Culinary Dropout (Scottsdale Quarter, AZ)

As mentioned in the previous review, a trip to Arizona often involves meeting up with friends. For our second lunch outing with friends, we went to an old favorite, Culinary Dropout, that I hadn’t visited in a few year. Culinary Dropout is an Arizona-based chain, with the original location opening back in 2010 on Scottsdale’s “Waterfront” to good reviews, and now it has grown to over a dozen locations. We went to the relatively new Scottsdale Quarter location, which is one of the newer “outdoor malls” in North Scottsdale.

The first thing you notice entering Culinary Dropout is that the place is huge, with both a front open-concept dining area (that in appropriate weather is semi-open-air via several very large garage doors) and a rear dining room (that can be separated from the front area when air-conditioning is in use). It’s large enough that they can host musical acts, allow indoor cornhole playing, and even have a nice lounge area with couches for those just stopping in for a beer or cocktail.

Speaking of cocktails, that’s how I started out my order. Culinary Dropout has a cocktail list that’s a nice compromise between “fancy craft cocktails” and “reasonable prices”, with some well-conceived but still reasonable simple cocktails. I went for the ” Peaches & Rye”: Savage & Cooke rye, Combier pêche liqueur, puréed peach, and mint. This was quite a good cocktail, and would be nicely refreshing on a hot day.

Another thing that Culinary Dropout is particularly good at is antipasti plates, leaving a nice sushi-ordering-style menu at your table where you can just select from the dozen or so items and have them brought out from the kitchen. We opted for the grilled bread, grilled asparagus, and deviled eggs. All of these were quite nicely executed; the grilled bread was particularly good: a nice crusty bread, a lightly-herbed oil, and a good balsamic vinegar. The asparagus was nicely grilled and then chilled, and went well with the bread. The deviled eggs? I can’t stand ’em, so I didn’t try them, but Allyson and Carol certainly enjoyed them.

Both Carol and Allyson went for one of the house specialties: the chicken dinner. This isn’t anything terribly fancy, just your basic fried chicken dinner: chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, a biscuit, and cole slaw. Does what it says on the tin, and without disappointing, and the biscuit in particularly was well above average (although Arizona is close enough to “South” that they can usually figure out biscuits without it becoming a fiasco).

I was a little less hungry, so I opted for another house special, the turkey pastrami, served up with Swiss on a decent pretzel brioche bun, with a salad on the side. I don’t normally go for turkey pastrami (often, the result is more of a “extra salty turkey” with a bit of a dry texture), but Culinary Dropout’s version was nicely smoky, softly textured, and not overly salty, making for a good overall sandwich, especially served up with some good Swiss cheese.

The secret here is that they fire these to order, making them particularly ooey and gooey, but still crispy. Definitely a huge sugar bomb, but we split this three ways, and that turned out to be just about the right amount of dessert.

It had been a few years since my last Culinary Dropout experience, and I’m glad that as they expand, the business is still good. They’ve got a nice drink list, a lot of good appetizers, and some solid entrees, all at reasonable prices. I’ll definitely be back on a future visit.

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