Proof Canteen: High-End Americana at The Four Seasons Scottsdale
In 2012, the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North used two million dollars to create an ode to travel and food along American highways. The money was well spent. Named Proof Canteen, the two food terms arouse nostalgic periods of American dining and drinking experience. The interior of the restaurant is an ode to American dining with a series of eating vignettes.
Upon arrival, guests are greeted complete with a foosball table. In another area, a customer handily throws darts. Part of the actual bar resembles a Western saloon but with interior design magic transforms into a 1950s ice cream parlor somewhere about halfway down. The kitchen pass is a faithful stainless steel imitation, complete with the flagging dining tickets. The 21st Century hipster hangout gets a little representation with tufted couches. Spaced throughout, six televisions alternately play American past-times such as North American basketball, football, and baseball. Lastly, right down the middle, are “train tracks” laid to move the bar tables around. It’s a carefully planned, expensive, and inventive tribute to American restaurant dining.
Over the last 15 years, the luxury Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts have been changing their dining atmospheres to appeal to a wider variety of people. Now, the hotels’ travelers are becoming more frequent diners as is the community in which they serve. For instance, Le Cinq at the Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris is a bastion of haute cuisine, complete with two Michelin-stars and a Parisian’s epicurean monument. Culina, the dining experience at the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills was named one of Esquire Magazine’s top ten new restaurants in 2010, and Proof Canteen is a neighborhood restaurant where 50 percent of the diners live in the area. All the aforementioned restaurants in the hotels feel more independently-owned then part of a Fortune 500. It’s been a very good move for the hotelier.
We were seated outside — past the faux-historical interior — where the remaining sunlight ricocheted off the granite of Pinnacle Peak, creating an almost surreal rose gold hue. Four Seasons Scottsdale is nestled at the foothills of Pinnacle Peak mountain range and it’s a showcase of the Southwestern United States topography — with massive canyons and inherent nature you won’t find elsewhere in the world. This dining view was better than any television screen.
It’s an interesting concept to create a restaurant around road food and its history. As a car adventurer, I know the cooking intimately from the neon-lit motels, distant diners and truck stops. During the late sixties and early seventies, my mother and I would drive from Los Angeles to Pelzer, South Carolina for the Christmas holidays. There would be deep stretches of road with nothing except an occasional sign saying, “Next gas station 250 miles.” It was one long black ribbon serving as our compass to my grandma’s Southern sausage biscuits and gravy. Along the way, an occasional Stuckey’s or a Howard Johnson’s would be a place to rest along the never-ending highways.
The meals were fortifying, cheap, and delicious. Eggs cooked with real butter; eggs with hash browns and bacon; pancakes made with buttermilk and topped with real maple syrup. It wasn’t fussy food, but it was economical and filling. Jukeboxes were at the each Formica tables, and my mother would give me a dime for three plays.