Restaurants & Bars 11

Phoenix - Barrio Cafe, Digestif, El Chorro, and Tradicones. Sedona - Cafe Elote, Stakes and Sticks, Cucina Rustica (long)

Rubee | May 19, 2008 04:36 PM

We had friends from Boston visiting for a long weekend, so had a whirlwind of good meals in the past few days.

Our first stop after picking up my girlfriend and her husband from the airport Thursday night was Barrio Cafe. It was also our first time here so it was nice to share it with friends. We arrived at 9:30 so there was no wait at all, and we were immediately greeted and seated. We had great service from Ricardo, the owner's brother. After margarita orders all around, Ricardo made us up a delicious table-side guacamole with the unique addition of dried cranberries. One of my favorites of the night was up next - the quesadilla de langosta borracha. We decided to share this as an appetizer, and it was so good - Open faced tacos topped with chunks of grilled lobster flavored with garlic and tequila and garnished with queso. Entrees were very good too. Between the four of us we tried the pollo en mole, cochinita pibil, and the pescado del mar - halibut filet topped with a creamy seafood sauce of shrimp, scallops, crab and lobster with chorizo and poblano peppers. Too full, but we still let Ricardo talk us into splitting a delicious dessert - churros with cajeta and ice cream. A great first visit to Barrio Cafe, I'm sure we'll be back.

For lunch on Friday, we decided to go over to Southbridge and visit one of my favorite restaurants - Digestif. Well, I had only been on one visit previously, but this second visit confirmed it! It was too hot to sit outside on the patio, so instead we enjoyed a leisurely 3-hour lunch inside with entertaining and friendly service from Nuria. She was great, and really contributed to us enjoying ourselves so much. We ordered lots to share, including two favorite dishes from my last visit - the addictive PLT (house-made Korobuta pancetta, heirloom tomato and lettuce with aioli on a crispy English muffin), and the "Farm to Table"(creamy pureed sunchokes topped with fresh fava beans, roasted mushrooms, and shavings of pecorino, served with a small shot glass of flavorful mushroom tea). Both were big hits. In fact, my husband said next time he's just going to order two PLTs as his meal. Everything else was excellent too. We loved the soppressata from the chacuterie list, grilled Sicilian Caesar salad, mushroom crostata, and tried two pasta dishes - the ricotta and squash raviolo with browned butter, and the braised short rib canneloni with horseradish cream, Tuscan kale and Fernet Branca drizzle.

Also, I'm a huge fan of the chef's chacuterie and so I was thrilled when I had read on Chow Bella in the Phoenix New Times (I'll link below) that they were selling it for take-home also. I was surprised, though, when they said we were the first table to ask to buy some. We were introduced to the charming and friendly manager Pavlev, who then brought Chef Curry out for us to meet and ask questions. What a treat to talk to such an enthusiastic chef. I found out that there are always other charcuterie items and terrines that change and so are not on the menu - you have to ask what they have that day (I think this weekend it was headcheese and a pork duet). What a bonus! I ended up heading home with a wonderful bag of treats - that fantastic Korubuta pancetta, head cheese, and more of the soppresatta. The chef was kind enough to also add some house-made sauerkraut along with mustard to round out my bag of goodies. I felt like I had won a prize ; ) We snacked on this wonderful food all weekend. We loved this place - the atmosphere, the food, such a talented chef, and friendly and gracious staff. Nice cocktail and wine list too.

We had planned Happy Hour and dinner at El Chorro, but were still full from our lunch at Digestif and skipped Happy Hour. Six of us met at El Chorro to catch up and enjoy the sunset on that beautiful patio with its old-school historical Phoenix atmosphere. Our waitress, Missy, was friendly and patient with our rowdy group. We started off with simple appetizers to share - crab cakes and shrimp cocktail. For entrees, I stayed with what I had ordered last time, the fruit gazpacho to start, and the half-portion of the fried lobster. Instead of the garlich mash, however, I opted for Missy's recommendation - the skinny fries dusted with cheese and tossed with chives (they also have steak fries). These were very good, better than the other options. Others at our table were very happy with their aged, mesquite-grilled prime rib, while my friend really enjoyed her shrimp and pasta with green chili pesto.

This was our friends' first visit to Arizona, so now that we had visited downtown Phoenix, Scottsdale, and PV, a day trip to Sedona was requested. Saturday was also the Preakness and we were hoping to do a little bit of sightseeing before the race went off. However, we got a late start so drove directly to Los Abrigados Lodge in Sedona to have lunch and watch the races at Stakes and Sticks. I was meeting a friend who also happened to be in Sedona, so it was a convenient place for her to join the four of us over some wine, seafood platter, shrimp flatbread, and their tasty shredded beef nachos. It's a steak house broken up into smaller rooms, with a large bar area, friendly service, and where we all won some money (which came in very handy for all these meals out!)

We wanted to be sure to get a table on the patio at Cafe Elote so we made plans to try to get there close to its opening time (5:00). I loved this place the last time we visited, and it was just as good on this second visit. Our waiter was great. Mundo was engaging and friendly, and even remembered us from our previous visit. Well-made cocktails too. I tried two different ones and would recommend both - the blood orange margarita, and the passionfruit caiparinha. For appetizers, we ordered the guacamole and two favorites - elote (creamy grilled corn with lime and cotija), and roasted mushrooms wiith chipotle cream. For entrees, I loved what everyone else ordered - shrimp chilaquiles with salsa verde and crema , but my wow dish was recommended by Mundo. I just loved the braised lamb shank - falling apart tender in a pool of rich adobo with lots of depth. It will be hard not to order that again.

Well, as if we hadn't already overloaded on food since my friends arrived, my gf's husband decided we needed to stop and check out a place in the Village of Oak Creek on the way home. He randomly chose a restaurant because the patio looked nice with its flickering lights. Unfortunately, the patio and restaurant were full but we lucked out with a couple of seats at the bar. It turned out to be Dahl and Diluca, and I remember hearing good things about the food. This spot turned out to be a winner. Our bartender, Ron, was excellent - immediately warm and welcoming at such a bustling place, efficient, helpful and friendly. We decided to split one appetizer, and on his recommendation ordered the affinato (grilled radicchio wrapped in proscuitto and stuffed with mozzarella and fig marmalade). What a delicious combination. We were now so full, but when Ron saw how much we enjoyed it, he treated us to an order of one of his other favorites - Albondigas de Casa (tender small meatballs in the "Chef's special sauce"). Another winnner. The staff was so friendly too - without us even mentioning it, as stools opened up, they would bring one over so the men wouldn't have to stand. What service. Also, at one point Ron introduced us to the chef and mentioned how they were working on a duck dish for the next evening's special. When I mentioned how much I love duck, the chef offered to make an order of the dish for me right then. Such nice people. It was a great way to end such a fun day, and between the atmosphere, menu and the friendly staff, this goes on our lists of favorites in this area.

Well, all great trips come to an end and our friends had to fly out Sunday night. Our final stop was to take them to the Phoenix Ranch Market and dinner at Tradiciones. Great way to end a trip to Phoenix. We walked around that amazing Mexican market, and then finished up with mariachis, margaritas and dinner next door at Tradiciones - queso fundido with chorizo and a sampler plate to share, and then enchilada plates, burritos and burros for the others, while I had the fish tacos. I love that this is so close to the airport too for pre or post-flight stops. One of these days we have to eat at the market itself.

Digestif selling homemade charcuterie to go

Barrio Cafe
2814 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

1602 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

El Chorro Lodge
5550 E Lincoln Dr, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

7114 E. Stetson Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85351

Stakes & Sticks
160 Portal Ln, Sedona, AZ 86336

Elote Cafe
771 State Route 179, Sedona, AZ 86336

Cucina Rustica
7000 Highway 179 # A126, Sedona, AZ

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