly, and the restaurant's Arizona-focused wine list gives diners an opportunity to explore the state's offerings. Don't miss the recently redesigned bar.