Entertainment

Stake Out Southwest Cuisine At Arizona Steakhouse

When I called to ask whether reservations were necessary for dinner at the new Arizona Steakhouse, I was told it was a good idea because tables were filling up quickly.

“People keep telling us, it’s about time downtown got a steakhouse,” the receptionist said.

Americans do love their beef. Despite the popular perception that fewer people are eating red meat, consumption continues to creep up each year. It’s not surprising that steakhouses are one of the hottest restaurant trends going. For many, a good steak remains the ultimate symbol of luxury.

The new restaurant puts a Southwest spin on the steakhouse theme, which makes for a nice fit. Along with the half-dozen cuts of beef, the menu offers a bounty of items that may sound Mexican, but they tend to be less fiery than the typical south-of-the-border fare.

The Southwestern theme can be savored upon walking through the door. Right away, I liked the restaurant’s bright, sunny atmosphere.

Stucco walls are bathed in pretty, pale yellow. Wooden floors, the glow from the ever-lit fireplace and clever Southwestern knickknacks lend the place a rustic, comfortable character. High, wood-beamed ceilings give it a nice, open feel. At the same time, it can heighten the dining room’s noise level, which guests might find annoying or infectious, depending on their mood.

Because I arrived with the whole family in tow, the good-natured din was most welcome.

In addition to the good selection of beef, the Southwest specialties deserving attention include the black bean-studded burrito, tequila shrimp or chicken and five types of fajitas.

Our crew started with a fiesta platter ($8.95), a nice way to sample the restaurant’s appetizers. Among the nachos, stuffed jalapeno poppers, onion rings, whole wheat veggie quesadilla, ceviche and spicy wings, the poppers disappeared first, followed by the quesadilla. The ceviche was flavorless and the onion rings were too greasy.

The zippy chicken wings, drenched in a pungent hot pepper sauce, were my favorite. I was a little disappointed that they weren’t served with the signature celery and ranch dressing as the dish was described on the menu.

All meals are served with a choice of two side dishes, including sweet potatoes (a nice change of pace) and a ho-hum rice pilaf. Salads are served a la carte. A small house salad with dinner is 95 cents, for instance. I plan to return for the Caesar salad, which is prepared tableside, an oldfashioned practice that can be fun to watch.

For our dinners, we chose from throughout the menu.

My 12-year-old nephew wolfed down his 8-ounce portion of prime rib ($10.95), and wished that he’d ordered a larger cut. It’s also available in 12-ounce ($12.95) and 16-ounce ($14.95) sizes. However, the horseradish sauce was pretty lightweight, lacking the kick most people expect from that sinusopening root.

A 12-ounce Flagstaff filet ($10.95) kept my 10-year-old nephew happily occupied throughout the meal. I nabbed a bite and found the meat rich and full-flavored. It was lightly seasoned and properly cooked.

My father was less enthusiastic about his New York steak ($11.95). He said it didn’t have the juicy, meaty taste he likes in a steak. But then again, he ordered it well done, which seems a cruel fate for a piece of meat. Maybe the flavor had just been cooked off, Dad.

On the seafood side of the menu, my husband opted for the shrimp fajitas ($10.95).

While he liked the nicely seasoned saute of onions, peppers and shrimp, he didn’t appreciate having to yank the tails off before he tucked them into a warm flour tortilla.

While everyone else seemed to be enjoying their meals - even my 4-year-old daughter, who thinks cheese pizza is haute cuisine, was content with a plate of french fries - my dinner was disappointing. But I chalk that up, partly, to making a bad choice.

I ordered the catch of the day, a grilled mahi-mahi served with a mango and papaya chutney.

I know it’s risky to order fish at a steakhouse, but it sounded so promising as described by our pleasant waitress.

The fish was cooked well enough. It was grilled and not overcooked, but the filet was flavorless. Because it’s a mild fish, mahi-mahi typically needs a seasoning boost and I couldn’t detect any evidence of herbs or spices.

And the chutney just wasn’t enough to wake up the taste of the mahi-mahi. It looked pretty enough, with chunks of tropical fruit and red peppers, but it didn’t have a tangy kick to balance out the sweetness.

It was also a fairly small portion, considering the $17 price tag.

We skipped desserts, which are in the rich cheesecake vein, though the Mexican-style flan sounded interesting.

For the pre-theater crowd, there’s a nice cocktail lounge with a few good microbrews on tap and a couple of specialty cocktails.

The wine list is short and boring.

No Spokane wineries were featured and the selection was pricey, considering the caliber of wines offered.

In a pinch, I’d skip the $5.50 glass of Columbia Crest merlot in favor of the $3.50 Jacob’s Creek cabernet sauvignon with my steak.

A bottle of Chateau Ste. Michelle sparkling wine was the lone bargain I spotted at $10.95.

Overall, I think the owners of the Arizona Steakhouse, who also run O’Doherty’s Irish Grille down the block, have done a great job creating a fun, lively place to eat. Next time, I’ll stick with the steak, though.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: THE ARIZONA STEAKHOUSE Address: 333 Spokane Falls Boulevard, 455-8206 Meals: Steaks and Southwest specialities Prices: $8.95-$21.95; kid’s menu, $2.95 Days, hours: Daily, 4-11 p.m. Alcohol: full bar Smoking: separate smoking dining room Reservations: yes Credit cards: AE, MC, V Personal checks: yes

This sidebar appeared with the story: THE ARIZONA STEAKHOUSE Address: 333 Spokane Falls Boulevard, 455-8206 Meals: Steaks and Southwest specialities Prices: $8.95-$21.95; kid’s menu, $2.95 Days, hours: Daily, 4-11 p.m. Alcohol: full bar Smoking: separate smoking dining room Reservations: yes Credit cards: AE, MC, V Personal checks: yes



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