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Scottsdale: Cowboy Ciao

Whenever I travel I do a little prior research to find places I might like to check out.  This goes for local restaurants and bars as well as sites.  Sometimes I get so caught by all the new and shiny places that I overlook more established locations.  Or sometimes it’s just that they are not leading the news as much as they once were and I don’t come across them in my adventures around the city.  That’s mostly the case for Cowboy Ciao in Scottsdale, Arizona. 
Cowboy Ciao still gets a fair amount of coverage but it doesn’t really jump out at you when you pass by.  In fact, I’m sure I’ve walked by in in early morning strolls around the city but didn’t even realize it was a restaurant as it’s situated in the gallery area of downtown Scottsdale.  But for my recent trip to the Phoenix area I put it on my "list" and made an effort to seek it out.  That was a good call! 
M and I arrived around 6:30 to find a packed house.  We secured the final two seats at the bar.  The bar is C-shaped and the seats were at the far end looking into the kitchen.  The kitchen view was actually interesting but we felt a little removed from the hustle and bustle of the restaurant.  That might have been nice if we’d been on a date but we felt a bit like we’d been placed in "time out".  So, when the bartender took our order we asked her to let us know if anything else at the bar opened up. 
In the meantime we settled into our spots with a fragrant Champagne cocktail and a house margarita made with the freshest of citrus juices.  We were off to a good start!  We’d barely taken a sip of our drinks when the bartender came rushing around the corner to alert us of two seats that had just opened.  We moved around to the main area and were back into the energy of the place. 
The menu is a nice combination of offerings with something for everyone.  Sticking to our normal course of action, M and I opted for several small plates that we’d share so that we could try several things.  We started with the Cowboy Chopped Salad which is a beautiful and tasty line-up of fresh vegetables with a little bacon and cheese thrown in for good measure.  It is served in pristine lines of ingredients and then is tossed at your table (or bar top, in our case).  The fresh corn was a special treat for Northwesterners craving a bit of spring or summer. 
Next we ordered the small version of their Mushroom Pan Fry. Here is their menu description: "mucho mushrooms (including cremini, button, oyster, cepe, lobster, black trumpet, Shiitake, morel, yellow foot) in ancho cream over double-cooked polenta, topped with grilled portabellini, avocado, tomato and cotija cheese".  Do I really need to say any more than that?  Earthy and richly flavored this dish fills your soul.  And we were glad we ordered a small as it’s filling!
Next we tried the Pork Belly – something that’s hard to resist when it shows up on a menu.  It was grilled to perfection and topped with an Asian-influenced cucumber salad which was the perfect foil to the decadent meat.  It was the perfect way to round out our meal. 
I loved this locally loved, funky and friendly place.  If I lived in Scottsdale I bet I’d be there often.  They have a great wine menu and some interesting flights in addition to the deeply satisfying food.  I’m sure we’ll make it back next year.  Or perhaps we’ll try one of the sibling restaurants: Kazimierz World Wine Bar; Sea Saw (Japenese); or Digestif ("Cal-Ital food for the soul").  Whatever we choose I’m betting we’ll like it. 
Cowboy Ciao
7133 E. Stetson Drive
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  1. Scottsdale cowboy | Zuidot

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