When one of your work perks is trying new restaurants and menus, you quickly become the go-to gal for friends’ dining inquiries. Not a week passes that I don’t get a few imploring Facebook messages or frantic texts asking for food recommendations. “I’m in Tempe for an appointment. What’s the best place for a quick lunch?” “In-laws visiting this weekend and they hate fish and spicy food. Any recs in the North Scottsdale area?” “What’s a nice restaurant for a birthday brunch that isn’t too expensive?”
That last word is the question that lurks behind every restaurant question. How expensive is it? We all have budgets, and even the wealthiest folks I know practice prudence with their funds. Still, we also relish a splurge. Mostly, I’ve found, people just want to know if a meal is worth it, whether they’re spending $20 or $200.
At Maple & Ash, the over-the-top Chicago steakhouse from chef/restaurateur Danny Grant that made its Old Town Scottsdale debut in 2019, a dinner bill will easily top the latter figure – two, three or four times over, depending on your party. Its signature fire-roasted seafood tower starts at $170 per person, with a “Pro” version priced at $200 and a “Baller” version for $270. The chef’s choice “I Don’t Give a F*@K” menu crafted by executive chef Sean Currid starts at $200 per person. And all of that is before you order $20 cocktails and spare-no-expense bottles of wine. “Is it worth it?” friends asked after I attended a media dinner there shortly after it opened. “Yes,” I replied. “But it’s definitely a special-occasion meal for people in our tax bracket. Save up and celebrate your anniversary or birthday there!”
That has long been my line for pricier places – until I discovered the magic of happy hour. It started with Dominick’s, our old Scottsdale Quarter neighbor. For dinner, the vaunted steakhouse was out of my price range. Its happy hour – which, sadly, is no longer – was another matter. I could get a glass of red wine and an order of huge, juicy, prime beef and pork meatballs for half the price of a steak. Now I advise friends to take this tack with any “fancy” spot they want to try. Do they have a happy hour? Go then, try discounted versions of their specialties, and see if you want to commit to a full dinner when you have more money.
When Maple & Ash brought its Tower Hour happy hour to Scottsdale after it was a hit in Chicago, I jumped at the chance to try it – for my friends, of course. I settled into a plush semicircular booth in the lounge with my PR pal Jen, who reps M&A and hosted me, and marveled at the glamorous, dramatically lit bar and nattily attired staff. I spotted several adorably quirky tie clips on the menfolk, so keep your eyes peeled for those aesthetic treats.
Tower Hour is so named because it offers a mini version of the gloriously gluttonous roasted seafood tower for just $40. Don’t let “mini” fool you, though – there is still plenty of fish on this tower. Jen and I feasted on an Alaskan king crab leg each, two meaty wild blue prawns, two perfectly bronzed scallops, oysters and Manila clams, all bearing the faint smokiness of the fire and covered in garlicky melted butter and herbs. Good news: The restaurant’s signature “pasta back” addition of freshly made pasta – tossed in the briny garlic butter after you’ve eaten some of the seafood – is available for the Tower Hour version. My love for this garlicky, buttery, carb-y perfection cannot be expressed in words. It’s a visceral devotion. Typing this now is activating hunger pangs that should not exist because I just ate lunch.
Tower Hour also brings $2 raw and fire-roasted oysters, an absolute steal for bivalves of this quality. I am not a fan, but Jen is, so she ordered two of each. The raw ones come on a bed of ice with an oceanic garnish of seaweed, a lemon segment, cocktail sauce, horseradish and a zippy Champagne mignonette. The roasted mollusks smell pleasingly of smoke and the sea – so good I was almost tempted to try them, despite my textural aversion. Make any of your oysters “Royale” with a $5 addition of caviar.
They aren’t discounted for Tower Hour, but you can order any of the steakhouse’s raw and chilled seafood options, salads or starters in the bar and lounge. We tried the dry-aged meatballs ($20), a quartet of crisp-edged orbs with luscious interiors. Thanks to the dry-aged beef, they have a beautifully nutty, complex flavor with more intense umami flavor than your average meatball. They come nestled in a pool of caramelized tomato sauce with oozy cheese curds and specks of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano. This whole sumptuous shebang is sided with a mini loaf of garlic bread that tasted like the best semolina pane at an Italian bakery.
Is Tower Hour worth it? Unquestionably yes.
Tower Hour features $15 Tito’s Vodka martinis and $10 wines (bubbles, rosé and house red).
Tower Hour runs Monday-Friday from 5-6 p.m. in the bar and lounge area only. Reservations are strongly encouraged.
7135 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale, 480-400-8888, mapleandash.com