This week, 14 months after the start of the pandemic, the spring 2021 Arizona Restaurant Week will begin, right as vaccination rates climb and normalcy feels increasingly on the near horizon. Now would be an excellent week to support locally owned restaurants. So would any other.
Normally, I avoid the manufactured hubbub of ARW. This year, I will avoid that plan. I'll check out a few places to show support, especially since a bunch of the menus, three-course prix fixes mostly priced at $33 or $44 per, look enticing. That's three courses for $44 at a place where a single course can cost that much outside of ARW. Solid.
Many people use ARW to eat at pricy places more affordably. This year, there are nice opportunities to also see affordable places from new angles. With these two approaches in mind, I've narrowed in on five spring ARW menus that, to me, look absolutely worth a visit.
Rito's Mexican Food5813 North Seventh Street
Note: Only the Seventh Avenue location is participating.
You'll have to bring a bottomless pit of an appetite to get to the bottom of the Rito's restaurant week menu. You get three courses plus a drink for $33. Some of the biggest, most soulful burros — naked, fried, and drenched in sauce — is just one option for course number two. Elote, bean dip, guacamole, or a cheese crisp is on deck to start. The dessert roster includes fried ice cream in a chocolate tortilla bowl. And that drink? You can make it a draft beer or margarita.
Sel7044 East Main Street, Scottsdale
Branden Levine's strangely under-the-radar restaurant in Old Town is going hard this restaurant week, dropping the kind of menu that brings it squarely into the first category of restaurant week approaches: a pricy place that you get to experience relatively cheaply. For $44, things kick off at Sel with a pea and ramp vichyssoise, move into a tomato and beet salad with (again!) pickled ramps, and end with a choice between three savory mains. That's stuffed pasta, filet mignon, or halibut, each with a classical European focus and two with Asian touches.
NakedQ BBQ10240 North 90th Street, #105, Scottsdale
Note: Only the Scottsdale location is participating.
Barbecue? For restaurant week? Why the hell not. Pitmaster Oren Hartman is keeping his $33 meal (which serves two people) simple. They revolve around a choice of protein: smoked whole chicken or smoked rack of ribs. Kick start with a choice of salad and pull the curtain with a peach pie, banana pudding, or a giant chocolate chip cookie. I've never had a whole roasted chicken from NakedQ, but the odds of that changing by the end of the month are high.
Elements at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa5700 East McDonald Drive, Paradise Valley
For $44, you can nab three courses at one of Arizona's best and most interesting resort restaurants, helmed by Beau MacMillan and recently rejoined by chef Samantha Sanz. The openers channel the seasons: a tart with spring vegetables (including the great fava bean) and a varying soup. Next up: flat iron steak or green cavatelli that go their own way and end up at a good place, Carbonara. Finally, the meal ends at Elements with a yuzu panna cotta or creme brulee with tangerine sorbet.
Fat Ox6316 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
Speaking of creative pastas, Fat Ox is known for them, and serves pasta as an option on two of its three courses. This is a really nice-looking $44 menu with plenty of options at each level, not to mention suggested wine pairings. I'd spring for the fusilli (with toasted miso!) or orecchiette (with pickled spring onion?) out of the gate. Second, you have the choice between steak, chicken, scallops, and more pasta. To close, there are several classic Italian desserts, including pistachio and amaretto gelato.
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