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Local Experts: Scottsdale, Jeff Ficker

By Local Expert Jeff Ficker

Best New Restaurants in Scottsdale 2014

Scottsdale has long prided itself on having a first-rate food scene—particularly at its luxury resorts, where formal dining has long been the mark of excellence. As in a lot of cities, though, gourmands are loosening up, and expecting a bit of style, rather than stuffiness, with their farm-to-table menus and carefully curated wine lists. Today, the best new restaurants in Scottsdale and Phoenix are ditching the white-tablecloth pretenses all together and concentrating on more informal experiences that celebrate local ingredients and global influences. All of the chefs and restaurateurs below have had local followings for years, but they seem to have found a renewed creative spark at their latest offerings, shining in this new era of quality and pleasure. Virtu is a standout and has established itself on the national culinary radar for its impeccable menu. The others are new (and very popular) favorites among residents. Try ’em all. You’ve got breakfast, lunch and dinner covered. 


In Scottsdale, brunching is a bit of a sport, and Virtu is a major league player. Chef Gio Osso produces an ever-evolving feast based on seasonal and regional market offerings. Not content to offer brunch basics, Osso puts his spin on benedicts with duck confit and mortadella while also offering pasta frittatas and grilled octopus. Based on the season, the dinner menu might contain panzanella, ocean trout tartare, Tuscan cassoulet, and smoked duck with caramelized peaches. The setting the gorgeous food is equally appetizing. As part of the Bespoke Inn complex, Virtù mixes adobe architecture with a cozy dining room that sports a bistro style copper-topped bar and a brick covered, string-light illuminated patio surrounding a tiled fountain.


SumoMaya attracts a trendy crowd with a bold décor and a surprising fusion of Mexican-Asian flavors: spicy ceviche, Korean beef tacos and sushi rolls with Japanese pickled jalapeños and chipotle aioli. I’m a fan of the cocktails, including the Passionfruit: a refreshing and smoky mix of mescal, passion fruit, cucumber, fresh lime and ginger beer.  

Flower Child

Arizona’s prolific restaurateur Sam Fox delivers another home run with a fast-casual concept that thrills the crunchy-yuppie set. The organic menu offers both vegan-friendly and gluten-free options: quinoa and kale salads, Asian hot pots and mix-and-match “vegetable and grain plates,” such as Indian-spiced roasted cauliflower and chili-glazed sweet potato with bok choy and sesame seeds.

Southern Rail

Chef Justin Beckett lures Scottsdale residents to central Phoenix with a menu inspired by the American South, such as cider-brined pork and Andouille gumbo. I prefer to go tapas style and order a mix of small plates: fried green tomatoes, creamy grits and grilled watermelon salad. They get bonus points for the Southern Gothic meets midcentury modern design.

Sip Coffee & Beer House

A little bit of Portlandia has sprouted in Scottsdale at this coffee and beerhouse, which has the feel of a garage and is decorated in flea market vintage furniture. Local roasters Cartel Coffee provide a caffeinated complement to Chef Payton Curry’s simple-but-delicious breakfast sandwiches and burritos in the morning. By afternoon, the focus shifts to great salads, grilled panini, 19 craft beers on tap, and cocktails that will quench even an Arizona summer thirst. Stop by between Thursday and Sunday for live music ranging from bluegrass to house.