Fox Restaurant Concepts may be one of the dominant players in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area’s dining scene, but its traditional strongholds have long been in places like Scottsdale and Arcadia. The Arrogant Butcher, located in the CityScape development, is Fox’s sole foray to date into Downtown Phoenix. Back in 2011, opening a restaurant in the city center seemed a big deal for Fox. Years later, the Arrogant Butcher is an established part of the downtown restaurant spectrum, even as more competition has arrived in the surrounding blocks.
The Arrogant Butcher’s location at the northwest corner of Jefferson and First Street is one part of CityScape that was designed with some true urban sensibility. Patio seating wraps around the corner, and extensive windows create a dialogue between the restaurant’s interior and the sidewalk. The light rail stations at Washington / Central, First Avenue / Jefferson, Third Street / Washington, and Third Street / Jefferson are all just a few blocks away. Bike racks are found along First Street just slightly to the north of the restaurant with more found across Washington.
Inside, there are design touches that try to make the restaurant look decades, rather than years, old. At the large U-shaped bar that dominates the front of the space, lanterns with retro light bulbs cast a warm light. Nearby, a giant clock towers over the dining room. Towards the back, the art in the private dining rooms displays some acknowledgment of Arizona history. A small counter faces the open kitchen, and a raw bar nearby displays fresh seafood offerings available that day. Look for delicacies such as king crab legs, oysters, and big white shrimp on ice.
The mostly American menu has an emphasis on updated classics and a few flourishes from around the world. Although the Arrogant Butcher operates solely at this location, in contrast to some Fox brands that have expanded throughout the region and even the nation, a certain amount of crossover from other menus in the Fox family is evident. The weekday lunch menu is mainly a subset of a more expansive dinner and weekend menu, and there’s also a separate sheet for a-la-carte ordering of charcuterie, cheeses, raw seafood, and other antipasto items.
The kale salad, somewhat similar to versions at other Fox brands, is based on a green that was once relegated to use as a garnish but is now nearly ubiquitous. Champagne vinaigrette might normally be too sweet as a dressing but offers nice a counterpoint to the slightly bitter leaves. Roasted cauliflower and marcona almonds add depth and crunch to the dish. The Mediterranean chicken salad is surprisingly interesting and filling with tabouleh, feta, cucumbers, tomatoes, and vibrant flavor notes from lemon, mint, and sumac.
Pretzel buns are big these days, and Arrogant Butcher offers them with melted provolone as shareable appetizer, or as the bread in a turkey pastrami sandwich, which is pleasing on its own terms but not as salty or fatty as fans of traditional pastrami would likely expect. The side salad, chilled to the point of being nearly frozen, isn’t much to speak of, but the fries are good choice to go with any of the sandwiches or burgers on the menu. A light entree or shared appetizer is found in a daily market soup such as tomato saffron, sweet potato, or corn chowder.
Seafood is found not only at the raw bar, but also in cooked form with appetizers like the crispy shrimp with shishito peppers and spicy aioli. A fish and chips entree is a straightforward and satisfying version of a pub classic with generous slabs of fried fish, a mountain of skin-on fries, and a side of coleslaw. Fish tacos mix grilled white fish with cabbage and avocado. They’re augmented with a white bean side dish. The jambalaya is chock-full of prawns, chicken, andouille, and okra, all layered over a base of the holy trinity of onions, celery, and bell pepper.
Land-based entrees include a short rib stew, a mild chili with tomatoes and white beans topped with a fried egg. The spice level is moderate and soothed by a slightly sweet cornbread muffin, which is also good for soaking up the sauce. The meatloaf has a pleasing texture and is served in two generous slices on top of mashed potatoes. Its only drawback is a bit too much ketchup on top, potentially overpowering the intrinsic flavor of the loaf itself. Cheese ravioli suffers from undercooked pasta but has a satisfying sauce of tomato, pine nuts, spinach, and parmesan.
Desserts include a warm peanut butter cup with chocolate gelato, a blueberry cheesecake, a “hot chocolate” cake, and a salted caramel pudding. The first item is perhaps the most interesting. It arrives at the table as essentially a bowl of chocolate peanut butter pudding with two cookies on the side for dipping. All of the desserts are served in a jar — even the two cakes, which are individually prepared in small portions rather than being presented as slices. The prominent bar mixes a variety of specialty cocktails and serves a wide array of wines by the glass and draft beer.
Several years after the arrival of the Arrogant Butcher in Downtown Phoenix, it’s still the only Fox restaurant in the city core. Given that Fox has the potential, even without any ill intent, to overpower smaller competitors, its limited presence downtown may be a net positive. Having one good specimen of Fox at CityScape helps define the development as a desirable destination while smaller places nearby also have the breathing room to develop their own clientele. The butcher may be arrogant, but Fox’s presence downtown continues to be modest. Right now, that’s a good balance.
2 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix AZ 85004