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June, 2010, Page 188
Photos by David Moore
Trail boss barbecue chicken combo
The saloon setup and Rocky Mountain oysters shtick are still there, but Rawhide’s menu has moved beyond the Old West.
Come for the cowboys, stay for the rattlesnake. That’s the best way to approach the Steakhouse at Rawhide Western Town. Because dinner at this family-friendly 1880s theme park has never been about the food, not since it first opened in north Scottsdale in 1971, and not since it relocated to Wild Horse Pass at the Gila River Indian Community in 2005.
Even with the unveiling of a new, contemporary menu last November under chef-consultant Michael Cairns (formerly with the Arizona Biltmore) and Executive chef Jon Andersen, the real draw here remains those staples of entertainment: cowboy shoot-outs, live country music, and tourist-tempting novelties like battered rattlesnake ($17), fried and dipped in ranch dressing (the best part is the bragging rights, not the scrawny, bland reptile).
I’d been hoping for more. The chefs supposedly use indigenous ingredients from the surrounding Gila reservation and Rawhide’s own Akimel Basho Farm. But where are they? Instead of showcasing Indian tepary beans, for example, a “Pork & Beans” entrée ($19) is anchored by ordinary ranch beans. The marinated pork strip is fine, saved by a sweet-spicy kick from chipotle-barbecue glaze, but like another main plate of Colorado lamb chops with garlic mashed potatoes ($22), it lacks any distinction.
mesquite-grilled rib eye (front) with hot apple pie
Cairns’ touch is most apparent with new dishes like tender, flaky trout ($20) crusted in Arizona-grown pistachios and drizzled with lemon-butter sauce over rice pilaf; or a vegetarian meal of sweet corn polenta cakes with sweet pepper sauce ($15). Pickled firecracker shrimp ($12) is a standout, the gutsy tartness of the chile-poached crustaceans singing against whiskey cocktail sauce.
The frontier-like saloon shtick gets solid points for its affordable, enormous portions and reliably good meats. I defy even the hungriest diner to finish the Cattle Baron ($26), a 20-ounce, mesquite-grilled rib eye scorched with a clever “R” brand on its juicy center and a cute little iron tag attached to its bone, or the Trail Boss combo ($20) of baby back ribs and barbecue chicken with mesquite grilled corn on the cob.
When your server, all decked in black cowboy hat and boots, recommends the Rocky Mountain oysters ($10), remember the gimmick. Though not as icky as you’d think, these bull “nads” are greasy, chewy and not worth the hype. Instead, save room for hot apple pie ($6), baked fresh and capped in cinnamon swirl ice cream and caramel. It’s a tasty enough finish, though still not the most fun part of the meal. That’s after dinner, when your kids can ride a sheep for $1.
Rawhide Steakhouse at Wild Horse Pass
: 5700 W. North Loop Road, Chandler
: 480-502-5600 • Website: rawhide.com
: 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 1:30 p.m.-8 p.m. Sunday
: Pistachio-crusted trout ($20); sweet corn polenta cakes with sweet pepper sauce ($15); pickled firecracker shrimp ($12); mesquite-grilled rib eye ($26); hot apple pie ($6)
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