Have you ever stumbled on a new place in an area that you thought you knew? That just happened recently to my wife and I, and it was a delightful surprise.
My wife and I have been frequenting Old Town Scottsdale for a few years now, and being someone that prefers living in the mountains of Flagstaff and the simpler life that it provides, I admit going down to Scottsdale for a weekend can be quite relaxing. Getting some pool time and visiting the variety of restaurants is a nice treat, even if it is 110 degrees, so after about a year of searching, my wife and I finally took the plunge, and bought a small condo in Old Town Scottsdale, and we’ve spent the better part of the last two months going down to Scottsdale every weekend to spruce up our new place, and each time we went down there, we discovered new places in areas we thought we knew.
The first place we stumbled on was The Stockyards, ‘Arizona’s Original Steakhouse’, and what a steakhouse it is. The restaurant officially opened in 1947 and is now listed in the City of Phoenix Historic Register. Although much of the area surrounding the restaurant has changed considerably since it opened, much of the restaurant’s old west charm is still intact. The food was delicious, from the wine, the appetizers and main course, and worth every bit of sticker shock prices.The second place discovered is one the my wife found on instagram. Buck and Rider, by far, is my wife’s favorite. Located on Camelback road, this restaurant seems to have cornered the Phoenix shrimp cocktail market with their Rocky Point shrimp. For those of you not familiar with the area, Rocky Point is a popular Mexican destination for Arizonians located in the seaside town of Puerto Peñasco and has become well knows for their very large fresh shrimp that is caught daily and brought in from the Gulf of California, and Buck and Rider offers very large cocktail shrimp platters of the coveted Rocky Point shrimp. In addition to shrimp, Buck and Rider has wonderful menu that would rival many of the popular steakhouses. Be prepared to spend a handsome amount of money, but in my opinion, for wonderful date-night for the Mrs. and I, it’s worth every penny.
The third place we found, we literally found by shear happenstance. We were very fortunate to have bought a place in Old Town Scottsdale that is walking distance to so many of the local restaurants and shops, and one of those restaurants is our favorite breakfast spot The Breakfast Club. One Sunday morning, before heading back to Flagstaff, we walked to The Breakfast Club on a beautiful Scottsdale morning. It was 6:30am when we set out on our walk and the temperature was 78 degrees with just about zero humidity. A perfect morning for a walk. We set off on our 1 1/2 mile walk to our breakfast spot, enjoyed our breakfast, and headed back on foot to our newly purchased condo at around 7:30am. On our way back, for reasons I can’t explain, I took a turn and walked down a street that I must’ve driven past hundreds of times and stumbled upon the most beautiful courtyard patio with bistro tables off to one side, and in the far back section of the patio was a courtyard area with a fountain enclosed by an iron gate backdropped by a building reminiscent of an old Spanish mission with a sign at the top that read ‘Cafe Monarch’. The gate was open, and the space was so pretty that my wife and I started to take pictures with our iPhone. In that moment, a sous chef appeared from one door of the mission style building and asked, “Would you like to come and look inside?”. My wife and I jumped at the chance because we figured if it’s this pretty on the outside, we can’t imagine what it looks like on the inside, and we were right. Inside was such a beautiful restaurant space, and as someone that has worked in restaurants, loves food, loves to cook and a true lover of culinary arts, this was the place that some chefs dream of owning. Inside was an intimate twenty to thirty table top restaurant with spotless, glistening silverware, wine glasses, flatware and delicately folded linen napkins on every beautifully draped table with a magnificent chandelier in the center of the room and wonderful archways into nooks and crannies of the restaurant space. The sous chef showed us around, and the menu was as impressive as the space. The menu was $110 to $165 per person of a carefully selected four course dinner that would rival many Michelin rated restaurants. Turns out that by shear accident, my wife and I stumbled on what is considered one of the top 25 restaurants in America. Unfortunately my wife and I could not get the true experience of this restaurant because we encountered this place during “prep hours” (i.e. open only for dinner and not breakfast, brunch or lunch), but this will most definitely be the next date-night stop for the Mrs. and me.
I guess my point in all this is that you never know what exciting things you can discover right under your nose, but you never took the time to look. It can be a street you’ve driven past hundreds of times, a strip mall you pass everyday on your way to work, or a less-traveled path you barely notice because it’s “the long way home”. You never know unless you give yourself the breathing room to discover the things in your own backyard.