Sam Fox Shoots but Doesn't Score with The Arrogant Butcher

One good thing I can say right off the bat about The Arrogant Butcher, the latest "concept" eatery from restaurant guru Sam Fox, located in CitySpace, kitty-corner to US Airways Center in downtown Phoenix: It's convenient.

And though it's always great to see another downtown restaurant open its doors to a dinner clientele — albeit only until 10 p.m. most days — it's obvious from the restaurant's menu offerings that it's pandering mainly to a captive sports-event-and-convention crowd hankering for the comfort of the fried, cheesy, salty, and cured.

Would I drive across town just for the food here? Probably not. But I would be lying if I said there were no standout items being offered by this latest addition to the downtown Phoenix cuisine scene.

The arrogance of flaccid fries.
Jackie Mercandetti
The arrogance of flaccid fries.

Location Info

Map

The Arrogant Butcher

2 E. Jefferson
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Central Phoenix

Details

The Arrogant Butcher
2 East Jefferson Street, #150
602-324-8502
www.foxrestaurantconcepts.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday

Smoked salmon rillette: $11
Sweet potato tortelli: $15
Rock shrimp jambalaya: $18
Turkey pastrami: $12

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Fox is well known for his other restaurants in the Valley, including Scottsdale's Olive & Ivy and Modern Steak, so I was looking forward to trying The Arrogant Butcher. Unfortunately, I don't feel like it's up to Fox's usual standards, which have been very high, indeed. Plus, the name is just plain annoying. According to one waiter I spoke to, it came from Fox's memory of a neighborhood butcher who always thought his meat was the absolute best available and theatrically presented it as such.

Maybe in tribute to the fact that The Arrogant Butcher is located near the quickly disappearing warehouse district, the restaurant is a consciously casual combo of industrial and boho elements: striped-fabric banquettes and booths, ochre-color resin tables, oversize hanging light elements made variously from mirrored glass, fabric-covered wire shades and, in the back room known as The News Room, gigantic woven baskets that do nothing to muffle a sound level that prohibits normal communication without full-on shouting.

The focus of the main room is a U-shaped metal bar with backlit bottles and an open patio that's supposed to be climate-controlled, as well as a small raw seafood bar over which a huge Deco-style clock is mounted. We'll see in ensuing months whether that claim about the patio's climate control is, in fact, true.

For lunch, even with reservations, we were shuffled into the inescapable din of The News Room, lined with photos of Arizona public figures, old downtown landmarks, and those kitschy images you're bombarded with in unsolicited emails. Joining us was a large party of either office workers gone wild or cavorting conventioneers, one of whom presented butt to the entire table in a fake mooning; that was followed by several full glasses being launched onto the floor.

The following Saturday night we went for dinner sans reservations, though we didn't have to wait long to be seated in the main dining area, directly adjacent to the outside patio. (There was no Suns game that night, which clearly helped.) It was considerably quieter there, though fairly packed with a younger, amiable crowd out for a good time. And because there were no events happening downtown on a Tuesday night we visited, the restaurant was, foreseeably, less than bustling.

I've concluded that some of the best things on The Arrogant Butcher's menu are its cheese and charcuterie selections, from which you can fashion your own antipasti platter. Favorites in the cheese department include Montchevre Le Cabrie, a Brie made from tangy goat's milk, and addictive Rogue Creamery Smoky Blue, served up with freshly baked, crusty bread and a mini-jar of cherry marmalade. Such preserved-meat entries as La Quercia prosciutto, Benton's Smoky Mountain Ham, and Fra'mani salumi are sliced preternaturally thin, so that you can almost see through them.

Served with warm bread and sweet-and-sour homemade mustard, the meats' melt-in-your-mouth texture vied mightily with the mixed foie gras and chicken liver pâté, smooth as butter and flecked with earthy bits of black truffle. The accompanying sour cornichon pickles made the pâté a must-order item, though nearly outdone by the smoked salmon rillete. Ordinarily a shredded mixture of pork or duck poached in its own fat, The Arrogant Butcher's twist uses tender chunks of smoked salmon bound lightly with herbed crème fraîche, crowned with capers, olives, and marinated red peppers, and served in a glass crock. Slather that on the rustic bread that comes with it, and you will become an instant fan.

I can't say much about the rest of the appetizers. The potato fritters with bacon and cheese, made for dipping in truffled crème fraîche, become greasy the instant they cool off, as do the deep-fried rock shrimp in a corn meal batter served with a side of aioli that tastes suspiciously like Creole Dijon remoulade sauce. What saves the shrimp are the deep-fried shisito peppers mixed in — small, relatively mild but intensely flavorful Japanese peppers that look like a cross between a jalapeño and stunted okra. I actually thought about asking for just an order of the peppers.

I wish I could say something positive about The Arrogant Butcher's salads, sandwiches, and most of their entrées, but I can't. A roasted squash and Brussels sprout salad sounded like a great idea, but it was so over-salted that the sweetness of the squash, as well as the nuttiness of the sprouts, was completely drowned out. Grilled chicken tabbouleh salad with oregano vinaigrette, made with romaine, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, and a mere sprinkling of bulgur wheat and skinless marcona almonds, was edible but hardly noteworthy. The crab cake Louie salad, with barely there avocado, greens, corn kernels, and pieces of white asparagus served with two lackluster pucks of more cake than crab, was even more disappointing. And The Arrogant Butcher's turkey pastrami sandwich with Swiss cheese and coleslaw on a soft pretzel bun made soggy by the coleslaw did not do the sandwich category proud. Though I love fries made with skin-on potatoes, the ones that came with the sandwich were so cold and flaccid that even Viagra couldn't have helped.

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26 comments
mynomzturn2bombz
mynomzturn2bombz

WOW, its obvi the person that reviewed The Arrogant Butcher must be bias...probably because their second job is at a competing restaurant. The review was way back when The Butcher only had its doors open for less than a month...a little slack please? I've been many of times and the food and service was OUTSTANDING. I felt for Fox, opening downtown is a gamble but seriously that man pisses gold. by far the best service i've had at any of his concepts, the waitstaff knows their sh*t and is always making sure your completely satisfied.

I certainly haven't feasted as much as the know it all foodie writer but i can tell you app wise: House soft pretzels and provolone fondue is money. The smoked salmon spread is the -ish. Charcuterie menu is bomb, pair some meats, cheese, asparagus ect, for your own antipasta plate...i was like a kid in the candy store. Entrees: Crab Stuffed Chicken...no need to say more, Jambalaya, Scallops, Grilled sword fish, RIBEYE, and the short rib stew...i need it like a crack fiend. Salads and sandwiches, The Tabbouleh, Kale, and Louie are my fav salads sandwiches that are bomb are the Turkey sloppy joe, Grinder, and Turkey pastrami...which is from Culinary Dropout. Desserts, Peanut butter cup all the way baby NOM NOM NOM. Fox is repin the az beer on tap, Four peaks Kilt lifter, San Tan Hefe, and Sun Up Light rail Cream. Specialty cocktails that are my fav are the Polish Fix: Vodka with frech leamon and lime juice and muddled berries...crushed ice is used...ends up looking like an adult snow cone. The Candlestick maker, Fox's spin on a Manhatten...if i could drink one drink for the rest of my life this is the one. Then the After School special fancier then the beer-garitas i make its a mechilada style drink with razz infused tequila and agave necter and Modelo on top...schools out for summer with that one. downtown phx isn't a traditional metro downtown. its not a usual hustle and bustle, its lax and chill. most only venture for a ball game or concert, i don't understand it...its not a far drive or a pain like typical downtown. but whatev, its a best kept secret and i enjoy it. Fox is doin work, what he does best, despite the negativity from some The Butcher has made a name for itself as being the best concept by far in my opinion....i'd rather come downtown and not have to go hang with the DB's in sdale anyday and call The Arrogant Butcher my watering hole.

Food Fan
Food Fan

I recently dined there...the "pork n beans" -- a pork shank served in beans & collard greens -- was great, and the beef short rib stew -- plus a surprisingly dense cornbread muffin -- was absolutely fantastic. The drinks were creative, and *everything* tasted great. I don't understand why the New Times was so negative in their review, but I would come back any day of the week..

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anon
anon

Wow, lots of angry responses. I actually found the review to be pretty dead-on:

We went there for lunch, got there at about 11:15 so it wasn't busy yet, and had the following:

An oyster each--delicious, well-iced, and they still brought out the three sauces despite the small order. Antipasti--on the recommendation, got the bleu and pate with cornichons and it was absolutely delicious.

As we were still talking about how great everything was, I joked that I should ask if I could switch out my sandwich order for a few more oysters--wish I had. My dining companion got an italian grinder and I had the grilled fish sandwich. Neither was remotely special. The grinder was very ordinary, the fish was topped with a nice set of greens and tapenade, but was itself really oily, as though it had been overgreased for the grill and not drained, and overcharred. The bun was far too large and had no flavor, so I just left it off. Neither of us thought much of the fries--they weren't as limp as the description here, but they were also room temp and pretty much flavorless.

The service was nice, our seating comfortable, and we will be back, but for apps only. :) (Would love to try the oysters with a glass of wine.)

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Tbarker42
Tbarker42

Really tired of jaded reviewers reports. Experience at the Arrogant Butcher was absolutely delightful. Will go back many times

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Kurtis
Kurtis

I have eaten here 3 times. Every time the service was great. The food is good too. I love the Grinder, which is on the lunch menu. And that room in the back with all the pictures is fun. It has character. Pass on this review and try it out yourself. You'll like it. Njoy!

Rob
Rob

8 of us ate at AB prior to the Lady Gaga concert and all thought is was great. Service was prompt, drinks were monitored and the food was excellent. Very inviting restaurant, will definitely repeat.

Kimberli9
Kimberli9

I've been to the AB three times now and I have to say I'm a fan. I don't think this review comes close to painting the whole picture.

The hand-crafted cocktails and a very good, diverse, and affordable wine list (they're all available by the glass BTW) are standouts and should have been mentioned in this review. The flexibility of the menu is also really attractive, as diners can create an experience of their choice with the charcuterie and raw bar selections, appetizers, salads, sides, and entrees. You can have a little or a lot, but definitely a nice variety.

(Love, love, LOVE the fresh, warm pub pretzel bites with creamy, tangy, warm cheese dip BTW... ask them to bring you some of the pub mustard too. HEAVEN!)

My only real complaint is that the "chop house" concept that AB originally aimed for seems to have fallen short, at least thus far. There is really only one slab of meat on the menu, the ribeye (which was pretty darned good when *I* ate it, BTW...). I get that they want to start slow and affordable, but I hope they add a few more carnivore choices down the road.

The scallop entree is a real standout also, and the Friday cioppino special... TDF. Ask to sit with Mo if you're prone to believe the comments about so-so service.

Tom S.
Tom S.

I found the food and drinks to be rather good there. I went with a group of friends, and while the service wasn't the greatest, the food was good (we went in early March). The one thing that stood out was the desserts, though. The peanut butter and chocolate concoction was divine, and the chocolate cake was very good. We tried 4 appetizers, 1 main courses, and 2 desserts. The jambalaya was actually good when we had it. It isn't New Orleans good, but definitely passable. The mussels were great...not so much the mussels, but the broth and pork in the broth was brilliant. That isn't to say the mussels were bad, but they were just run of the mill.

James
James

I ate there. My wife thought the jambalaya was too salty. I had the baguette, it was OK. Service was good. I may return, as I live downtown.

Azdolcevita
Azdolcevita

This is quite possibly the WORST review of a restaurant I have EVER read. Not only do I disagree with everything you wrote, I find you to be a miserable person. You need a review, not the restaurant.

Down Towny
Down Towny

My opinion? Kathleen Vanesian isn't even half the writer that Michelle Laudig (departed NT food critic) was. After reading this, I imagine her telling this 'review' to a group of people. After she finishes, and they all just stare at her, she uncomfortably says "Well, I guess you had to be there."No, I wouldn't want to be any where - with her. Sounds like an unhappy person who should visit shrinks, not restaurants. Kath - If you haven't been fired yet, next time do at least enough research to figure out the correct name of the location. Then try to be entertaining, instead of just bitchy.

bee
bee

Should be CityScape, not CitySpace...

Concerned Restaurant Goer
Concerned Restaurant Goer

Wow, a negative review in the New Times about a place in CityScape -- who could have guessed?! Isn't it odd that the implication that the restaurant is, "...pandering mainly to a captive sports-event-and-convention crowd hankering for the comfort of the fried, cheesy, salty, and cured," is followed 6 paragraphs later by the reviewer noting how much they loved the cheesy, salty, cured menu items? Then there's the unnecessarily negative throw-in about how the patio is supposed to be climate controlled but, you know, WE'LL SEE IF THAT'S TRUE. Besides, how is a restaurant "fairly packed" but also "less than bustling"? What else? The name is annoying, they "shuffled" you in, you didn't like one group that was seated next to you, the "kitchsy images" from "unsolicited e-mails"...whatever you can throw in to make the restaurant sound worse.

I've actually never been to the restaurant, and I have no personal feelings about it (positive or negative), but you knew when the New Times wrote a review about it, it would be from a, "let's find every single thing we don't like about it, and be sure to throw that in, whether it makes a difference about the quality of the food itself.."

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Jack Meyhoffer
Jack Meyhoffer

Good review, thanks. I agree with it, the place looks great, but the price point, and service just misses on every level. This place will only work if they just exist to gouge tourists, and not really care if they return again. I don't see locals hitting this spot up more then once. It is too expensive, and you don't get your monies worth.

Hungrytoni
Hungrytoni

The review wa not consistent with the areas that you covered, Next time try Burger King.

IanP.
IanP.

Heh. What did you expect? A review? Heh.

I've had a couple dishes that didn't live up to my expectations, but for the most part, all were pretty great. I've been there a number of times and will return.

 
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