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Scottsdale Stories

Stunning Starters, Soups and Salads

Scottsdale isn't just a picturesque desert oasis known for its golf courses and luxurious resorts – it’s also a celebrated culinary destination. From bold Southwestern spices to Mediterranean influences, the city’s talented chefs are crafting palate-pleasing preludes to kickstart your meal. Here’s a taste of some of the best Scottsdale starters, soups, and salads that await you on your next visit.


Roasted Cauliflower at Cala

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Located within the Senna House Hotel, Cala specializes in modern coastal cuisine that weaves together the flavors of Greece, Spain, Italy and Morocco. Here, you’ll find a humble vegetable transformed into a Mediterranean masterpiece with this fantastic starter. Order this vegetarian delight and you’ll be rewarded with golden florets of cauliflower seasoned with turmeric and za'atar, served on a bed of romesco (a rich and nutty Spanish sauce made from roasted red peppers, walnuts, onions, garlic and tomatoes), drizzled with fragrant lemon aioli, and showered with crumbled feta cheese, sliced radishes, and toasted almonds.


Tostones at Canal Club

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Canal Club is located in The Scott Resort, a tropical Cuban oasis with rattan furniture, hanging wicker pendants, and tropical greenery designed to transport you to 1930s Havana. Here, tostones, beloved Caribbean snacks, get a delicious twist when served with a creamy black bean dip. It’s a delicious starter featuring a smooth blend of black beans, garlic, onion, jalapeños, and bacon, topped with pico de gallo, queso fresco, and cilantro, and served with green plantains that have been smashed and double-fried to crispy perfection.


Del Mar Duo at J.T. Prime Kitchen and Cocktails

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Step into this cozy and intimate space and you'll feel like you've stumbled upon a hidden treasure. What initially began as a fine-dining pop-up at chef-owner Alex Trujillo's J.T. Bros sandwich shop in Yuma, Arizona has now evolved into one of Old Town Scottsdale’s premier destinations. One of the star appetizers is a grilled seafood medley called the Del Mar Duo. Order this dish, and you’ll savor chile de árbol and garlic-kissed Portuguese octopus and Sea of Cortez shrimp perfectly complemented by a smoky chipotle aioli. It’s a match made in seafood heaven.


Veal Meatballs at Fat Ox

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Italian cuisine takes center stage at this sleek modern Italian steakhouse named after Italy’s Fiera del Bue Grasso (Fat Ox Fair). A signature dish which has been featured on the Food Network's show "Best Thing I Ever Ate,” the veal meatballs have been a staple starter since Fat Ox opened. Plated as a trio of tender meatballs nestled in a pool of Giusto's creamy organic polenta, smothered in a slow-simmered San Marzano tomato sauce and finished with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan, it’s pure comfort food that will transport your taste buds to Italy.


Chicken Fried Lobster Tails at Dominick’s Steakhouse

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If you're in the mood for indulgence, look no further than Dominick's Steakhouse, a swanky steakhouse with marble floors, glittering chandeliers and a rooftop dining room offering poolside views. While their dry-aged steaks are legendary, don't overlook Chicken Fried Lobster Tails, a signature starter. Showcasing split lobster tails coated in a light and crispy batter accented with Chesapeake Bay seasoning and served with a kick of green chile aioli, it's an upscale take on comfort food that will convince you to have surf with your turf.


Roasted Beet Gazpacho at Sel

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At Sel, chef-owner Brandon Levine’s acclaimed prix-fixe menus change with the seasons, which means he switches up his fantastic soups every few months. Come summer, you might be treated to a chilled carrot-ginger soup with poached lobster while winter may bring decadent Malpeque oyster stew with black truffle-potato puree. No matter the month, you’ll be guaranteed something special, such as Levine’s recent take on gazpacho. A vibrant beet soup is the canvas for a scoop of refreshing peach sorbet topped with a salad of Abbey Lee Farm tomatoes and velvety crumbles of local Crow's Dairy goat cheese. The final touch is an olive crunch made with dehydrated Kalamatas for a savory, salty contrast.


Serrano-Shrimp Salad at The Herb Box

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As its name implies, the Herb Box is a go-to destination for a garden-fresh, seasonally driven menu. Among the mouthwatering options catering to carnivores and vegetarians alike are creative salad offerings that stand out from the ordinary, such as the Serrano-Shrimp Salad. Imagine two hearty slices of whole-grain toast slathered with vegan yellow pepper aioli and smashed avocado and topped with delicately fried shrimp lightly coated in a sweet-hot serrano glaze. Next comes a generous mound of organic wild arugula and fresh fennel tossed with a zesty lemon-agave vinaigrette. The finishing touch? A crown of crispy pancetta, fried fennel and pickled serrano peppers.  

Christina Barrueta is an award-winning food, beverage and travel writer who has written for publications such as Phoenix Home and Garden, WhereTraveler, and Time Out. The author of Arizona Wine: A History of Perseverance and Passion and Phoenix Cooks cookbook, she has been inducted into the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame and recognized for awards including PHOENIX Magazine’s Best Food Blog. and Arizona Foothills magazine’s Favorite Food Website, Best Food Instagram, and Most Influential in Valley Food.