The Arrogant Butcher restaurant is no newcomer to the downtown Phoenix scene. However, despite opening its doors and ovens back in 2011, the eatery has managed to stay at the top of its game and establish itself as a bona fide landmark that’s now at the epicenter of the area’s renaissance. Just a short walk away from Talking Stick Resort Arena where, on any given night, you might catch anything from a NBA game to a Justin Timberlake concert, as well as Chase Field where the resident Arizona Diamondbacks strive to dominate the MLB year after year. There is no shortage of venues in this bustling metropolis.
Downtown Phoenix is also replete with high-caliber restaurants as the city’s culinary scene flourishes with award-winning fare. This indubitably includes The Arrogant Butcher, which has earned its place as an iconic eatery that embodies the essence of its downtown locale. It’s billed as a place “where sports fans and theater-goers can enjoy a burger and a beer next to some of Arizona’s top politicians” by Fox Restaurant Concepts—the creative and operational force facilitating the restaurant’s enduring success.
While the ambiance here is decidedly casual and industrial-chic, its food and drink isimpeccably crafted to meet the high standards set by Sam Fox—the founder and visionary behind Fox Restaurant Concepts, which now boasts nearly 50 varied restaurant locations across 16 states, employing a team of over 4,000 employees nationwide.
Fox, who famously dropped out of college to commence his life in the restaurant biz, is now an 11-time James Beard Award “Outstanding Restaurateur” semifinalist and New York Times best-selling cookbook author. He was also named one of the 50 most influential people in the restaurant industry by Nation’s Restaurant News for five consecutive years. His Fox Restaurant Concepts company boasts an array of impressive eateries, including multiple throughout Arizona such as Doughbird, Culinary Dropout, and Flower Child that all have multiple locations spread statewide.
For its part, The Arrogant Butcher is perfectly positioned in the heart of downtown Phoenix and truly emulates the spirit of this kinetic community. In fact, in an exclusive interview I conducted with Fox, he expressed a key lesson learned when opening this restaurant that, indicentally, was his very first venture in downtown Phoenix: to understand the local scene. Fox realized this area was just on the brink of a development boom and had a niche to fill and, with the opening of The Arrogant Butcher, he provided a place.
As I am personally intrigued by the notion of “firestarters,” also known as “serial doers,” in all business capacities, I was excited to pick Fox’s brain. As a prelude to our conversation, I popped into The Arrogant Butcher for a dinner service.
Upon walking in the front door, the energy of the room was palpable and infectious. Revelers at the bar, TVs all around broadcasting sports programming, the diligently-working brigade in the open kitchen, the adjacent dining area abuzz with hearty appetites. The unfussy atmosphere and décor exuded that coveted hip and cool factor, but it also didn’t hurt that the Diamondbacks were playing host to the Houston Astros, the reigning World Series Champions, that same evening. Here, it felt like we were a part of the action.
Relative to décor, I’m told that the large red-numbered clock at the entrance was the very first decorative item selected for the restaurant, and it started the shaping of the current concept. It used to belong in a train station, and has been viewed by millions over its lifetime. The rest of the comforting atmosphere was built around the clock and its origins.
Bar and open seating aside, patrons can also opt for more privacy and dine behind the drawn curtains of the three private dining rooms where on any given weekend one may find bachelorettes toasting away their singlehood, important legislature being discussed, or pre-concert parties warming up for the night’s big event. And you never know who might show up, asJessica Biel reportedly stopped in for a meal while Timberlake was in town for his performance. Insiders also tell me that Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen dined at The Arrogant Butcher together.
My own delicious journey through The Arrogant Butcher began with a deep-dive into the Appetizer course. This commenced with the Crispy Shrimp paired with succulent crisped Shishito Peppers and paired with a not-too-spicy aioli sauce. The batter on the shrimp was notably light and flakey, not at all greasy like the overly battered versions of this dish found and fried elsewhere. The light batter allowed the top-quality shrimp to shine through and actually command center stage. Everything about this relatively simple dish was perfection and it was my personal favorite of the night.
My party also designed our own cheese and charcuterie plate. Our meat choice of Salumi Fra’ Mani paired with Montchevre “Le Cabrie” Goat Brie Cheese along with a sharp Prairie Breeze Aged Cheddar was dressed to impress. The platter was served with a sassy side of cherry marmalade and spiced mustard. Thick cut crusty bread slices pulled the whole masterpiece together. To this DIY platter I also opted to add on the Crispy Prosciutto Deviled Eggs, which were presented as a beautiful hard-boiled outer layer with a soft-whipped yolk that was topped with crisped prosciutto chips and chives. These bite-sized delights vanished all too quickly among our party of competitive—and unabashedly hungry—culinary souls.
The entrée course allowed me to savor three marvelous mains. The first was the Almond Crusted Rainbow Trout, which was plated with sides of green beans, potato purée, shallot confit, brown butter and a charred lemon. So savory and texturized the herbed pan-finished crust, caramelized to perfection, and so succulent the meat within, this is a dish I would order time and time again. The second dish was the Grilled Fish Tacos, lovingly layered with pico de gallo, tomatillo salsa, smashed avocado and white bean. This is definitely one of the healthier items on the menu for the calorie-conscious. The third and last entrée was the almighty Filet Mignon, which was perched atop a generous bed of Boursin creamed spinach and paired with a crispy potato. Up ahead, I know to order this steak at a higher temperature than normal, as in this instance it was prepared slightly under. But, it was delectable nonetheless.
Dessert was a brigade of intense flavors all its own, as the “Hot Chocolate” Cake, cutely served in a mason jar-esque container, arrived crowned with an abundant Chantilly cream, cinnamon-dusted whipped topping. On the other side of the spectrum came the Salted Caramel Pudding, for which they have become well-known. And understandably so given the pudding hit the trifecta of flavor, texture and presentation.
While none were included in my own tasty tour of the menu, Fox expressed his own favorite dishes at this gastro-gem. He loves to start off with King Crab Legs, White Shrimp and Oysters accompanied by the jalapeño mignonette (you also have the choice of cocktail sauce or remoulade). His favorite entrées are twofold. One is the Beef Short Rib Stew, served with green chile, a fried egg and cornbread. The other is the Crab Stuffed Chicken that’s paired with spinach, capers, and lemon chicken jus. I’ll be sure to take a spin through each of those items next time I visit.
Given its explosive growth amid the downtown Phoenix community’s revitalization, I also asked Fox howThe Arrogant Butcher can elevate its image even further. “The goal is to create a comfortable place for people from all walks of life to gather. When I think of my guests and what is important to them in life, my team is able to deliver an authentic sense of food culture and the restaurant becomes a true part of the community.”
By offering superb quality across key American food categories—seafood, steaks, and elevated homespun favorites like its Butcher’s Meatloaf and Cheese Ravioli—The Arrogant Butcher is a place where comfort food, good company, and good vibes convene in a memorable dining experience that keeps local residents and tourists, alike, coming back for more.
Merilee Kern is the executive editor and producer of “The Luxe List.”