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: The Western Location: 6830 E. 5th Ave., Scottsdale Open: Over two weeks Eats: American Price: $11 to $30 per person
The Western is a kind of honky-tonk bar and restaurant without the Disney-esque trappings of many a honky-tonk bar and restaurant.
It's a stylish, low-lit, understated space with dark wood, leather seating, and a few Southwestern décor items on the walls. A modest stage with a backdrop of red velvet curtains sits off to the side. Even the no-sign exterior doesn't make a big deal of itself.
The project comes courtesy of concert-promoting pro Charlie Levy (Crescent Ballroom) and restaurateur Tucker Woodbury (The Little Woody, The Vig), which makes sense given that The Western feels a little like all of them.
The menu follows the country concept, a selection of "down home cookin'" eats featuring bar snacks, sandwiches, and entrees with tongue-in-cheek categories like "hankerin's" (appetizers), "pokeweeds" (salads), and "sweet thangs" (desserts). And the drink menu, called "walkin' on a slant," features a thoughtful selection of beers, wine, and appropriately themed cocktails like the Kentucky Mule, Bird Dog Lemonade, and the Haymaker (PBR and a shot cinnamon whiskey).
There are some decent grilled wings ($8) or, as they are labeled, "wayngs," which can be ordered dunked, dusted, or slathered in sauce. A little on the small side, my medium-hot slathers were well-prepared and featured a nice, almost buttery, Buffalo sauce. And the extra helping of carrots and celery sticks was a welcome change from the miserly one or two pieces served up in other joints.
The chili ($6) is good as well, spicier than what you might expect although less meaty than you want it to be.
If your Steer Here Sandwich ($10) isn't blasted with enough mustard to cause your eyes to water, it's a solid selection that comes packed with tender, slow-braised brisket and bold Muenster cheese between thick slices of grilled Texas toast. I'm told the brisket tacos are good, as well.
And in the "big plate" category, there is a thick and crunchy hunk of chicken- fried steak ($12) with buttermilk gravy, garlic mashed red potatoes, and a delicately sweet slaw. A timidness in the batter and gravy flavors puts this dish squarely in the "acceptable" category and, at this point, you've had better elsewhere.
The Western is off to a good, boot-scootin' start with its comfortable interior, friendly and easygoing service, and fairly satisfying food. And the kitchen seems to have a decent idea of where it wants to go with the dishes, even if some of them aren't quite there yet.
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Plus, Woodbury and Levy's nightclub/restaurant is a Scottsdale roadhouse that isn't really, well, Scottsdale in the sense of a "scene."
"We get some of the clubbers here," a manager tells me. "But because we're a little more removed, it's mostly just a place people come to chill out and enjoy some old-school country music."
Sounds good to me.