First Taste

Del Frisco's Grille Energizes the Esplanade

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: Del Frisco's Grille Location: 2425 East Camelback Road Open: About a week. Eats: Steaks, seafood, and twists on American comfort fare. Price Point: $30 to $60

If you happened to hear a huge sigh of relief last Saturday, it was most likely coming from the landlords at the Camelback Esplanade, the mixed-use development on the southeast corner of Camelback Road and 24th Street. Thanks to the opening of Del Frisco's Grille, the complex is finally showing some signs of new restaurant life.

From the Dallas-based Del Frisco's Restaurant Group, a high-end steakhouse chain, Del Frisco's Grille offers a menu mix of steaks, seafood, and twists on American comfort cuisine. The Esplanade will be the the third location of Del Frisco's Grille (the other two are in Dallas and Manhattan, with two more planned for Atlanta and Washington, D.C.)

Let's take a bite, shall we? Oh, and bring your piggy bank, we're in Biltmore country.

The scene at Del Frisco's is quite impressive -- let's call it casual chic. There is wood, leather, stylish lighting fixtures, a wall of wine (Del Frisco's has over 400 selections), and a fleet of leggy hostesses and friendly, sharply dressed servers. A large, carpeted dining area with an open kitchen is on one side on the space, a bar area and patio on the other, and upstairs and outside, another bar area and patio (much more casual) with some sweet views of Squaw Peak.

I started with a cocktail called the VIP featuring Hawaiian sweet pineapple-infused Svedka Clementine vodka. The flavor was sweet and smooth, but the pour was weak, and I felt the sting of its ten dollar price point when it was gone before the appetizers arrived.

Del Frisco's menu is small and tight and features starters, sandwiches, salads, steaks, and other entrees. The dishes aren't going to win any awards for their inventiveness, but they are prepared well and most are quite flavorful.

You could start with four, fairly good ahi tacos ($14) filled with tuna tartare I wish I could have tasted more of, avocado, and spicy citrus mayo. A better, although more expensive choice, is a satisfying jumbo lump crabcake ($16) with a slightly spicy Cajun lobster sauce.

On the sandwich side, a shaved prime steak sandwich ($17) packed with flavorful and tender hunks of meat in a soft bun and with sides of horseradish, au jus, and perfectly crispy small, thin fries delivered on all points. And who can resist trying a new mac 'n' cheese creation when one is presented (answer: not me). Del Frisco's Chipotle Three-Cheese Mac ($9) made with cheddar, jack, and American cheese was top-notch -- cheesy, creamy, topped with toasted breadcrumbs, and with a spicy Southwestern flair. Delicious.

Not for the everyman, Del Frisco's is a great spot for a business lunch or dinner and its new upstairs patio perfect for some second-story cocktailing with a starter or two. Open for just about a week, the restaurant appears more than ready, both in food and in service, for whatever comes its way. And from its busy beginnings, I'd say the Camelback Esplanade is off to a good start in filling its restaurant void.

Just don't forget to get your parking ticket stamped before you leave.

Follow Chow Bella on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Laura Hahnefeld
Contact: Laura Hahnefeld