Many long-established restaurants try to reinvent themselves every few years with menu updates and interior makeovers. Durant’s, one of the oldest restaurants in Phoenix, has succeeded by sticking to the same classic format for over 50 years. Even the arrival of a new executive chef in 2007, initially the subject of some controversy, resulted only in minor changes to the Durant’s experience, and most of those were manifested in more attractive plate presentations rather than wholesale alterations of menu items.
The slogan of founder Jack Durant was that “…good friends, great steaks, and the best booze are the necessities of life.” Durant’s always delivers the last two items, along with several seafood specialties and excellent vegetable side dishes. While Durant’s cannot guarantee that its diners have good friends, its tuxedo-clad waitstaff, many of whom are veteran employees, treat each customer as a valued guest. Despite the staff’s formal attire, customers are welcome to come in neat casual clothing.
Durant’s occupies a modest building in Midtown Phoenix, situated right between the Thomas / Central Avenue and the Encanto / Central Avenue stations. A prominent yellow sign, illuminated at night, draws attention from Central Avenue, but the real action is at the rear kitchen entrance, located by the valet parking stand behind the restaurant. Most regulars enter Durant’s through the kitchen, where the staff provide a warm greeting well before customers arrive at the host station. The decor is so out that it’s in. Leather banquettes and crushed red velvet wallpaper, all impeccably maintained, set a classic tone that is reinforced by a menu of steaks, prime rib, seafood, and even a few liver dishes.
Meals begins with a signature assortment of crudites and a serving of bread topped with butter and sauteed leaks (center photo below). All entrees come with a choice of soup or house salad with an upgrade to a spinach or ceasar salad available for a small premium. Besides the obvious crowd-pleasing cuts of beef, the crab cakes, available in either appetizer (right photo below) or entree portions are a favorite. Sides of mashed potatoes, baked potato, fries, or a rice pilaf are included with all entrees, and additional a la carte side dishes feature vegetables such as broccolini, sauteed mushrooms, and steamed asparagus. Notable desserts include a trio of creme brulees and a strawberry shortcake for two. An impressive wine list and a full bar complement the food.
Durant’s serves lunch on weekdays and dinner seven days a week and accepts reservations via OpenTable. Booking a table in advance is probably a good idea since Durant’s tends to be popular year round as a place to celebrate special occasions. The restaurant maintains a mailing list for regulars and sends customers birthday cards good for a free dessert. It’s a nice touch that reminds Durant’s fans not to forget about a classic favorite in between meals at newer and trendier spots.
2611 N Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85004