Phoenix Arizona Restaurant Reviews by a Few Normal Guys and Gals
Four words can sum up Cowboy Ciao, wine, wine and great food. Notice I used the word wine twice that’s because the restaurant boasts an impressive 10,000 bottle wine list!!! It’s simply massive, but can be overwhelming to the average wine drinker. Don’t hesitate to ask the staff for recommendations as they are full of them. They also offer a variety of red and white wine flights that include three different glasses of wine for an extremely reasonable price. For this avid wine drinker though, the list is sublime. Everything from eastern and western shore Bordeaux’s to blends from Columbia Valley boutique vineyards to Malbecs from Chile. There’s a glass, bottle or magnum for anybody. Enough with the wine onto the food.
Like the wine, the food can also be overwhelming to the average foodie. Don’t get me wrong, this place serves modern American classics like short ribs, filet mignon, salmon, lamb etc etc, but Chef Bernie Kantak and his team have put a Southwestern or Global twist on just about every dish. The filet mignon is espresso rubbed, the salmon is pistachio crusted and the shorts ribs are doused in a cherry BBQ sauce that is simply divine. Okay enough with the over flowery sentences here I am getting carried away. Onto the honest review.
We’ve visited Cowboy Ciao twice and enjoyed (for the most part) the following:
Now for some things we didn’t enjoy. While the desserts have wordy titles and the wait staff sing their praises, neither myself or my dining partners were impressed. Walk over to Sprinkles or Gellato Spot if you want to enjoy some post dinner indulgence. Reservations are a must and if you don’t have one, don’t expect to get seated before 9 or 10pm on the weekends.
Last Friday night we went to Javinos Wine Bar and Restaurant (which is in Scottsdale near the airpark). They had a $19 special for two lobster tails, asparagus and freshly cut grilled red potatoes – which was enough to get me to go there. My fiance had a personal pizza that was made to order and grilled in their wood-fire grill. They also had live music, and a huge wine bar. The cost of our meal was about $60 total, which was pretty awesome considering what we ate, and the quality of the food.
The food is new american food, which is a little of everything. They have seafood, pizza, red meat and chicken dishes. Overall the quality really was excellent, perhaps not quite as good at Eddie Matney’s place in Old Town (which is perhaps the best i’ve had yet in Arizona), but right up there – top notch. And a heck of a lot less expensive. The wine bar selection was extremely extensive as you can see in the picture, and the prices were standard Scottsdale wine prices – about $7 to $11 per glass for decent wine. The interior decor was great, and they really went all out, with the flooring, the bar supplies and the overall mood.
We were really pleased with the whole thing, but it was bizarre – there was almost no one there. We kind of felt bad for them. They had clearly done their homework and pulled out all the stops to bring a great dining environment to Scottsdale. After a little discussion, we felt it was probably the location (they are in front of a strip mall, although in a stand-along building), so maybe it “cheapens” the feel for most people. Hopefully more people go there so they can stay open long enough for me to head back again, it’s definitely worth it. I heard they do well for lunch since it’s in a pretty high traffic business area. Good luck Javinos!
Happy New Year from all of us at TalkingDish.com! We look forward to continuing to provide you with honest and accurate reviews of Phoenix-area restaurants. The plan for 2009 is at least one review per week. Let us know if there are places you’d like to see and will get it in the queue.
For all you Phoenix foodies, here is a great opportunity to sample some of Phoenix’s top restaurants. It’s called Arizona Restaurant Week and, like most things in Phoenix, mirrors the same concept from San Diego and New York. Tons of restaurants all over the Valley are offering three course menus-appetizer, main course and dessert-for $29 per person or $58 per couple. Some of the restauarants are even offering additional items such as wine or signature drinks. This is a great deal when you consider some of the restaurants include Cowboy Ciao, The Estate House, McCormick and Schmick’s, and The Capital Grill. All of these places would easily cost $100+ per couple on any other night, but diners will get the opportunity to sample some of the restaurants’ signature dishes without paying their signature costs.
For a list of all participating restaurants, course menus and reservations, visit Arizona Restaurant Week’s web site at www.arizonarestaurantweek.com.
We here at Talking Dish are happy to see this happening in Phoenix and hope it becomes an annual event..
Barrio Cafe is in a bit of a rough neighborhood in central Phoenix, hence the name “barrio”. But don’t let the neighborhood fool you, this is part of the charm of the restaurant. Once you’ve parked next to the “barred-up” windows and have found your way into the restaurant, it’s quite awesome. It’s a small place, but very authentic Mexican food. The plates are average size, and the meals are a little on the pricey side, especially for Mexican food. However, past that, the food is amazing, and the atmosphere is great with live music and a small drink bar providing a small, niche and very cool environment. The margaritas are excellent, not quite as stong as a z-tejas margarita, but really quite good. The food is not spicy Mexican, and is a bit unusual sounding with cloves, rosemary and other unique flavors found in really traditional, old school Mexican food, but not often in cookie-cutter Mexican places. Check out the chicken mole, it’s awesome.
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Anyone who is familiar with the area knows that Oregano’s is a valley-wide treasure. If you can handle the wait which greatly varies given the day, time and specific location, you’ll definitely love the food.
The atmosphere is one of a small, casual, intimate diner set in the 40s and 50s. Unfortunately the music is from that time period as well and they play it over and over and over. However if you’re not one of the wait staff it probably won’t bother you over the course of your meal.
The menu is extensive with pizza/salad/pasta as their specialties. Every dish is huge and easily split between two or more people. They are also known for their cookie/ice cream dessert Pizza Cookie as well as their Bellinis. Best of all, the price is extremely cheap!
The local chain recently merged with a national resturant company. There is a good possibility you will see Oregano’s Pizza Bistros across the U.S. Hopefully their great price and casual atmosphere stay the same.
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Crab legs, stuffed mushrooms, chicken marsala and more round out one of the best salad bars in the valley, and that is just the beginning. Like a meat lovers hallucination, smiling waiters roam the floor of this Brazilian steakhouse, each carrying an enormous cut of meat on a skewer. Simply turn your block of wood green side up, and the meat begins to arrive. Beef filet, sausage, lamb and pork wielding waiters and waitresses continue to fill your plate until you flip your block to red. I’m not kidding, you flip a piece of wood to green side up and meat is delivered. The dinner price is all inclusive, making sampling everything a lot of fun. The constant action of the bustling waiters with their rotation of meats is entertaining, and Fogo e Brasa would make for an excellent first date restaurant. A knowledgeable sommelier is on call for advice on wine selection, and a large dessert cart rounds out the menu.
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Appearances aren’t everything! Classic Italian Pizza is tucked away in a not-so-appealing strip mall located on Basline and Rural roads in Tempe. While the outside may make you want to turn and run, the inside will blow you away.
Inside it is warm and quaint with a small bar and a brick oven for cooking pizzas. There is a small secluded patio out back which is awesome, weather permitting. The menu is small, just pizza, some basic salads and calzones. But the food is wonderful!
I prefer it to over-hyped Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix. No need to wait three hours when you can walk right in and be seated at Classic Italian. This is a perfect spot for a first date. Make sure to call ahead as if I remember correctly, they’re closed on Mondays. Also be aware that they close for a few weeks in July or August each year to make a trip to Europe. Overall, a really cool Tempe hole-in-the-wall with great food and atmosphere.
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Stax burger bistro is an awesome little place. It used to be Ibiza cafe back in the day, and is located on Scottsdale road in Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona. This place is pretty chic and has a cool environment, but isn’t stuffy. The service was ok, nothing stellar, but they might have been understaffed because they are new. The menu consists of gourmet burgers of all kinds, including beef, kobe beef and others like buffalo. They have some custom recommended burgers, or you can order ala carte and design your own burger. If you order ala carte, which I did, they have a ton of options for toppings to put on the burgers. Each burger is about 1/3 the size of a regular burger that you’d order at a restaurant, but you will probably only need 2, unless you are really hungry. Each burger ranges in price from $4 to $6. There is a full selection of wines, beers and regular hard liquor drinks.
I liked the atmosphere because it was half indoor half outdoor and was pretty chill especially for a Scottsdale Restaurant on Scottsdale road, which are often a bit stuffy. If you are looking for a first date spot this could be good, or just a good “let’s catch up” kind of restaurant to meet friends at. It could be a bit tough for a large group, and definitey not for a work function.
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Awesome food/drinks and unmatched service make Bandera one of our favorite restaurants in the Valley, let alone the country. They are known for their rotisserie chicken, but everything on the menu is worthy of praise. This is a great place to take the family, visitors or business associates when they come to town. Definitely recommend getting a reservation ahead of time, or come early. Parking can be a bit of a challange, as Bandera is in the middle of Old Town Scottsdale. Valet is always an option and they have it curb-side. Not sold yet…check out there menu here.
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Our purpose is simple: to provide honest and accurate reviews of restaurants we visit. We're not restaurant buffs or experts, we just know when a restaurant is cool, when food is good and what a reasonable price is. Let us know if there are places you'd like to see, or feel free to add your own review. Talking Dish is an Arizona restaurant review website for the Phoenix Arizona cities including: Tempe, Scottsdale, Phoenix, Chandler, Mesa, Glendale and more.