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First Look: J Bar – Scottsdale


This post first appeared on The Spirit World in March 2006.  With Baseball’s Spring Training officially starting this week I thought it was a good time to move this post here.  It won’t be long before I’m heading back down to watch this year’s boys of summer! 

One of the fun things about Spring Training is getting to eat and drink our way around Phoenix, or more specifically Scottsdale, as that’s the area we tend to gravitate towards. We have our favorite places but also try to branch out each year when we come down. This year we found a bevy of new places and tried to hit several of them.

I arrived early on Thursday and M arrived in the evening. During the day I spent quite a bit of time wandering around Scottsdale (original name Orangedale, as it says on some of the benches in Old Town). There is a really great park called the Scottsdale Mall just east of the main Old Town area. The park is bordered by arts venues, government buildings and restaurants. One of these that caught my eye was a place called Fiamma at the James and next door to it, the J Bar.
On Saturday night M and I had a plan to visit a couple of places. We first stopped at Furio, which I will post about at a later date. Then we made our way to J Bar. This lounge is the epitome of cool, from it’s swanky layout, the James Bond movies playing on a big screen, the beautiful people and to its amazingly great cocktails and food.
Because this was just one stop during our night, only one cocktail was consumed here but we also watched them crafting many others and I know they were all as good as the one I ordered. I had a Venetian; a combination of Maker’s Mark, peach puree and creme de Girotte, which is a cherry flavored liquor. M thought it was too sweet but I actually thought it wasn’t – the Maker’s Mark keeps the drink in balance.


One thing we both agreed on, however, was the food. Heavenly! We started with a couple of salads. M had a green salad on her own and it was beautifully dressed. We also shared what we thought was going to be their version of a caprese salad and it was, but there were surprise elements. The menu described "warm mozzarella" which turned out to be a breaded and fried mozzarella piece on tomato slices, surrounded by slivers of prosciutto and topped with a bit of pesto. The combination of flavors and textures was stunning. The prosciutto was particularly good being less salty than many I’ve had, and therefore a bit "hammier".

We followed the salads with a dish of diver scallops. May I say these were maybe the most perfectly grilled scallops that I have ever had? And that is saying quite a lot! They were surrounded by wild, saut�ed mushrooms and drizzled with a truffle vinaigrette. And the best part was the judicious use of glorious sea salt so that every now and then you had a little burst of extra flavor hit your tastebuds. This was really a great dining experience and one I’ll be interested in repeating the next time I’m in the area.

My only disappointment was that we left J Bar so we could check out another place that had been perpetually busy every time we’d passed There was no sign on the outside of what turned out to be AZ 88. This place really reminded me of something that should be located in South Beach; funky all-white furniture on the outside patio, glass walls and flowing curtains define the space. Once inside we really couldn’t figure out what made the place so attractive. The menu was mostly sandwiches and burgers. The drinks were less than stellar – even a Mandarin and tonic seemed a bit off. Oh, and 9:00 pm is the witching hour; at that time the gay men start streaming in! In the space of 15 to 20 minutes the place went from a mixed crowd – all ages, types, and preferences – to at least 75% gay men. I’ve never seen such a marked transition before. I guess I’ll need to give it a another try sometime but on Saturday we really wished we had lingered longer at J Bar.
J Bar
In the James Hotel
7353 E. Indian School Road

  1. 20-Feb-2007 2:49 pm

    One of my favorite cocktails is a manhattan with Maker\’s Mark.  The venetian sounds interesting. 

  2. Culinary permalink
    21-Feb-2007 5:53 am

    I wish I knew the measurements.  After reposting this I starting thinking about it and would like to try to recreate it.  I guess a little experimentation is in order…

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