Food News

First Taste: Scottsdale's Santé Satisfies a Crowd

Grass-fed Burger at Santé.
Grass-fed Burger at Santé. Mer Norwood
When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out, let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead, a peek inside restaurants that have just opened — an occasion to sample a few items and satisfy curiosities (both yours and ours).

If you’ve ever gone into a restaurant as a person with a dietary restriction, only to be presented with iceberg lettuce, Santé is here for you.

With a menu boasting dishes that are vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, paleo, and keto, this new Scottsdale restaurant sets out to provide more options without having to compromise flavor while at the same time creating a hip, posh environment.

Co-owner Nico Doniele says it's all about celebrating food, and how we can do it together – without the limitations of dietary restrictions.
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Co-owner Nico Doniele at Santé.
Mer Norwood

“Something that brings us together more than anything on the planet is sitting down having food and cocktails, and nothing sucks more than dietary restrictions,” Doniele says. “I know this because I have dietary restrictions – you go to a restaurant, and you can’t do anything. So, I think that we truly created a niche for people to celebrate. Your best friend who's vegan can have a beautiful vegan dish, while you have a bison filet.”

Yes, bison filet. Santé is no ordinary health food joint.

At this new restaurant, it's all about the details, from the luscious pink decor to the tiniest purple carrot put on your plate. The food is organic and conscience-forward, meaning Santé partners with regenerative organic farms which conduct ethical agricultural practices. In other words, the animals are treated well (think grass-fed and free-roaming), and the carbon footprint of your dinner is much smaller because these farmers give back to the land.

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Grilled Watermelon Salad at Santé.
Mer Norwood
Doniele's passion for wellness and commitment to impact are the backbone of Santé. Executive chef Saul Velazquez is here for it. Utilizing ingredients responsibly while not compromising flavor is key, he says.

“We do use butter, but it's organic grass-fed butter. We do use sugars and sweeteners and stuff, but it's honey and coconut sugar,” Velazquez says.

The kitchen experiments with sustainable substitutes and techniques that elevate each dish.

“It's just taking really familiar ingredients and going a little right – as far as right as we can without scaring the guests off,” Velazquez said.

So what does the food at Santé actually taste like? And can you taste the difference?

My questions were answered by two dishes - the Shishito Corn Bread and Grass-Fed Burger.

The Shishito Corn Bread came out bubbling in a skillet. Known as a “naughty” dish at Santé, the mound of cornbread was sizzling with grass-fed butter.

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Shishito Corn Bread.
Mer Norwood
The bread is gluten-free and this simple dish only contains four, all organic ingredients. With a cake-like consistency, this loaf was puzzlingly delicious; the texture soft and airy, and begging the question of how so much flavor can be coaxed out of so few ingredients.

Similarly, the Grass-Fed Burger tasted different – but not in a bad way, it simply tasted fresh. The patty was just tender enough to bite into, with juices oozing out with every taste. It was topped with caramelized onions, crunchy lettuce, and smothered with a dollop of jalapeno aioli, all sandwiched inside a multi-grain bun. If only eating well could always feel this great.

And if you want to keep your cocktails on the health-conscious track, you can do that, too. There’s an extensive list of delicious mocktails, including a refreshing non-alcoholic Dream Whip mocktail that's topped with a creamy coconut cloud.

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The Dream Whip mocktail at Santé.
Mer Norwood
It's a good fit for brunch, which is also available at the restaurant. Orange and pineapple create a fruity blend that pairs with a good morning. With a zero-proof sparkling wine to add some fizz, the mocktail is the type of wake-up call you actually want to answer.

Doniele's motto is “Let us live to eat and live longer to eat." At Santé, you can take a step toward doing just that.


Santé
15507 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale
480-687-3189
lovesante.com

Correction: This article previously included an incorrect spelling of the co-owner's name.
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Merichelle has chronicled her many food adventures since 2016. She is the Founder of the local food blog She Forks PHX. You’re most likely to find her munching on tacos on a Tuesday, sipping brews at a local cafe, or eating unicorn cakes.
Contact: Mer Norwood