del frisco’s grille
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Del Frisco’s Grille
Gwen Ashley Walters
December, 2012, Page 143
Photos by David Moore
inside Del Frisco's Grille
Saddle up! Sizzling surf and turf and sunny service make this Texas import a worthy successor to Houston’s.
Sprawling, glitzy, and brimming with enough genuine hospitality to fill the Astrodome, Del Frisco’s Grille has slipped into Houston’s former Esplanade space with all the confidence of a smooth-talking oilman. DFG is the dressed-down kid brother in a family of Dallas-based steakhouses that have staked their claim across 18 states, though this is the first Del Frisco to hit Arizona.
With a shotgun menu aimed to please everyone, DFG doesn’t appear much different from the last tenant. The menu is bigger, and what was once dark and clubby is now open and bright. And DFG has figured out the magic formula Houston’s perfected: Serve solid food and drink in a fun, energetic atmosphere and kill ’em with kindness.
DFG’s corporate mantra, plastered above the lanky exhibition kitchen, sums up the carefully fine-tuned just-folks philosophy: “Do right and feed every man.” Lunch caters to the business crowd with speed and plenty of meaty sandwiches, and to the Biltmore shopper with refinement and a plethora of small plates and greens. Come sundown, the atmosphere sizzles with human electricity, from the lean-in-loud main dining room to the landing-strip-like bar. There’s also a second-floor heated/misted patio – a fashionable spot to watch the day turn to night.
No less than three on-the-ball hostesses and a manager greet diners. Polished servers (“Do you have a movie time to make?” is invariably their first question) deliver an abundance of menu knowledge and attention (sometimes dangerously close to overkill, especially if managers get in on the act). The food is plentiful, pretty and good, but the choreographed ballet of customer service shines brightest.
Libations are also a big part of the feel-good Del Frisco formula, including a dry Spanish rosé by the glass ($10), draft beer including a local pour, and a short but wily $10 cocktail list. The Skirt Chaser is a crazy good mix of Hendrick’s gin, St. Germain, lemon juice and a dash of Tabasco.
Sharable plates are filed under “Food to Fight Over,” surely a nod to the heart attack-good cheesesteak egg rolls ($10) – deep-fried wonton skins wrapped around thinly sliced steak swathed in gooey, melted cheese, served with chile sauce and honey mustard. It’s a sweet/salty/fat delivery vehicle that leaves me licking my fingers.
No one will fight over the black-eyed pea hummus ($9), served in a trendy crock with too-dry bread, plus grilled tortilla wedges and pickled vegetables. The hummus is too tart and grainy, but it’s a healthier choice than the scrumptious orbs of deep-fried pimento cheese fritters ($9). Deviled eggs, pricey at $7 for four halves, are worth fighting over: coifed high with mustardy, creamy yolks and drizzled with sweet, tangy vinaigrette and a drop of truffle oil. Flatbreads are so ubiquitous these days they’re close to jumping the shark, but I’d place DFG’s crisp-edged garlic and shrimp version ($14) studded with Schreiner’s chorizo sausage and cilantro pesto under the “Food to Fight Over” heading.
DFG’s main dishes are generously peppered with surf and turf. The 12-ounce Delmonico ($32), cooked to the temp requested, is a salt lick, raucously rubbed with powerful barbecue spices. The perfectly fine 16-ounce rib-eye ($39) is noticeably less salty, but if I’m hankering for steak, I’ll shell out a few more bucks at one of the Valley’s premium steakhouses.
Delmonico steak • cheesesteak egg rolls
A mammoth pork chop ($24) sporting a pleasant whiff of smoke and drizzled in a sweet, sticky bourbon cider glaze is impressive but too thick to get the temperature just right. Still, served over terrific creamy grits and topped with thin slivers of fried onions, it has potential when the kitchen cooks it precisely.
Veal meatloaf ($19) sounds good – two thick slabs drizzled in a rich, salty bordelaise mushroom sauce atop rustic mashed potatoes – but the meat’s squishy texture (too much milk-soaked bread?) and too much dried thyme turn this would-be winner into a no-go.
Lovely sea scallops ($27) steal the show with four plump, sweet, exquisitely-seared scallops on a bed of hominy dressed with lime, cumin, coriander and smoked tomato. Pickled Fresno chile slices add punch. The portion size is perfectly reasonable, but stacked next to other generous DFG dishes, it seems skimpy.
Chicken schnitzel ($19), fried an intensely golden brown and draped in naughty lemon butter sauce, is knee-slappingly delicious.
lemon Doberge cake
Coconut cream pie ($9) tries too hard with gobs of whipped cream, but I love the sandy-textured crust and creamy custard. No one is more shocked than I that a six-layer lemon Doberge cake ($9) is the belle of the ball. Moist and slightly tart from the lemon glaze drizzled over lemon buttercream icing, this New Orleans celebratory cake makes for a fitting finish at perpetually festive Del Frisco’s.
Del Frisco’s Grille
: 2425 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.
: Skirt chaser ($10); cheesesteak egg rolls ($10); seared sea scallops ($27); Delmonico steak ($32); chicken schnitzel ($19); lemon Doberge cake ($9)
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