By Molly Cerreta Smith

For dining enthusiasts, spring in Arizona is a delicious time. The season is sprinkled with some of the best culinary events throughout the state — including Arizona Restaurant Week, which gives Valley foodies a taste of the local dining scene at its finest. Presented by the Arizona Restaurant Association, this spring’s Arizona Restaurant Week spans 10 days, from Friday, May 17 through Sunday, May 26, and offers diners a chance to sample prix-fixe menus from local hidden gems to some of the finest dining establishments in the state.

Considered the “most edible time of year,” this season marks the 12th anniversary of Arizona Restaurant Week (ARW), an event which was established to allow restaurants around the state to showcase their culinary chops (many restaurants features dishes during this time that are not on their usual menus) and give diners an opportunity to experience an extraordinary culinary journey that they’ve not yet had the chance to explore. According to Steve Chucri, President and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association, another goal of ARW is to solidify Arizona’s position as one of the country’s top culinary destinations by increasing awareness of the nearly 9,000 dining opportunities available throughout the state and also stimulate business for restaurants around Arizona. In fact, participating establishments report an average 20 percent increase in sales during Arizona Restaurant Week.

“Each year we are delighted by the growth of the event not only in restaurant participation in Phoenix and around the entire state, but also in the attendance during these 10 days of dining,” Chucri says. “We are proud to be among the organizations that are dedicated to elevating our state’s culinary scene into the spotlight — and that the state’s culinary status is being so well received by our locals and visitors, too.”

Much has changed since the event’s inception in 2008, including the addition of both a spring and a fall Arizona Restaurant Week. The event began with Fall Arizona Restaurant Week, but due to popular demand Spring Arizona Restaurant Week was introduced in 2011. However, one thing hasn’t changed – the format that offers an incredibly budget-friendly way for dinners to experience a fabulous meal at a fraction of what they might normally pay. Each participating establishment offers a three-course prix-fixe menu for just $33 or $44 per person or per couple, depending on the restaurant and its offerings. Restaurants also have the option to include a non-alcoholic beverage within that price and some feature wine pairings for an additional cost. While restaurant’s regular menus are available during Arizona Restaurant Week, many of the ARW dishes are only available during this time — so it’s best to take advantage of these culinary creations while they last!

Currently, there are more than 110 restaurant locations participating in this year’s Spring ARW, and that list is continually growing. Among this number, there is a great selection of restaurants which have been involved since the event’s beginning and many are first-timers, too. Inclusive for all diners, there are vegetarian, gluten-free and other offerings specific to dietary needs available on ARW menus (and are noted online at Some of the highlights this spring include:

Hearth 61
Located within the Mountain Shadows Resort, Hearth 61’s culinary prowess is the brainchild of renowned local chef Charles Wiley. The ingredient-driven cuisine is a true treat on any given night, but the ARW menu is not to be missed. For $44 per person, guests can choose from starters such as the Local Beet Salad, Chilled Pea Soup and Jacob Bean Ragout and entrees including Soft Shell Crab with spring succotash; Niman Ranch Prime Tenderloin of Beef with bleu cheese fondue truffled mash; or Mushroom Tortellini with prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano brodo. To finish the meal, diners can select from the Yuzu Crème Brulee with sesame shortbread and apricot jam; Warm Chocolate Lava Cake with vanilla crème anglaise and apple butter gelato; or Bananas Foster Brioche Bread Pudding with rum caramel and sticky toffee gelato.

Marcellino Ristorante
Italian flavor and flare come to life at Scottsdale’s Marcellino Ristorante. The nightly cuisine regularly features showstoppers such as handcrafted flavored pastas from saffron to squid ink, fresh crustaceans, wild game, seasonal truffles and more. Chef Marcellino’s talent and passion is evident on each plate, including tempting dishes on his ARW menu. For $44 (plus) per person, guests can choose from Antipasto including Insalata Organiche; Bufala Mozzarella and Prosciutto; Bresaola; or Zuppa Del Giorno (vegetarian-based soups of the day). “Secondo” or main course options include Paccatelli pasta with hearty tomato and sausage ragu; Gnocchi Sorrentina with rich tomato sauce and mozzarella; Pollo Saporito — chicken with mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and pine nuts; Salmon Al Cognac with a touch of cream; and Filettino Con Tartufo with white truffle oil. The Dolce course includes the choice of Italian classics Tiramisu or Panna Cotta. Chef Marcellino has also personally selected wine pairings for each course for an additional $25 (plus).

Urban Margarita
For a taste of Latin and Mexican-inspired cuisine, Urban Margarita in Glendale features its ARW menu for just $33 per person featuring a selection of starters including Mini Jalapeno Cilantro Cream Cheese Chimis, Hatch Green Chile Three-Cheese Nachos and Short Rib Flautas with fresh avocado sauce; main courses including Baja Shrimp with cilantro lime rice and roasted asparagus; eight-ounce Prime Flat Iron with roasted garlic butter and farmers market vegetables; and Slow-Braised C.A.B. Short Ribs with Urban scalloped potatoes. Dessert choices include the Bananas Foster Ice Cream Torta, and Anejo Rum and Maple Brioche Bread Pudding.

To make for a complete (and safe) date night out, Arizona Restaurant Week has even partnered with Lyft offering diners either a $20 credit (for first-time users) or 20 percent off (for existing Lyft customers) to and from their ARW destinations. Regardless of where guests decide to dine, Arizona Restaurant Week establishments offer menus that represent a wide array of cultural cuisine presented in a unique way that highlights the unparalleled talent of Arizona’s local chefs. For a complete list of participating Spring Arizona Restaurant Week establishments and to get a sneak peak of their ARW menus, visit