When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out — and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Frasher’s Smokehouse
Location: 3222 East Indian School Road
Open: About a month
Price: $15 to $20/person
Earlier this spring, the Valley lost the longstanding St. Louis-style steakhouse Frasher’s, which had been open for nearly 16 years on Scottsdale Road. But there’s good news for meat lovers who might be missing the place. George Frasher already has opened a more casual eatery in the Arcadia neighborhood, this time focusing on slow-smoked meats, including burnt ends, brisket, and tri tip.
The new restaurant is located on the northeast corner of 32nd Street and Indian School Road. From the outside, it appears the restaurant hasn’t yet settled in, but inside is a well-appointed dining room decorated with (what appears to be) reclaimed wood, exposed brick, and low-hanging lights that just barely illuminate the dark space.
You order your food at the counter, take a seat, and it’ll be delivered to your table within minutes.
Meats come by the quarter, half, or full pound and (with the exception of the babyback ribs), quarter-pound orders come in sandwich form. There’s an impressive seven meats to choose from, and you might have a hard time settling on just one.
Whatever you do – seriously, whatever you do – do not skip the burnt ends ($7 per quarter pound). Literally made from the burnt ends of the restaurant’s brisket, this meat gets chopped off and then thrown back in the smoker for another four hours. The result is small hunks of fatty meat that are so good, you can’t help feeling guilty. Kissed with smoke, each chunk offers the pleasant flavor of charred pork but without the usual crunch of brisket bark.
The babyback ribs ($10 per quarter pound) also are worth a spin. Tender and moist, they’re likely to convert even the most ambivalent meat eaters into fans. And the pulled pork ($6 per quarter pound), which we ordered as a sandwich, offered just the right amount of smokey flavor without managing to overwhelm the flavor of the meat itself.
Our least favorite selection ended up being the restaurant’s brisket ($8 per quarter pound). The meat tasted flat (we would have liked more rub) and dry compared to the restaurant’s other offerings — and that’s even when punched up with either of Frasher’s barbecue sauces. You’ll have your choice of either sweet or spicy, and though both are good, we prefer the harmony of the sweet hickory and heat from the spicy version.
When it comes to sides, there’s plenty to explore. The menu offers green chile mac 'n' cheese, baked beans, garlic mashed potatoes, corn, cole slaw, and French fries. Most come in either small or medium, with the small size being enough for one diner (if you’re only order one side) or two if you’re going to share several picks.
We enjoyed the green chile mac 'n' cheese ($3), a runny version of the American classic that delivers a subtle green chile flavor but not an excessive amount of heat. The garlic mashed potatoes ($3) were also a hit. They came out of the kitchen practically molten hot but cooled down to reveal an incredibly creamy texture and strong garlicky flavor. Corn ($3) was simple but spicy with a fistful of black pepper in the mix.
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During our visit, diners devoured heaps of meat under the restaurant’s dim light fixtures and enjoyed beers at the restaurant’s small bar. And as we squinted at our plates and sipped cold ice tea, we had to admit we wished the lights were brighter and the alcohol options a little more prominent. Nevertheless, it seemed Frasher’s is right at home in the new neighborhood.