Scene Over Cuisine: Six Valley Restaurants that Aren't All That

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Tedd Roundy
The scene at Casey Moore's.
For her latest review in the current edition of New Times, our restaurant critic Laura Hahnefeld headed to Scottsdale to check out the sushi -- and the scene -- at Pearl, a place better known for racy pictures of pearl thongs than anything racy on the plate. That got us thinking -- where else does the food take a backseat to fashion? We set our Chow Bella troops to work and trust us, it wasn't hard to come up with a list of six more spots. What do you think? Let us have it (er, share your thoughts) in the comments section.

6. Casey Moore's Oyster House

Someone has to say it, so it might as well be us -- Casey's, we absolutely love sitting out on your patio drinking beers with our friends on warm autumn days or hanging out on a Friday watching the swarms of hip twenty-somethings put on their weekly fashion show, but could you please change up your menu?! For as long as we can remember the Casey Moore's menu has gone unchanged (okay they did add hummus and a wrap of sorts about two years ago but that hardly qualifies as "change") and over the past few years it seems as though the quality of food in general has been on the decline. How exactly do you fuck up your food when you have been making the exact same things for over ten years?! Overcooked fries, terrible Caesar salads, clam chowder that would be better off used as wallpaper paste, a grilled cheese with bread so "toasted" it turns the roof of your mouth raw -- and that's just the patio menu. If you can't get fries right there is no way we are dropping $20 on a steak in the dining room. Besides, how would people check out our sweet new American Apparel deep-v if we're inside> This hipster haven is packed most nights of the week and the service is great but we gave up eating here long ago -- unless it's midnight and we have no other choice.

What other Valley hotspots cool off when it comes to the food? Find out after the jump. 

 

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RnR and Culinary Dropout looked so promising -- till they opened.
​5. Delux

We'll admit to standing outside of this uber-cool Phoenix burger shop to pay $10 for a juicy burger and a shopping cart full of crispy sweet potato fries at midnight on cold January night -- but that was back in 2004. We didn't know any better. These days, Biltmore area scenesters still flock to this late night burger joint but we think it's more for the delux sized scene and massive draft beer selection then the overpriced burgers. Don't get us wrong -- the burgers are okay but for $10 we need to you to put your heart back into them like when you first opened. We have been the victims of stale buns, forgotten bacon and crumbly overcooked meat and too many times. The fries and your house made aioli can only save you so many times, big D.

4. Bliss/reBAR

Bliss/reBAR seems like it got confused somewhere in between Trendybar Land and the world of serving actual food. There are always a few plaid-wearing hipsters lounging away at the outdoor bar, but inside the restaurant side things get a little more obscure. As much as we love feeling oh-so-cool for dining at a downtown Phoenix hidden treasure, the menu's underwhelming flavors and scant portion sizes make this spot much better for drinking than dining. 

3. Culinary Dropout

As the self-described rebel child of the Fox restaurant concept family, maybe we shouldn't be so surprised that Culinary Dropout is also the weakest link of Sam's bunch. Culinary Dropout is a train wreck combination of gastropub-meets-Scottsdale-hangout where young people with too much money can gather after a long day of shopping. With a menu dominated by alcohol, maybe we shouldn't be so offended by the armchairs that make eating food all but impossible. Although the decor certainly holds up to Fox standards, the atmosphere takes the main stage at this spot, leaving little room in the spotlight for the food.

2. Hula's Modern Tiki

The menu at Hula's features an array of island-themed dishes, but the shining stars (and what most people seem to be ordering anyway) are starters. Munching on a plate of crispy coconut shrimp rolls and spicy thai fish cakes while Joe Versus the Volcano plays on the wall certainly makes for an excellent midweek mind-vacation but if all you're looking for is an island escape in the middle of the desert, screw the food and drown your troubles in a big-ass Classic Mai-Tai.

1. RnR

People watching? Check. Two-story outdoor patio facing Scottsdale Road? Check. A Bloody Mary that makes you wish it was Sunday everyday? Check. Food that tastes as good as the girl with the lowcut shirt that is serving you looks? Not a chance. If you were to judge the food at this high-end sports bar by the masses waiting outside the front door for their chance at a table you would probably think that it was at least halfway decent.No one is really going to wait 30 minutes in 100 degree weather for mediocre food, right? Wrong. Whoever's in the kitchen is phoning this one in. Bland breakfast tacos with pale eggs that taste just like the ones from a cheap buffet and salsa that we swear came out of a jar labeled "Pace". Sandwiches that we have renamed "sad-wiches," which are served with a sparse amount of straight-outta the freezer bag fries and lets not forget about mac & cheese, which is beyond help.The only thing worth waiting for at this establishment is your chance to be seen in your sweet new bedazzled jeans and freshly bleached tips.

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28 comments
Thongs
Thongs

How i wish i could have a visit on this wonderful place. I'd like to spend some few times in here with my friends and family. 

Shooter McGaven
Shooter McGaven

Well done Amy, you really nailed it. Those places should be great, but suck. Bliss/ReBar is the new gay hangout, which is weird since my gay friends have much better taste in food.

Hulas has SO much potential, but they could fuck up a pop tart. For that matter, they don't even sell a good fruity-punchy tropical booze fest. They try to church it up too much, and fail.

TheCosmicJester
TheCosmicJester

Ah Delux! I remember back when I loved them. Then... they got complacent. It would be nice if they remembered how to put a good sear on a burger patty. And while they're at it, toast the buns.

I'm trying to hold myself back on Hula's; I'm pretty sure the owner's ulcer is aggravated by the mere mention of my name already. They sure do a bang-up business over there... would it kill them to take the pineapple juice out of the Mai Tai, and put some absinthe in the Dr. Funk? 

No mention of the scene-est of scene sushi joints, Stingray? From badly made sushi to their godawful "political" signs everywhere in autumn to the number 4-laden decor of the original location that nearly had me literally running out the door screaming when I noticed (look up Japanese superstition about the number, it's like having a restaurant with thirteens everywhere to Americans), why the hell does anyone eat there?

DiningCAM
DiningCAM

This list is correct.  The places they name do indeed suck now, even if they began doing it right. 

And readers are right... LGO and VIGs should be added.

Where is LISA G when we need her?!!

comfortable in my own skin
comfortable in my own skin

 I've stepped foot onto Planet DeMarco twice (once at Postino Central, once at Windsor), and twice I've turned on my heel and left a moment later. At 49, maybe my cool quotient's seriously on the wane. But then again, I'm old enough to recognize The-Emperors-New-Clothes Syndrome at work when I feel it down to my food & beverage bones. It's Abercrombie & Food, and it either is or isn't your style.   

 CONCERNED FOODIE
CONCERNED FOODIE

Hi. Just pointing out that in related content, you can find an article about favorite nacho spots in phoenix which includes Bliss/Rebar?!? Cross reference anyone?

Ptelvie
Ptelvie

It's nice to hear some real shit from new times. Y'all should do the same for music. Lots of "scene bands" need to be told the truth for once. "You look good but you suck"!

DishAZ
DishAZ

Sad-wiches.  That's funny.

Jay
Jay

Hula's Modern Tiki is such a cute space with inedible food.  What a shame.  This list is pretty spot-on.

Concerned Reader
Concerned Reader

Yet these are places the New Times hypes the shit out of in every other article..

Jenna_adamson
Jenna_adamson

I resent RnR being on this list :( I agree some of their breakfast items are bland, but both of their scrambles are really good, healthy, and they don't skimp on portions. My favorite items on their menu are the ahi taco appetizer, and their salad with gorgonzola, apples and prickly pear vinaigrette. And the bloody marys are to die for!

Angela B.
Angela B.

I agree with most. I would also add LGO and Hannys. I have been to Bliss/Rebar many times for drinking. Drinking can lead to hunger and for what the concept is, the food is suprisingly good. I question if you have actually ate there, because the portions are pretty dam big! They also do a Sunday supper once a month that is completely different than the usual menu. I wouldn't write Bliss off so easily.

Jstamper7
Jstamper7

Mint should  be right there.

Jon
Jon

La Grande Orange should be at the top of this list.

Schadenfriend
Schadenfriend

This is very spot on for all six places. Great places to have a drink and people watch, but I've sworn off eating at almost all of them (Delux, you're on thin ice).  And RnR is rightly in the top spot. If you wanted a restaurant to embody a Scottsdale-dweller's style/substance disconnect, it would be RnR.

Vicelord
Vicelord

I've hated all the food I've tried at Hula's, and the service is beyond surly. I've had problems, and others I know have had similar complaints. Why is Hula's on the list? they must have stopped advertising with NT.

Occupythis
Occupythis

I was in there two days ago. Coffee like roof water - Denny's has better joe. Oh but wait! The counter help was a bitchy 20something, which you don't see anywhere else in this town. Not. Again.

Erica O.
Erica O.

Agreed. Even though I lived right down the street from LGO for years, I probably visited the place to eat only a couple times. Brunch and lunch are overpriced and underwhelming, and dinner even more so. Super cute concept, mediocre execution. Not that you would know by the hoards of devotees. 

Vicelord
Vicelord

hm... I stop by LGO for a cup of coffee almost every day before work. Never once have I had a bad cup, and a few of the girls behind the counter learned my drink and my name after just a few visits. I notice them greeting other regulars by name as well on a regular basis. I've been a regular at many places where they act like they've never seen me before, but LGO has always been very friendly to me.

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