Trying new restaurants is a big part of my life – for work and for personal pleasure. This year, though, I’ve made an effort to patronize (via takeout; I’m still quarantining) restaurants that are older, but new to me. I’ve especially made a point to try beloved Valley institutions I’d somehow missed in my dining adventures. Now I know that I, too, love Los Sombreros and Rusconi’s American Kitchen!
This time I thought I’d finally try Roaring Fork and its wood-fired Southwestern cuisine, made famous by former chef/owner Robert McGrath. When I was 12, I started religiously reading The Arizona Republic’s dining section and saw McGrath’s and Roaring Fork’s names so much they became celebrities in my consciousness. Decades later, it was time to try the legendary “Big Ass” Burger myself.
Stepping into Roaring Fork is like wandering into the residence of a wealthy rancher. Smooth stone, gleaming wood and patina-ed metal furnishings create a rustic, cozy cave lit by a chandelier fashioned from antlers. The bar and saloon, which is where happy hour discounts are offered, is also warm and inviting, yet properly distanced.
The “greatest hits” of this institution of Southwestern cuisine are offered at discounted prices, including that “Big Ass” Burger ($12.50). It lives up to its name – it’s so big I have to squish it between my fingers to fit it into my mouth. The meat is juicy and faintly smoky, topped with lettuce, pickles, tomato, onion and bacon. It is great, but I actually prefer the crispy chicken sandwich ($12.50), with creamy coleslaw and pickles. The bird is succulent and the batter is crunchy and well-seasoned. You can order it hot or mild.
The signature green chile pork ($8.50) boasts a smoky, spicy gravy coating tender hunks of pork. It comes with warm flour tortillas for DIY burros and sauce-sopping. Rotisserie chicken flatbread ($10.50) is cheesy and surprisingly herbaceous thanks to a generous slick of basil pesto. The sleeper hit is the guacamole ($8.50), which is the perfect balance of chunky and creamy. It has delightful garlic oomph and enough spice to be interesting but still approachable. Scoop it up with thick, crunchy and super fresh tortilla chips and you’ve got a satisfying meal.
Next time I’ll try the queso con puerco ($8.50), the Caesar ($6.50) and the smoked chicken wings ($10.50).
You can’t go wrong with a Raging Rita (classic margarita, available frozen or on the rocks) or a sweet-tart huckleberry version (each $6). They are either very strong or I have lowered my booze tolerance, because half of one left me a bit tipsy. Classic martinis, Manhattans and select wines by the glass (including Bogle Sauvignon Blanc and Trapiche Malbec) are also just $6.
- Happy hour is offered Tuesday-Saturday from 4-6 p.m.
- All-night happy hour is offered Sunday and Monday from 4 p.m.-close.
- Happy hour is available for dine-in only, and only in the bar and saloon. (I paid full price and ordered mine to go because I am still not comfortable dining in a restaurant; if you are, enjoy the happy hour pricing there!)