Foodie Fervor for Restaurant WeekThe statewide event includes local standouts
The year’s wait is almost over — Restaurant Week happens this month (September 21–30). For food lovers, it’s a reminder that we live in a virtual culinary mecca, with the extra inducement of special menus and special pricing helping whet their appetite for dining out. But do the restaurateurs and chefs look forward to it as much?
“We always participate, for several reasons,” says Chef Christophe Mihy, of the celebrated Phoenix landmark El Chorro. On the people side, “We see our local crowd come back time after time, and it is always a pleasure.” On the food side, “The chefs have fun creating special items just for that week.” And he adds, “It also gives us an opportunity to try items and get feedback.”
Andrew Fritz, CEO and partner at The Gladly — a relative newcomer to the neighborhood, open five years — says, “I look at it as a bookend to the summer. It’s kind of my starting-off point for the upcoming busy season. Also, I really like the idea of new guests getting the opportunity to try our restaurant for the first time. We’re a mature business now, and this seasonal promotion helps us earn new fans.”
There’s a sense of community that pervades the entire 10-day event (yes, “Restaurant Week” is a misnomer). “Restaurant week is a wonderful opportunity to bring our community together to celebrate the culinary talents of our local chefs and restaurants,” says Sima Verzino, co-owner of Marcellino Ristorante. And from Beckett’s Table, Chef Justin Beckett shares, “Restaurant week is an opportunity for us to follow the spirit of supporting local, independent restaurants, and the specialized local vendors that make those restaurants so pivotal to the thriving culinary scene. Sharing the stage with so many of our community’s other talented chefs shining a light on all that Arizona has to offer, is an opportunity that’s integral to the spirit of both our restaurants.”
Referring to the prix-fixe menu, Verzino enthuses, “It gives guests 10 evenings to experience many different types of culinary adventures for a very affordable price.” The three-course menu her husband, Chef Marcellino, will be showcasing includes an appetizer of succulent grilled jumbo shrimp embracing a warm feta cheese croquet mantled on shredded red cabbage and glistening with his lemon dressing, and a main course (in addition, of course, to his fresh, handmade pastas) of Atlantic salmon delicately dusted with porcini flour, sautéed in a cognac flambé of fresh leeks and imported porcini mushrooms. “And then there’s dessert!” she says.
Whether Marcellino guests choose to enjoy people-watching from the patio that’s a great vantage point to the South Bridge shops and the bridge to the The Waterfront on the other side of the canal, or the Old-World décor inside, “Our preparation for our Arizona Restaurant Week guests is the same as every guest entering our restaurant. This is our ‘home,’ and they are welcomed and treated to European-style service. In Italy, your meal is not rushed. You enjoy each other’s company and you savor each course,” Verzino says.
At El Chorro, “We create and taste the menu a couple of months early taking in consideration what will be in season at that time,” says Chef Mihy, noting the restaurant will be flying halibut in as one of the dishes. “We also created a special dessert for this occasion.” The Pepita-Crusted Halibut could easily be followed by either the Beet Orange Cake with blood-orange coulis or the El Chorro Brownie Sunday. Enjoy your selection inside, in an atmosphere that yet evokes the Old West of its 1930s origins, or from one of the many patios that take full advantage of the 11-acre property’s location at the foot of Camelback Mountain.
At The Gladly, where the vibe is a modern “Cheers” with an affluent bend,“We create a menu with our most popular dishes. I figure, give people what they really want.,” Chef Bernie Kantak says, relating, “Guests are always telling me they like that we put popular dishes from our regular menu on the Restaurant Week menu.” He mentions the scallops in particular. “We basically run out of them every night and get a new order delivered the next morning.” Highlights in addition to the Pan Seared Scallops are Duck Meatloaf and Parsley Garlic Chicken.
Chef Justin Beckett coordinates his efforts for Beckett’s Table with his other restaurant, Southern Rail, located a few miles west on Camelback Road. “I spend time with my creative culinary team from both restaurants combing through offerings from local vendors to determine how we can best express the timing of the land through our food.” Witness the Seasonal Veggie Chop Salad and the Seasonal Veggie Enchilada that share billing with Fork-Tender Shortribs and Shrimp, Sausage & Chicken Jambalaya. “Currently, my team and I are working on a number of different possibilities, borrowing from inspiration we drew from our recently completed, first-ever Arizona Collaborative Dinner Series. We expect to showcase the fresh, locally inspired flavors that are unique to our home state.” Emphasis on local is a hallmark of this neighborhood eatery that, with its open kitchen and open dining room, is always filled with the sound of lively conversation.
Arizona Restaurant Week is not all fun for the diners. The restaurateurs get a lot from it, too.
Relates Verzino, “A couple came in during our very first participation of AZRW and told us we’d been on their to-go-to list for a long time, since they were originally from New York City. They had dined at Amarone, Chef Marcellino’s first restaurant in America. They so enjoyed the cuisine and the entire Marcellino experience, they’ve been dining with us every week since then. They told us they lived just two blocks from our ristorante and felt they had finally ‘found a home’ to dine at.”
From The Gladly, Fritz recalls, “I think it was two years ago, I remember a couple who dined five days in a row for Restaurant Week. I felt honored. There are a lot of great restaurants in the area, and they kept coming back here to try more things.”
As Restaurant Week has grown, the experience at El Chorro has shifted ever so slightly. Says Chef Mihy, “A few years ago, locals would come in mostly on the weekends for the Restaurant Week menu, and we would be packed on the weekends and much slower during the week. A year ago, people must have realized that they can also enjoy it during the week without the crowds. This gave us an opportunity to give a better experience to all Restaurant Week diners.”
Reflecting, “It’s been fascinating to watch the evolution in the event, as more restaurants have diversified and expanded the offerings from the community,” Chef Beckett shares, “Given the saturation, I’ve found the past few years have given the restaurant as a whole more creative freedom with interacting with our guests due to less immediate volume.”
Check out the restaurants’ special menus on the Arizona Restaurant Week website.
3717 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix
5550 E. Lincoln Dr., Paradise Valley
2201 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
7114 E. Stetson Dr., Scottsdale
Arizona Restaurant Week – Restaurants and Their Menus
Participating restaurants statewide post their menus on the Arizona Restaurant Week website.
Arizona Restaurant Week is a statewide event, but look how many of the participating restaurants are here in our vicinity:
Artizen Crafted American Kitchen & Bar
Barrio Queen – Old Town Scottsdale
Café Zu Zu
The Canal Club
The Capital Grille – Phoenix
Citizen Public House
Elements at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain
Farm and Craft
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar – Scottsdale
Hand Cut Burgers & Chophouse
Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn
The Parlor Pizzeria
Phoenix City Grille
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
True Food Kitchen – Phoenix
Vincent on Camelback
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