The New Pink Pony in Scottsdale: Playful Food That's Worth a Try

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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: Pink Pony Location: 3831 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale Open: Under a month Eats: New American Price: $20 to $25 a person

Those familiar with the Pink Pony in Scottsdale might be a little wary of the spot. It's come back from the dead more than once over the past few years, most recently closing last summer and reopening last month under new ownership. We've already told you about the new design and menu, which comes courtesy of executive chef Donald Fawcett. And while some of the dishes probably won't wow you, there's one you should really go eat -- like, right now.

See also: Mark Tarbell's The Tavern: The Biltmore 'Hood Gets Caviar, Lobster Rolls, and Lamb Burgers

Scottsdale's oldest restaurant now sports a clean, contemporary look that includes an open-air front patio, lounge, bar, and open kitchen. There are a still few nods to the restaurant's former self, for example the home plate set into the floor when you first walk in (it's the original from Scottsdale Municipal Stadium) and the caricatures hanging near the bathrooms. But for the most part, the baseball memorabilia is gone, replaced by a few modern paintings and a wall of colorful cowboy boots adorning mostly empty walls. It's not a bad look, but is a little sad considering how much history used to hang on the walls.

On the upside, we hear the old memorabilia should all be back up by the end of the month -- with new additions to the collection.

We were pretty impressed by the Pink Pony's drink selection. Not only are there affordable options such as the house infusions you can order up or on the rocks for $6, there's a tempting list of cocktails ($9) and mules ($7).

We went with a Bermuda Triangle mule, which features Cruzan Key Lime & Coconut Rum, ginger ale, pineapple and pretty much tastes like spring break in a copper cup. Fruity, but not syrupy-sweet the drink benefitted from a sprinkling of crunchy coconut bit on top. We also tried a Coffee Bourbon Boulevardier with house infused coffee bourbon, Campari, Carpano Antica (vermouth), and orange zest. The well-balanced drink offered just the right touch of bitterness and coffee taste.

For a starter we went for the housemade burrata ($9). The sizable chunk of creamy white cheese comes drizzled in fig balsamic (we didn't really taste the fig) and Queen Creek EVOO, garnished with Campari tomatoes and two slices of really good rustico bread. The cheese wasn't the best we've had in town, but the dish get bonus points for the crusty on the outside, soft on the inside bread.

During lunch the menu features a selection of sandwiches and a burger rather than heavier dinner entrees such as an 18-ounce Niman Ranch bone-In rib eye, scallops, and a turkey pot pie. But don't feel like you're missing out because the best thing we ate was the fried bologna sandwich ($10), available only at lunch.

Served on a sturdy but satisfying bun, this sandwich is unlike any bologna sandwich you've ever had. It stars slices of mortadella, the Italian cold-cut made from ground pork and pork fat, evenly fried on each side to provide just the right amount of crispiness. Mortadella originates from Bologna, Italy, but bears pretty much no resemblance to the cheap sandwich meat. There also are thin slices of housemade pickles that offer a fresh hint of acidity to the sandwich -- and, to add a playful touch, a layer of potato chips for crunch. A touch of mustard and aioli finish off what's probably the best thing we've tried in a while.

We had high hopes for the Debris pizza ($14), inspired by the Debris Po'Boy from Mother's Restaurant in New Orleans. It's a large portion for a "personal" pizza and features house made andouille sausage, duck bacon, pork belly, Brussels sprouts, and provolone and manchego cheeses. The flavor of the Neopolitan-style pie was mostly dominated by smokiness from the andouille sausage and a red sauce that vaguely reminded us of barbecue -- perhaps it was just the combination of super-smoky meat and tomatoes.

And we couldn't leave without trying the "PB&J" Beignets ($6) for dessert. The French fritters get fried to order (and we believe it since they took a good few minutes to come out) and are filled with a light peanut butter cream. The combination of peanut butter creme and grape glace is hard not to like, but along with the creme anglaise for dipping distracted from what were actually just really tasty beignets.

We weren't blown away by everything we tasted at the new Pink Pony, but just out of the gate it seems they're on the right track to attract a younger crowd without losing all of their former self. What might not look like a particularly innovative menu at first sight actually hides a few playful, truly enjoyable dishes we can't wait to try again.

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