Christmas may be “the most wonderful time of the year” when it comes to gift-giving and holiday cheer, but Arizona Restaurant Week is certainly the tastiest time of year. (If Mom objects to that assertion, just remind her of Aunt Ethel’s awful fruitcake or cousin Bob’s over-baked holiday ham). The twice-yearly event is a delightful marriage of gluttony and gastronomic delight, with participating eateries offering three-course, prix-fixe dinners for $33 or $44 per person. This year’s event will take place September 18-27 at select Valley locations.
Though online buzz seems to have tamed since Arizona Restaurant Association founded Restaurant Week in 2008, the lineup of culinary movers and shakers has grown exponentially. “Arizona’s food scene continues to thrive. Our local chefs and mixologists are incredibly innovative…” says Arizona Restaurant Association president and CEO Steve Chucri.
More than 100 Phoenix-area restaurants are participating in the Fall 2015 event, from established culinary hotspots such as Christopher Gross’ eponymous eatery and James Beard-nominated Chef Kevin Binkley’s three outposts to the newly opened Craft 64 in Scottsdale and La Pizzetta's wood-fired pies from Classic Cooking Academy owners Pascal and Donna Dionot. The lineup also includes popular mom-and-pop-shops The Dhaba in Tempe and Scandinavian comfort food respite Beaver Choice, as well as several gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly menus.
With so many options, it’s tough to know where to start. We scoured this year’s published menu lists in advance to highlight the dishes that left us salivating – and wishing for a second stomach just so we could taste all of the options.
Here are five innovative and mouthwatering menus you won’t want to miss:
Timo Wine Bar
Scallop crudo has us swimming to try the Italian-inspired Restaurant Week eats at this industrial-chic eatery inside the former Sunnyslope firehouse. Grab a spot on the patio and try the mollusks as a fresh starter, followed by salmon or heartier short rib tagine with wild thyme potatoes. Seasonal dessert choices include bread pudding with rum-caramel sauce or pumpkin spice crème brûlée.
8801 N. Central Ave. Suite 104, Phoenix
Relish Burger Bistro
Vegetarians should steer clear (see what we did there?) of Relish’s all-beef main menu of hearty burgers. Meatheads, on the other hand, will delight in the choice of 6 oz. grilled Wagyu with cheesy potato rosti and haricots vert, smoky bison burger or all-American cowboy burger with grilled Kobe and beer-battered onion rings. Kimchi shrimp sliders sound tangy and appetizing, yet we can’t help but prefer the hometown nod of prickly pear salad with Crow’s Dairy goat cheese.
Cost: $33 (beer, wine or margarita included)
6000 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale
Tonto Bar & Grill
Good homemade pie is really difficult to find in Phoenix, which is why the Native American-inspired Tonto makes it to our top picks list. Lemon-lime sour cream meringue pie with almond crust and raspberries sounds amazing thanks to the contrast of grounding creamy elements and the tart fruit foursome (kiwi is also featured in the decadent dessert). Pacific sand dabs are a hard-to-find classic, while dual short rib dishes, including one braised in root beer with local pecans, are modern and filling choices.
5736 E. Rancho Manana Blvd., Cave Creek
Two words: duck meatloaf. The Gladly’s staid soup and salad starters don’t earn points for creativity, but we’re intrigued to see how the gamey flavor of roast duck stands up to the accompanying rosemary millet and smoked cherry demi. Founding chef Bernie Kantak’s clever main dish is served with creamy foie gras mousseline and asparagus for textural contrast, followed by choice of banana pudding (in a jar, natch) or chocolate bread pudding for a homey, comforting end to the meal. Pan-seared scallops with sweet corn grits or chimichurri chicken make for safer main dish alternatives if you’re wary of the quacker.
2201 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
Scottsdale’s swanky upstairs lounge skipped sweets altogether in favor of an eclectic, trendy trio of flavor-packed savory dishes. Start with buttery beef tartare or crisp cabbage salad, moving on to decadent-sounding five-spice pork belly crêpes with truffle béchamel. Flavorful harissa and Greek yogurt elevate hangar steak, and fried chicken is almost dessert-worthy with the addition of bourbon maple syrup.
4166 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale