Head down Scottsdale Road and you'll come within reach of many 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. And that goes for the rest of Scottsdale, too.
From restaurants embodying the spirit of local and seasonal dining trends to spots revitalizing the fine-dining experience, Scottsdale's best restaurants are sure to impress.
Hush Public House14202 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
This small-but-mighty restaurant just south of Kierland Commons features one of the more freewheeling menus in town. Hush Public House takes aimless aim at the only end that matters: food brimming with flavor. Starters like grilled slab bacon, chicken liver mousse, and perfectly cooked peas with strawberries and ricotta salata shift seasonally and get rounded out by specials like beef heart carpaccio with grainy house-made mustard. Just about every plate at Hush seems to be a banger. Pastas are some of the best in the Valley, whether shaped in house or sourced from Sonoran Pasta Company. Meat from chicken to steak to oxtail sings with flavor. Fish like swordfish are simply grilled with Castelvetrano olives and a soft-boiled egg. Here, even a humble cauliflower, treated with harissa and love, feels like a dish for desert royalty.
Chula Seafood8015 East Roosevelt Street, Scottsdale
Poke peaks at Chula Seafood — a tiny, low-key hangout where every meal feels like an island treat. Poke rocks thanks to ultra-fresh fish and smart add-ins like smoked pineapple. The tuna melt peaks at Chula. This is thanks to green chiles, tuna confit, beautifully grilled Noble bread, and a boss side of chimichurri. Swordfish peaks at Chula. The Chula boat in San Diego catches the long-nosed fish with harpoons. Best of all, smoked fish peaks at Chula. If you order the ever-changing platter which includes staples like lox, trout, and swordfish belly pastrami, you're not only going to get luscious sauces, not only going to get an array of pickles — you're going to get one of the most vibrant trays of food in town.
Sel7044 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 Levine certainly has a way with the dish. 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 Craft3701 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 for Best New Restaurant some years back. 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.
FnB Restaurant7125 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. James Beard Award-winning 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.
ShinBay3720 North Scottsdale Road, #201, Scottsdale
What's the most thrilling place for sushi in town? The recently reincarnated ShinBay in Old Town, and it might not even be close. Omakase is the only option, so you'll have to trust chef Shinji Kurita with your palate and wallet, and this nonstop circus of pristine fish is worth the expense. From the start, your meal will take on a steady dreamlike rhythm, with the chef and his assistant brushing soy, slicing nigiri, and blowtorching fish with the touch of a jeweler fastening a diamond. The nigiri is spectacular, no pieces more so than the eel and shad, though what you eat on a nightly basis will change. On any given night, get into the deep, rare selection of Japanese beer. What you find there will, like this whole intimate experience, amaze you.
Talavera10600 Crescent Moon Drive, Scottsdale
From your first glimpse of the food at Talavera on the wide-open patio of this Four Seasons restaurant in far north Scottsdale, young Chef Samantha Sanz's artful, colorful style is on full display. The Iberico pork shoulder may be interspersed with blood orange segments, the crudo with kumquats and edible flowers. Light bites like boquerones and pan con tomate kick the meal into gear (after the view of Pinnacle Peak starts your engine), and a beaded glass of cidra or sherry is never far. The menu changes substantially with the seasons, shifting not only with the available produce but the chef's still-evolving vision. Be sure to try one of Sanz's signature paella platters. She learned the method from her grandfather, and you won't find one better than hers in the Valley.
Hot Noodles Cold Sake15689 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.
Atlas Bistro2515 North Scottsdale Road, #18, Scottsdale
After your initial taste, maybe an amuse of chilled melon soup, a question will likely flicker across your mind when your first proper course of Atlas Bistro's prix-fixe menu is laid before you: Should I eat it? This is how beautiful and fiercely original Chef Cory Oppold's food looks, abstractions of rectangular duck confit, sauce dollops, veal cheek symmetrical between veal loins, and negative space on artisan plates. And the answer to your question should be a resounding hell yes. Eat it. Eat the next courses. Order dessert, ideally the beignets and cheeses from the excellent selection. Atlas Bistro is well into its teenage years, but plates like poached pear with house-made ricotta and halibut with house-made udon noodles have a fresh, up-to-the-minute relevancy. There might not be a more intimate restaurant in town.
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Rancho Pinot6208 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.
Cafe Monarch6939 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 last updated on November 19, 2019.