Healthy Eats vs Cheats in Scottsdale

By local contributor
Kelly Triplett

They’re the classic dining dilemmas – you’re upping your nutrition game, your husband, well, not so much. You’re a vegan, your date is a card-carrying carnivore. Or your kid won’t eat any protein besides chicken nuggets, but all you want is a family dinner that doesn’t involve a ball pit.  Where do you go – and what do you order – to keep everyone happy? Here are four Scottsdale restaurants where healthy eaters and cheaters can dine together in perfect harmony.


Citizen Public House

This Old Town Scottsdale staple is a nod to public houses of ‘yore. Opt for a mahogany booth and sip on craft cocktail before diving into the American-inspired menu.

HEALTHY: While it’s nearly impossible to pass up CPH’s Bacon-Fat Heirloom Popcorn, keep it light with the Roasted Cauliflower entrée. Moroccan spices add a mild heat, and I love the barley salad that packs an extra punch of vegetables with zucchini and onions.  

CHEAT: If you just can’t shake your craving for some homestyle cooking, order the Buttermilk Chicken. It’s fried to a perfect crisp and accompanied by a side of mascarpone and chili risotto. (Grains and cheese? Yes, please!)


Salty Sow

I was hooked on this modern gastropub as soon as I saw their tagline – “Swine + Wine + Beer.” Because, let’s face it, everything is better with bacon. But you might have to plan more than one meal here – they’ve got a lot more to offer than pork in all forms.

HEALTHY: My hubby has never been a big fan of beets, so I order them out every chance I get. Salty Sow doesn’t disappoint with its Beet & Goat Cheese Salad that’s topped with Marcona almonds, shaved fennel, balsamic reduction, pickled red onion, orange, grapefruit and citrus vinaigrette. To help round out my meal, I ask for a side of quinoa and lentils.

CHEAT: If counting calories isn’t your thing, the Duroc Pork Belly is for you. As if uncured, unsmoked bacon wasn’t enough, the meal is served with cheese grits, fresh vegetables, mustard jus and crispy prosciutto. Hey, you can always hit the gym later, right?


Barrio Queen

Get a taste of authentic Mexico City cuisine at Old Town’s Barrio Queen, which serves up traditional street food favorites. Whichever side of the healthy/cheat fence you’re dining on, don’t pass up the opportunity to try one of their hand-crafted margaritas. Choices include the Jalapeno Margarita, Skinny Chola and Ginger Fever, just to name a few.

HEALTHY: Skip the salad and head straight for the Queen’s amazing ceviche. Jumbo shrimp is cooked in a spicy broth that is then mixed with pico de gallo, cucumbers, lime juice and cilantro before being topped with avocado.

CHEAT: Throw caution (and calories) to the wind and start with the Coctel de Elote (grilled corn cut from the cob and topped with butter, mayo, aged cotija cheese, Mexican hot sauce, cilantro and lime).  Follow that up with the Enchiladas de Mole, tender pulled chicken mixed with Oaxaca cheese and topped with mole poblano sauce, toasted sesame seeds, queso fresco, red onions, cilantro and crema fresca.


The Vig at McDowell Mountains

If you’re traveling with the family, put The Vig at the top of your list. This kid-friendly restaurant has an outdoor patio with live music and yard games like cornhole.

HEALTHY: You won’t feel guilty at all when you polish off the Blackened Fish Tacos at The Vig. Small, street-style tortillas are stuffed with white fish, spicy slaw, pico de gallo and cilantro before being drizzled with a tomatillo-avocado salsa. You’ll be licking your fingers in no time!

CHEAT: Children of all ages will love digging into the Kiddos menu at The Vig. Choose from mac ‘n’ cheese, chicken fingers, grilled cheese, sliders or grilled chicken with broccoli. Not a kid but feeling the urge to eat like one? Not a problem – The Vig offers the kids’ menu to adults for a small upcharge.