Resort dining is hardly a last resort at this Four Seasons-embedded provider of toothsome American comfort food.
Resort restaurant dining in Scottsdale doesn’t have to be a stuffy, snoozy affair with predictable hotel dishes disguised with Southwestern flavors. The proof is at Proof Canteen, the new Americana-minded restaurant at the Four Seasons Scottsdale. Having gutted its old restaurant space – Crescent Moon – last summer, the resort made way for a new concept capitalizing on the trend toward comfort food and cool cocktails in a casual setting. The new dining digs debuted last November, just in time for high season.
The interior is Ralph Lauren-meets-country general store. Wide-plank wooden floors, corrugated aluminum wall accents, and exposed-bulb drop lighting coupled with oversized living room lamps add cozy warmth to the wide open space with high, exposed ceilings. Cadet blue cushioned chairs, wood and iron schoolhouse-styled barstools and cabinets – some framed with chicken wire – top off the idyllic, old-timey charm. Floor-to-ceiling windows bordering the patio flood the room with sunlight and, weather permitting, an industrial-design garage door brings the outdoors in. It’s gorgeous and oh-so-rustic-chic.
Reading like a love letter to the 50 states, the menu is loaded with homey American dishes like bacon-wrapped meatloaf ($19) and beer can chicken with sublime buttermilk mashed potatoes ($24/half, $39/whole bird) – and saddled with the lofty goal of sourcing only products made in the U.S.A.
Save a few brave, sweating souls, summer tourists are scarce at the Four Seasons, making it a great time to take a spin through the regional American menu featuring the bounty of local farmers and producers – though it’s slimmer pickings than usual because of our limited summer growing season. To entice locals, Proof introduced a loyalty card called “The Regulars.” Get the card punched during four visits (with a minimum of $30 spent per visit) and get an entrée free on the fifth.
It shouldn’t be difficult to fill up the card with trendy vittles like chicken and waffles ($24). Gingham- and jeans-clad servers stipulate it takes 25 minutes to make, but patience is rewarded with three pieces of hot, wispy-crisp chicken on top of a golden waffle dotted with bacon brittle and served with peach bourbon syrup and spicy cayenne maple butter. (On one visit, the kitchen swapped a vinegary jalapeño sauce for the cayenne. I sincerely hope that was an anomaly.)
Pass the chicken-frying wait time with something from the strong starter section, perhaps duck fries ($15), which suspiciously resemble the Canadian dish poutine. But hand-cut French fries, adorned with shredded duck and cheese curds and smothered in brown gravy, are good enough to forgive the cross-border transgression. Maine meets the South in decadent, lobster-studded deviled eggs ($11 for four halves), and the menu heads straight South with not-so-plain fried green tomatoes ($11) and crab-flecked remoulade. Only order the molasses-sticky pork riblets bathed in Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce ($13) if you have an incurable sweet tooth.
Thirsty? Flip through 16 pages of beverages, cleverly tucked into a license plate-bound book. Order a Sonoran root beer draft, an American craft brew, or a craft cocktail (Spiced Lavender Mule, $12; Proof Manhattan, $13) featuring only American-made spirits while you get in a game of shuffleboard. That’s right – there’s a shuffleboard table dividing the family-oriented lounge area.
The menu is tweaked seasonally, but core offerings remain, including the lone vegetarian main course, a flavorful vegetable and lentil pot pie with a gorgeous, mahogany crust ($20). New Orleans expats won’t be impressed by Arizona’s Own Gumbo ($23) served in a mini cast-iron crock. Despite noteworthy andouille from Schreiner’s and a smattering of sweet shrimp, the dish’s trademark depth of flavor is missing, compounded by the skimpy portion and the out-of-place buttered rice served on the side. Want life-changing shrimp and grits? Visit South Carolina. Still, Proof’s version, featuring large, plump shrimp with cheesy grits and a buttery wine sauce ($28), is agreeable.
Its confident moniker compelled me to order the “We Have The Best Burger.” For $19, you get a brioche bun monster, with a fat, juicy beef patty sitting on a slab of Vermont cheddar and topped with bourbon molasses onions and panko-crusted, deep fried bacon. The best? That’s a tall order – we have some killer burgers in town – but I’d put it in my top 10. It comes with fries, house-made chips or coleslaw, but if you want an egg (it doesn’t need it), you’ll have to pony up an extra $2.
Savory dishes are far more interesting than the desserts, which are loaded with more sugar than flavor, including a cloying skillet peach cobbler ($8) and the “Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookie” ($3) that isn’t – I doubt the person who named it actually tasted it. A better bet is the backside of the menu featuring floats, shakes and sundaes. It takes a chocolate-loving village to polish off the “Death by Chocolate” banana split ($8), featuring chocolate malt and Mocha Roca ice creams tucked between a banana, topped with hot fudge and chocolate whipped cream (don’t forget the chocolate-covered cereal sprinkles).
After seeing the breakfast menu, I couldn’t resist taking it for a spin. At $28, the breakfast buffet doesn’t seem unreasonable for what you get, but the à la carte menu is more enticing. Get past the sticker shock ($8 for half a grapefruit; $15 for a giant flapjack with strawberries and cream) and settle in with phenomenal apple and cinnamon French toast ($16) – feathery crisp on the outside and custard-y inside – served with rum raisin syrup.
Service is eager and mostly polished, as it should be, with only an occasional hiccup. The food alone might not be reason enough to make the trek, but combined with complimentary valet (only) parking; gracious service; casually chic, cool digs; and gorgeous views, Proof proves resort dining doesn’t have to be a snooze fest, or for resort guests only.
Proof Canteen at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale
Address: 10600 E. Crescent Moon Dr., Scottsdale
Hours: 7 a.m.-9:30 p.m. daily
Highlights: Washington apple French toast ($16); duck fries ($15); chicken and waffles ($24); burger ($19); Death by Chocolate banana split ($8)
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