With its diverse culture, the Valley of the Sun (encompassing the cities of Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Mesa) is a mecca for food, attractions, and sightseeing. Here are some of the highlights that should be on everyone’s list when visiting this area.
Among the variety of eateries from which to choose is the new Pa’La Kitchen, located in a circa-1922 bungalow. Owner-chef Claudio Urciuoli utilizes wood-fired ovens to cook delicious vegetables, bread, and pita pizza crusts.
The Gladly Restaurant and Whiskey Bar is located in central Phoenix and offers an eclectic menu. Some of the exotic tastes here include duck meatloaf with a smoked cherry demi-glace and the popular Buttermooink burger, a mixture of Wagyu beef and pork served on a buttermilk bun. Save room for the moist chocolate olive oil cake.
A little oasis in the middle of Phoenix, The Orchard is a two-acre lot with a couple of eateries and an event center. Pomelo serves American style comfort food like French dip sandwiches, braised short ribs, and roasted chicken. Fresh, regional ingredients are creatively used, and they are proud of the sourdough mix used in all of the bread and pizza crusts.
Adjacent to Pomelo is Lucie’s Healthy Marketplace, a food market with unique, offbeat gifts, stationery, toys, and retro candy. They also have an array of breakfast choices and pastries available all day as well as more than a dozen scrumptious flavors of gelato. Lots of outdoor seating with mists of cool water keep you comfortable as you enjoy your fare.
Located in an old, iconic building on East Van Buren, Roland’s Café Market Bar creatively serves Mexican food using fresh, organic ingredients. Sonoran flour is used in the house made baked bread and tortillas, the latter of which are the basis for the burritos, quésadillas, and tostadas.
The Fresh Foodie Trail, an "agritainment" area outside of Mesa, is an interesting loop to explore and a foodie treasure hunt.
Stop at Jalapeño Buck’s for barbecue brisket, pork sandwiches, burritos, and homemade sauces. This eclectic building sits next door to B and B Citrus Farm Market, which is surrounded by 40 acres of navel orange trees. Homemade jams, candies, and crates of sweet, juicy oranges are available.
Joe’s Farm Grill is another family-owned business where 12 acres of land are dedicated to urban organic farming. The produce from the fields is used in the kitchen, and their motto: Common food done uncommonly well, aptly describes their in-house smoked barbecue pork and baby back ribs and burgers.
Queen Creek Olive Mill is a wonderful success story of a young family’s dream of starting an olive farm in Arizona. Now, the 20-year-old farm has 7,000 olive trees and produces 16 varieties of olives. Tour the olive farm, visit the restaurant, try their cupcakes made with olive oil, and stop in at their market, which offers a variety of pasta, sauce mixes, balsamic vinegar, and olive oils.
A short two-mile drive down the road will bring you to The Pork Shop, where customers can purchase flavorful and additive-free bacon, sausages, burritos, and pulled pork.
What once started off as a large family dairy farm, eventually evolved into this quirky ice cream shop in the town of Gilbert. Casey Stechnij and his staff at Udder Delights offer unique concoctions like Superstition Farm— chocolate ice cream with hazelnuts and Nutella.
Among Arizona’s beautiful hotel properties is the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. Desert trees and flora line the pathways that pass by gentle lagoons throughout the 60 lush acres.
With several on-site restaurants, swimming pools, a championship golf course, well-stocked gift shops, and the Well & Being Spa (offering an array of facials, massages, and scented steam rooms), there are plenty of things to see and do for all ages right on the property.
One of the restaurants, La Hacienda, serves Mexican food with a twist. Start with the guacamole sampler, a mixture of crab, pear, and pomegranates. Follow that with the lobster tacos or the Carne Asada Gringas (mini tacos with strip steak and Oaxaca cheese). Finish with the Tres Leche, topped with coconut frosting and a surprise middle layer of flan.
Located just a few miles away, the Musical Instrument Museum offers a sampling of all things melodic. This beautiful modern building houses several large rooms that display the diverse cultural history of musical instruments. The artist’s room contains exhibits of popular musicians with their personal instruments and costumes. Among this collection are Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison.
The Boulders Resort & Spa is tucked away among giant rock boulder formations with sweeping views of the Sonoran Desert. You can totally relax in the warm sun surrounded by cacti, flowers, and native trees or by one of the many pools on-site. The 33,000-square-foot, full-service spa offers a variety of mind-body treatments, including the organic signature facial, which left my skin feeling clean, soft, and glowing.
Five restaurants and cafés from casual to fine dining are available on the property. All cuisines use ingredients from the property's organic garden, and indoor or outdoor patios provide pleasurable seating in the warm Arizona sunshine.
Who can pass up award-winning nachos? We couldn’t when served a plate of cheesy nachos at the Spotted Donkey Cantina at The Boulders. One of their more unusual creations is the pork tenderloin served over green chili and mac and cheese. Also popular is the Poblano Chiles Relleno, filled with roasted pork, and cheddar and jack cheeses. All food is made from scratch, and guests and locals keep this casual, family-oriented restaurant hopping, even on weekdays.
Sometimes, the simplest things are the best. With great weather, good food, interesting diversions, and luxury accommodations, The Valley of the Sun is the ultimate vacation destination experience. Come to see why so many return to this area year after year.
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All transportation, accommodations, meals, and attractions were provided at no cost for this review. All of the opinions, however, are the authors.