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.
Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen
6114 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
Hotel restaurants don't generally enjoy a reputation for culinary ingenuity, but Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen at the Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa breaks the mold with a surprisingly playful yet refined menu. It's hard not to be charmed by the restaurant's dining room, which boasts plush designer chairs, a U-shaped bar, and a sleek exhibition kitchen framed by floor-to-ceiling glass walls.
The real attraction, though, is chef Adam Sheff's menu, which artfully weaves distinctly local ingredients and flavors into a traditional canvas of high-end resort dining. That means simple yet refined small-plates like Arizona-grown Medjool dates, sliced and served with fresh cream and pistachio crumbles, and Crow’s Dairy goat cheese dumplings, rolled in dark onion ash and served on a buttery tangle of spaghetti squash.
Highlights from the small, well-composed dinner menu include a whole roasted chicken paired with a dark, earthy adobo sauce, and bone-in pork shank with a simple black bean puree. The Sonoran “risotto,” made with local wheat berries, wild rice, and quinoa, is richly textured and surprisingly indulgent.
Citizen Public House
7111 East Fifth Avenue, Scottsdale
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.
7044 East Main Street, Scottsdale
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.
Virtu Honest Craft
3701 North Marshall Way, Scottsdale
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.
7125 East Fifth Avenue, #31, Scottsdale
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 bar adjacent to the restaurant.
7114 East Stetson Drive, Scottsdale
When you want luxurious Italian food and impeccable service, or an ideal spot for a romantic or celebratory atmosphere, you may want to go to Marcellino. Chef Marcellino Verzino never fails to us impress us with his food and his attention to his guests; we see him greeting diners nearly every time we visit. And we can't get enough of the food, whether it's an appetizer like the grilled jumbo shrimp on a feta cheese croquette; entrees such as gnocchi in a creamy gorgonzola sauce, chicken breast layered with prosciutto and fontina; or classic Italian desserts like panna cotta and tiramisu.
6000 East Camelback Road, Scottsdale
The Valley dining scene is increasingly diverse, with restaurants representing countless regional and national cuisines available for the sampling. But sometimes, we just want a really good steak. J&G Steakhouse at The Phoenician resort recently celebrated its 10th anniversary by undergoing a redesign that included a desert-inspired color scheme and improvements to the patio area. Fortunately, the stunning views, outstanding food, and impeccable service haven't changed. Beef is the restaurant's raison d'etre, but it's by no means the only good choice on the menu — there's fresh seafood, craveable sides, and a beverage menu that ranges from domestic beers to bottles of wine that cost more than a mortgage payment.
Hot Noodles Cold Sake
15689 North Hayden Road, Scottsdale
Josh Hebert started making ramen at Posh, his now-defunct improvisational temple to fine dining. The ramen he bowls at his tiny north Scottsdale noodle shop has an incredible umami depth, paling just about every other ramen bowl in the Valley. Hebert of Hot Noodles Cold Sake is a white dude, sure. But he has cooked in Tokyo, and here we're judging purely on flavor. His are nuanced and soulful. His are traditional, spurning some of the crazier ramen trends and sticking to the classics, like miso and shoyu. A bowl where he innovates is sisig ramen, the piping hot heap of noodles crowned with sizzling pig face.
Parma Italian Roots
20831 North Scottsdale Road, #117, Scottsdale
It's been said, but at Parma Italian Roots, two divergent threads knot — progressive Italian cooking, and the calcified food traditions of a country with regions like that of Parma. Chef Chris Gentile opened the pasta place in summer 2018, and we call it a pasta place because although there are creative starters and entrees, pasta reigns within these walls. Recommendations go to the butternut squash agnolotti and pappardelle Bolognese. Parma also offers a great happy hour with half-off pizzas running daily from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.
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6208 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
At Rancho Pinot, Chrysa Robertson cooks food anchored in our seasons. The food is simple but not simplistic. From the start, you’re aware that you’re in the hands of a capable chef. But this chef isn’t going to whisper a few seasonal flavors to your palate. Nope, her flavors are going to call to you in eye-widening tones through a harsh desert landscape, and they’re going to call with whiskey on their breath. Grilled quail with polenta at Rancho Pinot is a stupefying plate of finesse and power. Ricotta-stuffed zucchini flowers have a heavy fry and colorful crowning of a light tomato salad, bright with Arizona sunshine. Robertson flies at her own altitude, making this restaurant a Valley essential.
6939 East First Avenue, Scottsdale
Imagine not flying to France, but still dining European-villa-style with a customized menu and privacy. There is a reason why Cafe Monarch was voted by Travelocity as the third best restaurant in the U.S. for fine dining and the second most romantic restaurant in the country. Couples will receive special attention from the staff and the farm-to-table ingredients ensures the highest quality in cuisine. This true gem is a place to linger with your love and let the romance take center stage.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on March 18, 2015. It was updated on March 1, 2019.