But, as it turns out, District American Kitchen and Wine Bar is a pretty great eatery. Hallelujah! Considering the hotel’s culturally rough location at Third and Van Buren streets, its managers wisely have worked hard to position it as a separate entity from the hotel. They’ve given it a private entrance, a curvaceous-spacious interior, and extra touches such as live music and local art displays. They’ve blessed it with a team of former Phoenician Resort talents (both hotels are operated by the same company), like executive chef Frank Belosic (Mary Elaine’s) and chef de cuisine Nathan Crouser (Il Terrazzo). And they’ve come up with a concept we all can get behind: the American heartland.
It’s true that District fulfills its role as a hotel restaurant, serving three meals a day, seven days a week. Yes, the menu is chock-a-block with contemporary clichés – a sloppy Joe and tater tots ($9), fried chicken ($17), mac ’n’ cheese with ham ($7). But don’t scoff: Some are transcendent versions of old favorites, and most are darn good. Eggs Benedict ($16), for example, gets a bit of Southern Dixie sass from cheddar sauce, a corn muffin and fried green tomatoes. District’s hook is local ingredients, and servers aren’t shy about reminding us of that. Arizona trademarks punctuate the menu. You’ll see Black Mesa goat cheese, Cedar River Farms beef, The Farm at South Mountain produce, Desert Sweet shrimp, Nimbus Brewery beer, and Schreiner’s Fine Sausages, alongside American wines and liquors. The chefs aren’t afraid of a little style, either. The shrimp in the po’ boy sliders ($9) are sautéed in grapeseed oil instead of fried, then layered with andouille, tomato, celery root slaw and a dollop of Dijon for extra zing. Chicken tortilla soup ($8) arrives deconstructed and diced in a big bowl; the creamy broth is poured tableside. The first thing that strikes you about the Oak Creek Nut Brown Ale short ribs ($23) is their pitiless calorie count, with well marbled meat and a generous side of buttery cheddar jalapeño grits. The second is that it’s irresistible. And while a chicken potpie ($18) may look like a comically huge pillow of puff pastry, it’s luscious, fancied up with English peas and tiny potato dumplings inside. Other plates, while reliably pleasing, are more ordinary: fish and chips ($19), a huge BLT salad ($8), or cedar plank salmon ($19). At dessert (all $8), we’ve seen doughnut holes with spiced cider before, but not three mini whoopie pies paired with a Bourbon malt shake.
They’re delicious, but wait, District has one more surprise in store: A freebie cloud of cotton candy comes with the bill.
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