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Scottsdale city guide

How to get the best out of Arizona's evolving desert oasis

Located in the Valley of the Sun across a sprawling 184 square miles, Scottsdale is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. Offering stunning desert hikes alongside restaurants fusing diverse local flavors, Scottsdale boasts more spas per capita than any other city in the country. Whether you’re looking for craft gin, artisan jewelers or poolside al pastor tacos, you’ll find it all in this evolving western city. Here, it isn’t rare to go a month without rain, making for vivid days of exploring experimental architecture and the local sites that our five notable locals frequent in town.

Words by Chris Malloy


Old Town

Downtown Scottsdale, also called Old Town, is the heartbeat of this expansive Southwestern city. This is where the city’s founder, Winfield Scott, kept his olive trees and farming operation at the end of the 19th century. Today, it remains the city’s centerpiece and the town’s only true walkable urban area with a nexus of hundreds of shops, restaurants, palm trees and parched mountain views. Here, you’ll find a nightclub district, dozens of art galleries and a wide range of boutique shops. If you plan to stay in Scottsdale, thinking about where your lodging is situated in relation to Old Town is a must.

North Scottsdale

As Scottsdale stretches north from Old Town, surroundings become more suburban with clusters of neighborhoods spread far apart. By the time you reach the spot where Loop 101 cuts back west, you are firmly in North Scottsdale, generally seen as the more well-to-do side of town. Visitors will find plenty of shopping and dining experiences, from the outdoor malls of Scottsdale Quarter and Kierland Commons to excellent ramen shops and family-owned pizza joints. Beyond North Scottsdale lie the McDowell Mountains, with dusty trails carving through all the way east to Fountain Hills.

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Far North Scottsdale

Driving north on Loop 101, Scottsdale thins even more dramatically. Saguaro, palo verde and brittlebrush become the chief features of the steadily elevating land. Communities of homes appear sparsely, replaced by golf courses and resorts such as the Four Seasons at Troon North. This Sonoran enclave is a paradise for hikers and bikers, with its open terrain offering varying levels of difficulty. In the farthest north reaches of Scottsdale, you’ll find ranches that seem lifted straight out of classic Westerns or history books. Some even provide riding lessons.

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South Scottsdale

This urban stretch of Scottsdale bustles in a crook between Tempe and Phoenix. Though the area has not traditionally been seen as a must-visit destination, its reputation is changing. The newly built SkySong Center provides contemporary office space to forward-thinking businesses and startups. Along Scottsdale Road, just west of the Coronado Golf Course and Eldorado Park, you’ll find everything from classic Italian American fare to modern breweries and a boutique shop that specializes in making shakes with Arizona dates.

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A Taste of Arizona

Courtesy Rancho Pinot

Rancho Pinot

(480) 367-8030, 6208 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85253, United States

For 26 years, Chrysa Robertson has brought the culinary touches and flavor combinations of Northern Italy to Scottsdale via Rancho Pinot, one of the Valley of the Sun’s most storied restaurants. The dining room is spacious and elegant with white tablecloths, while design elements like roughshod wooden tables and cattle skulls recall the Old West. Robertson plates pâté with pickled grapes and stuffs fried squash blossoms with herbed ricotta. Her grilled quail, delicate meat made even more tender and succulent by velvety polenta, is a stunner.

ranchopinot.com

Courtesy The Stand

The Stand

4020 N Alma School Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85256, United States

People of Native American descent make up almost five percent of Arizona’s population. Indigenous cuisine is a pillar of the state’s culinary scene, even if it exists largely on the margins. Not far east of Highway 101 on a dusty roadside in the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community, you’ll find The Stand, where everything on the most satisfying lunch menu in or near Scottsdale costs less than $10. The Stand’s structure is comprised of cactus ribs tied with arrowroot, and guests sit on stumps as they await their frisbee-sized discs of fry bread slathered with beans, cheese, tomatoes, onions and red pork chili. Eat outside for the full experience or take your meal to go if you have somewhere to be.

Courtesy FnB

FnB

(480) 284-4777, 7125 E 5th Ave #31, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, United States

FnB picked up the metro area's first James Beard Award in more than a decade last year. That’s largely due to chef and co-owner Charleen Badman, who is plugged into the local farm and ranch scene like no other chef in the area. Her ingredients are sourced locally, but her culinary influences range from places like South America, Europe and the Middle East. Beet salad with vadouvan-garnished glacier lettuce, brussels sprouts in curry with mint, and lamb loin with local desert-adapted tepary beans taste even better alongside an all-Arizona, James Beard-nominated wine program curated by restaurant co-owner Pavle Milic.

fnbrestaurant.com

Notable Newcomers

Courtesy Hush Public House

Hush Public House

(480) 758-5172, 14202 N Scottsdale Rd #167, Scottsdale, AZ 85254, United States

Chef Dom Ruggiero isn’t your typical chef. He’s been known to leave the kitchen for months on end to apprentice with butchers he admires. He also smokes bison tongue and pork belly on a custom offset smoker welded from an old Mexican propane tank. But at his intimate North Scottsdale restaurant, where rock ‘n’ roll blares and classic cocktails flow, the vegetables and fish are just as good as the meat. Ruggiero plates cauliflower steak with fiery harissa and his plump-and-tender spring peas are paired with ricotta salata and strawberries. Of course, the meat is also exceptional. His oxtail-heavy remix of the Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich and his creamy chicken liver mousse made with brandy, port and sherry will carry you to gastronomic nirvana.

hushpublichouse.com

Courtesy Talavera

Talavera

(480) 515-5700, 10600 E Crescent Moon Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85262, United States

Helmed by one of Arizona’s brightest young culinary talents, Samantha Sanz, this Spanish steakhouse is a must-try for anyone staying in North Scottsdale. With its patio on the upper level of the Four Seasons at Troon North, Talavera offers sweeping views of Pinnacle Peak and the Valley sloping down to Phoenix in the distance. Sanz turns the tired steakhouse concept on its head with kaleidoscopic meals that are as much a feast for the eyes as they are for the taste buds. Among her colorful touches are the blood orange inset between the basketweave of an Iberico pork shoulder and the verde paella served with broccolini, shishito peppers, kale, brussels sprouts and grilled squash.

talaverarestaurant.com

Courtesy Shinbay

Shinbay

(480) 361-1021, 3720 N Scottsdale Rd #201, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, United States

At a 13-seat counter in downtown Scottsdale, two high-end omakase sushi dinners unfold at 6 and 8 p.m. each Wednesday through Sunday. The locally revered Shinji Kurita works behind the counter and there is no food menu. Kurita makes guests whatever is in fresh from Japan, with the first few courses culled from his imagination before a long sequence of traditional nigiri is rolled out.

shin-bay.com

Surprising Local Gems

Courtesy Atlas Bistro

Atlas Bistro

(480) 990-2433, 2515 N Scottsdale Rd #18, Scottsdale, AZ 85257, United States

You’ll have to walk through a wine shop to enter Atlas Bistro, a tiny, Old World-style eatery that stays current despite having been open for almost two decades. Chef Cory Oppold employs all kinds of creative tricks to build his culinary compositions, from finishing crudo with smoked nori to poaching thinly sliced butternut squash in a ginger liquid to make it pliable for rolling into spring rolls. It sounds fancy ­­­­– and it can be – but Oppold isn’t above offering some offbeat menu options such as lamb corndogs and a sideways ice cream cone overflowing with ginger chevre.

atlasbistrobyob.com

Courtesy Super Chunk Sweets & Treats

Super Chunk Sweets & Treats

(602) 736-2383, 7120 E 6th Ave #19, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, United States

This modern nook in Old Town is a haven for sugar fiends. From simple blondies to pecan-fragrant cakes frosted to resemble a brilliant Arizona sunset, Super Chunk offers a desert to satisfy every sweet craving. The John & Yoko, a tres leches cake with honeycomb candy and whipped cream made from mascarpone, is a signature treat. The chocolate chip cookie baked with cane sugar and mesquite flour is a local favorite.

superchunk.me

Courtesy Chula Seafood

Chula Seafood

(480) 621-5121, 8015 E Roosevelt St, Scottsdale, AZ 85257, United States

Yes, you can find outstanding fish in the desert. Chula Seafood’s original Scottsdale location serves most of its fish raw (in bowls and as sashimi) or smoked. The Pacific Coast is a half day’s drive from Scottsdale and Chula’s operators make the trek several times a week. Their primary fishing boat docks in San Diego, where swordfish are harpooned and later served in fish sausages and as smoked bellies in a glass case of to-go fish.

chulaseafood.com


Tequila, Mezcal and Local Spirits

Courtesy La Hacienda

La Hacienda

(480) 585-4848, 7575 E Princess Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85255, United States

The rectangular bar at this Mexican restaurant inside the Five Diamond-awarded Fairmont Scottsdale Princess stocks more than 240 kinds of tequila. Once you take your pick, your drink may be presented to you by a resident “Tequila Goddess.” It’s a great way to learn about aging nuances and the wonders of blue agave. Try flights across styles or see what individual high-end brands have to offer. The cellar packs some rare mezcals, too, including local favorite Mezcal Carreno, cooked and distilled at a family operation in Oaxaca. Those who really want to experience the  flavors of the Sonoran Desert can try specialty north Mexican spirits such as bacanora and sotol.

scottsdaleprincess.com

Courtesy The Mission

The Mission

(480) 636-5005, 3815 N Brown Ave, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, United States

Not all flavored margaritas are made equal. The Mission, a pan-Latin restaurant with two Scottsdale locations, crafts creative takes on the classic cocktail. Ingredients such as muddled strawberries and egg whites give the margaritas body and textural depth, while hibiscus syrup and green Chartreuse enhance their natural brightness. The avocado margarita is a must-try for adventurous types, but for those who like to keep it simple when it comes to tequila, a wide selection of blanco, reposado and añejo is also available by the glass.

themissionaz.com

Courtesy Blue Clover Distillery

Blue Clover Distillery

(480) 946-1062, 7042 E Indian School Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, United States

This downtown Scottsdale distillery makes a flagship vodka and gin, with the latter including interesting components such as blood orange and peach. The distillery doubles as a place to relax and drink in a large space where signature cocktails cost just $9, with many dropping to $7 during happy hour. Kick back with a house-vodka Moscow Mule — available in standard pours and giant, 123-ounce vessels designed for four people — or the Scottsdale Sunset, a spritz-like libation crafted with Blue Clover grapefruit vodka.

bluecloverdistillery.com

Cocktails

Courtesy Jade Bar

Jade Bar

(855) 245-2051, 5700 E McDonald Dr, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253, United States

The rust-red rock formations and cacti of the Sonoran Desert form the backdrop of this sleek cocktail lounge inside Sanctuary Camelback Mountain. For a more intimate dining experience, sit by the fireplace at the outdoor patio, where live musicians play Thursday through Saturday from 7 to 11 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. From cognac to aged rum, Jade Bar’s cocktails skew fancy, but guests can stop by during happy hour (4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday) to imbibe at a more accessible price.

sanctuaryoncamelback.com

Courtesy Pigtails Desert Ridge

Pigtails Desert Ridge

(480) 534-5657, 21001 N Tatum Blvd Suite 46-1405, Phoenix, AZ 85050, United States

In Desert Ridge, a Phoenix neighborhood just west of North Scottsdale, the speakeasy-style Pigtails Desert Ridge serves ice-cold oysters and $5 prickly pear margaritas. The bar crafts upscale cocktails but doesn’t take itself too seriously. Guests will find creative riffs on the Negroni right alongside frosé, frozen punches and tequila sunrises garnished with pink flowers.

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Craft Beer

Courtesy Goldwater Brewing Company

Goldwater Brewing Company

(480) 350-7305, 3608 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, United States

On the south end of downtown Scottsdale, Goldwater Brewing specializes in the kind of light beers that one craves after a desert hike: pilsners, sours and even a Japanese rice lager. Below the brewery, housed in an underground, concrete-walled former shooting range, lies the Goldmine. This is the brewery’s space for lagering and aging beer; a cool room lined with barrels and scented with the byproducts of the fermentation process. There are a few seats available to guests, so reserve a spot in advance. Otherwise, simply pop in upstairs to savor a chocolatey imperial stout aged in a tequila barrel.

goldwaterbrewing.com

Courtesy Fate Brewing Company

Fate Brewing Company

(480) 656-9100, 1312 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85257, United States

Now with two locations in town, Fate Brewing Company has been a Scottsdale mainstay since 2012. From smoked porters to single-hop sours and blueberry milkshake IPAs, this small-batch brewery stands out due to its unconventional offerings. The brewery’s most infamous beer is the Hatch Chile Gatos, a radiantly golden brew spiked with fiery chili pepper. To double down on the heat, order the Sticky Fingers pizza with mozzarella, ham, red onions and habanero honey.

fatebrewing.com

Courtesy The Whining Pig

The Whining Pig McDowell Mountain

(480) 361-6890, 10121 E Bell Rd Suite 110, Scottsdale, AZ 85260, United States

This stalwart Phoenix beer and wine bar recently opened an outpost in an unassuming North Scottsdale strip mall. Local, regional and national beers are all well-represented here. Some regional favorites include the Modern Times (San Diego) and Prairie Artisan Ales (Oklahoma). In-state standouts like Tombstone and Helton Brewing Company also cycle through The Whining Pig’s rotation. For a bite, the bar offers five grilled cheese sandwich options with ingredients such as prosciutto, goat cheese, smoked ham and sriracha.

thewhiningpig.com


Luxury Resorts

Courtesy The Phoenician

The Phoenician

(480) 423-2452, 6000 E Camelback Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, United States

Completed in 1988, this massive resort containing more than 600 rooms cost $300 million to build. A lobby featuring a golden dome and Italian marble sets the stylistic tone for the 250-acre property, including its many pools and restaurants. Nestled into a sloping hillside beneath Camelback Mountain, the resort hosts a recently redesigned 18-hole golf course dotted with palm trees. A pro shop and flower-flanked 19th hole eatery complement the experience. The Phoenician also offers English-style afternoon tea complete with scones and finger sandwiches. Upgrade to the Royal Tea or Grand Royal Tea package to add champagne.

thephoenician.com

Courtesy Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North

(480) 515-5700, 10600 E Crescent Moon Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85262, United States

A stay at The Four Seasons at Troon North is ideal for visitors who want to get away from the bustle of Old Town. Housed in the desert reaches of North Scottsdale, the resort is situated between rich hiking destinations including the McDowell Mountains, Pinnacle Peak and Black Mountain. A two-level pool and casitas with raised outdoor fire pits integrate the hotel into the landscape of the Sonoran.

fourseasons.com

Courtesy Mountain Shadows Resort

Mountain Shadows

(480) 624-5400, 5445 E Lincoln Dr, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253, United States

Situated in Paradise Valley below Camelback Mountain, this resort gets its name from the shadows that angle across its grounds every afternoon. First opened in 1959, Mountain Shadows closed from 2004 to 2017 during ownership changes and renovations. Today, the resort’s mid-century style remains even as an art gallery, par-3 golf course and poolside cabanas have modernized the space.

mountainshadows.com

Downtown and Packed With Character

Courtesy The Saguaro

The Saguaro

(480) 308-1100, 4000 N Drinkwater Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, United States

This Instagram playground is the rare small, intimate hotel in resort-heavy Scottsdale. The boutique hotel on the edge of Old Town is the city’s most colorful lodging option, with yellow pool umbrellas, a neon lobby and hotel balconies framed in bright paint visible from the street. Orange chairs and umbrellas fill the cloistered restaurant patio where guests snack on quesadillas with nopales and watermelon wedges coated with Tajín.

thesaguaro.com

Courtesy Hotel Valley Ho

Hotel Valley Ho

(480) 376-2600, 6850 E Main St, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, United States

Completed in 1956, Hotel Valley Ho was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright protégé Edward Varney. The hotel is rife with flourishes from the era: orb lights, yellow cabinets and low-slung russet chairs. Its chief restaurant, ZuZu, serves a brunch widely attended by locals and towering, cookie-topped and syrup-laced circus milkshakes.

hotelvalleyho.com

Courtesy The Scott Resort & Spa

The Scott Resort & Spa

(800) 528-7867, 4925 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, United States

A quick rideshare or free shuttle ride from downtown, the recently renovated Scott Resort & Spa is a Caribbean hideaway with a rum-heavy hotel bar. A white-washed room filled with wicker furniture, coffee table books and foliage extends from the bar to the lobby. Past the bar is a nicely shaded pool surrounded by hotel rooms. For an extra dose of relaxation, resort guests can rent lofty wood-framed cabanas which come with food, cocktails and an enclosed day bed.

thescottresort.com

Close to a Party

Courtesy W Scottsdale

W Scottsdale

(480) 970-2100, 7277 E Camelback Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, United States

The closest hotel to the clubs of downtown Scottsdale hosts a high-energy pool party of its own. By day, on weekends in season, rotating DJs thrum tunes that shake the leaves of the pool’s surrounding palm trees. The W trades the expansive landscapes of its northern competitors for a central, urban setting. This is a great place to stay if you’re looking for a celebratory weekend or a week of long nights.

marriott.com

Courtesy Talking Stick Resort

Talking Stick Resort

(480) 850-7777, 9800 Talking Stick Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85256, United States

Located just east of Scottsdale on the Salt River Pima Maricopa Reservation, Talking Stick Resort offers a spread of amenities like no other hotel in town. The complex hosts big name musical artists and comedians, pool parties by day in season, spa services with 14th-floor views of the Valley, and a casino with daily poker tournaments. With 11 bars, six restaurants and the aforementioned perks, Talking Stick is the kind of hotel you might not even need to leave.

talkingstickresort.com

Courtesy Andaz Scottsdale

Andaz Scottsdale

(480) 368-1234, 6114 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85253, United States

This boutique hotel houses guests in mid-century modern bungalows with fully functional, private outdoor showers backdropped by Camelback Mountain. Suites feature sleek, vibrant furniture accented by works from local artists. Andaz is also home to Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen, one of the more fascinating hotel restaurants in Arizona. The kitchen is attuned to both modern dining and the classic foods of the Southwest, plating the likes of brined chicken with enchilada sauce, and farro risotto with piquillo peppers.

hyatt.com


Courtesy Troon North Golf Club

Troon North Golf Club

(480) 585-5300, 10320 E Dynamite Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85262, United States

Widely considered one of the top non-private golf courses in Arizona, Troon North is located in the northern reaches of Scottsdale, where the town thins into the desert. The course guides guests into the Sonoran, where gnarled mesquite trees and upright-armed saguaros are dispersed across the landscape. British Open Champion Tom Weiskopf designed the course, so you’ll find many of the same features from that ancient tournament here, including deep, challenging bunkers with high edges.

troonnorthgolf.com

Courtesy TPC Scottsdale

TPC Scottsdale

(480) 585-4334, 17020 N Hayden Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85255, United States

Just off Loop 101 in North Scottsdale, TPC Scottsdale is the home of the famous Waste Management Phoenix Open. In the months leading up to the tournament, the par-3 16th hole transforms into a raised arena with stadium-style seating for spectators far rowdier than your typical golf crowd. You can play the course yourself when the pros are out of town. Stay for the unobstructed view of the McDowell Mountains, which turn red and purple as the sun sets.

tpc.com

Courtesy Boulders Resort & Spa

Boulders Resort & Spa

(480) 488-9009, 34631 N Tom Darlington Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85262, United States

True to the name of its host resort, multi-story boulder formations tower over the golf courses at Boulders Club. Purple prickly pear and pale green agave flank its fairways. Horticulturalist and golf course designer Jay Morrish designed the layout, which showcases mountain views in just about every direction. Play becomes almost secondary in this breathtaking environment, which is located just beyond Scottsdale in the aptly named town of Carefree.

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Local Takes: Scottsdale