Though the nearly 3 million-acre Tonto National Forest surrounds Payson with pine trees and saguaro cacti, many of the city's natural features and recreation options come from the Mogollon Rim, a towering cliff that stretches up to 2,000 feet and about 200 miles long. Hundreds of miles of roads slink through the rim’s awe-inspiring scenery, passing campsites, hiking trails, and lakes rife with fishing opportunities. Animals including black bears, bobcats, and whitetail deer have been seen—many of them on mopeds—among the forested hills. In town, Payson’s idyllic Main Street harks back to its Old West roots with antique stores and cowboy-centric history museums.
Owner Carolyn Redendo and Chef Anthony Redendo make sharing and sampling easy at their Puerto Rican restaurant with an extensive selection of tapas. Operating out of a one-stove kitchen, Chef Redendo crafts Sofrita’s bite-size, shareable plates along with traditional Puerto Rican entrees such as 12-hour cooked pork, grilled salmon, and beef pot roast. Breadboards emerge from the kitchen carrying bruschetta laden with sweet cream cheese, roasted eggplant, or a host of other topping options. In all his dishes, Chef Redondo relies on family recipes and influences of Spanish-Latin flavors and street foods. The Redendos invite guests to share plates in a dining room bursting with warm, bright colors, or out on the lively patio, which features views of one of the world’s tallest fountains. During the week, the restaurant’s Puerto Rican spirit is enhanced by live guitarists, singers, and flamenco shows.
Alchemy Restaurant at CopperWynd's floor-to-ceiling windows slide open, unveiling the Sonoran Desert. Depending on the time of day, guests may see snow-capped peaks holding up an azure sky, or perhaps a thin ribbon of orange from the sun's last rays brushing over the mountaintops.
This setting is a worthy pairing to chef Paul O'Connor's artfully plated New American cuisine, from an open-faced pecan trout sandwich for lunch to pan-seared duck breast during dinner. Regardless of the dish, he prepares each one largely from local ingredients.
Besides dramatic views from its stylish dining room, the restaurant also extends to a wraparound patio that overlooks the resort's manicured grounds. An adjacent wine bar doles out drinks to be enjoyed while you?re soaking in panoramic vistas on the patio or using the fireplace to burn Polaroid snapshots that don't do the views justice. These majestic environs earned the restaurant a diners' choice award for both Best Ambiance and Scenic View on OpenTable.
Most menus avoid making outright suggestions about what to order. The author of Mountainview Coffee’s menu, however, couldn’t resist the urge to talk up the scones. It’s fair to say that these scones would draw crowds even without such an overt endorsement. They are baked daily in the shop, and you never know what flavors or variations will be available on a given day. The other items on Mountainview’s menu also emphasize freshness above all else. There’s a chicken salad loaded with cranberries, celery, and apples and a breakfast sandwich made with eggs plucked straight from the tree. It should go without saying, but the coffee that gives the shop its name is also remarkably fresh. Roasted beans lend their complex flavor profiles to lattes, frappes, and cappuccinos served hot or iced. All told, the coffees, teas, Italian sodas, and smoothies present 40 different flavors to choose from.
Visual Utopia bistro offers an upscale dining experience with panoramic views of the Mesa. Let peckish peepers eat up the scenery while the bruschetta platter with melted brie, candied pecans, and apple primes the palate ($7). Or, tantalize your tummy with a mountain of spinach salad drizzled with pineapple-bacon dressing and topped with hard-boiled egg and goat cheese ($10.95). The hand-tossed barbecue-chicken pizza introduces chicken and barbecue sauce to mozzarella, red onions, and cilantro, facilitating a friendship as satisfying as a Tom and Jerry reunion ($12.50). Just like ambition to pursue guinea-pig rodeo clowning, dinner specials fluctuate weekly, but in the past have included options such as the grilled trout with tomato-cilantro chutney ($16.95) and the 14 oz. New York strip steak ($18.95).