There are a lot of pretty patios in this town, but the courtyard of Rita’s Kitchen at JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa is among the prettiest, with views of stunning desert flora, custom water features and a jaw-dropping pool. Oh, and Camelback Mountain. Recent renovations mean Rita’s and its neighbor, R Bar, have brand new furniture, flooring, décor and lighting, along with an expanded patio. Fortunately, the resort’s original adobe brick walls were preserved in the revamp.
Rita’s head chef Eugene Alvarez seems to be a lifer at Camelback – he’s been working at the resort for 18 years! Even more impressive: He’s the only chef who cooks for Marriott mogul Bill Marriott Jr. when he visits to celebrate his birthday every spring. Alvarez populates Rita’s menu with upscale versions of the homestyle Mexican food he grew up with, like enchiladas and quesadillas. The addictive Salsa Tree & Guacamole ($9) boasts four salsas crafted using his family recipes: casera, verde, habanero and pico de gallo. Camelback Inn executive chef Jeffrey Pilditch has also been adding his own flourishes to the menu, with plans to roll out even more dishes this year.
Pilditch’s contributions are so tasty you’ll be craving them as soon as you get home. The grilled cheese ($7) ups the cheesy carb ante with Gruyère, smoked bacon and slow-roasted tomato piled between soft bread crisped with a Parmesan crust. Frico grilled cheese is a stroke of genius that every grilled cheese maker should employ. Also game-changing: avocado shrimp toast ($10), which blasts boring avocado toast out of the water with succulent shrimp, toasty roasted corn, funky cotija and sparky chimichurri. If all avocado toast tasted this good, people wouldn’t make fun of it.
Handcrafted cocktails are a bargain at $8. Our picks: The Matador, a spicy margarita kissed with jalapeño and pineapple; the Blood Orange Smash, with the titular citrus brightening Tito’s vodka; and Rita’s House-Made Sangria, redolent with orange, vanilla and cinnamon. We’ll be drinking that latter in volume this holiday season.
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We are buried in Top Docs proofs now, but we’re daydreaming of this happy hour scene from yesterday at Rita’s Kitchen at @camelbackinn. Pictured: Salsa Tree and The Matador, a margarita with pineapple and jalapeño. #ritaskitchen #jwmarriott #camelbackinn #mediainvite #patioweather #happyhour
THE INSIDER SECRET
It’s not part of any happy hour deals, but you must order the Warm Oaxacan Cookies ($9). They’re crispy, crumbly, soft and chewy in equal, physics-defying measure, and packed with dark chocolate and walnuts. Skip milk and dip them in the cajeta ice cream they’re served with.
Happy hour runs from 3-6 p.m. daily in R Bar and the Rita’s Kitchen courtyard. Enjoy live music in the courtyard from 6-10 p.m. daily.