Meat Loaf Market

Lively music and meals merge at Soho

Who'd have thought I'd find really terrific, wow-that's-good meat loaf in a nightclub? But I did, served at Soho, right alongside potent concoctions like an espresso martini (a creamy, macho blend of Stoli Vanil, Kahlúa, Frangelico, espresso and Bailey's) and a decor that's downscale Goth.

Black and burgundy velvet curtains, flickering candles, private draped booths and an eclectic blend of music (house mix, high-energy funk, power R&B, underground hip-hop) don't often go hand-in-hand with high-class hamburgers, but there's always room for pleasant surprises. This funky little dance joint on Fifth Avenue and Indian School in Scottsdale is owned by transplants from St. Louis, and partners Scott Ziegler and Michael Cruickshank are taking their menu as seriously as their music.

The meat loaf that's stolen my heart is fashioned from sirloin steak, grilled with lots of garlic and caramelized shallots. Two hefty slabs are taste and texture perfect, bright with beefy flavor, firm and moist. They come served atop gently sautéed fresh spinach leaves and crisp-edged roasted potato slices, and smothered in a zingy marinara studded with mushrooms, a steal of a meal at $11. I savored mine with a Soho Raz (a frothy delight of Stoli Razberi, black raspberry, sour mix and cranberry juice in a martini glass).

While Soho has whittled its menu substantially since it first opened (as demand has dictated), many of the remaining items are of real restaurant quality. Management would do well to clean up the empty pizza boxes and beer bottles from the center stage, but the kitchen is cranking on all cylinders with dishes like chicken skewers marinated in cognac, ancho peppers and cinnamon; a spinach salad with sweet and spicy walnuts, red onion, egg, feta, bacon and balsamic vinaigrette; and the Big Ass burger (a sandwich name stolen without apology from Roaring Fork chef Robert McGrath).

As I dug through topnotch chicken pot stickers with carrot salad and sweet soy, my server told me that the menu is still evolving. Soho's is an eclectic crowd, he explained, one that shuns that Arizona staple of iced tea, but packs away a good amount of Long Island iced teas.

My suggestions: One, keep the meat loaf. Two, show some humanity with the mojitos. Mine was so toxic with Bacardi 151 it almost crippled me. Served in a full-size water glass, it was garnished with cane sugar, fresh mint, lime and a "splash" of soda; even after being diluted with two more glasses of water, it almost peeled paint. I just about fell face first into Soho's signature dish: the St. Louis staple of tasty toasted seasoned beef ravioli.

 
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