Photo by Leah LeMoine
The “all-day café” trend that has gripped both coasts has reached Phoenix, and it’s no surprise a California transplant has led the charge. Headquartered in Venice, Zinqué (pronounced zin-kay) is a Golden State-inflected French concept where you can get coffee and pastries in the morning, lunch in the afternoon, and dinner and drinks in the evening. In the first two-thirds of the day, it offers counter service. At cocktail hour, it switches to table service, which it also offers during weekend brunch.
No matter what time of day you visit the Scottsdale Fashion Square location, nestled in the shopping center’s new luxury wing, you’ll be surrounded by pretty little design touches that nod to its French and California inspirations. Wrought-iron stools and chairs, framed watercolors and dried foliage in heirloom-looking pottery bring the Gallic vibes, while blonde wooden benches, a handful of lush houseplants and breezy open spaces rep the West Coast.
I settle onto a stool abutting a high-top bench with my PR pal, Stephanie, who’s invited me for a media happy hour. I haven’t seen her since before the pandemic, and it’s such a joy to hug her and chat in person! We have so much to catch up on.
Photo by Leah LeMoine
I love French food – my last name is LeMoine, for Pierre’s sake – and I love the Valley’s cadre of French restaurants, from North Scottsdale classic Zinc Bistro to Surprise hot spot Vogue Bistro, which I grew up frequenting with my family. They’re excellent when you want a hearty, rich meal of steak frites, beef short ribs, bouillabaisse, croque-monsieur, onion soup gratinée or over-the-top burgers, but they’re not where I’d go for lighter, snackier bites à la française. This is where Zinqué shines.
We start with pan con tomate ($4; $6 with prosciutto), a thick slice of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and piled with a purée of fresh tomato. It’s so simple, but it’s utterly scintillating – the piquant garlic and sweet yet acidic tomato taste better and fresher than many complicated bruschetta pile-ups I’ve tried. Gild the lily with San Daniele prosciutto if you’re so inclined. Bread imported from France’s famed Poilâne bakery – Queen Ina Garten’s favorite, no big deal – doesn’t hurt, either.
Produce also shines in the ratatouille quesadilla ($6), a fun reimagining of the Provençal classic of stewed summer vegetables. Here, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and co. taste a little smoky – I wonder if they are grilled or roasted in a wood-fired oven? – and are tucked between two flour tortillas. Très Cali-French. The coastal/Mexican influence is also evident in two winning tacos: prawn and pork belly (each $6). The crispy pork belly is incredible, but the prawn wins me over with its bright yet subtle acidity, tender and sweet shrimp, and light kick of spice.
Light spice is also present in the Sriracha mayo that accompanies the thin, crisp and perfectly salty fries ($4). Nothing says “French bistro” like a pile of hot frites, and these are tops. We also devour salami toasts ($4) – more of that glorious Poilâne bread, cut thinner than the pan con tomate preparation and generously spread with a layer of butter and abundant rounds of Rosette de Lyon salami, crowned with cornichons. It’s is a fancier, much higher quality version of my favorite lunch sandwich as a child: white bread with butter and deli salami. I was channeling my French heritage even then!
The plate I can’t stop grazing on is the roasted mini Cantimpalitos sausages ($6). The plump, squat little cocktail franks are semi-cured and often served speared with toothpicks and sided with crusty bread in Spanish tapas bars. Here they are congregated in a little bowl on a plate with a blob of French mustard, a pile of cornichons and slabs of bread toasted bronze. If, like me, you grew up eating Hillshire Farms Lit’l Smokies, you’ll love this sophisticated evolution of our favorite snack. These are crisped and burnished to a gorgeous oxblood, and each bite has the satisfying snap and yielding juiciness of the best sausages.
There are other light bites on the happy hour menu: olives ($3), Marcona almonds ($3), mini quiche bites ($6) and country pâté ($5). Next time!
Photo by Leah LeMoine
Happy hour brings $5 off all signature cocktails and apéritifs, $4 off wines by the glass and $2 off all beers. The cocktails here are strong, so I only have one, despite being tempted by a handful of others. The Lune du Rouge (regularly $17, $12 during HH) is a beauty. An icy sphere of Solano Blood Orange bobs in the middle of a peachy pond of tequila reposado, orgeat and lime. A blood orange layer on the bottom of the cut-crystal glass slowly merges with the rest of the drink for a stunning gradient effect. It’s so pretty I can’t stop taking photos as the drink “develops.”
When I return, I have my eye on the Oiseau de la Jungle (mezcal, Ramazzotti Rosato, hibiscus), the Offrez-Vous (cucumber-infused gin, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, cassis and lemon) and the Negroni Blanc (gin, Suze, Lillet Blanc). With one or two of those and a couple of plates of the Cantimpalitos sausages, I could see myself spending all day here.
Happy hour runs Monday-Friday from 4-7 p.m. It is available only in the bar area – the bar itself and the “pod seating” surrounding it. (It sounds confusing, but you’ll understand when you see it.)
The Scottsdale location of Zinqué is the company’s first outpost outside of California.