In continuing my collaboration with The Scout Guide Phoenix Scottsdale, I have been able to visit many new concepts while rediscovering old ones. It has been an honor to work with the editors in their effort to support our local restaurants, and hope you have enjoyed this detour from my usual posts. Know that I am working hard to continue with my other content while supporting local guides like The Scout Guide. I have not received compensation for my coverage. All opinions are my own. The purpose is to support local and help revive our economy. #livelovelocal
Reviewing the list of 15 nominees for Best Date Night location for the Dine Like a Local campaign, it was very clear that steakhouses and restaurants at Phoenix’s grand resorts are very popular. There are also a couple of small, intimate concepts sprinkled in, leading to my question…how do you like to splurge? Go big or go cozy? Drop me a line to let me know your favorite. xoM
Chef Kevin Binkley, a James Beard Award finalist many times over, runs his namesake Binkley’s Restaurant alongside his wife, Amy. He gained fame for his first concept that was located in Cave Creek, and after dabbling with expanding throughout the valley, closed all restaurants to renovate and reimagine this charming cottage on Osborn Road. The result was a dining experience like none other in Phoenix, a multi-course dinner where one moved from the patio, to the bar, to the main dining room, experiencing a veritable moveable feast. Come COVID, and the experience has changed a little, but the food is as exquisite as ever. Binkley’s is open Wednesday thru Sunday with one dinner service a night for only 20 spots. Date night diners no longer move from room to room, but remain at one table for all courses. It is still welcoming and intimate in the dining room that feels as an extension of Chef Binkley’s home and kitchen. Reservations are required for a 3-hour experience that costs $225 per person. Binkley’s can accommodate vegetarians but not vegans. Good to know: Your credit card is charged at the time of the reservation, and if you cannot make it, you can transfer it to someone else or will be charged for food cost only.
2320 E Osborn Rd, Phoenix, AZ www.binkleysrestaurant.com
Geordie’s at Wrigley Mansion
Wrigley Mansion was built in 1932 by chewing gum personality William Wrigley Jr. as a 50th anniversary gift to his wife. Situated at the top of a hill near the famous Arizona Biltmore Hotel, the mansion commands spectacular 360-degree views of the surrounding valley and city. The architecture is an amalgam of Spanish, California Monterey, and Mediterranean styles. The house was sold in 1973, changing hands several times, with plans of being torn down to make room for condos. Thankfully, along came George “Geordie” Hormel and his wife fourth wife, Jamie, who restored it with the intention of keeping the mansion open to the public. Today Wrigley Mansion is a Phoenix “Point of Pride” and a top destination for weddings and special events. It is run by Jamie Hormel and one of the most famous chefs in Phoenix, Christopher Gross, who oversaw a complete remodel of the kitchen and have several interesting plans for the future. Pop in for a tour of the historic mansion and their remodeled gardens, to linger over afternoon tea, to see the new restaurant Chef Gross is building onsite, or just for a glass of wine in Jamie’s Wine Bar, which opened in late 2016, and offers a wide variety of wines by the glass and an 850-bottle wine cellar. Geordie’s Restaurant and lounge serves lunch, dinner, happy hour, and Sunday brunch. Good to know: Due to city regulations, the property must maintain a private club status. Membership is not a requirement for dining, but come with perks, like free valet parking, and are very reasonable, starting at $5 for a monthly trial membership, to $20 for a yearly membership, and $75 for a wine membership. THE SCOUT GUIDE PHOENIX/SCOTTSDALE WINNER.
2501 E Telawa Trail, Phoenix, AZ www.wrigleymansion.com
Confluence is located north of Scottsdale in the quiet town of Carefree in the space formerly known as Cafe Bink (of Kevin Binkley fame). Serving New American food in a cozy bistro setting, Confluence was voted Best New Restaurant by Phoenix Magazine in 2018 and has a very loyal following. Chef Brandon Gauthier trained under Kevin Binkley, and runs the restaurant alongside his wife, Victoria. They have designed a menu focusing on fresh and local dishes served in a comfortable and modern setting. For the Gauthiers, the word “confluence”, defined as the act or process of merging, carries the significance of merging their training under Chef Binkley with realizing their dreams of owning their own restaurant. Good to know: Carefree can be a bit of a drive for some, so consider a “date day”. Confluence is open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday. You could go on a hike on one of the many trails in the area, or peruse the shops in the Town of Carefree, before enjoying a leisurely lunch on the patio at Confluence.
36889 N Tom Darlington Dr, Carefree, AZ www.restaurantconfluence.com
Cotton & Copper
Established in 2018, Cotton & Copper is a locally owned and operated modern public house (aka pub) that serves a seasonal menu using all things local, while also pouring outstanding craft cocktails, craft beer, and wine. Cotton & Copper, as its name would indicate, has a traditional Arizona theme honoring two of the five C’s for which Arizona is celebrated. It was founded by longtime valley bartender, Sean Traynor, and one of Arizona’s most popular chefs, Tamara Stanger, who was at Helio Basin Brewery shaking up the food scene with her inventive bar menu replete with items foraged from the Sonoran Desert (see my post here). Chef Stanger has recently moved back to her home state of Utah, sadly, as she will be greatly missed. Good to know: Sadly, as of February 6, 2021, Cotton & Copper is closed. THE SCOUT GUIDE PHOENIX/SCOTTSDALE WINNER.
1006 E Warner Rd #113, Tempe, AZ www.cottonandcopperaz.com
Dominick’s Steakhouse opened in 2011 by brothers Jeff and Mike Mastro, who in 1999 launched the Mastro’s steakhouse legacy, selling the wildly popular concept in 2007. For their second act, the brothers partnered with their father, Dennis Mastro, and Scott Troilo to create Prime Steak Concepts. In 2011, they opened Dominick’s Steakhouse in the Scottsdale Quarter, followed by Steak 44 (named for its location on 44th Street and Camelback in Phoenix) in 2013 and most recently, Ocean 44. Dominick’s prides itself on elegant fine dining with exceptional personal service and a menu featuring prime steaks, fresh seafood, and an extensive wine selection. The menu is located on the website and almost identical to that of Steak 44 (see below). Good to know: For a “wow” date night experience, book a table on the roof where guests can dine pool side under the stars in a partially covered and beautifully appointed roof top dining room complete with a retractable roof.
15169 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ www.dominickssteakhouse.com
elements at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Restaurant
Opened in 2001, elements is the flagship restaurant at the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and receives tremendous acclaim for its chef-driven cuisine and stunning mountain views. Food Network star, Chef Beau MacMillan, heads up the kitchen that recently hired another valley superstar chef, Samantha Sanz. Elements’ seasonal menus incorporate local produce, sustainable seafood, and hormone free meats. You can be sure to find shareable bites like Shishito Peppers, Fiery Calamari, and oysters on the half shell, along with some wonderful entrées like the Miso Glazed Salmon and the Double Bone Duroc Pork Chop. Elements is open for breakfast, Sunday brunch, lunch, and dinner, and can accommodate vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diets. Good to know: elements has a lovely private dining area with a sliding glass door that opens into the kitchen.
5700 E McDonald Dr, Paradise Valley, AZ www.sanctuaryoncamelback.com
Fat Ox is a chef-driven concept on the corner of Scottdale and Lincoln Roads whose name is derived from the Bue Grasso (fat ox) Festival in Carrù, Italy. Chef/owner Matt Carter and his team, led by the fabulous talent of executive chef Rochelle Daniel, serve modern interpretations of traditional Italian dishes. A meal could start with a big plate of antipasti and a selection of cured meats, including Prosciutto di San Daniele, the mother of all prosciutto. Next, order a pasta dish, which is typically a smaller serving, and a wonderful way to enjoy some Cacio e Pepe. Your main course can include a protein, such as beef, poultry, or fish, like Faroe Island Salmon that goes well with a side of Umbrian Lentils. Good to know: For a date night on the earlier, lighter side, Fat Ox has one of my favorite Happy Hours in town every day from 4:30 to 6 pm with $12 cocktails, $9 glasses of wine and small dishes like veal meatballs, beef tartare, and house made pasta.
6316 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ www.ilovefatox.com
FLINT by Baltaire
The team behind LA’s successful steakhouse, Baltaire, in looking for a valley location, decided to open a Mediterranean inspired restaurant in lieu of a Baltaire valley outpost. The result is impressive, a beautiful Mid-century modern space of 9,500 square feet at 24th Street and Camelback Road. FLINT by Baltaire offers seasonal menus with vibrant Middle Eastern accents and farm-fresh ingredients. Think green salads, wood fired pizzas, hummus and baba ganoush with house-baked pita bread, and the pièce de resistance I understand is the whole roasted chicken served tableside. While I had a choice of sitting at the walnut-wood topped bar or in the spacious dining area, I chose a well-lit area on the al fresco terrace that boasts a retractable roof. The food was healthy and delectable, and I highly recommend FLINT if you happen to be in the Biltmore area. Good to know: Parking leaves much to be desired, but thankfully Uber and Lyft are always an option! FLINT serves dinner daily.
2425 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ www.flintbybaltaire.com
J&G Steakhouse had very big shoes to fill following the closing of Mary Elaine’s, a kitchen that spawned many of the valley’s leading chefs and the grand dame of valley dining located on the top floor of The Phoenician Resort. Nonetheless, J&G Steakhouse took on the challenge and opened in 2009 as part of the Jean-George Vongerichten restaurant franchise. While no longer part of the group, J&G is still under the leadership of the same Chef de Cuisine, Jacques Qualin, who serves a sophisticated menu replete with chilled shellfish platters, oysters, jumbo shrimp cocktails, iceberg wedge salads, and a nice selection of fish and steakhouse classics, including a Maine Lobster baked in the shell and a Lamb T-bone. Good to know: Book a table outside for the most beautiful views of downtown Phoenix and the magnificent pools of the Phoenician Resort.
6000 E Camelback Rd, Scottsdale, AZ www.jgsteakhousescottsdale.com
Lincoln Steakhouse & Bar
** Lincoln Steakhouse will be open 5-9 pm Thursday through Sunday starting March 18, 2021. **
Located in the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa on Lincoln Road in Paradise Valley, Lincoln Steakhouse & Bar is named not only for the street on which it is located, but also for the famous breed of English cattle. The space was formerly an outpost of Laurent Tourondel’s BLT Steak, a valley favorite. Mr. Marriott, in looking for a replacement, decided to replicate his favorite steakhouse from the JW Marriott Grosvenor House in London. They kept the widely popular BLT steak popovers (albeit with their own touch), because if they didn’t, there may have been a serious backlash, especially from the Symington kids. Steaks and seafood take center stage, the steaks seared perfectly in the Josper charcoal oven which can reach 1200 degrees Fahrenheit (how is that even possible?). Menu items include prime steaks from Cedar River Farms and American Wagyu beef, Tuna Avocado Poke, Dover Sole, and my favorite, Lobster Escargot, pieces of luscious lobster tail warmed with herbed butter in a cast iron escargot pan. Good to know: The cheesecake at Lincoln Steakhouse & Bar was developed at the London steakhouse and is their signature dessert.
5402 E Lincoln Dr, Scottsdale, AZ www.marriott.com
LON’s at The Hermosa Inn
The Hermosa Inn is an upscale resort in a quiet patch of Paradise Valley just off 32nd Street between Camelback and Lincoln. Lon’s is the resort’s fine-dining restaurant named after Lon Megarge, a famous cowboy artist who in 1930 built the original structure. The property is the definition of Southwest Charm, with adobe buildings situated among beautifully manicured lawns, bubbling fountains, and quaint sitting areas. When weather permits, outdoors on the patio is one of my favorite places for lunch, dinner or just a cocktail, sitting next to a chiminea soaking in the stunning views of Camelback Mountain. Chef Rebecca Tillman is the recently hired Executive Chef at Lon’s and I am looking forward to seeing what she has in store for the new menu. Good to know: For a romantic dinner, request a table by one of the lounge fireplaces or enjoy a private candlelit date night in the wine cellar.
5532 N Palo Cristi Rd, Paradise Valley, AZ www.hermosainn.com
Maple & Ash
Originally founded in 2015 in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, Maple & Ash is named for the two particular hardwoods used on the grill. Michelin starred chef, Danny Grant, is behind this sexy Chicago outpost on Camelback Road across from Scottsdale Fashion Square. The vibe is Scottsdale chic, with lounge music emanating from the speakers enveloping the patrons sipping cocktails at the sleek bar. Speaking of cocktails, once seated, diners are presented with complementary gin martinis in beautifully stemmed glasses. Small plates of nibbles, like salami, breakfast radishes, candied pecans, and house made bread keep your hunger at bay while you make your choice of appetizers and entrées. Pleae take my advice and order the Fire Roasted Seafood Tower, roasted in the hearth and finished with garlic butter and chili oil, a very nice twist on a steakhouse classic. Be sure to request the pasta with the tower, for once the seafood is gone, the pasta is mixed in with all the yummy butter . I mean, who would want to waste that? If you want to be completely taken care of, the entrée called “I Don’t Give a F*@K” puts you in the hands of the chefs and costs $195. Good to know: Why limit yourself to a date night? In September, Maple & Ash began a Saturday brunch service with bottomless mimosas and over the top brunch specials like Alaskan King Crab Eggs Benedict and Black Truffled Omelette.
7135 E Camelback Rd #130, Scottsdale, AZ www.mapleandash.com
Ocean 44 is the newest venture for restaurateurs Mike and Jeff Mastro, their father Dennis and partner Scott Troilo. It is located in an imposing stand-alone structure on the north end of Scottsdale Fashion Square. The first thing you notice upon entering is the massive raw bar with an impressive display of oysters, shrimp, clams, King Crab legs, Dungeness crab, tuna, and salmon. On the menu at Ocean 44 you will find the same steaks from Steak 44, plus outstanding seafood dishes, like salmon, char, sea bass, tuna, and branzino. For dessert, the Ultimate Warm Vanilla Caramel Cake (i.e. butter cake) is a must. Good to know: There are several seating options, like my favorite which gives you a birds eye view into the kitchen, but Ocean 44 does not offer outdoor dining.
4748 N Goldwater Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ www.ocean44.com
Open since 2016, Sel is an intimate fine dining restaurant nestled among the boutiques and art galleries along Main Street in Old Town Scottsdale. Sel is family owned and operated, headed up by Chef Branden Levine who won over valley diners serving as executive chef at nearby Café Monarch for many years. The menu changes every few weeks based on market availability, sourcing from local producers and purveyors when possible. The menus can be found on the website, including the two 4-course tasting menus, one being a vegetarian option. Both menus are offered at $85, which is an incredible value, but no substitutions are allowed. Sel also serves a lovely selection of wine, beer, and craft cocktails. Good to know: The creative 4-course prix fixe dinner, while very special, may not be for everyone…know that all dishes are also available à la carte).
7044 E Main St, Scottsdale, AZ www.selrestaurant.com
Steak 44 is an upscale American steakhouse located at 5101 N. 44th Street in Phoenix in the former Cork & Cleaver space. Ever since opening, Steak 44 has been an instant hit, offering guests a timeless and upscale dining experience. Split the Fried Deviled Eggs, the Dungeness Crab Cocktail, or the Steak Knife BLT Wedge salad for starters. Steaks do take center stage, and Steak 44 offers prime steaks in small, medium, and large cuts, plus you can order a selection of seafood and other meat such as lamb, pork, veal, and chicken. Steak 44 opens for dinner daily. Good to know: For a lighter meal, try the Early Bar Menu, from 4 to 6 pm daily in their Bar 44. You can also catch a glimpse of the cleavers saved from the Cork & Cleaver days that are artfully displayed along one wall.
5101 N 44th St, Phoenix, AZ www.steak44.com