By New Times
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Thankfully, a luscious chocolate blackberry pudding with crunched whipped cream helped to lift spirits somewhat. But sadly, despite its exclusive operating hours (Geordie's is open only Thursday through Saturday) and fine-dining price tag, dinner at the Wrigley was anything but special.
THE PINK PONY
In 1947, when Old Town Scottsdale was dirt roads, horses, and hitching posts, the Chamber of Commerce wanted to capitalize on the city's Old West identity. Almost immediately, merchants, wishing to attract tourists at nearby resorts and dude ranches, began to remodel their buildings with natural oak-grain fixtures, overhanging porches, and rustic signs.
2501 E. Telawa Trail
Phoenix, AZ 85016
Category: Bars and Clubs
Region: East Phoenix
3831 N. Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85251-4431
Category: Bars and Clubs
Region: Central Scottsdale
1 W. Rio Salado Parkway
Tempe, AZ 85281
One of the first businesses to adopt this "Old West" appearance was Whitey's Café, in business at the corner of Scottsdale Road and Main Street since 1947 (known at that time as Pings). Owner Ping Bell was bought out in 1949 by partner Claudia Ogden, who changed the name to The Pink Pony, hiring Charlie Briley to work for her as the bar manager. In 1950, Ogden sold the restaurant to Briley for $50,000, and Briley remained the Pink Pony's proprietor for over 50 years, until his death in 2002.
But Briley's journey to owning the Old West-themed Pink Pony was just the first step in what the Valley landmark was yet to become. With a serious passion for the game, and ball clubs beginning to base their spring training camps in the Valley, Briley would be instrumental in making his Pink Pony the go-to steakhouse for fans of America's favorite pastime, longtime locals, and some of baseball's greatest players on the hunt for strong pours and slabs of juicy steaks.
One of them, pitcher Jay "Dizzy" Dean, became friends with Briley in the 1950s and came to the Pony regularly, giving the restaurant instant celebrity cred. In 1955, Briley and other local businessmen built the original Scottsdale Stadium a half-mile away, and the Pink Pony's status continued to grow with legends such as Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Rogers Hornsby, Jimmie Foxx, Joe DiMaggio, and Billy Martin stopping by.
In 1970, after a dispute with his landlord, Briley was forced to move the Pink Pony to its current location, just a few doors down on Scottsdale Road. But the relocation didn't diminish the restaurant's popularity. Over the years, Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood came in for their wedding night dinner, and Clark Gable, Senators Hubert Humphrey and Joseph McCarthy, and movie star/California Angels owner Gene Autry also paid visits. Briley's baseball-themed Pink Pony also had become a shrine of sorts to the game, with an interior boasting signed memorabilia, photos, and caricature drawings of players and coaches done by Disney cartoonist Don Barkley.
And with national acclaim — The New Yorker's Roger Angell called it "the best baseball restaurant in the land," and Sports Illustrated named it "the most popular hangout for baseball people in the civilized world" — the Pink Pony seemed to have secured its place in Valley history.
But, like baseball, longtime restaurants have their slumps. And the Pink Pony's came after Briley's wife Gwen, who ran the restaurant after her husband's death in 2002, sold the restaurant in 2009 to Scottsdale residents Danny Little and Tim Smith. (Read an interview with Smith.) Closed for several months, the Pink Pony was resurrected in February 2011 with an updated interior and a continued emphasis on steaks, cocktails, and many of the restaurant's original dishes.
Unfortunately, the changes weren't enough to keep the Pony kicking. Just seven months later, concerned that steaks and seafood alone weren't cutting it, Little and Smith brought on a new owner, chef Reed Groban, who formerly led restaurant operations for 20 years at the Fairmont Scottsdale, to serve as the Pony's culinary component.
Walking the line between steakhouse classics and twists on American comfort foods, Groban focused on maintaining the Pony's legendary reputation while updating its menu for a new generation of diners in an Old Town Scottsdale distinctly different from the one of over 60 years ago, when Scottsdale was the "West's Most Western Town."
Now, of course, it's decidedly more cosmopolitan, both in dining and nightlife, as well as its high-priced gallery scene. Keeping the classics like steak, including the popular and budget-friendly Pink Pony special, a top sirloin with a choice of soup or salad for $26, Groban added twists on American comfort food classics such as his meatloaf "cupcake" and escargot-topped flatbread in addition to adding an array of unique and delectable desserts.
Despite the new dishes, the Pony's traditional prime rib is still the restaurant's shining star. Available in three cuts and crusted with a pastrami-spice rub, it's a meat lover's dream. The hearty slab of beef is thick-cut, perfectly pink in the middle, and brown around the edges, with the pastrami rub giving it the right amount of crusty crunch. The beef's side of creamy mashed potatoes is just as delectable.
For the most part, the appetizers are a solid bunch. An old-school beef tenderloin tartare comes topped with a quail egg and "The Best Damn Pan-Seared 'No-Filler' Crabcake Ever" is very nearly worthy of such a dramatic name.
For decades, Pink Pony has been synonymous with America's pastime, so there is no more fitting dessert than the Nostalgia of Baseball. As artfully composed as it is scrumptious, this chocolate, meringue, and peanut butter tower sits next to a stenciled-in-chocolate image of baseball legend Ted Williams and his famous swing. As Williams did so often during his Hall of Fame career, the dessert hits the sweet spot.