Best Old School Restaurants in the Valley
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We are in a land of transplants. Many of us Arizonans were not here 20 years ago. Most of the restaurants that currently make up the Scottsdale and Phoenix restaurant scene were not here either. The restaurants that were here deserve considerable credit. The landscape has evolved tremendously, and those that have stayed afloat have persevered through many fads and changes.
For some of the restaurants on this list, staying on top of the dining trends is how they have remained. For others, a chance to step back in time is the key to their patrons’ hearts. However, they managed to stay relevant, here are some of our favorite “old-school” restaurants.
It would be a disservice to have this list and not include Durant’s. The legacy of Durant’s on Central Avenue in Phoenix is so entrenched that there’s even a movie about it. Entering through the kitchen can make anyone feel like a goombah straight out of Goodfellas. Nostalgia alone can’t keep a restaurant alive for over 65 years, though. Durant’s provides formal service that is a throwback to a bygone era. The steaks stand up to any chophouse. Then, there are the martinis. I can’t tell you why a martini from Durant’s tastes just a little bit better. I can only tell you that it does.
Visit durantsaz.com for more info.
There’s a contrast between Durant’s in Phoenix and El Chorro in Paradise Valley. It is what someone familiar with the differences between the two areas might expect. The downtown Phoenix restaurant has been allowed to age mostly without resistance. The wrinkles show a bit more in a certain light, but the charm and class are still apparent. El Chorro, well, it has had some work done. It’s even a bit older than Durant’s, but the “surgery” performed over the years has done wonders for the appearance. El Chorro has one of the most underrated bar scenes in the area. As far as the food and drink go, check out our video review below!
Visit elchorro.com for more info.
Check out our video review of El Chorro:
Another restaurant that isn’t showing its age, Tomaso’s has been a destination for Valley residents and guests for 40 years. The vigor and passion still displayed by the eponymous owner also come through in the food. A mix of authentic Italian cuisine and New York-style Italian will keep everyone in your party happy. The decor has been updated numerous times over the years and looks fresh and modern. If you’re looking for a particular bottle of wine for your evening, you’re in luck. There are magnificent selections on Tomaso’s list from all of Italy’s wine-growing regions.
Visit tomasos.com for more info.
All of the restaurants chosen seem to have similar characteristics to the residents of the neighborhoods they are located in. Come to think of it, that’s probably a big part of their success. For AZ88, they’re the 30-year-old still killing it in Old Town Scottsdale every night of the week. You wouldn’t know it (Seriously? Tom is 30? I thought he was 22!), but AZ88 is coming into its fourth decade. When we went for our video review, we were pleased to discover what so many people have known for years. AZ88 is a go-to spot in Old Town for consistently good food and fresh cocktails. The best way to describe them would be to paraphrase the late, great Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. He said to be great, “manage like a wrestler, wrestle like a manager.” For AZ88, they’re a bar that has food like a restaurant and a restaurant that makes cocktails like a bar.
Visit AZ88’s directory listing for more info.
Check out our video review of AZ88:
Between the four restaurants listed, they have over 200 years experience serving the Valley. Judging from our experiences, they may have another 200 in the tank. What is your favorite old school Valley restaurant? Let us know in the comments below.
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Find Tony Pontecorvo online at @disguyyy