This New Yorker was floored in Scottsdale. Not by the stars in the sky (which were bright and plentiful), not by the Prada boots in the stores (pretty and prolific) and not by the great hikes (which kept off the calories) — but by the bar scene. Libations in Scottsdale range from a haute, clarified buttermilk punch to cold beer outside by a campfire.
From putting on heels and dining in a cute house in Old Town to strapping on your bolo tie and learning to two-step at The Buffalo Chip, you have a lot of options in Scottsdale. The nightlife here would stand up to any you could find in London, San Francisco or Barcelona.
It was clear within seconds after we sat at the bar that locals come to Cowboy Ciao for culinary favorites. There was a flurry of excitement surrounding the arrival of the signature Stetson Salad — an undeniably delicious thing laden with a creamy pesto and buttermilk dressing and roughly 20 ingredients. “Everyone orders it,” my friend explained. The Truffled Mac & Cheese was another arrival very worth the calories.
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Yet as much as Ciao’s food creates addiction-level cravings, the cocktails go far beyond the food menu. The thoughtful skills of Rich Furnari, mixologist and general manager, render options like the Duchovny & Punching ($12). It resembles an innocent glass of Chardonnay in color. It’s not. It’s a Dolin dry vermouth and clarified buttermilk punch, which takes three days to create. It includes spices, Monkey Shoulder Scotch, Arrack, rum and tea. Come hungry and plan to leave tipsy.
DETAILS: www.cowboyciao.com; 7133 E. Stetson Dr.; 480-946-3111
The House Old Town Brasserie
Originally owned by a family in the 1940s, this darling white A-frame is the second oldest house in town. It’s no longer a dwelling, but a fantastic restaurant with a long, wooden front bar. Perfect for a date, the menu centers around craft cocktails with interesting but approachable ingredients. There’s a lot to love here, including the huge tree out back. It was once the family’s Christmas tree, planted in the yard in 1943.
DRINK: The Green Lantern — gin, green Chartreuse, Honeydew, lime juice, garnished with cracked pepper and a Serrano chili. $13
Buffalo Chip Saloon
If you want a clichéd but extremely fun view of Arizona nightlife, this one’s got it in boots, buckles and spurs. The indoor/outdoor venue covers 6,000 square feet and includes a bull-riding arena. I’m unsure of how their insurance company feels about it, but the bar allows regular bar patrons to try out bull riding on Wednesday nights.
It’s a great place to meet cowboys — both real and wannabe — and an even better place to drink. You can practice your two-step to a live country band inside or sip a beer by the campfire out back. It smells of sawdust, horses, leather and wood smoke. Don’t forget proper attire: tight jeans, a giant Stetson and a snap-front Western shirt.
SHOW UP: Wednesday and Friday nights for bull riding.
DETAILS: www.buffalochipsaloon.com/; 6811 Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek; 480-488-9118.