The Stockyards: A Reminder of Arizona Before the Controversy

I'm here to talk about food, not politics. But let me tell you, the calls to boycott Arizona businesses have made me upset.

If local establishments falter from the fallout — and they're barely starting to show signs of life after this ass-kicker of a recession — it'll be bad for everyone, no matter where any of us stands on SB 1070. I've had plenty to say about supporting locally owned independent businesses in the past, but the recent firestorm over illegal immigration makes me even more adamant about putting my money where my mouth is.

This time around, I did it at an iconic Phoenix restaurant where I could forget the tense headlines for a couple hours and celebrate a bygone time when Arizona was considered somewhat glamorous in its rugged, Old West individualism. Imagine that.

Take a bite of Arizona history at The Stockyards, a time-honored steakhouse where meat eaters can get their game on with elk, buffalo, and more.
Jackie Mercandetti
Take a bite of Arizona history at The Stockyards, a time-honored steakhouse where meat eaters can get their game on with elk, buffalo, and more.

Location Info

Map

The Stockyards Restaurant and 1889 Saloon

5009 E. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Central Phoenix

Details

The Stockyards
5009 East Washington Street
602-273-7378
www.stockyardsrestaurant.com
Hours: lunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday; dinner, 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Calf fries: $10
Wild boar and venison sausage: $14
Grilled elk: $40
Skillet salmon: $28

Renovated in 2005, The Stockyards is an old-school gem with hefty black booths and dark wood chairs, a chandelier made out of branding irons, classic Western-themed paintings, and echoes of the 1950s, when the city's power brokers came here to schmooze over steaks and shrimp cocktail. The menu is still heavy on the meat and potatoes — including exotic meats, like elk, buffalo, and the legendary "calf fries" — and the waitstaff is both gracious and attentive.

If you're almost convinced that "controversy" is one of the state's "Five C's," head to The Stockyards for a refreshing reminder of the way things were (back before many of us moved here or likely were even born yet).

For decades, cattle, copper, citrus, cotton, and climate were considered the five pillars of the state's economy, and The Stockyards is a proud tribute to the first. Consider the hard-to-miss, gloriously kitschy cow statue on top of the mid-century building, which is included on the city's Historical Register, or the restaurant's name, which references a long history.

By the early '50s, the Tovrea Land and Cattle Company had nearly 40,000 head of cattle in 200 acres of pens — supposedly the world's largest feedlot at the time — and this was the Administration Building for its operations. The restaurant opened after a fire prompted a rebuild in 1954.

For a place that calls itself "Arizona's Original Steakhouse," I wouldn't expect a lot of surprises — nor were there many. Of course there's prime rib and Porterhouse and all kinds of beefy temptation. I sank my teeth into the filet mignon and it was well prepared, its salt-and-pepper-coated crust giving way to a succulent pink middle.

But the things that intrigued me most were those unexpected dishes that jazzed up the routine. Why would I bother with oysters Rockefeller (much as I love them) when I could nibble on wild boar and venison sausages with apple-cranberry chutney? The sausages were so juicy that they burst when I slid my steak knife through their crispy casings.

Even more out there were the calf fries, something you just don't see on menus around town. What are those, you ask? Think of meatballs in the most literal way. That's right, they're deep-fried testicles — chunks of them, actually, because whole calf balls are pretty big, from what our waiter told us (in a somewhat TMI fashion). Crunchy on the outside and spongy on the inside, they had a beefy, mildly musky flavor that hinted of liver. And you have to be a little ballsy to try them, even when there's plenty of pungent cocktail sauce on hand.

An acquired taste to be sure, but come on — there was no way my friends and I were coming to The Stockyards without sampling their most famous dish. The funniest thing that came out of one day's visit was when a pal realized she'd ordered a quarter-pound buffalo hot dog to go along with the balls. Her boyfriend may not let her live that down.

In comparison, a roasted corn and black bean quesadilla sounded tame, but at least nobody had to eat it on a dare. Golden buttermilk onion rings were sizzled to a mouthwatering crunch, while the cool Caesar salad with shaved Parmesan could've used a bigger dose of garlic.

For me, the winning entrée was just as satisfying as a good steak, only it was a more rare treat: grilled elk. Seared medallions of juicy, ruby-colored meat were teamed with a rich juniper-rosemary sauce that I scooped up with bites of garlic and chive potato cake. Buffalo meatloaf, served atop mashed potatoes, came in at a close second. It was so moist that it hardly needed the pan gravy ladled over it.

Pecan-dusted walleyed pike with sweet cream butter sauce sounded interesting, but ultimately I preferred the skillet salmon thanks to its tangy citrus-chile glaze. Since both dishes came with the same bland heap of rice pilaf, sauce made a difference, and the latter's gave the rice more kick.

Fighting meat overload with a dose of sugar, my friends and I gobbled up pecan pie with bourbon whipped cream — but were convinced that the bourbon was actually in the pie. You really could taste a bit of booze behind the sweetness. In any case, it was decent. And sour cream cheesecake was so good we practically fought each other for every forkful of velvety decadence.

Without a doubt, The Stockyards is one of the most delightful places in Arizona to put politics aside and simply have a ball.

 
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8 comments
Hank Hill
Hank Hill

Michele: Stick to restaurant reviews and leave the politics to somebody else.

Your implication that having a decent place to eat is more important than the civil rights of indigenous people is extremely offensive. In words from Full Metal Jacket, "Its a shit sandwich and we're all going to have to take a bite."

Now stick to what you know, stuffing your face.

Love,

Hank

Geoff
Geoff

We've eaten at The Stockyards many times, it is very consistent and very affordable. It is actually much less expensive than the other comparable steakhouses in Phoenix / Scottsdale. All of the dinner entrees include a salad and a potato. The steaks are top notch and we love their Caesar Salad. The Prime Rib is the best we've ever had anywhere. They have an excellent selection of game items as well. One of our all time favorites.

Jay
Jay

I'm sorry, but my experience of this restaurant was that it was overpriced and the food was cold when it came out. The service was good, but there are many better restaurants that serve the same kind of food and are less expensive.

Barbara Toombs
Barbara Toombs

Very well-written review! We often forget the tried-and-true places that have remained constant, year after year.

r
r

"...where I could forget the tense headlines for a couple hours and celebrate a bygone time when Arizona was considered somewhat glamorous in its rugged, Old West individualism. Imagine that."

Glamorous by whom? Gotta love the way that "rugged, Old West individualism" helps decimate land and people. Aaah, such wonderful times.

And I don't want anyone's business to fail but human and civil rights are more important. And as we saw with MLK Day, people won't respond unless money's involved.

G
G

I LOVE this restaurant! It's very affordable, unlike so many other steakhouse - so we try to go as often as we can. The last time I was there, I had the skillet salmon (t's my favorite), with a delicious glaze that keeps it very moist and flavorful. My friend had the pork chop, the cornbread stuffing is unbelievable, it's sweet and moist - every mouthful of pork with stuffing and chutney is so good. They always serve a veggie tray with dip and right-out-of-the-oven muffins with honey butter (Yummy!), we do our best not to fill up on these treats before dinner. Just sink into one of the big comfie booths, check out the western artwork and historical photos and prepare for a delicious meal!

FB
FB

Awesome write-up Michele!! You're one "ballsy" chick for ordering the calf fries, hehe.. I went with a table full of butch brawny men who wouldn't dare put balls in their mouths, well calf balls anyway.. I ate most of the basket myself with a side of ranch. Fun stuff!

Kelly
Kelly

Oh really? A local business might fail? Doubt it. Its more likely huge government owned businesses will fail. Besides, boohoo.

 
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