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best of scottsdale, day 3: hotel valley ho and a taste of old town

bar stool

I’m hoping my butt doesn’t end up looking like this bar stool at the Rusty Spur by the time we finish eating our way through Scottsdale.

Michael and I love to eat.

Ha ha! Like that’s news to anyone!

We’ve been on a food tour in San Diego, and I went on one in Chicago – and they were both fantastic. Food tours are a great way to get into the culture of a city and experience a few of the highlights. So, of course, we were excited to do A Taste of Old Town Scottsdale through Arizona Food Tours.

We met our guide, Zach Egedy, in front of the Scottsdale Historical Museum, and were immediately drawn in by his enthusiasm and knowledge. There were about 20 of us on the tour, and everyone was in a good mood because we were going to be spending the next couple of hours stuffing our faces. Many of our fellow foodies were also happy just to be in sunny Scottsdale after coming from cities around the country that were still being bombarded with snow.

We started our tour at the Rusty Spur, the oldest saloon in Old Town. A registered historic landmark, it once served as Scottsdale’s bank and, in fact, its old vault now stores the liquor. More importantly, though, the Rusty Spur serves juicy burgers which are, understandably, their signature.  If the ones they gave us are just considered small samples, I can’t imagine what a full-sized one would look like. If we had ended the tour then, we would already have been full and happy.

Rusty Spur

But we sauntered out the saloon doors and headed to Malee’s Thai on Main, where Michael pronounced the Tom Ka Gai soup the best he’d ever had. And, trust me, he’s had a lot. It was rich and flavorful, and the veggie spring rolls on the side were the icing on the cake.

From there, we walked over to The House Brasserie, where we had melt-in-your-mouth Brisket and Biscuits (kind of a more sophisticated version of chicken and waffles), and Zach led us in a champagne toast, which you can watch here: Food tour toast video

Because we needed something light by that point, we were glad to be introduced to Outrageous Olive Oils & Vinegars, where we tasted flavors like Wild Mushroom and Sage, Blood Orange and Dark Chocolate, drinking them like water. These are a far cry from the tasteless oils I’m used to buying in the grocery store. Rayna Griffin offered tons of suggestions on how to use the oils and vinegars in everything from salads to shrimp, and creative ways to mix flavors. This stop was absolutely a highlight of the tour.

Outrageous Oils

Next stop was Distrito, where Iron Chef Jose Garces celebrates Mexico City with unique interpretations of regional dishes and over 100 varieties of tequila. We were treated to street tacos and nachos with a homemade guacamole that Michael raved about. I’m not a guac fan – sorry, I know that’s sacrilege in Southern California – but I couldn’t have eaten another bite anyway.

Well, other than dessert. We are big believers in ending every meal with something sweet – we basically like to end every minute of our life with something sweet – so, at AZ 88, we somehow managed to scarf down taste the key lime tart and butter rum cake. By then we were in a food coma, content to put down our forks and use our mouths simply to talk to the people who spoke the same language of “ooh,” “ah” and “ummm.”

Four hours after starting out, we finally said our goodbyes and rolled ourselves down the street to our new home for the next two nights, the Hotel Valley Ho. “Home” is not an exaggeration because our room was about as big as our first apartment, with way cooler furnishings and a much more well-stocked fridge.

Hotel Valley Ho

This is the view of the room from bed. Why would we ever get up?

Although we should have gone to the gym, we instead went downstairs to the VH Spa for the Red Flower Hammam Experience. Karen, my goddess of a therapist, cleansed, exfoliated, misted, massaged and moisturized me with the most heavenly-smelling products. I felt like I was back on the food tour as I got whiffs of mint, tangerine, fig, coffee … oh, I can’t even list any more without going into withdrawal. I asked Karen if she would come home with me but she is devoted to her job and left me with this prescription:

VH Spa

Okay, Karen, if you insist, I will get regular therapeutic massages to stay healthy.

Michael and I both emerged from our locker rooms, feeling invigorated and ready for anything. Like dinner. I know – it’s shocking that it could actually be time to eat again but we had sauna-ed and showered and taken our time leaving the spa. Thankfully, we only had to go to the lobby for ZuZu, the acclaimed restaurant that locals had been raving about to us since we got to Scottsdale.

Our server described the menu as an eclectic take on comfort food – but we’re not talking mac and cheese. This is first class comfort. The orange and ginger seared ahi was delicious but I’m still drooling over the roasted tomato and goat cheese casserole, which was outstanding.

Zuzu casserole

Roasted tomato & goat cheese casserole with artisan bread. Dying.

As entrees, Michael had the Cornish hen and I decided to be good and go with a light salad. Who did I think I was fooling?

grilled steak salad

Grilled steak salad. Before.

clean plate

Grilled steak salad. After.







After a couple of scoops of ice cream, we headed back to our room, vowing never to eat again. Until tomorrow.


  1. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    What a perfect getaway. The food and spa treatments sound awesome! And I can’t get over the size of that hotel room!

  2. Wow, Lois, take me with you next time! What a great time you must have had.

  3. LOL! I love that bar stool!!

  4. You guys had a great time it appears – and you ate quite well. I am all for something sweet after a meal, too!

  5. Love this review and Scottsdale miss it!

  6. Sounds like you had a wonderful trip! Love that bar stool 🙂 I would love to have a getaway like that with my husband. Maybe after my kids are grown.

  7. Sounds like a fabulous time! I thought of you while I was in Phoenix last week, wondering if you were still in Scottsdale and being pampered and such while I played Grandma. I honestly even scanned the airport as I arrived and left, just in case. Wouldn’t it have been a hoot to see each other.

    One day I hope to visit Scottsdale as you did here… with all the grownup fun compared to that I have with grandsons while there.


  8. I am full just reading your wonderful post! In a perfect world reading about food, rather than actually eating it should be enough, but unfortunately my world is far from perfect these days. I will just have to visit Scottsdale and try some myself! And, BTW, I would love to know if you are keeping up with your “glute releases.”

  9. Oh my goodness, what fun. I have never been to Arizona and it looks like y’all had a blast and got to try so many great restaurants

  10. What a great trip. I will have to check out the Outrageous Olive Oils & Vinegars

  11. That bar stool makes me laugh LOL! The food looks wonderful and it sounds like you all had a great time!

  12. I don’t need to make dinner now because I’m full.

    What an extraordinary experience you had. The next time I go visit my relatives in Scottsdale I am bringing this review. Plus, I want the room you stayed in AND the spa treatments.

    Loved this post, Lois. I am sending it to my relatives as well. xo

  13. That bar stool cracked me up. This looks like an amazing experience. Now I want to go to Scottsdale.

  14. What an awesome experience, and that room! Man, I don’t know if I could ever have left it once I got in there! Well, maybe for that great spa massage.

  15. I love the bar stool. The food looks amazing, too.

  16. Amy Lynn Desrosiers says:

    That bar-stool is super funny! I would have never wanted to leave this room either!!

  17. Sounds like you are having a good trip and learning a lot! That bar stool is so funny! I have never seen anything like it and your steak salad looked amazing!

  18. I’ve been to Scottsdale but never eaten at the Rusty Spur. That bar stool is cracking me up!

  19. How fun!! This looks like the perfect little getaway! The food and company all look wonderful!!

  20. That place looks awesome! And that bar stool is priceless! Love it!

  21. Bahaha! Those chairs are awesome. And I love the fact that you pampered yourself at the spa.

  22. I felt like I was in an oasis and ultimately a food coma right along with you. This is a heck of a trip!

  23. I have always wanted to visit here. It looks fun.

  24. I had to stare at that rear end for at least a minute until I figured it out. You obviously had a great time. Good places to know about.

  25. Looks like a great experience and I am loving that Bar Stool! Roasted tomato & goat cheese casserole with artisan bread, OK you are really making me hungry!

  26. Looks like a fun trip, LOL at the 1st picture! Glad you enjoyed it!

  27. Chrishelle says:

    I am calling my travel agent right now. I need to visit Scottsdale. Never thought of traveling to Arizona, but you have inspired me. Even if it is only to have the tomato casserole and artisan bread, yum.

  28. I’m overtired because it really took me a minute to figure out that barstool! That food makes me not want anything I have in my kitchen right now!

  29. YUM- I would love to try the Roasted tomato & goat cheese casserole!!

  30. It seems as if you had a great time. You certainly people want to go visit.

  31. What a great getaway! I loved that bar stool!

  32. This looks like a fabulous place! Loved the places, the food, the goat cheese is my favorite!

  33. Wow Lois. You are certainly living an amazing life. I was salivating just reading your food reviews. I also enjoy tasting different olive oils–who knew there could be so many flavorful variations. I have never been to Scottsdale, but it looks like a foodie’s paradise.

  34. What a great place. I love, love, love those barstools!!! Looks like you had a good time.

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