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building that is now Tonto. Arguably, the best seats


are on the patio, planted with ancient date palms, olive trees and cacti all edging right up to the golf course with views into open desert. But the dining room, as noisy as it can be, is charming, as a detailed Southwestern tapestry of Indian-inspired fabrics, rough-hewn lodge pole chairs, polished wood tables and a stately saguaro skeleton holding sentry amid the diners. While old-timers didn’t


eat crab, the cakes here sport desert flair, encrusted in crunchy tortilla that holds the sweet meat together without need for filler ($14). Ribbons of smoky chipotle chili aioli, a slaw of crisp jicama, carrot and roasted green chile, and it’s an excellent starter. The compressed arugula salad has been a favorite for


many years now, and it still rivals what even the most modern chefs are dreaming up. Molded into a loose tower, the peppery leaves are laced with slightly tangy Spanish manchego, candied Arizona pecans, sun-dried cherries and tart green apple slices in a drizzle of pistachio vinaigrette ($14). The flavors are distinct, but marry beautifully in the mouth. The kitchen has a few


surprises, though, such as sautéed Pacific Coast sanddabs that remind of a very upscale fish and chips, the fish golden edged and teamed with whipped potatoes, Chardonnay butter, malt vinegar reduction, sugar snap peas and roasted baby heirloom carrots ($22.50). I can’t figure out what pork schnitzel is doing on the menu, but Flatt says the German entrée is a best-seller, partnered with potato salad,


lemon caper butter, green beans, herbed carrots and grilled local lemon ($20.50). In recent years, menus


have been tweaked for a greater emphasis on vegan and gluten-free recipes, though no one need feel deprived. Puerto Nuevo tacos are a lighter offering of firm shrimp tumbled with ancho chile-simmered peppers, onions, avocado crema and escebèche slaw in white corn tortillas ($14), while you can enjoy the tacos with black beans and guacamole instead of meat for a vegan meal ($14). I don’t know what era


the lemon-lime sour cream meringue pie ($11) comes from, but it’s marvelous. Dense and sweet-tart over its almond crust, the generous slice comes topped with pillowy egg white, a side of raspberries and sliced kiwi, a curl of almond cookie and


the crowning touch, a little candy bumblebee. Why a bee? Who cares, it’s delightful. If time has moved slowly


since the Native American- cowboy eatery debuted in 1994 (with a grand-opening party that included Christie Brinkley, no less), there’s good reason. When something is this excellent, don’t fix it. n


Carey Sweet writes about food and wine for the Arizona Republic, San Francisco Chronicle, and Scottsdale and Sunset magazines.


DETAILS


Tonto Bar & Grill 5736 E. Rancho Mañana Blvd., Cave Creek, 480-488-0698 tontobarandgrill.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily, plus Sunday brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m.


www.azgolf.org


SPRING 2016 | AZ GOLF Insider | 17


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