The Mission (Old Town Scottsdale): Latin American restaurant with influences from Spain, Mexico, Central America and South America in the heart of Old Town. Large space, dimly lit with a lounge area and backyard patio serving upscale eats. Try the made-to-order tableside guacamole, the shrimp anticuchos, the brussels sprout tacos (pictured above) and the scallops with gigante beans, merquen mussel broth, pepita butter & charred scallions. Pair with a mule and you’re good to go.
True Food Kitchen (North Scottsdale): Restaurant serving health-conscious fare and a philosophy that food should make you feel great. Tons of vegan options here too. Choose from a large variety of starters like roasted brussels sprouts, chilled shrimp lettuce cups and edamame dumplings, then move on to salads, sandwiches (the T.L.T. is great; smoked tempeh, butter lettuce, tomato, avocado and vegan mayonnaise on seeded grain bread), bowls, pizzas and entrées. True Food Kitchen has got two locations in AZ, both housed in airy, California-esque spaces with outdoor seating.
SumoMaya (South Scottsdale): Wonderful hybrid of Japanese meets Mexican eats. The menu is unique and is served tapas style so meant to share. Try the crispy rock shrimp, Cabo shrimp salad, ginger fried rice with leeks, the miso Chilean sea bass, grilled broccolini with ponzu, caramelized plantains, grilled jumbo asparagus with aji panca glaze & citrus herb oil and miso eggplant. They also have a variety of sushi, ceviches and guacamoles to choose from.
Farm & Craft (Downtown Scottsdale): Casual yet lively eatery for organic, health-conscious fare in a trendy space with outdoor seating and tons of gluten-free & vegan options. Breakfast, lunch and dinner served daily. Choose from starters, salads with your chose of protein, sandwiches, flatbreads, build-your-own bowls, juices, smoothies, specialty coffee, alcoholic beverages and kombucha on tap. Another location in Phoenix.
Diego Pops (Downtown Scottsdale): Trendy spot for Modern Mexican cuisine, equipped with neon pink signage, Smeg fridge at the entrance, colourful furniture, string lights, whitewashed exposed brick and plants lining the airy patio. Choose from a variety of Mexican snacks, poke bowls, tacos, rice & bean bowls, salads, burritos and sides. The roasted brussels sprout salad is great as are the grilled shrimp tacos.
Pizzeria Bianco (Downtown Phoenix): Opened by Chris Bianco and known to locals as some of the best pizza in Arizona, Pizzeria Bianco serves a simple menu with honest food. Choose from a variety of wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas & Italian small plates. Dine in the cozy, exposed brick dining room or al fresco on the sidewalk patio. No reservations.
Persian Room Fine Dining (Desert View Village): Upscale, lavish, ornate Persian dining room that’s been around for 30+ years. The menu is high quality and portions are huge, definitely meant for feasting with a larger group. Try the kash o’bademjan (roasted eggplant dip), tah dig (crispy rice crust) topped with ghormeh sabzy (fresh herb stew with with kidney beans and dried limes), vegetarian loobia polo (basmati rice mixed with a light saffron tomato sauce, tender green beans, mushrooms and peas), grilled whole tomato and dolmeh (stuffed grape leaves filled with rice, chopped onions, dill weed, olive oil, mint and Persian spices).
Roka Akor (South Scottsdale): Contemporary Robata Japanese cuisine with several locations around the US (San Francisco, Houston, Chicago, Skokie and Oak Brook), Scottsdale being the original. Sleek, modern space, quality service, open kitchen and an absolutely delicious and fresh menu. Try the butterfish tataki (a signature dish), the wild mushroom miso soup, crispy fried squid with green chili and lime, the yuzu miso marinated black cod (another signature dish and for good reason), the broccolini and jumbo asparagus.
Berdenas (Downtown Scottsdale): Minimalist, chic cafe on E 5th Ave serving basic and specialty drinks like matcha, turmeric, honey lavender and cardamom rose lattes and light breakfast bites like avocado toast, a breakfast sandwich, quiche, bircher and cinnamon toast. Plenty of milk alternatives too.
Cartel Coffee Lab (Downtown Scottsdale): Hip, cafe chain with several locations around AZ. House roasted brews, bohemian vibe, plenty of seating and subscription service delivering beans to your door.
Fourtillfour (Downtown Scottsdale): Bringing a taste of San Francisco to the desert, Four Coffee is a cafe and hangout for Porsche enthusiasts. Housed in an old garage with a hip vibe, patio, specialty coffee drinks & light snacks/breakfast items. Note: they close at 2pm everyday so if you were planning on getting your afternoon caffeine fix, best to go earlier.
Bar Bianco (Downtown Phoenix): If your wait time is lengthy at Pizzeria Bianco next door, head to Bar Bianco for a quick drink and bar snacks. Super cozy, intimate, historic space. If you’re lucky, you might spot owner and chef Chris Bianco at the bar. Strike up a conversation and tell him you love the pizza. Once your table is ready, you’re permitted to bring your unfinished drinks with you to the restaurant.
Sedona: Once in Arizona, Sedona is about a two hour drive north and definitely worth it. Unique Red Rock country acts as the perfect backdrop for your road trip. One of Sedona’s natural wonders, Devil’s Bridge, is a must see. Just over 4 miles, this moderate, steep but short trail leads you to the largest natural stone arch in Sedona. It’s quite nerve-racking if you’re afraid of heights but still beautiful. Be prepared to wait in a queue if you want to have your photo taken walking across the bridge.
Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village (Sedona): Once grounded from the hike, head over to this outdoor artisanal market with galleries, craft shops, crystal shops, cobblestone paths and more. Refuel at The Secret Garden Café for breakfast served until 11am, salads and sandwiches plus a garden patio.
Camelback Mountain (Camelback East): Popular peak resembling a camel’s back. Take the Echo Canyon trail, which is quite intense and difficult but a great challenge. The climb is about 1.23 miles to the summit and takes around 3 hours roundtrip. Definitely worth it to make it all the way to the top, the views are breathtaking. Stay hydrated!
Grand Canyon West (Peach Springs): One of the natural wonders of the world, how could you not make a visit to the Grand Canyon. Whether you drive, fly, helicopter, boat, hike or hop on a mule, not even a photo captures the impact a personal glimpse has. On the west rim you can experience the skywalk, 4,000 feet above the canyon and the most thrilling view you can get standing on its edge. If you dare, look down through the glass platform straight to the bottom of the canyon floor.
Taliesin West (North Scottsdale): Guided tours are required and offered every 15 minutes at Frank Lloyd Wright's former winter home, which is now a campus for an architecture school. Such a beautiful space and hardly feels like a touristy museum. Tours last about 90 minutes and you get to see Wrights’ private quarters, living room, garden room, the drafting studio, the music pavilion, the cabaret and more.