Restaurant Reviews: The Dish; Lodge Sasquash Kitchen; Old Pueblo Grille.by Jim Gressinger on Feb. 28, 2013, under Restaurant Reviews
I have been remiss in not reviewing several restaurants at which I have dined since recovering from my November 2012 operation. Here are a few miscellaneous notes that may be helpful when you are looking for an exceptional dining experience.
The Dish Bistro – Bar
This long-time local favorite is in the same facility as The RumRunner Wines & Spirits, which has one of the finest selections in the city. In fact, it’s hard to tell exactly where the wine shop ends and the restaurant begins. I dined there with several friends and we all enjoyed the food and excellent service. I ordered the Moulard Duck with smoked basmati rice, pea shoots, fried tofu, and Star anise orange sauce [$28.00].
The wine list is vast because, for a $12 corkage fee, you can order any bottle from The RumRunners’ huge selection of very fine wines.
However, there is one thing that really stands out. I have been searching for a steakhouse that serves a better ribeye than I can BBQ at home. I almost always purchase my ribeyes from Costco. They are ALWAYS better than any of the big-name grocery stores. If you know what you’re looking for, you can pick up a generous package of prime-cut ribeye’s for the cost of U.S.D.A. choice. If you’ve ever bought a prime-cut of beef at AJ’s Fine Foods at La Encantada, you know that they are about twice the price of the ordinary choice-cuts.
I have my own secret seasoning [McCormick's Monterey Steak] and always serve steaks medium rare unless a guest prefers otherwise. And yes, I have tried all of the Tucson steakhouses except McMahon’s & Fleming’s, McMahon’s gets generally good reviews. As to Fleming’s, some claim it’s the best and others suggest it’s over-rated and over-priced. I’ll find out soon and let you know. I’ve also been to many of the steakhouses in other parts of Southern Arizona and have generally been disappointed in that I can do better on my own barbie.
But in the meantime, I want to mention that the best steak I have ever had in Tucson wasn’t even my own. While I ordered the duck, my friend David ordered the Seared Ribeye Steak with salt & vinegar fingerling potato; cherry tomato confit; wax beans; & horseradish butter [$34.00]. Knowing of my search for the best steak, David offered my a bite. WOW!
What Chef Michael Muthart does with an extraordinary piece of beef, besides cooking it to perfection, is add a cabernet demi-glace. Tender & unbelievably delicious. Until I discover otherwise, The Dish is my choice for Best Steak in Southern Arizona.
3131 E. First Street
(just off the SE corner of Speedway & Country Club)
The Lodge Sasquatch Kitchen
My search for the best hamburger continues. Last year we choose Zinburger #1 & Red Robin at the Tucson Mall #2. This year I’m going to expand that list because almost everyone loves a great burger.
Recently, and entirely by happenstance, I dined at the new The Lodge Sasquatch Kitchen. I was looking for a particular book at Barnes & Nobles in the Foothills Mall. As I came out with my prize, Jefferson: The Art of Power by John Meacham [highly recommended], and walked to my car, I realized that there is a new restaurant across the parking lot. As I recalled, this used to be a Greek restaurant.
As I approached the front entry, it was abundantly clear that this place was no longer Greek. A couple of huge wooden Yeti statues greeted me. I soon learned that the Sasquatch Kitchen opened this past January and the interior was re-designed to resemble a hunting & fishing/ski lodge. A casual glance about as I was being seated suggested that this is a sports bar trying to look like a lodge. My idea of a “lodge” is something like Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood or Ahwahnee in Yosemite. This isn’t them.
However, I was hungry and not in a particularly critical mood. Just out of curiosity, I ordered the “pretzel burger”; chedder cheese, honey mustard, carmelized onions, lettuce & tomato on a bun created from pretzel dough [$11]. I know, I know … who would ever dream up a “pretzel burger”? Apparently, Chef Aaron Mays did. I understand he has several highly regarded themed restaurants in the Phoenix area. Three things about “pretzel burgers”: (1) they’re salty, like a pretzel; (2) they’re HUGE – as in bring your best appetite or a friend to share it with; (3) they’re juicy & delicious. The fries were very good as was the service.
Was the “pretzel burger” the best burger in Tucson? I’m not willing to commit. I mean, it was very good, but maybe it’s just a gimmick or fade that will pass. I’ll have to go back and try their Sasquatch burger: a Lodge burger served between grilled cheese sandwiches [$16]. Now THAT’s a Whooper!
And friends have been recommending several other burger places from Monkey Burger to the new burger bar at the Ritz Carlton. I plan on reviewing at least 5 before summer. So stay tuned. Let me know if you have a favorite.
7265 N La Cholla Blvd Tucson, AZ 85741
Old Pueblo Grille
Last Labor Day, Ms. Karen & I had lunch at Old Pueblo Grille. If you read my review, you know our meal was disappointing, although the Rattlesnake Eggs were delicious (jalapeno peppers with cream cheese wrapped in bacon). When I write a negative review, I try to go back when managements thinks I will have a good experience. This I did yesterday.
About once a month, my friend Jeff & I dine somewhere where I can review a restaurant for the Dining Section in my SouthernArizonaGuide.com. So it was back to the Old Pueblo Grille in the hope that I could write a positive review. I really wish I could. The place was packed so obviously a lot of Tucsonans think it’s OK. But in all honesty, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it to my friends & family – which is my base criterion for either a four or five saguaro rating.
While waiting for Jeff to arrive, I asked my waiter if the chips were fresh. He said, “Yes sir, they were cooked this morning.” I ordered the chips & salsa … hoping for the best. Last Labor Day, not only were chips stale, but the salsa was bland and decidedly uninteresting. The chips came. The good news … the salsa had improved considerably. The bad news … the chips were hardly fresh-out-of-the-oven like we get at El Charro Cafe’(downtown) or Theresa’s Mosaic Cafe (Silverbell & Grant behind the McDonalds).
Along with the chips & salsa, I ordered one of Old Pueblo Grille’s specialty margaritas: the Silver Cloud [$9]. Our waiter said that it was his favorite, a classic margarita. Whatever. It was just a margarita. OK, but nothing to write home about.
I ordered a Caesar Salad and half grilled turkey sandwich. As was our experience the last time we ate here … some good, some not so much. My Caesar was bland. However, my half grilled turkey sandwich with green chiles, jack & cheddar cheese, chipotle mayo, on a fresh torta bun was one of the best I have ever tasted. It’s only rival in Tucson (that I know of) is at Liv Cafe’ & Bistro in St. Philip’s Plaza. Two bites into my Caesar made we wish I had just ordered the sandwich.
Jeff ordered the fish & chips. I was keen to see what he thought. I had the fish & chips at the Metropolitan Grill on North Oracle and it was superb. As Old Pueblo Grille is owned and operated by same company, Metro Restaurants, I was hoping Jeff’s fish & chips was as good. It wasn’t. The fish was OK, but the batter was heavy & greasy. The chips (fries) were under-cooked, mushy & tasteless.
Along with our meal our waiter brought 3 small corn/jalapeno muffins in a basket wrapped in a clothe napkin to keep them warm. They were warm but not particularly fresh. We didn’t eat them right away because the waiter had not brought us any butter. When he finally noticed that I was waving for his attention, he apologized for the oversight and chipolte butter soon arrived. By now the warm little muffins were cold, but the butter had a pleasant kick.
As we experienced the last time we ate at Old Pueblo Grille, some dishes (Rattlesnake Eggs, Grilled Turkey Sandwich) are very good. And other dishes are, inexplicably, mediocre or worse. While its sister restaurant, Metropolitan Grill rated 4-saguaros, the best I can do for Old Pueblo Grille is a 3-saguaro rating.
60 N. Alvernon Way (just north of Broadway)
Hope these three brief reviews are helpful in making your dining out choices. Bon Appetite!