Dining at a good steakhouse is like flying first class: an experience worth more than the sum of its parts. Is filet mignon, no matter how carefully cooked, actually worth $30? Probably no more than a hot towel and complimentary vodka tonics are worth double a ticket in coach. But when you put them all together, they create such a classically satisfying experience that it’s hard to regret coughing up the cash. So it goes at this new Downtown incarnation of Mancuso’s at the Borgata, which closed in 2005. Tasty though the aforementioned filet is, many of the best offerings are marine, like the Atlantic salmon in mild dill sauce with broccolini and pasta ($26, pictured). I didn’t detect much gorgonzola in the gorgonzola potato mash ($8); a better choice among the sides was the asparagus blanketed in luxurious hollandaise ($8). From the dessert tray, the tiramisu was expertly balanced, and I loved the almond cream cake, though I shared it with somebody who thought it too sweet.
Must try: In the mood for seafood, but can’t decide what you want? Mancuso’s paella ($34), combining squid, scallops, mussels and shrimp with landlocked meats and delectable vegetables, relieves you of the need to choose.
201 E. Washington St., 480-556-0770, mancusosrestaurant.com
Lincoln Restaurant and Bar 1936
The prime filet ($44) at this steakhouse and watering hole, which replaced BLT at JW Marriott Camelback Inn, is mouthwateringly tender and pink inside a splendidly charred outer rim, and the bed of celeriac mousse upon which it sits is intriguing. The supporting players are great, too. From the appetizers, the fried cauliflower ($11) with mizuna (Japanese mustard greens) and smoked yogurt went further than most attempts in terms of making that vegetable interesting to me, and among the side dishes, the Ramona Farms grits ($9) were enhanced by morsels of rich huitlacoche – the mythic “Mexican truffle,” aka corn smut. From the dessert menu, warm butter cake ($10), combining apples and Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream in a pulse-quickening whiskey sauce, is the standout. All told, Lincoln is less hidebound and more farm-focused than its celeb-chef-fronted predecessor. Not spot on, but admirably earnest.
Must try: Delicious as the filet was, the best thing I tried at Lincoln had no relation to cow: country fried chicken and dumplings ($29). Chicken oysters – the prized dark meat from the bird’s inner thighs – are served with lovely potato gnocchi and vegetables in a gravy that’s like a hug from Mom.
5402 E. Lincoln Dr. (at Camelback Inn), 480-905-7979, marriott.com
Saddle Ranch Chop House
Although it’s nestled at the foot of Gila River Arena, amidst the Vegas-y glitter of Glendale’s Westgate Entertainment District, this chop joint rolls old-school. The exterior is a neon ode to an earlier era of cowboy kitsch, while the spacious interior is lined with corny cowboy aphorisms (“RUN WHEN YOU’RE WRONG, SHOOT WHEN YOU’RE RIGHT”) and equipped with a mechanical bull. The service is perfunctory at times, but the meat – both the filet ($29.99) and the humble yet possibly even tastier sirloin (starting at $18.99) – are perfectly cooked and toothsome, and nicely enhanced by the addition of Cabernet, Béarnaise or garlic butter sauces, with sweet corn succotash on the side. The baby back ribs (starting at $18.99) don’t lack for tender yumminess, either. For dessert, the cotton candy tower ($9.99) isn’t falsely advertised: It’s surreal how much cotton candy they set in front of you.
Must try: For do-it-yourself-ers, there’s another dessert option: Roast Your Own S’mores ($9.99) over the open patio fire.
9375 W. Coyotes Blvd., Glendale,623-889-7770, thesaddleranch.com
Located in Mesa’s Dana Park shopping center, the first Arizona location of a Utah-based Brazilian steakhouse chain has the look of a typical modern chop house, with branding-iron-shaped light fixtures. But the goodies are served churrasco style – all-you-can-eat skewers carved at your table. For one price ($29.99 for dinner, $24.99 for the weekend brunch) you get free run of the salad bar, dizzyingly stocked with everything from feijoada (black beans and pork) to assado (brisket) to beef stroganoff. Don’t fill up: Once you’ve flipped your table’s “meat cube” from red to green, a friendly gaucho will come to your table every few minutes offering some juicy delight on a skewer: presunto (candy-sweet ham), picanha (sirloin), maminha (tri-tip), linguiça (pork sausage) or delectable abacaxi (grilled pineapple). He carves you a slice, you pluck it away with your tongs, and the process is repeated until the meat wins and you flip the cube back to red. It’s the white flag, as it were.
Must try: Wash it all down with a Rodizio limeade ($5), a frothy blended concoction available in several flavors – try the pineapple-mango.
1840 S. Val Vista Dr., Mesa, 480-813-5400, rodiziogrill.com
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