By Alison Bailin Batz
The Verde Valley – notably Sedona, Cottonwood, Cornville and Jerome – boasts both award-winning restaurants and rising culinary stars. If taking a road trip up north to escape our Valley’s heat, here are some can’t-miss foodie finds.
Javelina Leap Vineyard, Winery & Bistro
Most people recognize the Javelina Leap name thanks to its award-winning wines, known for taking home top honors at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. But tucked behind the winery’s tasting room is a hidden culinary gem. Its bistro and private patio garden are small but mighty in both charm and flavor. The menu features imported artisan meats and cheeses, tapas and handmade chocolate truffles. www.javelinaleapwinery.com.
Up the Creek Bistro and Wine Bar
More than 60 years ago, Up the Creek was a small-town grocery store and gas station. Then, in the 1970s, this piece of Arizona history was transformed into a restaurant. The present-day owners are dedicated to continuing its legacy while elevating the menu. This delightful restaurant now offers high-concept dishes like brandied duck liver pate and venison and lavender-infused chicken as well as comfort foods including ribs and steak. www.upthecreekaz.com.
Nic’s Italian Steak & Crab House
Every aspect of this dinner hot spot is inspired by the look, feel and tastes one would find at an old-school East Coast steakhouse. Think polished brass, deep green upholstery, and a mahogany bar you would expect to see in a classic mob movie. The food is as rich as the decor and includes standout items such as New Zealand green mussels, creamy carbonara, bone-in rib-eye steak, lobster, and clams Portofino. www.nicsaz.com.
The hand-stretched, wood-fired pizzas are the stars here, though the craft cocktails, spinach pie, chocolate chip cookie skillet, bocce court, and massive fire pit with seating for more than two dozen guests are pretty impressive too. Executive chef Michelle Jurisin initially learned to cook from her Italian grandmother, so when she started planting the seeds of Pizzeria Bocce she wanted to do it right – she traveled to Naples, Italy, to become certified in the art of pizza by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, AVPN. www.boccecottonwood.com.
Crema Craft Kitchen & Bar
This colorful breakfast and brunch cafe, known for its ultra-cool courtyard featuring a bright orange bar and whimsical umbrellas shading each table from both sun and rain, excels at exceeding the expectations of the most discriminating of tastes. Spice lovers will delight in the chilaquiles and chorizo biscuits and gravy. Traditionalists can treat themselves to Benedicts, pancakes and seasonal frittatas, and those with a sweet tooth will be well-satisfied by the bread pudding French toast and banana Nutella crepes. www.cremacottonwood.com.
Che Ah Chi
Enchantment Resort’s signature restaurant Che Ah Chi – the Apache name for Boynton Canyon where the resort and restaurant sit – offers stunning views through its floor-to-ceiling windows as well as alfresco dining with unparalleled views of the red rocks. Every ingredient on the menu is sourced from their own garden, local and neighboring organic growers, artisan cheesemakers, and sustainable fish traders and ranchers. www.cheahchi.com.
Owner and executive chef Lisa Dahl – a multi-year James Beard Award nominee and a 2018 Arizona Restaurant Association Top Chef winner – is often credited as the food pioneer of Sedona. Today, she oversees four concepts across the city with two more slated to open before year’s end. One of the keys to her success is this long-standing, rustic-yet-sophisticated Tuscan grill with perfectly executed Italian classics that use fresh organic produce and sustainably raised meats. www.cucinarustica.com.
Etch Kitchen & Bar
Located at L’Auberge de Sedona and open to the public for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this indoor-outdoor restaurant is surrounded by lush sycamore trees and is just steps from the bank of Oak Creek. As a result, its patio dining is nearly unrivaled. Thanks to expert direction from executive chef Franck Desplechin – known for his work at three Michelin-starred restaurants in France as well as a leading culinary role with the St. Regis brand – the food and drink are similarly special. From sweet to savory, his elevated take on American classics using seasonal ingredients and many items grown on-property should be on any Arizona bucket list. www.lauberge.com.
The Haunted Hamburger
As quirky as it is delicious, expect to hear ghost stories from the staff and to see some truly unique things – including a bookshelf built into the ceiling – during this dining experience. Beyond the delightful oddities throughout the space, the patio offers views of the entire Verde Valley and the San Francisco Peaks, and the menu boasts some of the most indulgent burgers around. Of course, the bestseller is the haunted burger, which is piled high with bacon, cheddar and Swiss cheeses, mushrooms, green chilies, grilled onions, and guacamole. www.thehauntedhamburger.com.
Grapes Restaurant & Bar
It is hard to believe that this intimate dining room and bar was the town’s Pony Express 100 years ago. Refurbished from head to toe, the space now feels more like walking into a good friend’s home than an old-time mail house. The menu features several small bites as well as soups, salads, sandwiches, pizza and entrees that range from light options such as seared ahi tuna to heartier fare like shrimp scampi. Each dish is also made to be paired with wine from the restaurant’s extensive list. www.grapesjerome.com.