Yesterday, I was given the opportunity to attend Dishcrawl Phoenix‘s Neighborfood event in Old Town Scottsdale. The whole concept of the event was very unique in my opinion: Gather at a specific restaurant, get a map of other restaurants within walking distance, and walk to each restaurant to try a featured dish at each one. What a cool concept! I don’t venture over to Old Town Scottsdale very often (if ever), so this was a really neat chance for me to try a whole slew of new restaurants that I may have otherwise passed up. Ready for the deliciousness? Here we go!
The day was pretty warm, so I had reservations about walking around all day but it turned out to be quite nice, with a good breeze blowing to ward off the heat. Everyone who was attending Neighborfood met up at Brat Haus for check-in and, the best part, to sample German soft pretzels with cheese sauce! I was expecting a small pretzel, or a couple of pretzel nuggets, but I was instead presented with a GIANT soft and chewy pretzel, perfectly bronzed and chock full of crunchy salt.
The cheese sauce that came with the pretzel was so damn delicious. It was super creamy, with a good hit of beer. By now it was 2 PM, and I hadn’t eaten anything all day so that I could be well-prepared for all the food I was sure to scarf down. I had to pace myself with the pretzel so I wouldn’t get too full for the next tasty treat awaiting me!
Butter and Me Bakeshop was in full force, with a little booth set up at Brat Haus, handing out miniature cupcakes. They were the cutest things! One was coconut-lime and the other was a chocolate cupcake with brown sugar buttercream. I’m a huge fan of all things coconut and lime, so I was greatly looking forward to this cupcake. The coconut-lime was comprised of a little lime-flavored cake, topped with super fluffy lime buttercream and some toasted coconut flakes. The cake had great texture, and great lime flavor to boot. I wish that there was more coconut flavor, but when presented with adorably tiny cupcakes, I don’t usually complain. The chocolate-brown sugar cupcake was also quite good, with a light chocolate cake and flavorful, if slightly grainy, buttercream. The frosting had a light butterscotch flavor from the brown sugar and butter, but I felt that the cake and the frosting were competing with, rather than complementing, each other. This being said, both were still quite tasty little cupcakes.
My next stop was RnR Restaurant and Bar. What a lively place this was! The restaurant is a two story joint with both patio and balcony seating, and a live DJ spinning tunes while the diners around him chat, chow down and drink to their hearts’ content. I made my way up the stairs to the second floor balcony and was seated and given a little sampler plate with a piece of mini steak bruschetta. It was quite pretty to look at, and the flavors melded well, but the steak was a tad well-done and the bread was a little stale. The little slice of baguette was topped with grilled steak pieces, caramelized red onion, and a sort of garlic mayo. This bruschetta may have been improved if the mayo were between the bread and the steak to provide more well-balanced moisture. If I knew the steak wouldn’t be overcooked, I could totally see ordering this in the future.
Next up was a little restaurant and bar tucked away from Scottsdale Rd., called Praying Monk. It was dark and cool inside and perfect for a warm day, and the dish that this place was serving up was fried cauliflower with hot sauce and bleu cheese crumbles, along with a small glass of Monk Brew beer. I think the beer was an amber ale, but I’m not too well-versed on beer styles, as I wouldn’t call myself a beer fan. However, I could have drank the entire glass without a second thought. The little cauliflower dish that was served went very well with the beer, I thought. It seemed like a vegetarian riff on a buffalo wing, though if the floret of cauliflower had any crunch, it disappeared before it was served. The flavor was excellent though, deliciously caramelized with just the right amount of hot sauce and little crumbles of blue cheese to mellow out the heat.
After this spicy little treat, I was ready for more sugar! Thankfully, my next stop was The Gelato Spot. Have I mentioned my love of ice cream? I believe I have. So, I knew I would have no qualms about digging into a cup of gelato on a warm day. I had my pick of any of the flavors in their gorgeous gelato case, and I went with pineapple. Before I tell you about the wonders of their pineapple gelato, I got to sample a small taste of their cheesecake flavor as well. You could scoop this cheesecake gelato into a graham cracker crust and I’d eat it happily. Super rich and creamy, with the perfect amount of cream cheese tang. Now, on to the pineapple gelato! Holy crap. Imagine the best, sweetest pineapple you’ve ever tasted, frozen and mixed up with a little milk and cream, and you’d have this gelato. The pineapple flavor was true as could be, with no artificial flavor whatsoever. Nothing but amazing, floral, sweet-tart pineapple flavor. I’m definitely going back for more of this sometime. The Gelato Spot had so many other beautiful flavors, it was hard to choose, so I’ll have to pig out when I go back, and try a few different ones.
From here, I wandered up to Cowboy Ciao. I was excited to try this restaurant, as I’d heard great things about it (as well as rave reviews of their desserts and pastries). Cowboy Ciao was closed for regular service at the time most of us Dishcrawlers were there, so the place was nice and quiet and almost tranquil, even. I sat down and was presented with a small plate containing their Stetson Chopped Salad, a regular menu item, but in a scaled-down portion. I’m a sucker for a good salad, and this salad looked very promising. Beautiful, neat rows of grilled chicken (their menu also lists options of smoked salmon or avocado instead of chicken), shelled pumpkin seeds, peppery arugula, soft pearl cous cous, crunchy dried corn, asiago cheese, sweet black currants, balsamic-marinated tomatoes, all tied together with a light buttermilk pesto dressing. There were so many flavors and textures going on in this salad that I wondered if some elements would get lost in the shuffle, but every single ingredient shone through and made its presence known. The pesto dressing was the standout to me, though, and thankfully didn’t cover up or hide any of the salad’s ingredients. To my surprise and delight, next to my table setting there was a little recipe card for this very salad! Even though I could now make it at home, I am totally jonesing to go back to Cowboy Ciao and get myself a whole plate of this amazing salad.
Just a few steps away from Cowboy Ciao is the cute, tidy storefront for Classic Cakes and Confections. This particular location in Old Town Scottsdale has only been there for about a month and a half, with it’s flagship store located at 32nd and Shea in Phoenix. The little store was decorated very appealingly with little shelves stocked with pretty cellophane bags of candies, large and lushly decorated examples of showstopping wedding and celebration cakes, and a neat little pastry case with mountainous fruit tarts, glossy petit fours and all manner of sweet treats. The sweet treat I would be sampling was their chocolate cake truffle. Essentially a cake pop without the stick, the large cake truffle was very rich and chocolaty, with a moist interior and thin and snappy chocolate shell to contrast the soft cake. This little treat would make the perfect dessert after a meal, when one just wants a small bite of something sweet and not a whole wedge of cake.
After 7 relatively small and tasty bites, I was getting a little full, but I was excited about the eighth and final stop on my eating tour of Old Town Scottsdale — STAX Burger Bistro!
The featured item at STAX was their buffalo slider. I had eaten buffalo burgers in the past on two separate occasions, hating one and loving the other, so I was betting on STAX to provide the definitive answer. Fortunately, I lucked out and rather enjoyed their little buffalo burger. Served on a fluffy bun (potato bun, probably), with some leafy greens, a mild melted white cheese (swiss?), tangy barbecue sauce and a perfectly crisp fried onion ring, the buffalo burger patty was very flavorful and rich. The patty managed to be quite moist even though it was cooked to medium-well, and the meat was not too loosely packed. It had a great charred backyard burger flavor that went very well with the barbecue sauce and the onion ring. My only gripe was that the cheese could have been a stronger variety, or perhaps a thicker slice of whatever it was, because the flavor got a little lost among the other stronger flavors present. No matter. In the words of Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, “This is a tasty burger!”
I am so fortunate to have attended Dishcrawl’s Neighborfood! There were some definite favorites in the bunch, with a few restaurants I’ll be adding to my list of local places with great food. Don’t be afraid to venture out into your own neighborhood and try some restaurants you’ve never been to. You might just find your new favorite place!