This is the first installment in Fingerpaint’s blog series “In Our Backyard,” showcasing the local and regional gems that are near and dear to our hearts.
From the beautiful weather and numerous outdoor activities to the nightlife and cultural landmarks, tourists and locals alike consider the Valley of the Sun a top destination for relaxing in style. While soothing resort and spa stays, picturesque golf outings and lively nights on the town have long enticed national accolades, it’s the Valley’s culinary scene that’s emerging as our new crown jewel.
With more than 70 independent restaurants offering innovative sips and delicious bites, Phoenix is broaching the ranks of Austin, Denver and Portland as a respected dining destination. Local restaurateurs and chefs like Chris Blanco, Kevin Binkley, Gio Osso and Justin Beckett are garnering national media attention for their culinary creations while others like Christopher Gross, Nobuo Fukuda and Robert McGrath have won James Beard Awards for their work in the kitchen.
For some, the ever-growing number of impressive dining options could prove daunting. For others, like myself, it’s an endless opportunity to enjoy the finer things in life…right in my own backyard.
Here are my picks for the top 5 not-to-be-missed dishes in Phoenix/Scottsdale (in no particular order):
Beckett’s Table’s Flattop Seared Cheeseburger: Ground daily with bacon, topped with charred onions, American cheese, house-made mustard and pickles on a buttermilk bun, this burger is sure to become one of your favorites.
- Bonus: If you manage to spare room for dessert, make sure to order the gluten-free chocolate dipped bacon s’mores with caramel, house-made marshmallow, whipped peanut butter and graham cracker.
Cien Agaves’ Seafood Enchiladas: I’m just going to leave this right here. Two enchiladas stuffed with lobster, crab and shrimp sautéed in tequila and pico de gallo topped with the restaurant’s infamous green enchilada sauce, crema, tomatoes and Mexican cheese. Oh, and the dish is served with rice and black beans.
- Bonus: This gem of a find in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale offers happy hour EVERY DAY from 3 to 7 p.m. Specials include half off Cien Agaves margaritas, half-price appetizers, $2 tinga tacos and $3 Dos Equis lager or amber.
Flower Child’s The Rebel: “Healthy food for a happy world” is right. The Rebel pairs grass-fed steak with charred onion, port salut cheese, horseradish yogurt and arugla for what can only be described as a party in a whole-grain wrap.
- Bonus: Mention “YogiHybrid” at checkout and receive a 10% discount on your order. Take advantage of the savings and treat yourself to the sweet corn and quinoa with Greek yogurt or a guilt-free raw vegan cheesecake with strawberry glaze.
Hula’s Modern Tiki’s Jawaiian Jerk Pork Plate: Located just across 1st Ave from Cien Agaves in Old Town Scottsdale, Hula’s slow-roasted chicken or pulled pork is topped with jerk sauce and served with plantains, rice, mango salsa and the most delicious Jamaican johnnycakes you can get your hands on.
- Bonus: I dare you to visit this tiki bar without ordering one of its tasty beverages. The blood orange martini is a personal favorite, featuring vodka, blood orange liqueur, orange juice and cranberry juice.
Southern Rail’s Locally Grown Fried Green Tomatoes: Yes, you read that right. Locally grown fried green tomatoes. And if that yummy goodness is enough for you, bless your soul, the centerpiece of the dish is served with Chef Justin Beckett’s signature pimento cheese and pea tendrils.
- Bonus: The “pull-apart” brioche rolls with apple butter are slap-your-mother good.
Lynita Johnson blends a love for food, travel, sports and music with a passion for public relations and content marketing. She leverages a decade of experience in the sports and entertainment, hospitality, and wellness industries to manage strategy and secure top-tier coverage for Fingerpaint’s diverse roster of public relations clients.