Game On

Written by Gwen Ashley Walters Category: Three Bites Issue: March 2015
Group Mid-Level
Character count 2500

Game On
Valley grills display increasingly boar-ish, and buffalo-ish, behavior.

Wild Game Grill
2445 E. Thomas Rd.,
Phoenix, 602-955-1142,
wildgamegrillaz.com
Boasting that the buffalo burger you just polished off is “wild” game might be a stretch – no restaurant is serving game caught in the wild. Regulations stipulate a daunting and costly inspection process. But game meats are going mainstream at Valley restaurants, inviting diners to explore exotic new proteins. The cleverly-named Wild Game Grill is a sports-themed gastropub serving chalkboard specials such as wild boar Bolognese. Even classic bar fare gets a modern – and lean – twist from the addition of game meats like bison, elk, venison and even rabbit. Try the moderately spiced bison tacos ($11, pictured), featuring bison top round roast slowly simmered in house-made red chile sauce.

Cartwright’s Sonoran Ranch House
6710 E. Cave Creek Rd.,
Cave Creek, 480-488-8031,
cartwrightssonoranranchhouse.com
Chef Eric Flatt is as comfortable with a bow and arrow as he is with a chef’s knife, and his love of fresh game has informed the Cartwright’s menu since the restaurant opened in 2000. Flatt sources organic, grass-fed bison, elk, duck and quail. Start with the ground elk and pork meatballs simmered in a red chile cream sauce ($12), or a bowl of Rough Rider chili ($16) sporting seared cubes of bison and elk. Dinner options include a bison burger and a trio of mesquite-grilled tenderloins: beef, elk and bison ($42).

The Stockyards
5009 E. Washington St.,
Phoenix, 602-273-7378,
http://www.stockyardssteakhouse.com/
Phoenix isn’t the Wild West anymore, but this 68-year-old steakhouse institution helps diners suspend their disbelief. Although beef reigns supreme, game-lovers can wolf down a platter of homey bison meatloaf ($18) drenched in brown gravy and served with mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables. Seasonal selections include grilled elk medallions smothered in a rosemary-juniper sauce, and a mixed grill plate featuring that same elk paired with walleyed pike, a split wild boar and venison sausage link. Talk about a triple threat.