Category Archives: Scottsdale
On the southwest corner of Thomas and Hayden Roads in Scottsdale, there are two of my favorite places: Sonic Drive-In and a store that sells British imports. I love Sonic because I can get my guilty pleasures of a Diet Cherry Limeade, Chili Cheese Tater Tots and a Coconut Creme Pie Shake all in one convenient stop. I also love the little British import store because I can get things like HP sauce, Custard Powder, McVittie’s Digestives, and, my all-time favorite, Eccles Cakes.
As I was pondering the items in my bag from the British import store, I decided to head to Sonic for a snack. Before I got there, however, I noticed a little BBQ restaurant on the corner of the strip mall called Kinfolk’s BBQ. Since I am always on the look out for some decent BBQ, I decided to pop in and check it out. I figured that even though my luck in finding good BBQ in Phoenix is always an epic feat, I could still salvage my lunch by going through the Sonic drive-thru and drowning my sorrows in a Limeade and Tater Tots if the BBQ was bad.
I walked in and was surprised at how full the place was. There were only a couple of seats open in a place that had about a dozen or so tables. I wasn’t sure of the protocol on how to order. Should I stand at the counter and read from the menu or should I take a seat? After a couple of minutes and a clearly distressed look on my face, a kind gentleman told me I could take any open seat. I decided to take the comfortable booth along the back side of the wall. The interior was decorated in early Americana decorations and a couple of TV’s were showing the latest Suns’ game.
When I sat down, I then noticed the sign over the counter and the sign next to the entrance stating that I should have taken a seat much earlier. However, due to the positioning of the signs, it would have been difficult to do so without a contortionist act that would have brought stares.
The same man that told me to take a seat arrived with a menu and a place setting and asked me for my drink order. I asked for a Diet Coke ($2.00). He left to pick up and deliver and order and get my drink while I looked over the menu. The menu itself was fairly small. The big focus was on sandwiches with various BBQ’d meats and ribs and a few side dishes.
My server returned with my drink and I chuckled a bit when a Mason Jar filled with Diet Coke was set in front of me. A good, old fashioned Mason Jar. My server then asked for my order. I decided to go with “The Pig” Sandwich ($8.00) and chose the Cole Slaw as my side. I also ordered a side of the Cowboy Beans ($2.00). As my server was getting ready to leave, he mentioned that he was a bit short-handed on staff so I should feel free to get up and help myself to the soda dispenser that was on the counter facing the dining room. Ah, a Mason Jar filled with Ambrosia and an Ambrosia dispenser at my beck and call whenever I needed refills. Things were suddenly very grand.
About two minutes later, my server returned and informed me that he forgot to mention that cornbread came with the meal so he placed a plate on my table and it held a piece of hot cornbread about three inches square. It was served with a packet of butter and a squeezy honey bear was on the table already with the rest of the condiments. The cornbread was slightly sweet, exceptionally light and very good. The butter and honey made it that much better and I had gobbled up the cornbread in just a couple of bites.
About five minutes passed before my server returned again bringing my meal. The plate contained a large sandwich with the Cole Slaw and Cowboy Beans in small cups on the side. My server told me to wait a moment while he got some additional BBQ sauce for my sandwich. While I waited, I tried the Cole Slaw. It was okay, but not great. It got props for being cold and crunchy, but there was too much dressing on it for my taste and the dressing itself was too sweet. The beans, on the other hand, were piping hot and had an excellent savory taste to them. I liked the bits of ground beef in the mix and the smattering of finely shredded cheese on top really gave it a hearty flavor.
When my server returned, he was carrying a miniature cast iron skillet which contained BBQ sauce. “Careful,” he said. “It’s quite hot.” Sure enough, the sauce was still bubbling on the edges of the skillet and I was very pleased. I don’t know how many times I had wished for at least warm BBQ sauce but only got room temperature or cold sauce from a bottle on the table that had been sitting for who knows how long.
I used my napkin to carefully pour the sauce over my sandwich. The sandwich was also hot and I was happy that I wasn’t going to experience another room temperature BBQ meal. Due to the size of the sandwich, I abandoned the idea of eating it in the traditional way and simply took off the top bun and used my fork. I took a bite and was very pleased. It wasn’t great BBQ pork, but it was good. The meat was hot and tender and also quite moist. Oddly, it had an almost buttery side to it. The pork was clearly a mixture of various cuts of the pig that had been cooked and shredded, but it all equaled a well-rounded sandwich.
The sauce was also competent. I liked the fact that it had only a hint of sweetness to it but also a nice kick of spice. Kinfolk’s also wasn’t stingy on the sauce and I had plenty left over after finishing my meal. The bun was a standard edition, but it was soft and fresh, so I had no complaints.
I refilled my Healing Tonic from the Healing Tonic dispenser and finished up my meal. As I gulped the last of my drink, my server appeared with my check. The total was $12.97 which included tax, which I thought was a decent value. The service was fast, friendly and efficient.
I left Kinfolk’s pleased. It wasn’t the best BBQ I have ever had, but it did hold its own. I liked everything except the cole slaw and I loved the Mason Jar containing the Elixir of Life and the Elixir of Life dispenser at my disposal.
So, when I go to the British import store to get my Eccles Cakes and HP sauce, I will make sure to go during the lunch or dinner hour. If I am poor, I will head to Sonic. If I have a few more bucks in my wallet, I will definitely drop into Kinfolk’s again.
7919 East Thomas Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Notes: On the Southwest corner of Hayden and Thomas Roads.
After our less than thrilling trek to Mucho Gusto, Neil, Dave and I were still craving something Southwestern. Mexican, New Mexican, etc. Any or all would have sufficed.
I had heard some decent things about the Blue Adobe Grille and there was a location in North Scottsdale, so we got into the car and headed out to Shea and Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevards to find the Blue Adobe Grille and enjoy some New Mexican cuisine. It was a bit of a drive, but we were enjoying the chit-chat in the car, mostly about Madge’s new hairdo which, as her hair grows, seems more and more like a Beehive style. I think she’s auditioning to be an extra in the B-52s.
We arrived and parked in the lot that was shared by Blue Adobe and a small strip mall. The building Blue Adobe was housed in was free standing, but I still would have put it in the category of a strip mall restaurant. The entrance was poorly lit (and designed) and so we fumbled our way around a bit to determine which door lead to the hosting station. Upon success, we were immediately greeted by a gentleman and taken to a booth along the far wall. The place was fairly busy but, thankfully, we weren’t overwhelmed by the level of noise.
Our server gave us menus and told us our server would be with us shortly. In a matter of minutes, our server arrived with water and a bowl of chips and salsa. She took our drink order and Neil and I had Iced Teas ($2.25 each) while Dave had a Diet Pepsi ($2.25). Dave also decided to have a Prickly Pear Margarita ($6.00). Our server said she would return in a moment with our drinks and to take our order. As we reviewed the menus we took notice of the variety and it seemed like good mix of New Mexican and Mexican favorites with plenty of warnings about spice level.
While we toiled over our decisions, we munched on the chips and salsa. I was rather disappointed with the chips. They weren’t bad, but they seemed rather stock and bland. The salt level certainly needed to be ramped up a bit, but they just didn’t strike me as particularly fresh or stellar. The salsa, on the other hand, was quite good. There was a lot going on in that small bowl with its spicy edge and just a hint of sweetness. We liked the chipotle aspect to it and found the salsa to be a different twist in flavor.
Our server arrived with Dave’s Prickly Pear Margarita and it barely hit the table before he tried it. Sipping his first taste through the straw, he smiled and said it was “wonderful.” This brought a smile to the server’s face. Neil and I tried a taste and it was excellent. It wasn’t cloyingly sweet, but it did have a nice sweetness that was balanced out by a bit of tartness. It was a very well executed margarita.
With that bit of enjoyment, we were set to order. Dave had the Grande Chicken Chimi Dinner ($14.00) and Neil went for the Spooning Rellenos ($13.00) with the New Mexican Caesar Side Salad ($2.00 add on). I was going pure New Mexican and ordered the Carne Adovada ($12.00) topped with a fried egg ($1.25). We also decided to get a Cheese Crisp ($6.00) and I couldn’t turn down a cup of the Red Chile Pork Pozole ($2.00 add on with a meal).
The Cheese Crisp arrived and I was expecting the worst because it seemed so pale. The mixture of jack and cheddar cheeses looked good because they were fully melted on the disc, but the tortilla was white and showed no signs of being browned beyond the initial cooking of the tortilla itself. I was expecting another “cheese limp” adventure. We each pulled a slice and while it was very close to being a disappointment, there was enough rigidity in the tortilla to save it from being an undercooked glob. The taste was good and I give the kitchen credit for adding plenty of cheese, but I really missed the crispness that defines a good cheese crisp. Still, it was passable. Barely.
Next up was my Red Chile Pork Pozole. The cup that was put in front of me was packed full of the hominy stew and topped with a nice nest of shredded cabbage and a lime wedge. After draining the lime of every drop of juice, I fully mixed the stew and had a bite. I thought it was quite grand. The flavors were complex and the hominy was not mushy. The red chile pork was tender and flavorful. The tang of the lime and the crunch of the cabbage just made it that much better and I regretted not getting a bowl of the stew. Then, before I knew it, the delayed heat reaction set in and I was eating chips to reduce the heat in my mouth. The pozole was a big hit with me.
Neil’s New Mexican Caesar Side Salad was an interesting take on the Mexican classic. Romaine lettuce was mixed with red pepper strips, Asiago cheese, and a tequila lime Caesar dressing. It was then topped with fried tortilla strips. Neil liked the flavor of the salad and said the greens were crisp and fresh. He also liked the replacement of the traditional croutons with the tortilla strips. He felt, however, that the dressing was rather subdued in taste and amount. He would have preferred something a bit more bold.
While we waited for our entrees, we had a chance to talk about the interior. It was dimly lit with little streams of neon peeking out from the bar. The walls were decorated with Southwestern touches and the spacing between tables was abundant.
We waited about 10 minutes before our meals arrived. Dave’s Grande Chicken Chimichanga dinner arrived first. The burro took up the middle half of the plate with pinto beans and Red Chile Rice on the sides. Dave said the tortillas was very crisp, but found the chicken to be rather bland inside. It gave it points for the meat being plentiful and juicy. He also liked the sour cream chile sauce on top, which must have been good because Dave is not a big sour cream fan. He felt the pinto beans were rather plain, but did like the red chile rice because it had a kick and some flavor.
Neil’s Spooning Rellenos were two roasted Anaheim chiles that has been roasted and stuffed with beef, chorizo, Cheddar and Jack cheeses. They were then rolled in Panko and deep fried and topped with a sprinkling of cheese. Neil liked the interior of the rellenos with the mix of the meats and cheese , but did mention that there were possibly too many flavors going on with the rellenos. What Neil hated about his dish, however, was the texture. He said it was “all wrong” with the use of Panko instead of an egg batter. “It was an odd feeling,” he said. “Not very good.” He agreed with Dave about the rice and beans, favoring the rice.
My Carne Adovada smelled wonderful and the fried egg looked like a big eye on the plate staring up at me. Half of the plate was taken up with the adovada and I loved the taste. Smoky, rich and satisfying, the heat factor could have been a bit higher, but I really had no complaints about my dish. The addition of the egg, though, was a nice counterpoint to the spicy meat. I also liked the rice and agreed that the pinto beans were just plain, old pinto beans. The tortillas that accompanied my dish was a step above good. It was soft and was not dry at all. Perfect for mopping up the sauce.
We finished our meals and our server suggested dessert. We were all pretty full, but I had a coupon for a free serving of Sopapillas (normally $5.00). Our server departed, clearing our plates as she left.
When the Sopapillas arrived, they were searing hot and we poked them with a fork to release some of the steam. They came sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with honey. When they had sufficiently cooled, we each took a chunk from the three pillows of dough, doused them with honey and began to munch. They were excellent. Soft, slightly chewy and piping hot. We finished them off in record time and certainly couldn’t complain about the price.
With everything done, we asked for our bill. The total was $68.05, which included tax. We felt this was a decent value. The service was friendly and engaging, so we had no complaints there.
Out of all the dinners, I seemed to have picked the big winners with the pozole and the carne adovada. Neil, on the other hand, was still talking about the odd texture of his rellenos. Dave seems content with his choice, but probably wouldn’t order it again.
I think, in the grand scheme, we felt the food at Blue Adobe was a step above average and if we were in the neighborhood, we would stop in for lunch or dinner. There was enough on the menu to interest me in a repeat visit.
I only wish all our meals had been as good as the carne adovada.
Blue Adobe Grille
10885 Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard
Scottsdale, AZ 85259
Hours: Sunday through Thursday – 11 AM to 10 PM; Friday and Saturday – 11 AM to 11 PM
Notes: About one block north of Shea. A coupon for free sopapillas can be found on their website. A second location can be found in Mesa.
I had another opportunity to help Dad expand his palate and we had been working our way around Asia. Out of the blue, Dad announced that he wanted to try sushi. Well, okay, Dad. Anything to keep me in the will.
So, I got some recommendations from the good folks over at Chowhound and got a litany of great suggestions on how to break Dad into the sushi scene. J. was in town so the three of us got into the car and headed to Sakana Sushi & Grill in Scottsdale. I know that Dad was a little nervous because I had to assure him that there was a big difference between sushi and sashimi and that J. and I would do our best not to freak him out. Still, he wasn’t convinced, but said he was going to be a trooper anyway.
We arrived at Sakana and found it in a strip mall plaza at the corner of Indian Bend and Hayden Road. Parking was a breeze and the outside was pretty non-descript. I opened the door and was pleasantly surprised. The interior was clean and sharp with several tables and a sushi bar along the west wall. The sushi chef nodded to us and a very nice hostess took us to a four-top table in the center of the restaurant. One thing I noticed right off the bat was that there was no fishy smell in the restaurant. The place was spotless and fresh.
I also noticed the large lunch display they had set up at the beginning of the sushi bar. The large wooden platter that ran about $10.00 included tempura, sushi, sushi rolls and hand rolls. For what was on that platter, it was a steal for the price.
We waited a few minutes and a very friendly server arrived with menus and asked for our drink orders. Dad and I had Diet Cokes ($1.75 each) while J. had the Hot Green Tea ($1.75). As our server retrieved our drinks we went over the menu. The selection was very good, but I was also tempted by one of the Katsu dishes. I told Dad to just trust us and J. and I went down the list as to what we would get.
When our drinks arrived, we placed our order. (Unfortunately, I was unable to note all of the prices, so the total bill will be presented at the end of this review). For the table to share, we ordered the following: two orders of Shrimp Sushi, one order of Raw Shrimp Sushi, one order of Yellowtail Sushi, one order of Spicy Scallops Sushi, one Crunchy California Roll, one Spicy Tuna hand roll, one Cucumber Roll, one Octopus Sushi, one Salmon Row Sushi, one Egg Omelet Sushi, and one Sea Urchin Sushi. I gave into my katsu craving and ordered the Pork Donburi.
Our server left and we spent some time telling Dad what to expect. He had that nervous smile on his face. I thought he was having second thoughts.
Our server reappeared a few minutes later and set down two small bowls in front of me. One contained Miso Soup and the other a Green Salad with a ginger-based dressing. I didn’t catch that these two were included with the Pork Donburi, but they were indeed, which was a bonus for us. The soup was slightly thickened and was quite rich. Salty and hearty, I really enjoyed it as did Dad and J., although I know plenty of people who would have hated it because it wasn’t translucent enough.
The green salad was a simple mix of greens and red cabbage topped with a tangy ginger dressing. It was very good. The lettuce was fresh and crisp and I just loved the dressing. J. and Dad had similar feelings.
The first sushi to hit the table was a plate containing the Shrimp Sushi and the Yellowtail Sushi. Dad just sort of stared at it all and I encourage him to grab a piece of the shrimp sushi, a bit of ginger and dip it in the soy sauce and wasabi mix. He cautiously did so. “Hey, this is good!” Dad exclaimed. Yes. Yes, it was. The sushi rice was perfect. It held together well and had a very subtle sweetness to it. What really surprised Dad was how much he liked wasabi. Thankfully, he didn’t ask if there was peanut sauce available. We all liked the shrimp sushi. Simple and delicious, it was exceptionally fresh.
J. tackled the Yellowtail alone. I am not a fan and Dad hadn’t worked his way up to the raw stuff just yet. J. said that the yellowtail, like the shrimp, was simple and fresh. “Not at all fishy,” J. said.
Our server brought my Pork Donburi, which consisted of pork katsu cooked into an egg mixture and served atop a bowl of rice with teriyaki sauce. It was blazing hot, but the taste was excellent. The pork was tender and I loved the Panko coating along with the egg flavor. The dish was a success for everyone at the table. It hit the salty, savory, and sweet buttons on my tongue. If I had to find a negative, it was that there was way too much rice for this dish. I love rice, but that was a serving for three.
The Spicy Scallop Sushi and the Egg Omelet Sushi arrived on a platter and when I mentioned scallops, Dad’s eyes widened a bit as that is one of his favorite seafoods. He took one of the pieces, slowly dipped it into his soy/wasabi mixture and took a bite. He smile. “Wow. I like that. And it has a nice kick to it.” I could then see a wave of relief come across his body. He quickly grabbed the second piece and gobbled that down, saying he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
I took a piece of the Egg Omelet Sushi and added a bit of ginger and soy and took a bite. It was rather bland. I guess I was expecting a bit more flavor. It wasn’t bad by any means, just not as “thrilling” as some of the other things on the table. Dad had a taste and only gave it an “okay.”
A big plate arrived containing a feast of Salmon Roe Sushi, Octopus Sushi, and a Spicy Tuna handroll. J. was in heaven, I was full from the pork, and Dad was a bit squeamish at the dishes on the plate that was right in front of J. We tried to coax him into trying the octopus, but he got a little nervous and said, “Maybe next time.” Fair enough. J., however, was not going to be stopped. With the exception of the Hand Roll, J. cleared the plate in no time, noting how good the sushi was. J. did finally get Dad to try the spicy tuna hand roll which he thought was “pretty good.” J. thought it was all excellent and very competently prepared.
The next dish that arrived contained the Crunchy California Roll and the Cucumber Roll. Dad adored the Crunchy California Roll, noting that the crab and the avocado did not overpower each other. He managed to put away most of the large serving along with a piece or two of the cucumber roll. I thought the cucumber roll was very good. The cucumber was crunchy and had a bit of a sweet taste which played well with the rice and the nori.
The last plate to our table was the Raw Shrimp Sushi. Two medium pieces sat on the plate adored with a garnish of two empty shrimp heads. It was an interesting presentation, but a bit much for Dad and me. J. ate both pieces and said they were “decent” but I got the impression that it wasn’t preferred over the regular shrimp sushi. I later discovered that J. didn’t like the rubbery texture of the raw shrimp, but J. did like the sweet taste of the raw shrimp.
One item that didn’t make it to our table was the Sea Urchin Sushi which J. had ordered on a whim. Our server told us that the sushi chef didn’t think it was fresh enough that day, so it was not available.
Having reached our sushi maximum for the day, we asked for our bill and the total was $62.03 which included tax. We thought this was a good deal considering the freshness and the portion size. The service was very good with friendly and engaging servers who were eager to please.
When we got back to the car, I asked Dad what he thought and he said he enjoyed himself, although admitted that he probably couldn’t have handled the roe, octopus or sea urchin sushi. We assured him that he did great on his first journey into Sushi-ville.
So, we drove back to Phoenix with Dad asking lots of questions about what else was good.
Then, he couldn’t help himself and blurted out, “I wonder how some of that would have tasted with peanut sauce.”
I have created a monster.
Sakana Sushi & Grill
6989 North Hayden Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85250
Hours: Lunch served Monday through Friday – 11 AM to 2 PM; Dinner served Sunday through Thursday – 5:30 PM to 9:30 PM; Friday and Saturday – 5:30 PM to 10:30 PM.
Notes: Lunch special served Monday through Friday. Other locations in Glendale, Ahwatukee, and at Superstition Springs.
After our experience at Vincent’s, J. and I needed a culinary experience that would put a smile on our faces. Dave, the Ex-Roommate, had been hounding many of us about going to check out Trader Vic’s at the Valley Ho Resort in Scottsdale.
Dave is a huge Tiki fan. Big time. He would be content to drink all of his beverages out of coconut cups (a la Gilligan’s Island) and he never met a pineapple he didn’t like. So, in order to appease him and attempt to have a fun time, we all agreed to have dinner at Trader Vic’s. We invited Neil, Madge and Boris to join us. Neil was up for the excursion, but Madge said, “Well, I would love to, but I just got back from Castle Boutique…” At that point, I cut off the conversation saying I understood because I was terrified to find out what she had purchased at Castle Boutique.
Dave and Neil agreed to meet J. and me at my place and head over to Trader Vic’s at 8 PM. I made the reservations and we all decided we would wear Hawaiian shirts to get us into the mood. At the appointed time, we arrived and had our car parked by the valet and went inside for our evening.
There was a nice duo at the hosting station and a kindly gentleman noted our reservation and took us to a round table near the center of the restaurant. Right away, we were having a good time due to the atmosphere. It was warm and inviting with a mixture of Tiki, kitsch, industrial and modern touches. Dave was absolutely giddy.
We were handed dinner menus and cocktail menus. We perused both menus and a member of the bus staff arrived at our table to fill the water glasses. Shortly thereafter, our server arrived sporting a very professional looking dinner captain’s jacket and requested our drink order. Dave immediately ordered two cocktails: the Mai Tai ($10.00) – Trader Vic’s signature drink – and a Menehune Juice ($9.00). Neil selected the Cactus Bloom ($8.50). J. and I decided to get one of the drinks for two and chose the Tiki Bowl ($15.00). Dave also ordered a Diet Coke ($2.50) and Neil ordered an Iced Tea ($2.50).
Our server left to place our orders and we debated if we should get appetizers to share or order individually. We were pleased with the wide selection of both the food and drink menu. However, we did notice that Trader Vic’s is not inexpensive. Still, we all latched onto something we liked and took in the fun atmosphere and the music while waiting for our drinks.
Dave was chomping at the bit to get at his Mai Tai, so when our server returned with the drinks, he was ready for his drink. He said it was “excellent” and also quite strong. He must of liked it a lot because every molecule of the drink was gone in less than a couple of minutes. The same held true of his Menehune Juice, which was similar to a Mai Tai, but used a lighter rum. After Dave finished his drinks, he declared that he truly enjoyed them, but would have preferred less ice in the glasses. He found them “potent” and clearly they were because the giggling factor had increased ten fold.
Neil’s Cactus Bloom was served in a small Hurricane glass and was ruby red in color. The mixture was a concoction of rum and prickly pear syrup shaken with plenty of ice. Neil said he thought the drink was “quite good” and loved the prickly pear taste.
J. and I adored the serving container for our Tiki Bowl. It was a large, chocolate brown bowl with three Moai statues as the handles and feet of the bowl. The drink itself was a rum punch with a heavy use of pineapple juice. This was fine with J. and me. The drink had a fresh gardenia floating on top which perfumed the whole table. We were given two very long straws and we sipped away at our drink.
When the cocktails had been finished, we all agreed that they were the perfect start for the evening, but we all did note that Trader Vic’s needed to cut back on the ice a bit.
Our server returned and asked us if we had any questions. We did not, so we ordered. To start, Neil and Dave decided to split an order of the Cheese Bings ($9.00). J. and I wanted a mix of appetizers, so we went for the Cosmo Tidbits ($19.00), which consisted of Crab Rangoon, BBQ Spare Ribs, BBQ Pork slices, and Fried Shrimp. Following that, Dave wanted to have a Caesar Salad ($10.00) and I thought that sounded good, so I got one as well. J. was intrigued by the Cosmo Salad ($10.00) and got that. Neil wasn’t in the salad mood, but I did talk him into ordering the Egg Drop Soup ($8.00) off the special Chinese New Year menu that was an insert in the regular menu. For our entrees, I wanted beef, so I ordered the Ribeye Steak with Panko Onion Rings ($29.00). J. is a big lamb fan and got the Lamb Curry ($20.00). Neil chose the Blue Cheese Filet Mignon with Potato Cake ($34.00) and Dave selected the Kung Pao Chicken with White Rice ($18.00).
While we waited for our appetizers, we all pointed out the various Tiki items and discussed the atmosphere. I had been to the original Trader Vic’s in Scottsdale when it was near 5th Avenue in downtown Scottsdale. As I remember it, the place was like walking into a Hawaiian tourist trap with bamboo wallpaper and plastic orchids hanging everywhere. In its modern incarnation, the kitschy touches are still there, but it has been updated to make it feel more upscale and less touristy.
The first appetizer to arrive at our table were the Cheese Bings. This were wonderful looking cylinders of ham and cheese wrapped in a crepe and then deep fried. I particularly liked the fact that they were served on a dish that was heated underneath by a small votive candle. A nice touch. They were served with a sweet chili sauce and a hot mustard. Neil and Dave bit into one of the cheese appetizers and both said, “Wow.” Both said they were delicious. Neil made an interesting observation when he said, “Whoever is running the fryer is doing it right.” I didn’t have a bite, but from my vantage point, it looked like they had been coated in Panko and deep fried. From the sounds of satisfaction from Neil and Dave, I am positive these were a big hit.
Like the Bings, our Cosmo Tidbits were delivered on a dish being kept warm by a votive candle. Our plate of mixed appetizers were laid out with the spare ribs in the middle topped with the BBQ pork slices. The shrimp and crab rangoon were lying on either side of the ribs. J. and I tried the shrimp first and I had to agree with Neil that the person handling the fryer was doing a fantastic job. The shrimp were not overcooked, but the breading on the shrimp had been fried to produce a significant crunch. The same was true of the crab rangoon. The two dipping sauces that were served – the sweet chili sauce and the hot mustard – were served in a butterfly-shaped dish and both were very good, but the sweet chili sauce stole the show.
J. and I then moved on to the pork slices and the spare ribs. The ribs were outstanding. Thick, meaty and juicy, we worked the ribs down to the bones and loved the taste. The pork slices were very good, but I was not happy with the temperature of the meat. It was slightly colder than room temperature which I think marred the taste. I would have loved to have the slices at least warm, if not hot. J. and I thought the shrimp were the best thing on the plate, followed by the spare ribs, the rangoon and then the slices.
During the wait between the appetizers and the salads and soup, I ordered a Diet Coke and J. ordered an Iced Tea. One nice touch with the iced tea was that they brought a bottle of a sugar syrup instead of packets of sugar crystals.
J.’s Cosmo Salad arrived at the table and I was curious to see what it would entail. The menu said it was a salad of artichoke hearts, celery, mushrooms and greens with a Dijon mustard dressing. J. thought it was very good. Raving about the artichokes and the dressing, J. had no problems putting away the entire salad. I thought the mix of items was interesting and certainly would be a good taste sensation, but I thought the serving size was somewhat paltry for the cost.
When my Caesar Salad was presented, I was pleased to see that it wasn’t just a stock Caesar Salad. A large Romaine heart had been trimmed, cut across the grain but not tossed and then drizzled with plenty of Caesar dressing and sprinkled with croutons. It was then served with a crunchy disc of Parmesan crisp. This was an excellent presentation and the salad was fresh and had all the elements of a fine Caesar salad. Dave agreed and said the serving was substantial and one of the better Caesar salads he had had.
Neil’s Egg Drop Soup was served in a beautiful blue bowl that held about a quart of soup. The broth was slightly thickened and there were plenty of egg pieces as well as shittake mushrooms and pea pods. Neil raved about the soup and for good reason. While Egg Drop Soup isn’t my favorite, I did take a liking to this mainly because it had some body to it and was not a watery broth with just a few bits of egg in it. The surprising part the serving, though, was the amount. Neil abandoned it after eating two-thirds of it to save room for dinner and the rest of us polished it off.
There was a bit of a respite between the second course and our entrees, so we took some time to enjoy the bread basket that had brought to our table. There were two bread types in the basket. The first was a garden variety roll. They were big and fresh, but nothing exciting. The second was a delicious flatbread that had been seasoned with rye, poppy seeds, sesame seeds and salt. It tasted like a cross between Melba toast and an Everything bagel. But the killer part of the bread basket was the butter. We gave big props to the restaurant for serving butter that was slightly chilled but completely spreadable. Additionally, we noticed a sweet and slightly crunchy side to the butter and spent time trying to figure out what it was. Our server told us that the secret ingredient was candied ginger. Amazing. It was an unexpected and exquisite addition to the butter that made the breads taste that much better.
When the entrees did start arriving, we were ready to tackle them. Neil’s Blue Cheese Filet was a grilled filet mignon that had been topped with a sizable bit of blue cheese that had been placed on topped and then broiled until it melted and browned. It was served with sauteed asparagus spears and a potato cake. Neil said he enjoyed the taste and found it to be a rather interesting combination of beef and blue cheese. He didn’t comment on the asparagus spears, but he said the potato cake was outstanding and liked the crunchy exterior. Neil did make a point of saying that while he enjoyed the filet, he would probably not get it again, citing the portion size, but, unfortunately, you rarely find a big filet being served anywhere.
Dave’s Kung Pao Chicken instantly mesmerized him. Dave is a very picky eater and so I was caught off guard that he was enjoying his Kung Pao Chicken as much as he was. He is not a fan of carrots, but was a fan of them in this dish. I asked him what was so good about the dish and he kept going on about the sauce that was used in the dish. I tried a taste and it was very, very good. I thought the sauce was not as spicy as I would have preferred it, but the taste was a winner. I also liked the fact that the colors of the carrots and peppers were bright and brilliant and made this presentation eye candy.
For pure execution, J.’s Lamb Curry won hands down. The curry was brought out in an odd shaped dish, and then an second dish that fit the first dish was set on the table and included various accompaniments for J.’s curry. There were cucumbers, currants, chutney, coconut, sunflower seeds, and banana chunks. J. wasn’t shy about mixing all of them into the curry and the expression on J.’s face made it clear this was a bit hit. I thought it had a good taste, but like Dave’ chicken, I wish it had more spiciness.
My Ribeye Steak was exactly what I needed. The large ribeye steak was thick and cooked to medium rare as I had requested. What made this one notch above just a good old ribeye steak was the heavy use of garlic on the exterior that brought out the flavor of the meat. The ribeye was rich from its marbling and I was quite content with it. I also loved the Panko Onion Rings. These were thick cut onion rings that had been coated in a Panko batter and deep fried. Outstanding, and I was pleased they were piping hot when they got to the table. The mixed vegetables that were served along side the steak were good as well, particularly because the kitchen was not afraid to use seasonings to enhance the flavors. Good for them.
We all struggled to finish our meals as we were getting full. But we couldn’t turn down dessert and Dave couldn’t turn down getting another cocktail (probably because he had more giggling to do). When our server returned, we ordered a Pink Cloud ($6.50) cocktail for Dave and J. ordered a Hot Buttered Rum ($7.00) to help assist with a cold. For dessert, J. and I split the Banana Fritters with Ice Cream ($7.00). Dave and Neil decided to split the Chocolate Macadamia Nut Tart ($8.00).
Dave’s Pink Cloud was a mix of Creme de Noyaux and Creme de Cacao. It was served in a small glass and was a bright pink in color. I tried a sip and while it wasn’t my cup of tea, Dave thought it was an excellent beverage. Apparently, it also helps one to giggle more.
J.’s Hot Buttered Rum was a traditional rendition of the drink, but we all laughed when we saw that it was served in a mug the shape of a skull and a large cinnamon stick was the straw for the drink. J. liked it a lot and said it helped with the cold.
Dave’s and Neil’s Chocolate Macadamia Nut Tart had a very nice presentation, but both Dave and Neil found the dessert itself to be rather lackluster. “It’s nothing special,” Dave said between giggles. “Kind of plain,” Neil stated. They didn’t think it was bad, just not inspired.
On the other hand, our Banana Fritters with Ice Cream and Rum Sauce was out of this world. Again, whoever was handling the fryer should have been given a gold star. The fritters were perfectly fried and the bananas were hot, but not mushy. We loved the rum sauce that was served with the fritters. The ice cream was simple vanilla, which was a nice way to break up the richness of the fritters and rum sauce.
We were absolutely stuffed and decided to request our bill. Fearing the worst, I peeked inside the check jacket. The total was $286.61 including tax. This was for six cocktails, two appetizers, three salads, one soup, four entrees, and two desserts. We all felt that the cost would prohibit this being a regular thing, although Neil did point out that if you went for the entrees in the $20.00 range and skipped dessert and kept the cocktails at a minimum (do you hear that, Dave???), you could get out for much less.
We did notice on thing on the menu that made us make audible gasps and was the one true “downer” of the evening. This involved the pricing and charges for the Diet Cokes and Iced Tea. Each of us had one of those beverages, but plenty of refills. What we found on the bill was that we were charged a total of $27.50 for soda and iced tea. I was not sure what the refill policy was, but Trader Vic’s gets a ding for having a policy like that (considering the price range of the entrees) and our server gets a ding for not informing us that after so many refills, we get charged again for a new beverage. In the grand scheme, it was minor and didn’t cast a pall over the evening, but we weren’t happy with it.
Still, we had a wonderful time. Trader Vic’s has had mixed reviews in the Valley since it opened and I am sure a lot of that comes from the high end pricing or we just hit it on a particularly good night, but we had a great time at Trader Vic’s and loved the food, the atmosphere and the service, which was very attentive, engaging and professional. We also could have enjoyed it more since it came on the heels of our excursion to Vincent’s.
Whatever the case, we had a great time and the only trouble I had after the meal was listening to Dave giggle uncontrollable in the back of the car.
As I drove back to the house, I started thinking about which was worse: Dave’s giggling or Madge telling me what she buys at Castle Boutique.
6050 East Main Street (at the Valley Ho Resort)
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Dress: Hawaiian shirts on up.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday – 5 PM to 10 PM; Friday and Saturday – 5 PM to 11 PM. The bar opens everyday at 4 PM.
Notes: Trader Vic’s is in a separate building along Indian School Road, but still on the Valley Ho Resort campus.
Website: http://www.tradervics.com/rest-scottsdale.html (although the menu section is incomplete and outdated)
I have this theory that if a drink menu at a restaurant is three or more times the thickness of the food menu, disaster is imminent. That doesn’t mean the drinks are a problem. It means the food is somewhat of an afterthought, although there may be some splashes of hope.
J. was in town and needed some general maintenance on the J.-mobile, so we went to the Saturn dealership in North Scottsdale to drop off the car, do a little shopping, and grab some lunch. As we were driving around trying to get back to the 101, I saw the Salty Senorita and asked J. if that would be okay for lunch. With J.’s consent, we entered into the parking lot and headed inside, deciding to take a table inside instead of at one of the tables on the patio where most of the customers were located.
We were immediately greeted by a friendly hostess and taken to a booth along the far side of the wall. Our hostess set down our food menus and then a “tequila” menu that was about a half inch thick. The tequila menu contained lots of tempting selections including pages of “margarita flights” that, for about $10, could net you three or four flavored margaritas. There were also plenty of choices for sipping tequilas, but since we were there for food, we passed on the booze.
Our server arrived and took our drink order. J. and I both opted for Iced Teas ($2.50 each) and water. Our server said she would be right back and headed into the kitchen. We reviewed the food menu and had a tough time deciding on what we would have for our entrees as well as for an appetizer.
Within a couple of minutes, our server returned with our drinks and also a big bowl of chips and a small bowl of salsa. The chips were warm to the touch and were a bit thicker than most chips. I liked the chips as they were hearty and heated as well as having a good amount of salt on them. The salsa was also a hit with J. and me. It had a strong chipotle overtone that really hit home with us. It wasn’t overly spicy, but it did make the lips and tongue tingle a bit. We gobbled up a couple of bowls of the salsa over the course of lunch. Sadly, the chip quality deteriorated quickly as they cooled and became chewy and greasy. Luckily, we had no problems getting a fresh basket upon request.
With chips, salsa and drinks in hand, we placed our order. We decided to start with the Fundido with Chorizo ($7.50). This would be followed by the Shrimp Shack Tacos ($9.50) for J. and Maria’s Enchilada Combo ($9.75) for myself. J. also got the Ensalada De La Casa ($4.00). Our server made sure we had plenty of everything before departing to place our order.
As we waited, J. and I talked about the interior. We loved the booth as it was elevated and comfortable. The decorations screamed “Mexican seaside resort” and the showcase of the restaurant was the large bar in the center of the action and the spacious patio outside. Since it was a warm February afternoon, it was no surprise the patio was overflowing with people. J. was also keeping busy reading every page of the tequila menu.
The Fundido with Chorizo was brought to our table in a little cauldron that was searing hot and the cheese was bubbling from the heat. Our server was profusely apologetic that the fundido arrived while we had an empty bowl of chips on the table. In just a few seconds, she returned with a big bowl of fresh chips. A great save on her part and wonderful care for her customers.
J. and I dipped a fresh, hot chip into the fundido and took a bite. It was excellent. The appetizer was very cheesy and bits of chorizo were scattered throughout the mix. I also appreciated that the chorizo had been drained so that the grease from it didn’t overpower the cheese. What really made the dip stand out, however, was a dab of the chipotle salsa I added to my chip and fundido combo. The contrast in flavors was outstanding. This was a delicious appetizer and I am sure would have been a great food item to eat while working one’s way through a margarita flight.
J.’s Ensalada De La Casa arrived and J. only took two bites before blurting out, “Wow! The vegetables in the salad are roasted.” Indeed they were. Mixed greens, onions and the roasted vegetables had been mixed and served with a tangy house vinaigrette. J. loved every bite. Without the roasted veggies, this would have just been another salad, but J. thought the surprise addition of the vegetables made this a standout.
About 10 minutes passed before our entrees arrived. Our runner brought J.’s Shrimp Shack tacos and in what can only be described as “ridiculous” dropped J.’s plate of tacos onto the menu that J. was clearly reading. J. was holding one page up with one hand skimming the other. The runner simply plopped the plate into the middle of the menu and it made a dull thud when it hit the menu and the table. No apology. No recognition. Nothing. I very loudly said, “Here, honey, let me move the menu you were reading” so the runner could here me. His reaction was to shrug and slink back to the kitchen. I sure hope he won’t get any infection on his knuckles from them dragging on the ground so much.
The tacos were three soft, corn tortillas filled with medium-sized shrimp that had been sauteed with garlic, peppers and tomatoes. They were then topped with a mole verde sauce. J. liked the tacos but I think would have preferred hard shells with these tacos. Still, J. loved the heavy garlic taste and found the tacos to be satisfying. Unfortunately, J. hated the rice and the beans. Both were cold and lacking flavor.
Maria’s Enchilada Combo consisted of a chicken enchilada and a beef enchilada covered with mole verde sauce and queso fresco. This was served with a side of rice. My entire meal was tepid in temperature. It would have been ice cold if it wasn’t for the hot plate the food was served on. The enchiladas were okay in taste, but the temperature factor turned me right off. It was very clear that things were cold as the cheese had gone from melted to congealed in somewhere between plating and serving. I also didn’t know what to make of the sour aftertaste in the beef enchilada. It was striking and very unpleasant.
As uninspired as my enchiladas were, I, for the life of me, could not figure out what was going on with the rice. It was undercooked, loaded with shriveled pieces of peas, corn and carrots, and had a green color that was puzzling. I swear I tasted sage, which would explain the color, but just was so oddly out of place. I had no idea how this disaster of a side dish ever got out of the kitchen.
The other part of the entree equation that really bothered me was the portion size. The amount of food for the price charged was meager at best. Even if the rice and beans had been phenomenal, it wouldn’t have satisfied most appetites. Since J. and I spared our stomachs from the rice and beans, we filled up on another bowl of chips and salsa, longing for another cauldron of fundido.
We requested our bill and the total was $38.62 which included tax. Our server was fantastic and did a great job of keeping our drinks filled, chips and salsa flowing and just had a friendly and bubbly personality that softened the blow of our grunting runner and the disappointing entrees. We didn’t consider the food to be of any great value because of the portion size.
I really wish that we had had a better experience at Salty Senorita. If I was looking for a place for drinks and appetizers, I would recommend the place in a heart beat. But for a full meal experience, you can find much, much better and a significantly cheaper price.
14950 North Northsight Boulevard
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Hours: Lunch Everyday – 11 AM to 3 PM; Dinner Everyday – 3 PM to 11 PM; Sunday Brunch – 11 AM to 3 PM; Late Night Dining – Thursday, Friday, Saturday – 11 PM to 1 AM.
Notes: Patio dining available. Other locations in Old Town Scottsdale and Mesa.
The last time I was near Kierland Common in North Scottsdale, I was attempting to enjoy a gourmet burger at some upstart place near Scottsdale and Greenway Roads. Sadly, all I took away from that meal was several months of dreams of being chased by a giant red chair in the shape of hand. It wasn’t pretty. But I wasn’t going to let something like that stop me from trying to find a place in North Scottsdale that had good food.
I had heard from various acquaintances that there was a Persian restaurant in North Scottsdale that served huge portions and was inexpensive. Inexpensive in North Scottsdale? Ha, I said. Ha! HA! How could you find inexpensive in North Scottsdale when property values are through the roof and people have to pay for their luxury homes and Hummers and Botox? But, I decided to try it out anyway.
Since J. was in town and Madge and Boris seemed intrigued by the idea of inexpensive Persian food in North Scottsdale, we turned it into a double date kind of thing and hustled over to the Persian Room for a night of Middle Eastern fare and numerous comments about yet another curling iron burn mark on Madge’s neck.
We drove over to the Persian Room and almost missed the place the first time. We finally pulled into the parking lot of the Courtyard by Marriott and made our way over to the lot closer to the restaurant before parking and meandering our way to the entrance. We opened the doors and my heart sank. The interior was gorgeous. The restaurant was two story with a sweeping staircase that led up to the secondary dining room. Chandeliers filled the room and the gurgling water fountain in the middle of the restaurant combined to make the place comfortable and elegant. It was beautiful, but I couldn’t for the life of me imagine North Scottsdale, elegant interior AND cheap all rolled into one. I braced myself for the worst as we were seated and handed menus.
We were placed at a four-top table near a window and a clear view of the fountain and the bustling wait staff in their bow ties sweeping through the room with trays of food. I held my breath and opened the menu. Whew. It wasn’t what I would call “inexpensive,” but the prices were certainly reasonable.
Our server arrived and took our drink order. Madge and I had Diet Cokes ($2.00 each) while Boris and J. had Iced Tea ($2.00 each). Our server said that he would return with the beverages and give us a minute to review the menu. The menu was full of various items including plenty of kabob choices, stew dishes and combination platters.
While waiting for our drinks, another server brought us a basket of flat bread (gratis) accompanied by butter, sliced raw onions, and plenty of basil leaves. The bread was incredibly fresh having been made in a specialty oven about 25 feet from our table. It was cut into 2″ wide strips. I took a piece, slathered it with butter and topped it with some onion and basil before rolling it up and taking a bite. It was incredible. The bread was slightly crisp on the exterior, but had some chewiness to it. The basil and onion were great flavors of the earth that complimented the bread, and the butter just made it all so very rich. This was a wonderful way to start off our meal.
Our server returned with our drinks and then took our order. Madge and Boris decided to get the Homous ($5.95) for the table, while J. all but twisted my arm to get the Tah Dig ($7.95), a rice and stew dish. For our entrees, Madge and Boris each got the Chicken Filet Sultani ($19.95 each). J. opted for the Zereshk Polo with Chicken ($15.95) and I went for the Beef Shish Kebab ($17.95).
We waited about five minutes before our appetizers arrived. The Homous was the first to hit the table and the bowl containing the chickpea mixture was nearly overflowing. The homous was very smooth and creamy and had a wonderful abundance of garlic. We all grabbed pieces of the bread and dipped into the concoction. It was excellent. Very creamy, but still with some texture, the taste was bright and bold, especially with the extra garlic. Everyone at the table was in agreement that this was an excellent homous.
The Tah Dig that J. wanted was an interesting mix of the crunchy crust from the bottom of a rice cooker topped with a stew called Ghormeh Sabzy that consisted of parsley, green onions, beef, kidney beans and lime juice. The aroma and taste were very good, but I was not thrilled with the texture. Neither were Madge and Boris. It just seemed very odd and marred my enjoyment of the taste. J., on the other hand, was enjoying each bite and was more than happy to finish the remainder of the dish when Madge, Boris and I declined a second round. This was listed on the menu as an item that was “subject to availability” so I am sure it was a specialty dish, but I just couldn’t get past the texture. No fault on the side of the restaurant, but I wouldn’t order this item again.
We had about a 15 minute wait between finishing our appetizers and having our entrees arrive. When they did, I knew why people used the term “inexpensive.” The platters that arrived were huge, measuring around 20 inches across and 15 inches wide. Madge and Boris got their meals first and the Chicken Filet Sultani was a combination meal of a skewer of ground beef kebab and a skewer of marinated chicken filet pieces. This was served with a hefty serving of Basmati rice and a grilled tomato. Madge and Boris began to devout the kebabs and declared them “wonderful,” “delicious,” and “fantastic.” The chicken was very moist and had a wonderful flavor. The ground beef kebabs were heavily seasoned but still had a great beef flavor that would satisfy any meat eater. The rice, they said, was plentiful, light, fluffy and quite good.
J.’s Zereshk Polo with Chicken was a feast for the eyes. The plate was dominated by a huge serving of Basmati rice that had been mixed with barberries and saffron. Along side the rice was served a stewed half chicken. It was all garnished with tomato wedges, lemon wedges and peppers. The rice was beautiful with the red flecks from the berries shimmering on the golden background. J. took a bite of the rice and insisted we all try it. Exceptional. Truly exceptional. It was hard to describe the taste, but the berries added a bit of sweetness to the savory rice. We all agreed that the rice was fantastic. J. also liked the chicken as well noting that it had some lemony undertones.
My Beef Shish Kebab was stellar. The chunks of beef tenderloin and pieces of bell pepper, onion and tomato were broiled and each piece had a bit of a char on the edges, just enough to give it a smoky taste. The meat was tender and the vegetables still tender-crisp. This was certainly one of the better kebabs I have had and certainly one of the most substantial. The Basmati rice was just as Madge and Boris had indicated: moist, fluffy, and delicious. The grilled tomato was good, but I thought it would have been much better with a little creative seasoning from the kitchen.
We all struggled to finish even half our meals. The portion sizes were just incredibly large and we all ended up taking plenty of leftovers home. Considering the amount of food, the pricing, and the decor, I would agree with the assessment that this was inexpensive.
Our bill arrived and the total was $103.05 which included tax. We found this to be an excellent value. The service was good, but we did have to wave down our waiter a couple of times for refills on our beverages.
As we drove back to Phoenix, we all indicated that we wanted to go back to the Persian Room and try some of the other items on the menu. It was a great time with good friends and excellent food. I was left, however, with thoughts of how they could afford the rent on the place at the prices they charged.
However they do it, I hope they continue to do it for many years to come.
17040 North Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85255
Dress: Resort casual on up.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday – 11:00 AM to 9:30 PM; Friday and Saturday – 11:00 AM to 10:30 PM
Notes: Located just north of the Courtyard by Marriott on the west side of Scottsdale Road.
I adore the film â€œA Christmas Story.â€
No, I am not one of those people that spends the whole day watching the film repeated for 24 straight hours. However, I do giggle when I see scenes such as â€œthe leg lampâ€ or Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant.
There is one scene, nonetheless, that is really quite the lesson on life. Ralphie has been desperate to get his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring. When he finally does, he listens to the radio broadcast and gets the secret message. He then locks himself in the bathroom with his pad and pencil and decodes away, only to discover that the secret message was a commercial for Ovaltine.
Yes, a hard knock from life for little Ralphie, courtesy of Little Orphan Annie.
Sadly, hard knocks are learned even though you have great expectations. Such was the case as I found myself attending another guysâ€™ night out with friends. Dave, Neil, Phil and Anthony joined me for dinner. Apparently our testosterone was oozing from our pores because we decided to check out the Four Peaks Brewing Company in Scottsdale. Since the local microbrewery had been hocking beers in the Valley for quite some time (and beer that I do like), I thought it could be fun to have a beer and some grub to go along with it. Four Peaks online menu certainly had some appealing items.
So, we drove over to Scottsdale and found the place to be packed; not just the bar, but the restaurant as well. We were quickly seated at a round table that was comfortable. What wasnâ€™t comfortable was the noise level. I could handle the male posturing at the bar. I could handle the constant hair flips and the occasional shriek of giddiness from some of the women at the bar. But the noise level was through the roof and then some.
We reviewed the menus and began our track through the pages. Our server arrived and took our drink order. Two Diet Cokes and three Iced Teas were ordered (although we discovered several days later they didn’t appear on the bill). I had a pint of the Kilt Lifter ($3.75) and Neil ordered a pint of the Oatmeal Stout ($3.75). Our server headed for the bar while we debated what to eat.
Upon return with our drinks, we made our decisions. For an early nosh, we decided to split orders of the Garlic Cheese Bread ($6.00), the Hummus ($6.00), and the Bavarian Pretzel ($5.50). Dave had the Popper Burger ($8.00) while Neil had the Bleu Light Special Burger ($8.00). Phil wanted a non-American dish and selected the Carne Adovada ($10.00). Anthony and I each had the Grilled Chicken Beer Bread Sandwich ($8.50 each), but I had mine topped with Swiss Cheese ($0.50 add on). Anthony, Dave and I also decided to get a side salad ($2.50 each).
As our server spirited away to plunk our order into the computer, we chatted while enjoying our drinks. I liked the Kilt Lifter and the Oatmeal Stout beers. I was surprised at how smooth the stout was as I have had some stouts that could peel paint off the wall. However, I seemed to be the only fan, with most of the table leaning toward the Kilt Lifter. I certainly liked the Kilt Lifter better, but that was more to the fact that I am not a big stout fan as where an ale can always seduce me in some way.
About 10 minutes passed before our first appetizer arrived. The Hummus was in a small cup on a larger plate filled with triangles of pita bread. I was a bit concerned at first because the color of the hummus was of an orange hue that made it look slightly unappetizing. The pita triangles were hot and the bread itself was soft. I dunked a piece in the hummus and was pleased with the taste. The hummus was slightly salty, but rather smooth in texture. Others at the table were also pleased with our first food taste. The general consensus was that it wasn’t outstanding, but for a brew pub, it was decent.
Next up was the Garlic Cheese Bread. This disappeared off the plate in minutes. The bread was exceptional. Soft, yet slightly chewy, with a strong, pungent garlic and cheese aroma that had us all digging into the dish in seconds. The taste was as good as the smell. The bread was slightly grilled on the bottom and the cheese had been fully melted on top. It was quite good and we all lamented that there wasn’t more on the plate after we had inhaled every crumb.
We were expecting our last appetizer to arrive, but our salads were next. The side salad was a mix of iceberg and Romaine lettuce tossed with mushrooms, croutons, carrots, cucumbers, and bell pepper. A tomato wedge served as the garnish. I was pleased that they had added a few more vegetables than normal to the mix. The Italian dressing was pretty straight forward, but wasn’t exciting or memorable. It was a good salad, but nothing grand.
The Bavarian Pretzel arrived and I took the first bit off and dunked it into the accompanying mustard sauce. I loved it. It was a classic, big, doughy, soft pretzel with just the right amount of salt to give it some contrast. The mustard sauce was also quite good as it wasn’t just plain, yellow mustard put into a ramekin and served on the side. This was tangy, but not overpowering. Like me, the others at the table thought this was a perfect dish to go with the beers.
Just as we finished the beers and the pretzel, our meals began to arrive. Phil’s Carne Adovada looked delicious with its dark, savory sauce and a side of colorful rice. The plate also held spicy black beans and a flour tortilla. Phil dove right in and thought the sauce was very good, also noting that the pork was tender and not cooked to death. He also found the beans and rice to be “above average.” It was with Phil’s positive review that I had hopes for the rest of our meals.
Neil’s Bleu Light Special Burger was a hamburger patty topped with hickory smoked bacon and blue cheese, all on a grilled bun with lettuce and tomato. My first impression was that there was a lot of blue cheese. Neil said the burger was “pretty good,” but it seemed that the cheese would have overpowered any other taste on the plate. Neil did say he thought the bacon was excellent and they had done a good job of cooking his burger to order. I thought the fries that accompanied the burger looked like they were coated with a breading or seasoning and they were fried to a dark, golden color. Neil shrugged when I asked him about the fries.
Dave was thoroughly disappointed with his Popper Burger. In concept, this sounded quite good. A burger would be topped with jalapeÃ±o poppers and dressed with lettuce, tomatoes and fried onion straws. What it turned out to be was a burger patty topped with whole jalapeÃ±os and the burger smeared with some cream cheese. Dave said the execution of this burger was “horrible.” And it was. Why a kitchen would not remove the tops, seeds and ribs of the jalapeÃ±os is beyond me. Dave said the spicy level was so high from the seeds and ribs that the burger, cream cheese and onions had no taste other than heat. He also was unimpressed with the fries.
The Grilled Chicken Beer Bread Sandwiches that Anthony and I had were pretty enticing from the menu description. Grilled chicken, red onions, artichoke hearts, cheese, green peppers and cucumber sauce were to be tucked into fresh beer bread. While I found the ingredients to be a pleasant mix of flavors, the presentation was daunting. A flat piece of the beer bread had been filled with the chicken and friends and then rolled up. It was then cut into four pieces. Unfortunately, the bread had become a soggy mess on the bottom and the open-ended pieces in the middle fell apart the minute Anthony and I picked them up. We ended up using a knife and fork to tackle our sandwiches. A division into two pieces and a toasting of the bread would have salvaged this sandwich. The fries seemed like an afterthought.
While we had devoured the appetizers, we all picked at our entrees, save Phil who had the best dish of the lot. We got our bill and the total was $82.04, which we felt was an okay value, despite the disappointing entrees. The service was friendly and competent.
I couldn’t help but think that a more focused kitchen could have pulled the dishes together and made them a success, but instead, I felt like we had been enticed with the lure of great appetizers only to be let down with the main attraction. To be fair, Four Peaks is – first and foremost – about the beer.
However, like Ralphie’s decoder ring, the payoff should have been much more than it was.
Four Peaks Grill & Tap
15730 North Pima Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Hours: 11 AM to 2 AM daily.
Notes: A sister location is at 1340 East 8th Street in Tempe, AZ
Every so often, I get a chance to have dinner with my Dad. Oh, I don’t mean with the family, as our family has a get-together just about every weekend. I mean one of those nice moments when you get to sit with Dad and just talk. I am very proud of my father because he is a wonderful man who raised a functional family, fought for his country, ran his own business (and still does), and gave me so many things to believe in.
However, I also realize that at the age of 74, Dad has more years behind him than ahead of him and I value every moment I get to spend with him. Looking at him, I can see the years of wear on his rugged face and I know that at least ten percent of those wrinkles are probably my fault. Dad is a simple man who is in love with food and electronics. Since I am the geek in the family and the food blogger, he often turns to me for advice.
So, he asked to go on a food review to an Asian restaurant. For Dad, though, Asian = Chinese only, so I thought I would expand his horizons and take him to dinner at a Thai restaurant. He had never had Thai food before and I was trying to describe it and assuring him that there wasn’t rat or dog or worms or anything similar in the food (although my guess is he would have tried it even if it did). I wasn’t sure where to take him and then I remembered that on my list of places to try, I had always wanted to get over to Swaddee Thai Cuisine in Scottsdale to see their take on things.
Dad and I got to the small strip mall that housed Swaddee just as the sun was on the first stages of sunset and we entered the colorful and clean restaurant. The place was a mixture of tables in the center and booths on the perimeter. We were seated at a booth next to the window and slowly watched the sun fade into twilight. Our host gave us menus and asked for our drink order. I thought that I should give Dad a (hopefully) great experience and ordered a Thai Iced Tea ($2.50) and a glass of the Plum Wine ($4.95). For myself, I got the traditional Diet Coke ($1.95).
Our server arrived a few moments later to say our drinks were on the way and that she was there to answer any questions we had about the meal. My Dad seemed somewhat puzzled about what to order so I told him to trust me. To begin, I thought you couldn’t beat the Thai Appetizer Combination ($9.95). I wanted to break Dad easily into the world of Thai food, so I thought a great place to start would be a plate of Pad Thai ($9.95). I was feeling a bit more adventurous and got the Chicken Coconut Princess ($10.95).
As our server disappeared into the kitchen, another person arrived with the Diet Coke and the Thai Iced Tea. Dad seemed even more puzzled because he had never seen a mix of iced tea and milk. I explained the details and gave the straw a twirl to mix the components. Dad took a sip and gave it a “not bad.” That was right on target. The tea was good, the milk was good, the drink was good. Not bad at all.
Our main server then brought the Plum Wine. The wine glass housed a beautiful reddish pink wine that was quite fragrant. Dad loves wine and really didn’t know how to deal with this one as he is a big Merlot and Chardonney fan. He gave it the sip/swish/swirl/swallow technique and said he really liked it. I took a sip and enjoyed it as well. I have had some plum wines that were ghastly sweet, but this one had a nice balance and the flavors were crisp and clean.
I was filling Dad in on what I knew about Thailand and about the recent coup and how the King and Queen of Thailand were revered and the like. As we sat and chatted, I also took in the atmosphere of the place. I liked how the art and decorations really gave the place a cozy feel. It was also quite clean and bright both before and after sundown.
Our conversation was interrupted when our Thai Appetizer Combination arrived at the table. The platter included two Egg Rolls, two “Thai Toast,” two Chicken Sa-Tay skewers, and two wontons. There were also three sauces served alongside: peanut, cucumber and sweet & sour. Dad grabbed one of the sa-tay and I encouraged him to try the peanut sauce. He took one bite and was in love. “I think we need to get a lot more of the peanut sauce,” he said. The sa-tay was very good with its hint of curry and a nice smokey flavor. The chicken was tender and was a perfect match with the peanut sauce.
The egg rolls were also quite good. Although listed as “egg rolls,” they were more like spring rolls with their translucent noodles and vegetable. They wrapper was very crisp and the whole thing was quite hot, which I always like to see in an egg/spring roll. Dad thought they were okay, but didn’t think they were anything special. “They go great with the peanut sauce, though,” he stated. Yup, we were going to have to get more of that.
The “Thai Toast” was two large pieces of boneless chicken that had been marinaded in some sort of spice mix and then deep fried. It wasn’t breaded in any way, but the chicken flesh was allowed to crisp up on its own. I really liked this because it was quite different than anything else on the platter. I thought it was a natural with the sweet and sour sauce, but Dad disagreed because, well, his new best friend was peanut sauce.
The fried Wontons were the weak part of the combination platter. They were crisp and the filling was fine, but it really lacked any punch or anything substantial. They seemed rather garden variety and had nothing that stood out for us. I did use it to try all three sauces. Dad was correct that the peanut sauce was great. I thought it was the best of the bunch, with the cucumber sauce being rather boring.
There was about a five minute respite between the appetizers and the arrival of Dad’s Pad Thai. When it did arrive, I was a bit surprised. It smelled like Pad Thai, but was presented differently than I had seen at most places, where it is all tossed together and then topped with a smattering of chopped peanuts. At Swaddee, the components of Pad Thai had been individually placed on the plate. Everything had its own space, and nothing was lacking. There was plenty of chicken and shrimp, noodles, bean sprouts, egg, and an abundance of chopped peanuts. They only thing that was universal on everything (save the peanuts) was the traditional sauce. I thought this presentation was brilliant because the Pad Thai hadn’t been all tossed together and then been allowed to steam its way into a soggy mess. Dad was able to toss his own Pad Thai with the result of everything being crisp and fresh. There was a nice crunch to the bean sprouts that really gave a pleasant earthy edge to the dish. Dad was enthralled with it, but said it needed peanut sauce.
My Chicken Coconut Princess was presented in a large, deep bowl and the aroma had me salivating. I love coconut milk in cooking and this dish was excellent. The chicken was exceptionally tender and the mushrooms still gave some resistance to the teeth. The lemongrass and the coconut milk were outstanding and really made the dish shine. I also liked the fact that the kitchen had given me the dish with medium heat just as I requested. Spooned over rice, this was a hearty and delightful dish that I wouldn’t hesitate getting again. Additionally, the serving size was quite large and I had plenty of broth and some mushrooms left in the bowl by the time I finished.
With our meals completed, I suggest Dad and I split a dessert. Dad wasn’t so sure, but I told him he could simply have a taste. He was okay with that, so I got an order of the Coconut Ice Cream ($2.95). In a flash, our server returned with a parfait glass holding three scoops of coconut ice cream that was topped with a sprinkling of chopped peanuts. Dad took a bite and suddenly announced that he was glad he agreed to split the dessert. “I really like the peanuts,” he exclaimed. Why wasn’t I surprised? I thought the ice cream was very good and a perfect way to end the meal because of its lightness. Clearly, Dad and I both loved it because there wasn’t anything left, as demonstrated here:
We requested our check and the damage was $48.25 including tax. Dad thought it was a bargain, especially because we had wine and dessert. I agreed. We settled our bill and headed back to the car and then to Phoenix as the last rays of sunlight were fighting to climb over Camelback Mountain. Dad spent the trip back to East Phoenix talking about how much he loved Thai food and, especially, the peanut sauce. When we got back to Mom and Dad’s, Dad gave a detailed accounting of the meal to Mom and kept asking when he could do another food review with me.
I suggested that the next cuisine we try to expand Dad’s horizons be Vietnamese. “That sounds great!” he said with a smile.
“Do they have peanut sauce?”
Swaddee Thai Cuisine
8989 East Via Linda, Suite 101
Scottsdale, AZ 85285
Hours: Lunch served Monday through Friday – 11 AM to 2:30 PM; Dinner served Monday through Thursday – 5 PM to 9 PM and Friday and Saturday – 5 PM to 9:30 PM; Closed Sunday.
Notes: West of 90th Street on Via Linda. Additional location on Ray Road in Chandler, AZ.
With all the changes going on in my life, I have found that I am turning to comfort foods for some relief. Well, my waistline isn’t feeling relief, but there you go. So, anyway, I am discovering that I am turning to the old favorites that put a smile on my face.
It should come as no surprise that the first thing on my list is a Cheese Crisp. Yeah, I know. A flour tortilla smothered with cheese and dipped in hot sauce. Simple indeed. But still it gives me great comfort. Even more so if it is properly prepared.
On the advice of Melati, a fellow blogger, I found myself at an interesting place in Scottsdale called La Fonda Del Sol. It is part of the odd complex on the southeast corner of Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard. The complex is like a giant, hollow square where the parking is in the center and the businesses are on the perimeter. It is very intimidating for the first timer trying to find parking.
I parked in the back and found an inviting entrance with a bright sign. I walked in and noticed that the place was all but empty, save the staff and one table of men in the very back of the restaurant. I was taken to a large booth and made myself comfortable. A few moments later, my server arrived with a menu and asked if I wanted something to drink. Surprisingly, I ordered a Diet Coke ($1.95). My server said she would return shortly.
Indeed, she did return very quickly, sporting my drink, a bowl of chips and two mini-carafes; one with salsa and one with hot sauce. I had made up my mind regarding dinner and ordered a Cheese Crisp ($4.95) and the La Fonda Combo ($11.95), which featured a taco, tostada, cheese enchilada, rice and beans. The chips were hot and crisp with a bright, yellow color. They were exceptionally thin and had a great crunch and an earthy corn taste. These were very good and I was pleased they were not cold.
I wish I could give such kudos to the hot sauce. I am not quite sure what the problem was but it was incredibly dull. There was a bit of heat to it, but other than that, I felt like there was no effort in making this sauce. I gave a muffled “blah” after my second bite. The salsa, on the other hand, was quite nice. Cold, with a bit of crunch from the vegetables really gave this an edge that I liked. It also had a slight kick and I thought it was well made and far superior to the dreaded hot sauce.
I had polished off a second bowl of the chips and salsa when my cheese crisp arrived. On the standard circular metal platter, a large flour tortilla covered in melted cheese just sat there waiting for me to dig in. I was more than happy to give in to the temptation. My first bite put a smile on my face. It wasn’t fantastic, but it was hot, crisp and savory. Combined with the salsa, it was a big positive for me and helped fill that empty comfort food space in my belly. I even tried it with the hot sauce and it did nothing, so I stuck with the salsa. The only thing that kept this from be an outstanding cheese crisp was that the restaurant seemed to skimp on the cheese. It didn’t detract from the taste, but it would have been that much better with just a tad more cheese.
I was only about three slices into my cheese crisp when my combo arrived. I first dove into the rice and found it to be slighty spicy (a plus) and moist and fluffy (an even greater plus). The beans were also good with lard overtones and a nice bit of cheese on top. I picked up the taco and took a bite. It didn’t thrill me. In fact, it seemed a bit bland. The meat needed much more attention in the seasoning department. Thankfully, the lettuce wasn’t wet, so it didn’t bog down the taco with unnecessary sogginess. The tostada was decent. The beans were the highlight on it and I was rather pleased that it all worked well together in taste and texture.
My palate was not quite sure what to make of the cheese enchilada. I thought the enchilada sauce was excellent, with its smokey flavor and a bit of heat. The corn tortilla, however, was awful. It was overly thick with far too much masa that left me grabbing for my drink to wash it all down. I believe that part of the problem was that the enchilada was undercooked. The cheese inside was barely warm with occasional bits of unmelted cheese making an appearance. Perhaps additional cooking would have made the corn tortilla acceptable. Big thumbs up on the sauce that was, unfortunately, wasted on the rest.
I was pretty full from the cheese crisp and the tostada, rice and beans, so it wasn’t a horrible loss on any count. I asked for my bill and was presented with a tab of $19.75 which included tax. The service was friendly and efficient, and the rest of the staff was amiable as well.
In retrospect, I would return to La Fonda Del Sol to try some of the other items on the menu. Certainly, I would get another cheese crisp and something with the beans like a bean burrito or similar. There definitely needed to be a bit more QA in the kitchen and a big makeover on the hot sauce. In a metro area where Mexican food is literally found on every street corner, La Fonda Del Sol can’t take much for granted.
But I did have great satisfaction with finding my comfort food and that went a long way to cover the disappointment of a boring taco and a bad enchilada.
La Fonda Del Sol
7223 East Shea Blvd
Scottsdale, AZ 85259
Hours: Monday through Thursday – 8 AM to 9 PM; Friday and Saturday – 8 AM to 10 PM; Sunday – 11 AM to 9 PM
Notes: Parking is behind the building. Enter off of Shea, just east of Scottsdale Road.
Every so often, I like to gamble. I am not particular about it, but I do enjoy a few rounds of Blackjack, a spin on the Roulette wheel, some slots, and the occasional round of Bingo. My roommate Dave, on the other hand, is a fanatic about Bingo. He is very good at it, dabbing his cards at record speed, just waiting to yell out that he is a winner.
So, after months of his whining about not having played bingo in some time, Neil and I decided to take him out to Ft. McDowell for a session of Bingo. We go into the car and decided to have dinner on the way from East Phoenix to Fountain Hills. There were lots of choices, but we narrowed it down to a desire to have Asian food.
After some quick research, I suggested we try Flo’s Chinese Restaurant in North Scottsdale, which wouldn’t take us too far off our trek to the bingo hall. Neil and Dave were more than happy to try out a new Chinese restaurant with visions of potstickers dancing in their heads.
We arrived at Flo’s and it was the anchor of a small strip mall. It was exceptionally non-descript from the outside, but the illuminate sign at least gave us notice as to where it was. We parked and walked in, not knowing what to expect. My first thought was that we had entered a warehouse. The polished tin/chrome overtones were everywhere and the bare cement floor dotted with tables gave the place a substantial hum of noise from various conversations.
We were immediately seated at a table for four in the middle of the restaurant. We reviewed the menus while we waited for our server. He arrived shortly after our seating and Dave and I had a Diet Coke ($2.00 each) while Neil had an Iced Tea ($2.00). Our server asked if we wanted to place our appetizer order and Dave immediately blurted out that he wanted the Hot and Sour Soup ($4.95). The server departed in a flash and we spent a significant amount of time going over the menu to decide what we wanted.
Our server returned and we placed our order. In addition to our soup, we wanted an order of Steamed Potstickers ($4.95). Dave had the Spicy and Crispy Chicken ($8.95). Neil ordered the Chicken & Rice Noodles & Broccoli ($10.95). I am a big fan of Orange Peel Beef, so I thought I would try Flo’s rendition called Spicy Orange Beef ($11.95). We requested brown rice to accompany our meal, but was told that white rice was the only rice they carried unless we wanted to get a speciality rice, like the House Fried Rice.
About five minutes passed and our soup was brought to the table. The large bowl had enough for about 5-6 servings. We ladeled our soup into the small, individual cups and began our dinner. The soup was piping hot and had a very fragrant aroma. It was also loaded with plenty of tofu, chicken, mushrooms and bamboo shoots. We all enjoyed the soup and thought it was a respectable version. However, I felt the soup could have been much more spicy and also a bit more sour. The kitchen had held back somewhat to accomodate more sensitive tastes, which kept it from being a home run at our table. Still, it was a good way to start our meal.
Next out of the kitchen were our steamed potstickers. The four white half moons were resting on a plate just waiting for us to devour them. Along side the potstickers, another plate containing two sauces – a hot chili sauce and a salty, garlic soy sauce – was presented. I grabbed one of the potstickers and took a bit. The first thing I noticed before my initial bite even hit my tongue was that the bottom of the potstickers were exceptionally soggy. Now, I understand that in steaming conditions, you are going to have some liquid residue, but this looked like a tidal wave had hit it. Unfortunately, the water had also seaped into the potsticker. I dipped the bite into the soy sauce and it immediately fell apart. After fishing it out, I took a bite and found it to be exceptionally bland. Neil and Dave weren’t far behind in their agreement that these just fell flat. The addition of some ginger or garlic or any thing pungent would have really helped these along.
After a refill of drinks, our server started bringing our entrees to the table. Neil’s Chicken & Rice Noodles & Broccoli looked very fresh and inviting. I thought the brightness of the broccoli was excellent and the sauce used on the dish was an almost crimson red. Neil thought the dish was quite good and then said it had a wonderful spiciness to it that hit you after the initial bite. I tried a few bites and found it to be executed well. The noodles were not overcooked and the spice really did bring out a new dimension to a basic chicken and broccoli dish. The broccoli was very fresh and held up well to the cooking and the sauce.
Dave’s Spice and Crispy Chicken was a large breaded chicken cutlet that rested on a bed of chopped iceburg lettuce. The cutlet had been cut into strips and then topped with a spicy red sauce that contained bits of garlic and some scallions. Like every dish we had had, the temperature of the dish was quite hot, but Dave persevered and took a bite. He said the chicken was moist and tender and it was crispy, but he found the sauce to be lacking in any significant amount of spice. Ironically, the spicy chicken was not spicy, while Neil’s chicken, that hadn’t been indicated as spicy, had a substantial amount of spice. Dave liked the dish, but was disappointed that it didn’t quite live up to its menu description.
My Spice Orange Beef turned out to be somewhat of a surprise. This was mostly due to the fact that there were segments of orange mixed with the beef and sauce. The beef itself had been cut into bite-sized pieces, breaded and fried, then tossed with an orange sauce and sprinkled with the orange segments and some larger pieces of scallion. Overall, I found the dish to be acceptable, but the orange segments were very out of place, mainly because they were sour. Really sour. They certainly did nothing for the dish except, perhaps, provide some color. I will give credit that the beef pieces were very good and I loved the crunch of the breading. But like Dave’s dish, I was peeking under each piece of beef wondering if the spicy nature that was promised on the menu could be found.
We finished our meals and our server offered to retrieve our bill. The damage was $51.55, which included tax. The service was very efficient, although our server seemed somewhat stand-offish. We paid our bill and left. We did remark to each other that had the place been much more full, the noise level would have been approached ear-shattering levels with all the flat surfaces and the bare floors.
Our final analysis was that Flo’s Chinese Restaurant was decent. While we wouldn’t make a special trip there, it had some solid selections and there wasn’t really anything on the menu that was cutting edge or off-putting.
So, we headed out to Ft. McDowell to the Bingo hall in search of treasures.
But like Flo’s, our trip to the casino was decent, but we wish it could have been a whole lot better.
Flo’s Chinese Restaurant
15027 North Thompson Peak Parkway
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Hours: Lunch: Monday through Friday 11 AM – 3 PM and Saturday 12 PM – 3 PM; Dinner: Monday through Saturday 3 PM to 10 PM and Sunday 4:30 PM to 10 PM
Notes: Flo’s can get loud when there is a full house.