AOL PICK from our Editors
With Sedona providing so much nourishment for the soul, feeding the body never held much priority. Restaurants tended to be of the hearty, rib-sticking variety common throughout the American West. That began to change during the last 10 to 15 years, as a more eclectic cuisine emerged. More chef-operated eateries sprang up, putting a creative, Southwestern twist on old favorites. Recently there’s been a return to the agricultural roots of the Verde Valley, with restaurants using locally grown food and pairing meals with locally produced wine. Jeff Smedstad of Elote Café and Ivan Flowers of Fournos are examples of award-winning chefs leaving large venues behind to open up their dream restaurants.
Neighborhood: West Sedona Price: Expensive
With only 10 tables this place rewrites the book on intimate, yet, delightfully, it never feels crowded. Must be the personal touch, since Chef Ivan Flowers does all the cooking himself in an open kitchen and makes a point to stop by every table. The warm bread with a divine parmesan-garlic-spinach dipping sauce sets the tone for the vibrant Mediterranean-Italian-New American creations set to follow. The creamy, mushroom-infused lobster bisque is always a crowd-pleaser. And if you can catch Barramundi on the menu, pan seared with skin on in a rosemary citrus glaze with English peas and roasted tomatoes, order it immediately. Cash and checks only. Fournos opens for dinner only on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday.
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Neighborhood: West Sedona Price: Expensive
Schedule your meal so you arrive during daylight hours. Views from here are some of the most amazing in Sedona, and with an outdoor patio and walls of windows inside there’s not a bad seat in the house. Located at Enchantment Resort, reservations are a must and you’ll have to pass through the security gate. Dress code is business casual, collared shirts for the men and no denim. The menu changes regularly to take advantage of seasonal ingredients. The cold smoked buffalo tenderloin is a mainstay and comes with quail stuffed with house-ground quail sausage and sweet potato risotto. Yavapai also serves breakfast, lunch and a Sunday champagne brunch for $49 that will keep you full 'til Monday. The brunch buffet includes a red meat station with filets and top sirloins, a sold seafood station overflowing with caviar, crab, shrimp and smoked salmon, made-to-order omelets, gourmet waffles and more.
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Neighborhood: Taquepaque Price: Expensive
When celebrating a special occasion, many of the locals visit Rene at Tlaquepaque. The wait staff practices that stealthy ninja-style of service by simply materializing at appropriate moments. The interior is formal, but not stuffy, with a small patio extending into a courtyard of the shopping village. Dress is resort casual, but if you get the urge slick up a bit, this is the place to do it. Colorado rack of lamb carved tableside is their signature dish, but a delicious surprise is the mixed seafood grill, with a nice blending of sauces surrounding shrimp, scallops and lobster. Rene also serves a less-formal lunch menu.
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Neighborhood: Village of Oak Creek Price: Moderate
One of the newest additions to Sedona’s dining scene proves to be one of the best. The sophisticated décor matches well with a menu filled with creatively fine-tuned classics. Duck cassoulet, a crisp leg of duck confit, braise of house sausage, cannellini beans and pork shoulder, is a slightly spicy dish with the beans adding a depth of flavor behind the rich meats. Even the simple burger proves not so simple. Ground veal and ground sirloin are blended in a hand-formed patty and topped with Irish cheddar. Fork in the Road serves a tapas menu with cocktails starting at 4PM, an hour before opening for dinner.
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Neighborhood: Highway 179 Corridor Price: Moderate
No matter what else you order start with the signature elote, fire-roasted corn fresh off the cob, lightly tossed with spicy mayo and cotija cheese. It’s based on a common street food in Mexico, but Chef Jeff Smedstad gives it a devastatingly tasty spin. All the dishes reverberate with rich, complimentary flavors in this non-traditional Mexican restaurant. Like the lamb adobo, a braised lamb shank wrapped in a poignant sweet and spicy ancho chile sauce. Elote Café also uses local products when possible, including wines from nearby vineyards. They only accept reservations for parties of five or more in this dinner-only establishment so if you don’t arrive early (around 6PM), expect to wait. Fortunately, they also serve of the best margaritas in town, which makes waiting so much more pleasant.
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Neighborhood: West Sedona Price: Moderate
Soon as you walk in to Dahl & DiLuca, the romance theme grabs you. The villa-like interior is adorned with a silver and pink palette and lights turned way down to Swinging Bachelor Pad setting. They dish up crazy rich and intensely flavorful Italian food that's so authentic, you almost expect to see Tony Soprano walk in with his goomah. Try the Fettuccine Napoli, homemade fettuccine with prawns and mushrooms cradled in an exquisite garlic and tomato sauce. Or tackle their signature dish, Pollo al Rosmarino, boneless chicken breasts sautéed with pancetta, mushrooms and onions in a delicate rosemary-marsala wine sauce. Reserve at least two days in advance.
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Neighborhood: Uptown Price: Budget
Sitting one block from the Uptown shops, this simple eatery serves up sandwiches so towering they should require a building permit. Quality ingredients are piled atop bread baked fresh that morning by the owner. The roasted turkey with red leaf lettuce, cream cheese, avocado and cranberry sauce is a private Thanksgiving bursting in your mouth. They’re only open until 2PM and sometimes run out of ingredients sooner, so don’t dawdle. And yes, the cookies are homemade, too.
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Neighborhood: West Sedona Price: Budget
Don’t expect any frills with this intimate place. You won’t find creekside dining or red rock views. At Thai Spices, it’s all about the food, which is unrelentingly fresh and healthy, with plenty of vegetarian options. The daily lunch specials provide diners with nearly a dozen under-$10 bargains. They are known for their complex curry dishes. The almond red curry vegetables are a heady, exotic combo. The sweetness of the coconut milk undercuts the sharpness of the curry rolling across your taste buds in waves. Take seriously the back half of their name. They spice dishes according to your wishes, but are not bashful about bringing the heat.
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Neighborhood: West Sedona Price: Budget
With all due respect to the sunrise, Sedona’s day doesn’t officially begin until the Coffee Pot opens. It’s a bustling place, but even when packed you won’t have long to wait for the seasoned staff to shuttle you to a table. The Coffee Pot is famous for 101 different omelets, each big as a thermos and stuffed with a medley of sumptuous ingredients. Try them all, but unless your name is Elvis, are you seriously tempted by a PBJ and banana omelet? Stick with traditional selections like feta cheese, olives, tomatoes and onions, or venture towards more daring combos like shrimp, avocado and bacon. They also plunk down a personal pot of java on the table. They’ve got a full menu of burgers, sandwiches and salads, but nearly everybody comes for the breakfast, served all day.
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Neighborhood: Highway 179 Corridor Price: Budget
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Aptly named, this little joint is tucked away among a strip of shops, abutting the creek draped by cottonwoods and Arizona sycamores. Views from the deck are really splendid, with a nice close-up of Snoopy Rock. Red and white checkered tablecloths adorn the tables and set the tone for the casual Italian fare. The Hideaway grinds their own sausage for various dishes, including a zesty Sicilian sausage soup. Portions are large and tasty, even if they’re occasionally a little heavy handed with the sauces. The reasonable prices and great views make this a popular spot for the locals as well. They often have printable coupons on their website and are open daily for lunch and dinner.
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