Restaurateur Sam Fox has great respect for “the arrogant butcher.” And he named his latest (and 13th) concept in honor of this particular type of fellow.
Said butcher “looks a little intimidating. You don’t want to mess with him. And you have to know what you want to order before you go up to him,” explains Andrew Ashmore, executive chef at Phoenix’s The Arrogant Butcher.
The butcher is also unabashedly proud of his goods — and so is Ashmore.
“We offer the best [charcuterie], cheese, cuts of meat. We’re better than anyone else and we know it.”
Okay, so while Ashmore may come off as cocky there, he’s actually quite personable and very willing to engage in a conversation about this crowd-pleasing downtown eatery’s classic and contemporary American-focused menu.
Originally conceived as an upscale chop house — giving even more meaning to the restaurant’s memorable name — Fox and company decided on a more democratic menu when the economy tanked.
The 16-month-old restaurant offers “a little bit of everything,” with a large portion of the menu devoted to “great new interpretations of American comfort food,” Ashmore says.
And indeed, the dinner menu covers a lot of ground. There’s a cheese and charcuterie program and a raw bar. A short list of entrées covers the U.S., and offers everything from barbecued baby back ribs and Southern-style jambalaya to Alaskan halibut. There are “limited availability” daily specials such as meatloaf and mashed potatoes and prime rib. Upscale salads and fun takes on classic sandwiches — a turkey sloppy joe with grilled poblano peppers and pepper jack cheese; a turkey pastrami Reuben on a house-made pretzel bun — round out the list. Oh, and there are burgers.
“What’s more American than a great double cheeseburger?” Ashmore asks.
The Arrogant Butcher, with its diverse American offerings, proved a good choice for our diverse group of American out-of-towners.
Our sextet, consisting of a congenial assortment of The Husband’s colleagues and clients, started out with an assortment of Ashmore’s hand-selected charcuterie, which he proudly cuts paper thin on his “crank-and-turn” Berkel slicer.
Served with house-made mustard and fresh, crusty bread, our meat trio featured basic prosciutto ($11), salty-good Smoky Mountain ham ($9) and my personal favorite, hot coppa ($6). This particular salumi presented a spicy corned-beef-like flavor backed with a pleasantly painful afterburn.
Regular Fine readers know that I often stick my utensils in my dining companions’ plates, so I can accurately report back on as many dishes as possible. However, circumstances were slightly different in this case. And since I didn’t want to cause The Husband any undue embarrassment with his business associates, I (kind of) kept my fork to myself.
However, I did check in with our guests. Tony from Kansas City gave the Thursday Night Special — fried chicken and honey biscuits ($16) — the thumbs-up from the other end of the table. Jason, another Kansas Citian, went with the ribs, fries and slaw ($24). Although Jason enjoyed his slab — and you can guess what’s coming here — he said they didn’t compare to the ribs “back home.”
(Ashmore and I joked that he was doomed from the start on that one.)
Health-conscious Maria, a Pittsburgian with a black belt in karate, chose the salmon ($22) with farro, fennel and roasted apples. Maria enjoyed the dish’s flavors, but found the salmon overcooked.
Since I prefer my salmon on the well-done side, I disagreed with Maria. (Although I didn’t share that opinion with the black belt.) You see, I did swipe a bite of salmon from fellow Chicagoan Cara — who also was pleased with the dish. And I particularly liked it paired with the nutty farrow, anise-y fennel and sweet apples. Ultimately, I think the secret to Ashmore’s salmon is to specify your preferred level of doneness.
Permission always a given, I dug right into The Husband’s sweet potato-filled tortellini ($15). As with several other dishes, Ashmore makes seasonal tweaks as he sees fit. So during our outing, the pasta was served with mushrooms, spinach and a crunchy sprinkling of hazelnuts and offered a nice balance of savory, sweet and salty.
My selection — the Alaskan halibut ($27) — was perfect in every regard. The light fish had a fresh, clean flavor and was plated with artichokes and creamy barley. Crushed chiles turned up the heat, while fresh lemon added cooling citrus notes.
Our group regrouped for dessert, sharing two of The Arrogant Butcher’s four comforting options ($6 each).
We sampled creamy and notably salty salted caramel pudding along with blueberry cheesecake. Rich and eggy, the cheesecake was topped with blueberry compote and a crunchy cookie crumble.
“Our desserts are simple,” Ashmore says. “We don’t want them to be like plated desserts in a fine-dining restaurant.”
Not to be arrogant, chef. But judging from our empty and well-scraped dessert dishes, we couldn’t have cared less.
The Arrogant Butcher
2 East Jefferson Street, #150
Phoenix, Arizona 85004