While empty downtown Phoenix sleeps on Thursday night, hipsters, businessmen, and downtown residents in the know come to dine and imbibe at The Arrogant Butcher.
The space is warm and inviting. A dimly-lit dining room set with its crown jewel of a rocking open kitchen is fun before you sit to eat. The restaurant is chic yet casual and pulses with energy refreshing as stepping out of Arizona’s summer heat.
Jean-clad servers adorned with black skinny ties hanging loosely around casually neglected top buttons are warm and personable. Despite the casual facade, the Arrogant Butcher boasts service typical of restaurants touting $200 tasting menus and Michelin stars. All of my questions were answered in great detail. I explained my $30 budget to my server, he was happy to stand at my table and guide me through my meal choices. Before eating dinner, I leave the dining room to take a quick phone call and return to find my discarded napkin folded neatly on the table.
Drinks here are expensive. Beers start at $3.75 for a Coors light with good beer priced at around $6. A Stella Artois is $5.50. The most expensive beer is a $15 Sonoran Brewing Co. IPA, which I assume comes with its own special bartender who, in Freudian style, solves a great personal issue of yours before the bottle is empty. The bar also offers a myriad of expensive cocktails and 23 wines by the glass starting at $7. My budget allows me no booze and I order a Pepsi ($3) which is replaced when half-full throughout the evening.
I am delighted to see oysters on the menu and order two for an appetizer. They come paired with three sauces. The first is a jalapeño mignonette which is remarkably sweet and in no way oppressive. Hints of honey come across in a masterfully balanced dipping sauce, whose gentle bite and subtle sweetness compliment the briny oyster. The second is a simple cocktail sauce. I often find cocktail sauce a dull affair, a condiment often forgotten aside chilled shrimp in a silver bowl of melting ice. This cocktail sauce is a delight and sparkling homage to an old cliche. The third sauce is a cajun remoulade and my least favorite. Bright and tasting subtly of dijon mustard, the sauce is lovely but does little to compliment the oyster.
For dinner, I opt for a short rib stew ($16), which my server assures me will fill stomachs of the hungriest men. The stew arrives piping hot, a fried egg adorning its surface. Beside the stew sits a piece of godly cornbread. Crowned with a pat of honey butter, it is rich and moist with a subtle hint of green chili, a gentle whisper beneath the bread’s delicate sweetness. The stew, itself, is a soulful tribute to southwestern decadence. Soft nuggets of braised beef, sous vide for 12 hours, hide with large pieces of green chili in an earthen pot of beans invoking cassoulets of great french kitchens. I close my eyes and eat very slowly, happy in that moment to simply enjoy as Tom Petty plays beneath the echoey chatter of happy diners.
My bill comes, after tax, to $26.10. A fine price for a relaxing evening of excellent service and gustatory delight.
Score: 5/5 Hemingways