This beloved San Fran import serves solid breakfast faves and stellar bacon but could use a dash of creativity.
At Dottie’s True Blue Café in San Francisco, people have lined up for classic diner meals for more than two decades, crowding the sidewalk to get dibs on dishes like lacy-thin blueberry cornmeal pancakes ($10.95) and grilled gruyere sandwiches loaded with bacon and tomato ($9.75). The iconic eatery made headlines when it relocated within the Bay Area in January, and in February, it made an even bigger move, branching out to Scottsdale, where it took over the former Bada Boom Pasta Room and started slinging its hefty omelets brimming with everything from feta and corn to kalamata olives and smoked whiskey fennel sausage ($7.95-plus).
The crowds in Scottsdale? Well, they’re not exactly thronging. Sometimes, there’s a leisurely wait of half an hour, but more often, it’s entirely possible to score a seat fairly quickly even on a weekend. That could be because Phoenicians aren’t necessarily swayed by what’s celebrated in other big cities, but also because Dottie’s doesn’t reinvent the breakfast-lunch culinary wheel: It’s simply another fine place to get a satisfactory platter of house-made thick-cut French toast ($9.95) or a satisfying grilled chicken pesto sandwich ($9.50) in a sunny, chic setting. Nothing criminal in that. We can always use another breakfast and lunch place, and for a solid square to get you through the day, Dottie’s delivers.
The San Fran Dottie’s is the domain of chef-owner Kurt Abney, and the Scottsdale spot is owned by Kurt’s brother, Brent Abney. Same menu? Basically. Same big city prices? Check. Same vibe? Un-check.
The San Fran version is a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives-style old-school joint done in gritty blue-mood. The Valley’s 60-seat Dottie’s oozes Scottsdale, with a catalog-perfect polished wood floor and citrus color scheme. Pottery Barn might have fashioned the whimsical salt-and-pepper shakers shaped like farm animals, as well as the chandeliers fashioned from tea pots and cups. The oversize blackboard for daily specials adds charm, and it’s pleasant to people-watch on the patio.
Come for the muffins ($2.50) and highly quaffable coffee – Dottie’s boasts an in-house bakery, and daily-changing muffins could double as dessert, with coconut and chocolate chips, brown sugar and cream cheese, seasonal peach or a peanut butter model reminiscent of peanut butter toast, served warm and gooey and tasting of fresh-roasted nuts.
Dottie’s delivers some of its most successful plates to the vegetarian crowd, including black bean cakes ($9.50). They’re thick but fluffy-moist and come with eggs, Dottie’s signature grilled green chile-cheddar cornbread, pico de gallo and sour cream. Gluten-free pancakes ($7.95 for two) were fine, but not as good as the regular hotcakes fashioned from whole wheat and buttermilk and subtly spiced with ginger and cinnamon.
The most impressive dish is the smoked whiskey fennel sausage scramble ($11.50), decorated with mushrooms and fresh baby spinach with a thick-slab of kick-packing grilled chile-cheddar cornbread. It’s sweet, meaty, smoky and spicy all at once. A petite portion of smoked salmon in the cream cheese scramble ($13.50), however, seemed chintzy compared to some of our more traditional New York style delis around town, where you can fill up and still cart out the leftovers in a small suitcase.
But, oh, the bacon ($4.35). It’s a real wake-up, expertly crispy, heartily seasoned, and good enough to eat on its own with a Soju Bloody Mary ($7.50).
Watch out for the up-charges, from $1 to substitute cornbread and pepper jelly for toast, to $1 for egg whites.
At lunch, hone in on the quesadillas ($11), which pack many of the same primo ingredients as the omelets and do our Sonoran border state proud with savory combos like juicy pulled pork and jack cheese, which oozes out around the edges of grilled tortilla triangles into dollops of sour cream and pico de gallo.
The half-pound burger with goat cheese ($11) was dry, most likely from lingering too long on the charbroiler, and lukewarm, probably from waiting for the servers. And a vegan tofu salad sandwich ($8.95) was about as exciting as a vegan tofu salad sandwich can get.
Overall, the Scottsdale Dottie’s satisifies with some rock star signatures. But it could benefit from a Tabasco-like splash of creativity if it wants to stand out from the Valley’s homegrown line-out-the-door classic breakfast and comfort food joints. On the plus side, we’ll likely never have to endure the hours-long waits that face customers in San Francisco.
Dottie’s True Blue Café
Address: 4151 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale
Hours: 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
Highlights: Muffins ($2.50); grilled chicken pesto sandwich ($9.50); black bean cakes ($9.50);smoked whiskey fennel sausagescramble ($11.50); bacon ($4.35)
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