Is The Blind Pig in Scottsdale a butcher shop with a restaurant or a restaurant with a butcher shop?
In either instance, it's all about the meat.
Consider its centerpiece: a gleaming glass case stretching from one wall to the other and full of freshly butchered offerings. On one side, behind a display of proteins such as house-aged Prime steaks, daily-caught seafood, and boutique meats like venison, goose, and even kangaroo, is the butcher, a man who can rattle off the best grind for a burger or the proper way to cook quail as effortlessly as if he were reciting the names and ages of his children. On the other is the restaurant, a small but lively room where servers glide by with plates of many of the same meats after they've met with fire, their aromas lingering in the air long after they've reached their destinations.
The Blind Pig is the new venture of restaurateurs Bob and Sally Ann Molinari and Bret Pont, owner of Hobe Meats, a butcher shop in business for more than 50 years in Phoenix. Located in the same South Scottsdale strip mall housing the Molinaris' other two concepts, Uncle Sal's Italian Eatery and the Side Door bar and restaurant, The Blind Pig opened in January, its name a nod to the Prohibition-era speakeasy.
Unlike its sister restaurants, the meat here heads south in a way, to Mexico, where it's transformed into the country's familiar street foods but with a decidedly Americanized slant. So if your idea of a proper Mexican antojito involves pit-roasted meat, regional cheese, and someone manning a tronco, you'll probably have better luck someplace else. But if you can handle a very good Portobello- and shiitake-stuffed quesadilla, a version of the tlayuda that trades a crackly corn tortilla for a decent pizza crust, and a tamale finished in a cream corn and cilantro sauce, this is your place. And given The Pig's humble prices for its well-prepared premium-meat dishes, one that's easy on the wallet.
If the thin, bland chips weren't so terrible, you might be able to justify an order of them with excellent housemade salsas or a skillet of dense queso fundido, more like a bean dip than cheese dip, flavored with chorizo and serrano peppers. In any case, you'll probably want to start off with the pig wings, two grilled petite pork shanks coated in a spicy-sweet chipotle glaze with mouthwateringly tender meat that takes little coaxing to fall away from the bone. And although it's listed as an entrée, the Mexican pizza — a well-balanced assembly of spicy chorizo, shredded cabbage, cilantro, and jalapeños atop melted white cheddar on a crisp, golden crust — seems better-suited as a shared snack among friends.
For those who insist on meatless meals, there is excellent bruschetta, a quartet of crunchy grilled bread piled high with chunks of fresh avocado lit up with tomato, red onion, cilantro, olive oil, and lime juice. And you could do worse than The Pig's gooey white cheddar cheese quesadilla. Packed with shiitake and Portobello mushrooms, caramelized onion, jalapeño, tomato, and cilantro, it's served alongside a thoughtful side salad of carrots, cucumbers, radishes, and purple onion.
But you have come to The Blind Pig for the meat — if not for the hearty butcher shop-style steak salad (featuring to-your-liking grilled strips of flatiron steak tossed with grilled vegetables and jumbo croutons), then for its more Mexican-inspired meals.
Despite its very good shredded chicken and pickled jalapeños, you've probably had more lively versions of a torta ahogada in the Valley. And although the grilled pork chop featured in the pork chop mole is sublime, its depthless sauce, sadly, is second-rate.
But the tacos here are delicious, the best of the bunch being a near-perfect, sweetly kissed al pastor with pineapple, a peppery carne asada, and an expertly grilled pescado featuring fresh pieces of mahi-mahi with bits of red onion, cabbage, and cilantro. Hungrier types could go for a burrito generously packed with enough top-notch chicken, beef, or pork to make its unnecessary cheddar cheese accompaniment barely noticeable.
The best thing on the menu, though, is the shrimp and corn tamale. When you get the dish, the husk has been spread open to reveal plump grilled prawns resting atop a delicately sweet masa cake covered in a sumptuous corn and cilantro cream sauce that reminds you more of a gourmet dish you'd find in an upscale restaurant than something you'd get from a street vendor.
On some nights, your decision of whether to dine inside The Pig's dark, pub-like room frequently lit by the glow of its butcher case or on its outdoor patio alongside fountains and under palm trees will probably depend more on available seating than your mood. The locals have quickly made the place a regular hangout. Here, they suck down Mexican beers or sip tequila-based cocktails, playfully chide spirited servers who sass them right back, and pick up their butcher paper-wrapped steaks purchased earlier for a weekend cookout.
A butcher shop with a restaurant or a restaurant with a butcher shop? The Blind Pig, it would seem, is a little of both.