Like Axis-Radius, Myst, and Suede — the long-running, perennially packed nightlife staples owned by Les and Diane Corieri (who also own Sandbar Mexican Grill in North Scottsdale) — RnR is an over-the-top sight to behold. Enormous in scale, the brand-new, modern, freestanding two-story building at Scottsdale Road and Second Street is a radical departure from the low-slung landscape of Western souvenir shops, eateries, and watering holes in Old Town.
It's a bold, brash presence, with upper- and lower-deck patios, a gorgeous bar, high ceilings, and expensive-looking lighting — and is predictably packed seemingly every time of day and night. (Accordingly, RnR's ambiguous name could stand for "rest 'n' relaxation," "rock 'n' roll," or whatever else suits your mood, and the kitchen cranks from early morning 'til the wee hours.)
Right now, I'd say those people aren't exactly coming for the food, which is average American cuisine that looks fine on paper but doesn't wow upon delivery. Although junior chef-celeb Bryan Ogden (son of chef Bradley Ogden) devised the menu, there was nothing here I'd find myself craving again. However, some of the dishes were competently prepared.
Instead, RnR clearly seems to be filling needs different from those of the epicurean set — the need for a splashy, see-and-be-seen place to dine before or after hitting the clubs (since AZ88 can feed only so many, and since other glitzy spots like Pure Sushi and Canal fell victim to the recession), the need for moderately priced dining at the peak of tourist season (you should've seen the crowds during spring training), the need for another good patio for balmy nights.
This restaurant clearly benefits from an incredible, impossible-to-miss location in the commercial and cultural heart of the city.
Eye candy is always on the menu at RnR. Sure, there's an ever-present tourist and downtown business-type contingent (resulting from that killer location, of course), but the place draws too many 20-somethings to really notice anyone else.
And there's a look: dudes with close-cropped hair and baroque Affliction T-shirts worn tight to show off their muscles, and gaggles of spray-tanned girls decked out in clothes so tiny you'll do a double-take. I swear one gal the other night was pulling a Lady Gaga in a long top that served as a cheek-skimming dress.
The waitstaff was equally attractive, if not so scantily clad. But here, I wish the owners had lavished as much money and consideration on training as they did on the impressive architecture. Over the course of several visits, I longed for attentive, professional service — it could've done wonders for my feelings of goodwill.
Instead, I encountered a host who was staring too intently at a big-screen TV behind the bar to notice my friends and I were waiting to be seated. Food wasn't always delivered in a timely way, drink refills were slow, and come on — when I show up for breakfast, my coffee should be delivered before I've even put down the menu. If I was a grump at the Old Town Farmers Market that morning, it was because my coffee didn't appear until my lukewarm scrambled eggs did, and I couldn't even flag down the waitress for a refill.
So, breakfast. I might've liked the Sundried Scramble if it had been hot. Chopped sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and creamy chunks of goat cheese added perky flavor to scrambled eggs. I didn't care for the bland homefries, though. A housemade berry scone was crumbly and dry, not worth three bites. Amish French toast, dressed up with cinnamon, maple butter, strawberries, and chantilly cream, was barely cooked — and flat-out cold by the time our server brought syrup.
I had a bit more luck at lunch and dinner. A fresh piece of salmon, blackened and served over citrus-tinged spinach salad, was pretty tasty, with a fearless kick. Slices of seared ahi, fanned out on a jumble of cool jicama, carrot, red onion, and snap peas, were scattered with crunchy fried wonton strips and drizzled with spunky soy vinaigrette.
And St. Louis-style baby back ribs, soaked in ancho marinade and braised until very tender, were one of the tastiest items I tried, teamed with housemade Parmesan-dusted chips.
Slathered in potent blue cheese and tangy-sweet port caramelized onions, RnR's port and Stilton burger was delicious but disappointingly overcooked. If the beef patty had been as juicy as I'd hoped, it would've been stellar. Oh, well. At least the sweet potato fries were crispy. The slow-roasted pulled pork sandwich was more successful, moist and flavorful even without barbecue sauce poured on top.
Sharable small plates were hit-and-miss. I'd go for tender, crispy rock shrimp with chili sauce again, as well as chicken lollipops done up with Buffalo sauce and ranch. Likewise, warm spinach artichoke dip and tortilla chips served their purpose with a cold IPA.
But six skimpy mussels in weak white wine broth did nothing for me, and the "Animal Fries" — a mix of sweet potato and regular French fries, smothered in pulled pork, melted white cheddar, and barbecue sauce — tasted off. Not even a mountain of cheese and meat could disguise limp, stale fries. What a bummer.
On the upside, housemade cheesecake with raspberry port sauce and moist double-layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting were big enough to share and served as a sort of consolation to otherwise ho-hum dining experiences.
For some reason, though, I suspect none of that will keep the hordes away from RnR.