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Arizona's 10 Best New Restaurants

Written by Carey Sweet Category: Food Reviews Issue: September 2011

Proprietor Harry Olson naturally features local wines and microbrews (Sedona’s Oak Creek Nut Brown Ale, $4, is delicious), but his cooking is an international romp through American, Mediterranean and Mexican cuisines, featuring delights such as the Cornville salad (cumin- and cilantro-tossed elote over peppers, black beans, cojita and roasted veggies, $7); a slow-roasted, spice-rubbed pork shoulder sandwich ($8); New Orleans shrimp in bacon-butter-dijon sauce spiked with cayenne ($16); and specials such as blackened fresh Wild Copper River sockeye salmon ($17). 

Red and green walls are hung with abstract art, a wine barrel makes an unexpected easy table, and even the chocolate mousse cups ($6.50) are decorated in swirly colors that resemble a Sedona vortex.

Info: 10990 E. Cornville Road, Cornville, 928-639-2222, harryshideaway.com

Old Town Red Rooster Café

Cottonwood, October 2010
Longtime area restaurateurs Jet Tennant and Shane Smith put a fresh spin on comfort food with this breakfast-and-lunch café, emphasizing local ingredients such as olive oil, produce and meats. It’s served up in a cheery, old, main-drag Cottonwood building decked out with a Wild West mural and a clever rooster sculpture on the roof.

You might do a double-take when you see buffalo sliders ($2.50 each), fiery-spicy poblano quiche ($5.49), vegan gluten-free burgers ($7.89), and Tres Leches liqueur made into a dynamite tres leches cake ($5.50 per slice). Cuban sandwich, man? Yep, they’ve got it, right next to the garden-fresh squash soup ($3.59) and citrus layer cake ($5.50 per slice). Quaffs celebrate Northern Arizona, too, with beer from Grand Canyon Brewing Co. and Lumberyard Brewing, and wines from Arizona Stronghold. 

Info: 901 N. Main St., Cottonwood, 928-649-8100, oldtownredroostercafe.com

1899 Bar & Grill

Flagstaff, February 2011
The first surprise is the location: It’s tucked away in the historic North Union building on the Northern Arizona University campus as a project from the school’s Hotel and Restaurant Management program. But rather than the typical student-training cafeteria, this is an elegant bistro, decorated with dark wood and hand-blown glass lighting designed by a local artist, set around a full bar and expo kitchen.

The result is an ambitious curriculum, sending out contemporary American fare such as lobster gruyère cavatappi pasta ($18.95), bacon-wrapped lamb medallions ($21.95),  sweet chile coconut salmon ($16.95), and beignets with espresso cream ($4.95).

Info: 307 W. DuPont Ave., Flagstaff, 928-523-1899, 1899barandgrill.com

Hot Rod Café

Kingman, November 2010
If the name is familiar, it’s because the original eatery closed in 2007 after it lost its lease. But owner Vito Lombardo has brought it back in a colorful new spot, with all kinds of extra goodies. If you can draw your eyes away from the collection of old roadhouse memorabilia, you’ll find even more distractions, with special events such as classic hot-rod shows, live DJ music, Sock Hops and ’50s costume contests. The food is just what you’d expect: belly-filling traditional favorites such as banana splits ($4.50) from the soda fountain, homemade biscuits and gravy ($4.95), cheeseburgers ($6.49), “wet” burritos ($5.95) and meatloaf ($8.95).

Info: 2215 Hualapai Mountain Road, 928-718-1500, hotrodcafeonline.com

phm0911ge 3 lgFranks A Lot

Prescott Valley, February 2011
Former pizza queen RG Keen (she used to run Rocky’s Pizzeria nearby) has gone to the dogs. Hot dogs, that is, with a menu anchored by 18 kinds of 100 percent beef, quarter-pound frankfurters, with yap-a-licious toppings from classic Chicago-style ($5) to Arizona-style with bacon ($5).

Bargain bites are the name of the game at this former coffee shop/roadside stand, where dishes are $5 or less but don’t skimp on quality. Some of the from-scratch stars include homemade salad dressings and gotta-love-ems, such as a crispy chicken sandwich ($4.30), Frito pie ($5), Boar’s Head meat deli wraps ($5), breakfast burritos ($3.80-$5) and French toast sticks ($2).

Info: 5860 N. Robert Road, Prescott Valley, 928-775-7500, no website

phm0911ge 4 lgDan’s Bistro

Sedona, November 2010
Sedona may be New Age, but Dan’s charms the Old World heart with throwback classics such as beef bourguignon en croûte ($18) and veal schnitzel smothered in wild mushroom brandy sauce ($24), offered in a family-friendly eatery.

Chef Dan Martin has partnered with Mark and Tammy Charlesworth (owners of the Sedona Creekside Inn B&B) for this cheerful space sporting lemon-yellow walls, polished wood furniture and just seven tables. He sends out delightful signatures such as house-smoked trout finished with horseradish herb cream ($9), escargot dripping in garlic butter under puff pastry ($10), and serrano ham and manchego chicken ($18). It’s BYOB, but corkage is just $5.

Info: 1650 W. State Route 89A, Sedona, 928-282-0744, dansbistro.com


The Wild Orchid
Sedona, February 2011

“Asian-Thai fusion” means touches of Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Malaysian from sisters Pearl Pardee and Noi Olson, who also own Thai Spices in Sedona and Mai Thai on Main in Cottonwood. The relaxed ambience flirts with stylish touches (folded linen napkins look like origami), and there is an extensive international wine list.

Organic ingredients are turned into creative, contemporary dishes such as the Wild Orchid roll, filled with toasted coconut, strawberries, shrimp, greens, carrot and ginger wrapped in rice paper ($8). The spicy fish cakes arrive doused in spicy-cool cucumber sauce ($6.95), and duck noodle soup bobs with pork meatballs in brown broth ($8.95).
Info: 2611 W. State Route 89A, Sedona, 928-282-4422, thewildorchidrestaurant.com


phm0911ge 2 lgThe Abbey Eat + Drink

Tucson, November 2010
The popular Jax Kitchen on Oracle Road now has a sister. Owners Brian and Sandy Metzger set a playful mood in a stylish, boisterous hangout where specials are listed on an enormous chalkboard and nearly every seat offers a view of Ventana Canyon.

Executive chef Virginia Wooters emphasizes eclectic new American fare, featuring fun noshes such as duck crêpes with cherries and a dusting of Maytag bleu “snow” ($11), turkey pot pie ($18), crispy salmon with shaved Brussels sprouts ($19), or an English muffin burger cutely partnered with hushpuppies and pepper jam ($13). Wash it down with a Holy Water – a tangy mix of orange vodka and citrus gin ($9.50).

Info: 6960 E. Sunrise Drive, Tucson, 520-299-3132, theabbeytucson.com

Don Pedro’s Peruvian Bistro

Tucson, September 2010
Lima-born owner Peter “Pedro” Gonzvar served Peruvian cuisine at his Rocky Point, Mexico, restaurant for six years before packing up his papa rellena ($6) and opening this laid-back eatery.

He imports staples from Peru, such as a rainbow of corn varieties, including the purple kind for his sweet chicha morada drink ($2.50) and the huge kernelled cancha, toasted into a crunchy, freebie bar snack. Dishes aren’t dumbed down for gringo palates, either. Take authentic bites such as skewered beef hearts ($6) or ice cream ($5) flavored with Peruvian lucuma fruit or algorrobina, a syrup extracted from the carob tree. Just don’t let the gentle Spanish-style music lull you into submission; the salsas are serious business, from savory chiltepin chile to flamethrower rocoto.

Info: 3386 S. Sixth Ave., Tucson, 520-209-1740, donpedrosperuvianbistro.com

phm0911ge 5 lgDowntown Kitchen + Cocktails

Tucson, October 2010
James Beard Award-winning chef Janos Wilder first turned heads when he opened Janos restaurant in 1983, and this funky new gem proves his cuisine continues to evolve. A simple tagline would be “global comfort food,” but it’s tough to pigeonhole the innovative farm-to-table cooking that anchors this airy, art-filled, urban space in a historic 1914 building.

Executive chef Bruce Yim’s culinary themes traipse across modern French, Caribbean, Asian and Southwestern, resulting in riveting creations such as Laotian chicken and green papaya salad with green beans, carrots, tomatoes, serranos, lime, peanuts and mint ($10); trout teamed with oysters, creamed corn, spicy spinach stuffing, chipotle-date chutney and fried potatoes ($20); and a “J Dawg” wiener-wonder piled with bacon-y black beans, smoked poblano crema, mustard, pickled nopalitos and red onion ($5.75).

Inventive cocktails make things even livelier: The Pearl District Peel thrills with fig- and clove-infused bourbon, fresh lemon peel, muddled orange and soda ($8).

Info: 135 S. Sixth Ave., Tucson, 520-623-7700, downtownkitchen.com