The Gist: http://dotties.biz/scottsdale-az/
The Why: Because for the last five years I’ve lived in the culinary wasteland of Columbus Ohio and every time I traveled to a place like this (http://endoedibles.com/?p=122) I thought to myself “why don’t we have anything this good closer to home” – now I live in Scottsdale and apparently we do. That’s right, one of my five all-time-favorite breakfasts with an outpost less than ten minutes from my door – it’s amazing it took me this long to visit.
The Reservation: Unlike the San Francisco landmark, Dottie’s Scottsdale opens at 7:30am and if you arrive around that time you just might be the first one there. No absurd lines, no standing around in the chilly Bay Area mist, just a sun-lit patio and ample parking nearby.
The Space: The biggest difference (along with the line) between the San Francisco outpost and the one in Scottsdale is the interior – large, bright, and well lit as opposed to a 1950’s kitchen with a single large stove, heavily decorated refrigerator, bar, and 12 tables. Still with an open kitchen and plenty of kitschy knickknacks (including different salt and pepper shakers for each table) I’ll admit the desert Dottie’s doesn’t have that same cozy feel as the original, but with leather benches, wooden chairs, and that same funky chalkboard full of specials I can happily forgo ‘cozy’ for comfortable.
The Service: Much like the original, the service at Dottie’s Scottsdale is far better than it needs to be. Professional and courteous but also casual and hip our server Terri greeted us promptly, offered us a seat anywhere we liked, and had water and coffee filled to the brim at all times. Now admitting here that for >80% of our hour long breakfast we were the only customers at Dottie’s True Blue Café the average customer’s mileage may vary, but all things the same we were very well taken care of – the owner (the brother of the man in charge at the original) even stopping by twice during the meal to chat and see how things were going.
The Food: 3 pastries off the chalkboard, one chalkboard special, one menu item, and one gift from the kitchen plus a whole lot of coffee.
Coffee: The same nutty blend served at the SF Flagship and refilled even more astutely I particularly appreciated the low acidity, rich body, and availability of all 3 artificial sweeteners plus sugar. At $2.25 for a cup that is literally bottomless I could see this being dangerous if I went on a day when I was with my books to read…I wonder if they have Wi-Fi?
Blueberry Cornmeal Hotcakes: At $10.95 this is the menu item I would have ordered during my visit to the original had the Chocolate Chip Pumpkin French toast not been a chalkboard special and true to the rumors the hotcakes did not disappoint. Golden and crisp on the exterior with a slight bit of grit to the interior crumb each of the three cakes was packed with bursting blueberries and slightly buttery even without the addition of extra. Served with a side of pure maple syrup (the sort they charge you extra for at Matt’s) if there is a better pancake in the Valley I’d be surprised.
Cinnamon Roll French Toast with a side of Grilled Ham: A $12.95 chalkboard special requested without the cream cheese icing my dining buddy this lovely dish featured a house made cinnamon roll cut lengthwise, then sliced vertically, and finally dredged in rich vanilla batter before a trip to the skillet. Golden on the outside, cinnamon sugar caramelized within, and served with a bowl of fresh fruit plus natural maple syrup and grilled Niman Ranch ham I’m pretty sure it would have been better with icing, but it was pretty darn good without while the ham was rich, moist, and suitably smoky without being too saline.
Southwest Biscuits and Gravy: A gift from the kitchen described jokingly by the owner as “something you won’t find in San Francisco” this small sample of one of the chalkboard specials featured a rich and flaky biscuit topped with smooth gravy rife with jalapenos and red peppers plus chorizo. Clearly not a dish terribly concerned with being subtle I really enjoyed the texture of the biscuit and although my modest Midwestern tongue needed copious water (and coffee) to quell the heat I actually enjoyed how the bright acidity of the peppers helped to keep the gravy from being too thick and heavy.
Cinnamon Roll: At $3.50 this cinnamon roll would prove to be good, but when compared to the rest of the meal really nothing special. Served warm with the frosting slowly cascading down the sides of the buttery bun it is not that there was anything ‘wrong’ with this dish – it just was not nearly as good as the French toast interpretation even though it was equally amply endowed with butter and cinnamon.
Blueberry White Chocolate Streusel Muffin: One of two daily muffins and perhaps the steal of the morning at $2.50 this dense muffin was not only large in size but huge on flavor. Served halved and warmed with a bit of cornmeal interspersed in the otherwise rich and buttery batter the highlight of this muffin was the smoothness of the white chocolate and how it melded with the rich streusel topping to form an ample foil to the sweet and tender berries. One of the better blueberry muffins I’ve had in recent memory it took restraint to not order the chocolate chip coconut variation on the muffin as well.
Peach Cobbler Crumble Cake with Whipped Cream: While I guess I could fault the service here in that they originally forgot the whipped cream I cannot and will not do so because in all reality the addition of house made whipped cream to this $5.50 slab of cake was the very definition of gilding the proverbial lily. Beginning with a batter as light as angel food yet unmistakably imbued with plenty of butter and sweetened local peaches what truly made this cake stand out was a tan ripple I can best describe as cinnamon butter cake running from edge to edge and a lightly toasted topping equally rife with the aromatic spice and just enough sugar to caramelize. Bite for bite this was probably my favorite dish of the morning, but showing a bit of restraint given the day of eating yet to come I was glad to let some of it go home with my friend – to call the portion ‘generous’ would be an understatement to say the least.
The Verdict: Bearing in mind my obvious predilection to breakfast sweets over breakfast savories and the fact that I’d been told all the Bay Area’s recipes had been ported over faithfully I had no doubts that walking into Dottie’s Scottsdale that I would like the food; what surprised me most was how much I enjoyed the scene and the service – both equally well carried over from San Francisco. Having said before that Dottie’s (along with Griddle Café in Los Angeles) is one of the very few breakfasts I’d actually wait an hour in line for and living in a city where it seems everyone is willing to wait hours in line for Matt’s Big Breakfast I personally see Dottie’s True Blue Café as a sort of breakfast ideal – food good enough to wait in line for, but without the line. I’ll definitely be back – and likely at the exclusion of wasting a moment of a Bay Area vacation time or waiting in line at Matt’s ever again.