Eating Arizona: The Valley Of The Sun

by Rich Rubin
Valley of the Sun Arizona, Sonoran Desert

Mexican and other Latin influences are predominant, but whatever you’re in the mood for, the Valley of the Sun pretty much has it all. Here are some of my favorites that you need to add to your Arizona travel itinerary.

Rich Rubin
Citizen Public House Restaurant, Scottsdale, Arizona, Valley of the Sun

Citizen Public House

This cavernous spot is a favorite for both locals and tourists, combining the atmosphere of a great restaurant and a boisterous bar into a true “public house.” Of course you’ll want to start with the Original Chopped Salad (aka the “OMFG Salad”), an array of colors, textures, and tastes, with dried corn, Israeli couscous, marinated tomatoes, pepitas, arugula, currants, and smoked salmon, lined up like a proud flag of flavor. How many salads do you know that have their own Facebook page? Of course, you’ll find much more here, from bar snack-like things to full meals. I love the crab cake starter and the smoked duck breast main (rosemary millet, pea puree, and pickled apples intensify the already-intense taste). The short ribs, rubbed with coffee and served with parsnip puree and dried cherry barbecue sauce, are hearty and toothsome. Want to keep it simple? The green chile burger is a pretty amazing selection. Of course, this being a public house, you can count on creative cocktails, from Olé Mole (mexcal, mole syrup, artichoke liqueur, port, sherry, chile liqueur) to the Dry Heat Margarita, which combines tequila with chile syrup and lemon, the glass rimmed with cayenne salt and sugar. 7111 E. 5th Ave., Scottsdale. Tel: 480-398-4208.

Lon's Restaurant, Paradise Valley, Arizona, Valley of the Sun



LON’S is one of those “you can take anyone there, and they’ll love it” kinds of places. As
a part of Hermosa Inn, built in the 1930s as cowboy artist Lon Megargee’s home, it is about as Arizona as an establishment can get. Add to that the fact that chef Jeremy Pacheco is a ninth-generation Arizonan, and you know we’re in beguilingly local territory, though the menu has a definite global spin. Take a seat in one of the rustic rooms, or on the patio, mountains looming in the background and a fire roaring, perfect for a cool Arizona night (and whatever you might think, there are plenty of those). Mary’s chicken is a favorite of mine, with farro, glazed baby turnips, and pear salad lending distinctive touches. Beef is fine here, as in the pecan-grilled filet, while seafood lovers prefer the scallops, served with a mushroom-truffle risotto. This is comfort food in the truest meaning of the phrase, inventive, fresh, and sigh-inducing. In fact, the whole experience at LON’S, from the setting to the service to what’s on your plate, will leave you feeling completely comforted. 5532 N. Palo Cristi Rd., Paradise Valley. Tel: 844-267-8738.

The Mission, Scottsdale, Arizona Restaurant, Valley of the Sun

The Mission


Next door to its eponymous edifice (an early twentieth century adobe church.) The Mission is for me one of the highlights of Scottsdale dining. There’s a glow to the place, and it’s not just from the candlelight casting its radiance across the wooden interior. Chef Matt Carter’s modern Latin cuisine draws from across Central and South America, as well as Spain, and the results are fresh, creative, and alluring. Try the grilled street corn, or the Shrimp Antiucho (skewered and redolent with the Peruvian aji panca chile). Tacos range from duck confit with a guajillo/peanut mole to butternut squash to shortribs to brussels sprouts (the latter is truly a taste sensation, with apple, ginger, toasted peanuts, and chile de árbol). Vegetarians will be pleased with the roasted cauliflower, made on the Spanish griddle and served with mole verde, toasted pumpkin seeds, roasted corn, and asparagus. One piece of advice: don’t forget to have one of their creatively-flavored margaritas, which range from strawberry/banana, pomegranate, and blood orange to cucumber/jalapeño, spicy hibiscus, and yes, avocado. 3815 N. Brown Ave., Scottsdale. Tel: 480-636-5005.

Southern Rail, Phoenix, Arizona Restaurant, Valley of the Sun

Southern Rail

Southern food in Phoenix? Well, why the hell not? Especially when it’s done by well-known local chef Justin Beckett, who infuses American classics with the flavors of New Orleans. Start with some deviled eggs (is there anyone who doesn’t love these?) or fried okra, which is crispy with cornmeal crumbs and served with a Creole-style aioli. If Beckett can make someone like me, a dedicated okra-hater, like this dish, you know he’s on to something! Shrimp po’ boys are loaded with fried shrimp and housemade pickles, while the chicken and “biscuit dumplings” is an original take on this favorite, with pieces of the biscuits floating in the rich gravy like de facto dumplings, and the smoked chicken surrounded by snap peas, carrots, and mushrooms. Shrimp ‘n’ grits, fried chicken, red beans & rice: it’s all there, waiting for your indulgence, and again I ask, why the hell not? Sometimes you just need a break from kale with pomegranate seeds and arugula/avocado whatevers. Throw caution to the wind and finish off with red velvet cake or beignets with a generous dusting of powdered sugar. 300 W. Camelback Rd, Phoenix. Tel: 602-200-0085.

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