Cave Creek Carnivores

In search of the unexpected and the unusual

Uncle Edward ordered the barbecued swordfish special, which he consumed with gusto once he discovered the sauce had been flavored with a jigger or two of Jack Daniel's. Uncle mostly eschews firewater these days for health reasons. So that touch of Tennessee sippin' whiskey had him regaling us with his adventures in prewar Afghanistan. "On our first foray into the Kush, we lost our corkscrew and had to survive on nothing but food and water for weeks," he quipped. But I suspect he swiped that line from W.C. Fields. Uncle also gave me a bite or two of his fish. I've never been a swordfish fan, but the sauce was palatable. My only request: More whiskey! For the sauce, not for Uncle.

Mikey found his buffalo slightly chewy, but that didn't stop him from inhaling every bite. When it comes to meat, Cartwright's offers a selection of sauces, starches and veggies, and Mikey chose scalloped potatoes for his starch. Once it came, he decided he'd "never liked scalloped potatoes to begin with." What a Little Lord Fauntleroy! I wanted to tan his hide, because I found the side dish excellent.

Lance had nothing but praise for his slab o' cow. A refugee of Gotham, he just had to have New York strip, which made him pine for the steak houses of Manny-hanny, those days of wine and, ahem, poses. Me, I selected a tenderloin sampler: beef, elk and buffalo. Creamed horseradish was my sauce, smashed potatoes my starch and wild mushrooms the veggie. I adored the wild mushrooms, though the smashed potatoes were too salty. My tenderloins all tasted pretty bovine, with buffalo being the most mandible-intensive and elk the most tender. But the elk was farm-raised, depriving it of its uniqueness. And all the meats were basted in beef fat, further explaining their similarity in taste to steak. Supposedly this is done because the local yokels complain when their game is too, well, gamy. As for those of us who enjoy that muskiness, Cartwright's is no Shangri-la.

Chef Adam ain't got much game, yet.
Jackie Mercandetti
Chef Adam ain't got much game, yet.

Location Info


Cartwright's Sonoran Ranch House

6710 E. Cave Creek Road
Cave Creek, AZ 85331

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Cave Creek


House sausage: $9.50
Ahi nachos: $8.50
Tenderloin sampler (beef, elk and buffalo): $32
Cowboy campfire s'more: $6

480-488-8031. Hours: Open seven days for dinner, 5 to 9 p.m.

6710 East Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek

Recently I spoke to Dottieann Cartwright-Bird, the great-granddaughter of patriarch Reddick Jasper Cartwright, and she amused me with tales of eating Rocky Mountain oysters as a little girl before she even knew what they were! (Neither she nor the other Cartwright descendants have anything to do with the restaurant.) Would it be too much to ask Cartwright's to add some cojónes to their menu, figuratively if not literally?

I have no complaints with Cartwright's as an upscale surf-and-turf joint. The wine list was sufficient, the service was generally attentive and the dessert menu had us all moaning in appreciation -- especially with such exceptional offerings as a chocolate taco stuffed with margarita-lime mousse, and the "cowboy campfire s'more," an elegant riff on the standard Girl Scout fave. Moreover, the meals come with a truly inspired selection of breads, my favorite being one topped with jack cheese and peppers. But does Cartwright's really give Phoenicians a reason to trek north into the wilderness when there are alternatives closer to home? For the answer to be yes, the management needs to take its concept to the next level and impress our palates with the unexpected and the unusual.


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