Always a big fan of Insiders' recommendations, I took the family out to Phoenix/Scottsdale with an enthusiastic appetite for the restaurant scene; we were not let down, having marvelous dining experiences at every stop. I specifically selected recommendations at various spots around the Phoenix area in order to maximize the adult childrens' exposure to the area.
Lon's at the Hermosa Inn (as recommended by cosmiccatnip and jerrycoin) - I set up brunch reservations weeks in advance for patio dining. Due to drizzle, we dined inside during their weekend brunch - it was superb. We were entertained by a guitarist who had a broad range of soothing tunes including pop, holiday, and classical, a great touch. The service was top notch and as stated, the food delicious (and plentiful). I had forgotten that on the Opentable reservation I had mentioned it was my daughter's birthday - but Lon's hadn't forgotten and at the end of the meal a tantalizing birthday dessert was served (see photo) with birthday greetings (tastefully low key style). Since everyone was stuffed from the bountiful brunch, and not wanting to appear ungrateful, I 'took one for the team' and after my daughter tasted a bite, finished it off - thoughtful Dad that I am. The rain stopped right as we did and we toured the patio and their garden (they grow a lot of their own herbs and vegetables), a patio table is a must in our next visit.
lemon ricotta pancakes / huevos rancheros flourless chocolate cake
We headed out to north Phoenix to the lovely JW Marriott at Desert Ridge which was beautifully decorated for the holidays. We were able to take advantage of Roys Aloha Hour 4-6pm (as recommended by iestrikesback and pluto77 ). With our East Coast time zone appetite, the 4:30 dinner was perfect for us and at half price (discounted beer and wine as well). A great deal and a great meal.
lobster pot stickers and wagyu sliders JW Desert Ridge lobby
The next dinner was at a favorite spot of mine and tef6178, Bandera in Old Town Scottsdale. The famous (or perhaps I should say infamous) banana cream pie with caramel sauce and crushed chocolate, was so enticing that one party member ordered it as an appetizer (no, not me, I saved mine for dessert). Again, terrific range of entrees across the menus and crisp, knowledgeable service.
Banana cream pie Carnitas sandwich with braised pork, avocado & Rio Grande glaze
Lunchtime found us at jkernitzki recommendation Manuels. Although the picture doesn't do it justice (where's jerrycoin when you need him?) this beef enchilada dish was tasty, the service was great, the chips were right out of the oven, the salsa was made with the perfect amount of a kick, and my mother, a big time salad connoisseur, said the pulled chicken salad was the best she had ever tasted. At the end, I raised a Dos Equis in jk's honor: given his heavy duty travel/work load, perhaps not the World's Most Interesting Man, but he was dead on about the selection of Manuels - thanks.
Having Chicago residents with us and getting some good tips from some ASU students in Tempe, we had another delicious lunch at Oregano's, an Arizona based pizza chain serving Chicago styled (think Lou Malnati) deep dish pizza, sandwiches, and pastas along with some entertaining Million Dollar Quartet type music and decor. We had a blast and of course enjoyed their signature deep dish cookie dessert.
Again taking advantage of our East Coast stomach time zone, we grabbed a good meal at Scottsdale's Fashion Square restaurant The Yardhouse, a chain of well run brewpubs (love my brewpubs) taking advantage of their half priced happy hour appetizers which were tasty and large enough to serve as meals even for yours truly. Gordon Biersch (second verse, same as the first w/regards to chain brewpubs) served a nice meal in Tempe near the ASU campus and we enjoyed a nice stroll among the students on Mill Avenue.
With a recommendation from nuhusker and razorbackfan we knew we couldn't go wrong for beef and pork BBQ at Rudy's in Chandler Az (sidenote; on the way down the interstate to Chandler, we saw college aged players playing baseball under the lights - no wonder we oftened struggled against those Az. teams!). Rudy's was every bit as good as nu predicted. And as rzb said, as rookies we were given an impressive orientation - description of the meats, free samples, and clear concise ordering directions. We had a blast and it was all about the meats - terrific!
We ate every meat Rudy offered
We finished off our pre-holiday trip with a Christmas dinner at Hillstone, as recommended by curiousone. Like it's sibling operation, Bandera, service was superb and the food was fantastic (like restaurant reviewers, we encouraged each dinner guest to order something different so we could sample each others - and all items scored high, including the veggie burger).
And in keeping with the Insiders theme - here's a photo with shoeman1000 in mind. This was taken at the backside of the W Hotel property in Scottsdale where iceskating (over their pool with synthetic ice) was a holiday activity.
Shoeman Lane - Scottsdale Az
PS - We bookended our stay (at a friends timeshare) with excellent multi-room stays at the Tempe SpringHill, an excellent property for our needs. A $71 Marriott rewards weekend rate (editors note: this is what Reward offers used to always be - deals: now you have to be careful, because often the price is higher than the standard rate). Their business is mostly from the surrounding office parks - Mon thru Thursday. 24 hour good coffee, a free shuttle to airport (which was vital given the Chicago kids had their flight cancelled) combined with the usual terrific breakfast, WSJ, USA Today and terrific service, made this a home run of a pick (and we could plow the savings back into meals - yeah baby).
Double PS - Whereas we never got the chance to use our reservations at the Flagstaff Fairfield Inn (see photo), I owe a big thank you to the front desk who provided us hourly weatherly updates which enabled us to get up and back without getting stuck in Flagstaff with nowhere to go due to icy, dangerous road conditions. This is where I truly believe the Platinum status is invaluable. No doubt a well trained associate would be helpful to anyone, I'm confident once that same high quality associate sees Platinum, they go the extra mile and in this case, it was extremely important. So if you're ever in Flagstaff give the Fairfield Inn a try - they work hard at being service oriented.
On Camelback Mtn. calling Flagstaff Fairfield for weather update Grand Canyon snowed in; good for frequent visitors...First timers, not so.
Thanks again to all the Insiders for their accurate, top notch recommendations - we hit it out of the park courtesy of travelers kind enough to share.