On a recent weekday morning, the corner of the Sheraton Downtown Phoenix
hotel is alive with activity. At the bar, staff members are crafting cocktails. Inside what will eventually be a private dining room, service training is about to begin. Prep cooks are chopping cilantro. Contractors are going over plans.
It's all in preparation for the opening of Carcara, the Sheraton's new restaurant. The space formerly occupied by District American Kitchen is now a "celebration of the local Phoenix community’s heritage and history, showcasing locally sourced ingredients in Sonoran-inspired dishes and handcrafted cocktails," according to a press release.
Carcara, which opens tomorrow, Wednesday, March 9, takes its name from the Cara Cara orange. It speaks to citrus being one of Arizona's five Cs (cattle, copper, cotton, citrus and climate — early economic drivers in the state), but it also inspired the decor: A 14-foot tree anchors the dining room, and the wraparound patio called The Grove is dotted with citrus trees.
Pan-seared scallops on a bed of Ramona Farms polenta with nectarine butter sauce is one of Carcara's entree choices.
The food program, led by Executive Chef Chaz Frankenfield with assistance from Chef de Cuisine Angy Dykstra, is heavy on fresh, local ingredients and citrus notes.
A salad made with Yuma Farms greens and Crow's Dairy goat cheese is graced with a lemon vinaigrette dressing. Pan-seared scallops sit on a bed of spinach and Ramona Farms polenta. The Carcara Burger, served with pepper jack cheese, tomato, pickled red onions, avocado, arugula, and smoked garlic aioli, sits on a Wildflower Bread Co. bun.
At the moment, Carcara will only be open for happy hour and dinner, though the restaurant will begin serving breakfast and lunch later this year.
"We want to make sure we take care of dinner first and get it nailed down," Frankenfield says.
But speaking of happy hour, the drink menu bears the same local and fruit-forward themes.
The beer selection is heavy on breweries located in downtown Phoenix; options include brews from Greenwood Brewing, Pedal Haus Brewing, and Huss Brewing Company. Frankenfield says the hyper-local focus is to encourage out-of-town guests to explore the downtown drinking options.
The cocktails all have fruit elements and are named after places to hike in Arizona. The Cathedral Rock, served in a highball glass, is a teal-colored sweet and smoky mix of Cruzan rum, Del Maguey mezcal, blue curacao, chipotle pineapple syrup, lime, and pineapple. The Devil's Bridge is a bright purple drink featuring dragon fruit-infused rum, stone fruit syrup, pineapple juice, lime, lemon, and orange bitters. Carcara will also offer a signature canned cocktail, the Carcara Spritz.
Carcara has its own canned cocktail.
Like so many other projects, the opening of Carcara was delayed by the pandemic (Phoenix New Times reported last year
that the restaurant would open in September 2021).
For months, downtown visitors have been glancing at the partition that hid the restaurant's progress from curious eyes. But now, Frankenfield says, they're ready to throw the doors open and invite the public to Phoenix's newest eatery.
"I think they’re going to be really excited when we unveil the great patio grove that we have. We really want to get this patio filled," he says. "I think when the guests come in, they’ll be able to get a little of the downtown vibe."
Carcara is located inside the Sheraton Downtown Phoenix, 340 North Third Street. Hours are 3 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 3 to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Call 602-817-5400.