To quote the great Happy Gilmore, “Sorry, ladies, I’m not the golfing type.” I like my birdies fried and my bogeys Lowenstein, thank you. Occasionally, though, the promise of good food lures me to restaurants that just happen to be at golf courses. Take Toro Latin Restaurant & Rum Bar, which is a property of Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort but lives across the street on the 18th hole of the TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course, with majestic views of the McDowell Mountains from its course-overlooking patio.
Yes, there are plenty of golfers milling about, wearing preppy outfits and talking about eagles and Rory McIlroy and whatnot. But there are also people like me, who don’t mind being stuck in a PGA ad as long as we can shovel crispy empanadas, creative sushi and dangerously delicious rum cocktails in our faces. Plus, with its warm wooden-slat walls, moody lighting and décor of artfully painted cow skulls, the vibe leans more Georgia O’Keeffe than Justin Rose. (Yes, I did have to Google “famous golfers” to make those McIlroy and Rose references, thank you for wondering!)
I’d only been to Toro once before, for lunch with my dear friend, John, who does PR for the Princess. I tried and immediately became obsessed with the Chifa-style fried rice – chorizo, chicken, shrimp, carnitas, Asian veggies and eggs stir-fried with tender, perfectly sauced rice with crisp bits here and there – and have been unsuccessfully attempting to recreate it at home ever since. (Oyster sauce? What am I missing?) I was excited to join John and my colleague, Maddie, for a more comprehensive media sampling of the menu at our recent rainy-day happy hour date.
John loves his soosh, so we started with a vibrant spread of sushi from the pan-Latin/Asian kitchen. I am not a sushi gal, but even I couldn’t resist the charms of the Havana Roll, loaded with spicy crab, cucumber, plantains and avocado, topped with maple-miso glaze (I will definitely be making this at home and putting it on everything) and crispy potatoes ($17); and the Surf & Turf Roll, which brings together spicy crab, tempura shrimp, New York steak, cucumber, avocado, truffle chimichurri and churrasco aioli for a steakhouse-on-steroids sushi experience ($22). Ay dios mio. Neither are specially priced during happy hour, but they are must-orders no matter when you visit. The sushi that is on special: the stalwart California Roll and the tasty Tuna Roll ($8 per order of each).
On the Latin side, the corn empanadas (aji Amarillo, queso Oaxaca and chimichurri, $6) and the steak tacos (grass-fed skirt steak, salsa roja, shishito peppers, avocado and queso fresco, $6) burst with flavor. The kicky, vinegary chimichurri cuts through the richness of the corny, cheesy fried pockets of dough, while the gloriously tender skirt steak melts in your mouth. And if you’re of the belief that happy hour just isn’t happy hour without fries, Toro has you covered with its surprisingly large portion of truffle fries, drizzled with truffle oil and dusted with Parmesan ($5).
Beer and wine are discounted during happy hour – $5 per draft beer, $6 for a glass of house sparkling wine, $8 for a glass of house white or red wine. But Toro is a rum bar, so if you don’t try one of its signature rum cocktails, I don’t know what to do with you.
Maddie went for the tropical Toro Rum Punch ($7 during happy hour), a vacation in a glass with bright citrus and fruit juices. You can get a Dark and Stormy (rum, ginger beer, lime) or a single well cocktail for the same price. John and I are retro fancypantses, so we ordered Pain Killers, the tiki classic that Toro does so very well: Pusser’s Rum, Coco López cream of coconut, pineapple juice, lime juice and nutmeg ($15). You’ll be tempted to order five more, but be careful – like most tiki drinks, they pack a latent punch of booziness behind all the fruitiness.
THE INSIDER SECRET
Since it’s December, we recommend following your happy hour hang with Christmas at the Princess, the Fairmont’s enveloping holiday festival that celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Skate on an ice rink, create your own toy at the Build-A-Bear Workshop, make treats in S’mores Land, visit Santa at his Secret Headquarters, meet costumed holiday characters and see thousands of holiday lights. To keep the adult fun of happy hour going, pop into Winterland, which has a frosty ice bar, mistletoe, igloos and live performances.
Happy hour runs from 2:30-4 p.m. daily.