By Cristen Burrell (area local and EEBA Director of Engagement) If you’re reading this then you’re a friend, a colleague, or lucky enough to know someone who knows me.😉 And, you’ll be coming to sunny Scottsdale. You’ll need to eat while you’re here, so why not make great memories over meals that are uniquely Arizona?! Right, there isn’t a good answer to that question, so read on, jump in an Uber, enjoy, and feel free to send back messages about how much you love our local restaurant scene! Let’s get this out of the way first. Everyone visiting wants to climb Camelback Mountain, but if you’re not in shape you should try another mountain or trail. It’s no joke. People die on that mountain every year and they are all out-of-towners, like you. An easier Mountain that has awesome scenery and views is Pinnacle Peak. Or, a seriously cool area with easier hiking and small mountains, Papago Park. Wherever you go, it’s a beautiful time of year to be wandering in the desert to see wildflowers and greenery. My favorite walking trails are nearby at the foothills of the McDowell Mountains. Wherever you do go, bring enough water (read, MORE water than you think you need) and when it’s half gone, turn around and GO HOME! Seriously though. People die because they get dehydrated, overheat, get confused and walk off the path, off the mountain, etc. Be careful, please. Old Town, Scottsdale = MY ‘hood! I live in this neighborhood full of restaurants, art galleries, tourists, and the dreaded club scene. The latter being the drawback and the former being the best attribute next only to the people of the community. The following are some of my regular haunts. I’ll warn you, they are all local and independent scratch kitchens. Scratch meaning that they don’t buy anything pre-made, they make it all themselves, everything. They source from local farmers and get the best AZ offers in produce and proteins. They will cost a little more than what you pay at garbage chain restaurants. Don’t hate. And don’t be cheap. Tip well or don’t tell them I sent you! Seriously. My favorite spot for a late breakfast or casual brunch on Saturday is New Wave Market. It’s owned by wife & husband team, Country & Sergio. They also run Super Chunk Sweets & Treats, make all of their breads in-house, and their house-made fermented hot sauce is not to be missed! Name dropping me here may encourage better service 😉 Menu favorites include Hawaiian Bread French Toast, Egg & Cheese Bagel, Ghee Fried Egg Bagel, Stetson Chopped Salad (smoked salmon or don’t bother), and THE Salt Bagel w/Scallion Cream Cheese. There’s a simple breakfast spot not far from the conference hotel that does a great breakfast. Butters Pancakes and Cafe has the pancake house feel and is bustling on the weekends. Not a Scottsdale scene (dumb hats and lots of mimosas), but families and normal people who value good food and a lot of it for a good price. They make killer pancakes and use fresh jalapenos in their eggs (Santa Fe Scrambler ❤️), so I love it! Pro Tip: put your name on their Yelp waiting list before heading over to avoid a long weekend wait. And, skip the crappy overpriced hotel breakfast and opt for this spot. They open at 6:30 am every day! If you want local flavor, try FnB for dinner. Charlene Badman is a James Beard Award-winning chef who runs a small restaurant known for serving the BEST of locally sourced products and local produce available. Farmers come to her asking what she wants them to grow! She is known as the Veggie Whisperer as she does magical things with produce. There’s meat on the menu too, but lots of veggie options and vegans can survive well here too. The pro-tip here is to try as many small plates as you can, while sipping the largest selection of local wines available and still saving room for dessert. Sometimes, she’ll just offer an ice-cold tangerine and you can bet, it will be a lifechanging piece of fruit. If you don’t recognize ingredients, don’t be afraid! She has the most wonderfully prepared and helpful staff that will describe the flavors and ingredients so you can learn and experience what Arizona has to offer. ***if you don’t make a reservation, you’ll want to try your luck at FnBar. It’s a masterpiece of brightly colored tile and a great place to have a meal and chat with your neighbors. Try KazBar in Old Town for nightly live music in a wine & whiskey bar setting. The vibe is typically low-key jazzy, but the musical offerings vary nightly. You love Asian cuisine, but we don’t have great sushi in Old Town (other than Shinbay, but that’s >$250 pp), but we do have fantastic Korean BBQ at Sizzle. I LOVE Sizzle!!! They’re even open super late too! My favorites are the tartare, beef belly, galbi, and spicy pork. Citizen Public House is another great option. Again, craft cocktails, scratch kitchen, etc. Try the Stetson Chopped Salad! I love to go to The Mission for lunch. I order the tableside guac and some street corn (off the cob). They bring salsa and chips and it’s a meal. I do that with a glass of sangria. It’s my thing there and I honestly can’t tell you anything about the menu because that’s all I ever order. 🙂 Venturing outside of Old Town… Just south of Old Town is a little fish shop with a mighty story. The family who runs Chula Seafood is single-handedly responsible for bringing fresh fish to the city and making it accessible to locals. Affectionately referred to by regulars as “Rosie”, their shop in South Scottsdale retails fresh fish, smoked fish, and serves poke bowls, salads, and other daily specials. They are wizards of smoked fish – try the platter. Or, a sashimi plate! My favorite bowl is the ceviche over with extra jalapeno. And if you ask nicely, they’ll make you a spicy scallop in a cup and that’s deliciousness everyone should try at least once. Vecina is a new spot just west of Old Town serving modern American with Latin flavors. Killer cocktail program. Seriously. The best in the area! They’ll change your mind about mezcal, I promise. All of the veggie dishes are killer, but my absolute favorite thing on the menu is the Carne Asada Ribeye. This steak is a show-stopper and the habanero spiked potato puree it sits atop is heavenly. A little north of where the conference is held, you’ll find Hiro Sushi and Andreoli Italian Grocer. The specials board is where it’s at for Andreoli’s, but my absolute addiction is the Abbuffino, toasted focaccia bread with spicy calabrese salami, and melted smoked mozzarella cheese. Hush Public House is another absolute favorite. Scratch kitchen. Craft cocktails. Sit at the bar. Try everything!!! I eat at Hush at least once a week so I don’t miss anything on their ever-changing menu. Fantastic for dinner too, my absolute favorite brunch spot in the city is the Larder and the Delta in downtown Phoenix. If you have a car, GO on Sunday! 🐟 With the exception of the last 2, if you see fish on the menu at any of these restaurants, it’s from Chula! 🐟 I’d be seriously remiss if I didn’t mention pizza. Arizona is home to a wood-fired pizza movement started by Chris Bianco in the ’80s, now there are fantastic pizza places in every neighborhood. These are my favorites around the state: Pizzeria Bianco at Heritage Square (downtown Phx) is where it all began. There’s a 2nd location in Town & Country (Biltmore, Phx). The signature Bianco pie is a must-try, The Rosa. Lamp Pizza is my absolute favorite in town. Order The Benny or for a white pie, Geppetto. Order the Mignulata. Just do it. Pizzicletta is my actual favorite, but it’s in Flagstaff. Craft 64 is right in Old Town and it’s pretty fantastic too. One of the owners came up under Bianco, so he knows what’s up. Pomo Pizzeria is really close to the conference hotel and has killer pizza. …or Tacos. Sorry, I’m not going to rep anything close to your hotel because I just don’t believe in them. These are the 3 spots in town I go for tacos. They’re not close, but they’re worth it. Tacos Chiwas either location Taco Boyz Sonoran Hot Dogs are a thing here and they’re awesome too, but you’ll take a 45 minute drive to anything I’d recommend. And, I have a huge addiction to Sichuan and Cantonese Chinese food. If you have a car, head to the east valley and hit up one of my favorites: Chengdu Delight, Old Town Taste, Original Cuisine, and Hong Kong Asian Diner. Oh, and because people love steakhouses… the only one I support in town is Dominick’s. And yes, it’s locally owned! It’s a 10-15 minute ride north of the hotel and it delivers the fancy-pants steakhouse vibe done the Scottsdale way – complete with sugar daddies galore and their Lamborghinis parked out front. I’m usually a ribeye girl, but here, I dig the petite strip. Also, this is THE place to have a martini. But, only one. After two you’ll be on the floor. Draaaaanks… Here are some unique and noteworthy Arizona cocktail bars to check out… UnderTow world-famous tiki bar, you need a reservation! Century Grand another experience in escapism, this is a 1920’s train car Bitter & Twisted another world-famous cocktail bar in downtown phoenix Little Rituals sister bar to B&T, if you go to one, you have to visit the other. I can’t pick a favorite! Copper & Cotton in Tempe Straight Up Cocktail Lounge enter a phone booth, make a call, know the code word, push the wall, and voila! Check Instagram for the current code word. Happy eating, y’all!!!