Cosmetically, the former McGrath’s Fish House in Goodyear is everything I tend to avoid when seeking a memorable meal. I visited because I was curious about the independent partnership between owner Anthony Guerriero and his childhood friend, Chef Paul Fratella, and hoped to find a good eatery in this neck of the desert.
When the food arrived, my mood brightened. While not fine dining, there’s no denying the cooking expertise and sparks of inspiration, such as empanadas ($8) – delightfully flaky bundles filled with savory ground beef, finished with a touch of green chile sauce and queso fresco. They’re addictive alongside a not-too-sweet cucumber margarita ($8).
The big space is popular with families for its kids’ menu and with revelers for its happy hour, so it skews noisy. Still, servers are quick, and this is one of the best places in the West Valley to get pulled pork, piled so high on brioche that the sandwich leans to the side like the Tower of Pisa. It’s a finger-licking mess of tender meat moistened with tangy homemade barbecue sauce and layered with slaw and thick-cut, beer-battered fries ($9.30).
One of the signatures is the ceviche bar, trimmed in tile and flanked with tall chairs, where you can watch the cook (cevichist?) assemble your custom combos of daily fish and shrimp, served with chips, on a tostada, or atop leaf lettuce, sprinkled with goodies like sliced avocado, diced mango, diced green apple or roasted corn ($10.50).
You don’t often find fresh wahoo (Hawaiian ono) as a local menu staple, but the dense yet delicate-flavored fish is worth seeking out. Chef Fratella glazes the fillet with an excellent rum-butter sauce ($15.90), yielding a jacket of lightly caramelized, crispy goodness. Sadly, he seems to forget about the sides – the molded scoop of white rice and plain steamed broccoli hardly do the fish justice.
Inelegant presentation also detracts from the first-rate flavors of an Atlantic salmon fillet grilled over pecan wood, piled with flaked Dungeness crab and smothered in hollandaise and Hatch green chile sauce next to two long slabs of grilled zucchini ($18.80). When cooked, the ingredients turn gray on the plate; it should look as pretty as it tastes.
For dessert, I went for chocolate cake ($6.50), an enormous five-layer slab à la mode. It wasn’t graceful, but before I knew it, my companions and I had cleaned the plate.
Caballero may not look like a find, but give the Grill a chance, and you’ll discover a worthy destination in Goodyear.
Address: 1800 N. Litchfield Rd., Goodyear
Hours: 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday; 9 a.m.-12 a.m. Sunday
Highlights: Beef empanadas ($8); pulled pork sandwich ($9.30); ceviche ($10.50); wahoo fillet ($15.90); Atlantic salmon fillet ($18.80); chocolate cake ($6.50)
50 Best AZ Restaurants
We ate. Then we drove. Then we ate some more. ...
Where To Eat 2018
Another year, another glorious eruption of must-try restaurants, visionary chefs, hot food trends and celebrity recommendations. Find them all here, in our top o’ the year salute to Valley dining. ...
2015 Best New Restaurants
Our annual highlight reel of metro Phoenix’s most damnably delicious new restaurants. ...
Where to Eat 2017
Food trends, upcoming restaurants, rising chefs – the gang's all here! Plus: “Destination Dishes” throughout Arizona worth the drive. ...
75 Best Dishes in the Valley
The most iconic. The most creative. The best specimen of a beloved breed. ...