The 10-day fall run of Arizona Restaurant Week is nearly here, September 17 to 26. The whole industry is still feeling the financial and emotional squeeze of the pandemic, and ARW is a time to show support and try a few new places at friendly prices. This fall, many look to be bringing heat.
All said,120 restaurants (as of this writing) are participating in the event. Meals cost $33, $44, or $55 for three courses, and at some places include a drink. Many participating restaurants offer a takeout option, a feature introduced last year to keep Restaurant Week alive during the pandemic. (Before you dine-in, be sure to check a given restaurant’s mask and vaccination policy.)
In a happier twist, this year the organizers of Arizona Restaurant Week will be accepting and encouraging donations to HonorHealth Desert Mission Food Bank, which provided 21,000 food boxes and nearly 10,700 snack packs to food-insecure food districts in 2020. Feels like a great chance to give back.
This fall, there are a number of really promising menus. Some restaurants are going pretty hard. Where will I be dining this year? Here are five spots that look great.
The Market by Jennifer’s
3603 East Indian School Road, Suite A
This breezy catering-restaurant hybrid in Arcadia will be spotlighting local ingredients in dishes that lean classic farm-to-table American. To start, there’s almejs, a Spanish clam soup in a tomato broth dusted with pumpkin seeds, as well as other lighter soup and salad options. The second course goes more pedal-down: squash gnocchi with fried sage, slow-cooked lamb shank, beef Wellington, or 5-spice duck breast. Finally, a desert selection comes courtesy of local sweets maven Tracy Dempsey.
The Canal Club
4925 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
The scene at this Cuban restaurant inside The Scott Resort contributes to why this one appears at the top of my list. To make the most of The Canal Club, post up at the tropical bar in the lobby and then for dinner, heat permitting, grab a table by the pool and palm trees outside. Starters look to be clean and light and made for some residual late-summer sun: ceviche, tostones with black beans, and shrimp salad. Entrees include grilled chicken thigh, blackened snapper, and a classic Cuban skirt steak with chimichurri. Sweets here are generally worth some stomach real estate. Me, I’d consider the churro doughnut holes
Phoenix City Grille
5816 North 16th Street
One of the widespread quibbles with restaurant weeks as a national concept is that many people believe restaurants use cheaper ingredients and set the kitchen to cruise control during the week. Phoenix City Grille goes all out for Arizona Restaurant Week and spares few expenses on sourcing. The kitchen uses Crow’s Dairy goat cheese in the beet salad, sauce made from Ramona Farms tepary beans on a wood-grilled pork chop, Rhiba Farms mushrooms in a Bolognese tossed with fresh pappardelle. This central Phoenix classic’s bourbon list has also gotten insanely good. See for yourself.
Tonto Bar & Grill
5736 East Rancho Manana Boulevard, Cave Creek
Way up in Cave Creek, this inventive Southwestern eatery with an ample patio tends to go pretty hard for Restaurant Week, and this year’s 10-day shindig is no expectation. Highlights include a tortilla-encrusted crab cake with smoked Chile aioli(!), braised short rib with whipped yams, and a lemon-lime meringue tart that incorporates prickly pear. Corn, squash, pistachios, and other foundational Arizona ingredients thread the menu. Many dishes have vegan or gluten free options.
LON’s at the Hermosa Inn
5532 North Palo Cristi Road
Home to one of the most wide-open, sun-splashed, knee-weakening patios in the area, this Paradise Valley New American kitchen with an intense Arizona focus makes for a perennially solid Restaurant Week choice. Nicely, the Restaurant Week menu calls out a few cocktails from Lon’s Last Drop, the excellent faux-rustic bar inside of the low-slung inn. On paper, there isn’t a weak link to this $55 Restaurant Week menu, though there are clear leaders for each course in my opinion. At LON’s, I’d roll with smoked corn tortellini, pork Osso buck, and peanut butter pie.