As it was both my companion and my first time in Phoenix, we wanted to try something local. Something really specific to this part of the country. Of course, I had no idea what kind of cuisine it was- Southwestern, yes, but I’d always heard that description used interchangeably with Tex-Mex. I hesitated to do that in front of anyone lest they be offended (as I’d be a bit annoyed if someone said Chinese/Korean interchangeably, or Chinese/Thai, what have you), but our concierge suggested this place after I told him price was no object and we didn’t care if it was upscale or casual, as long as the food was good and very much cuisine local to the area.
When he suggested Richardson’s, I have to say I was wary. I’d seen the name a few times in various magazines and on websites that it was good food, but his description was so kitschy, so touristy sounding that I worried. “Loud rock & roll music, large portions” really put me off. But then I said f* it, let’s go and see how things are.
And when we pulled up, I wanted to tell the driver to keep going. It was in the middle of NOWHERE (you may scoff that isn’t everything in Phoenix in the middle of nowhere, but I mean, this was really nowhere, not even in a strip mall or near a bunch of stores; I was almost scared because Richardson’s itself looked a bit ghetto, almost like a biker bar in fact!). But I got out of the car and decided, well, let’s see where this goes.
The first thing is how dark and loud it is inside. They were playing a lot of 80s tunes, to my companion’s delight, namely an entire album of The Cure (I want you to want me… blah blah blah). We had to shout to hear each other, but it was a fun vibe, very casual and laidback. We also had to hold candles over our food to see it; the flash from my camera also helped out.
Also, the prices were really cheap- we ordered way too much food and our bill was $100. In fact, the servers kept commenting on “Are you sure you want to order that?” and we were just like, we’re REALLY hungry. But even our famine wasn’t enough for the food they plied on us! Portions are HUGE, so order accordingly!
After we placed our orders, they immediately brought us both a plate of salad. We were hungry so.. .we ate most of the salad. The lettuce was so fresh that as I forked a piece, it squirted a stream of water right into my eye.
Roasted Garlic Toast platter (appetizer, sort of)
You can’t exactly tell, but the entire right side is a head of garlic. It’d been roasted and the waitress explained that what we were to do was pull on the garlic skin-tops that were poking out, and the garlic bulbs would slip right out so we could spread them LIKE BUTTER onto the toast and layer some of the center mixture over it. I can’t tell you what was in it (their website is down), but I would guess asiago cheese, tomato sauce, onion perhaps?, it doesn’t matter but this was so freaking good, that when we didn’t finish, despite both of us having a 5 hour flight home the next day, my dining companion opted to take the leftovers, suggesting she might attempt to deconstruct it and make it for herself at home. Yes, that good. (But of course, you must like garlic for this to be good.)
red chili soup
We were originally both going to order chilis but the waiter said that we’d already ordered way too much soup. Being nice, my dining companion offered to share the one I’d wanted with me, since the waiter said her choice, the green chili soup, was much spicier. I am so glad I didn’t insist on being even nicer and getting the green one, because even this one was way too spicy for both of us (I’m not a spicy food person, but I can take a bit of heat, and my dining companion likes spicy foods). We could barely eat more than a few spoonfuls each before personally I was glugging back my Sprite and ignoring it to eat more of the garlic toast. I couldn’t tell you if it was good because it was too spicy for me to determine, but I note that it was thinner than I’d hoped it’d be.
grilled skewers – beef tenderloin, chicken and shrimp with four dipping sauces
The beef tenderloin was really tender, soft and flavorful. I was surprised at how good it was, but very pleased. The shrimp was good, and the chicken was decent as well, but what stands out in my mind is the beef. It melted in my mouth. The sauces were delicious too but I couldn’t tell what anything was, none were spicy, one was sweet. The rice was cooked perfectly- fluffy the way I like it, and had its own taste, mixed with the sauces was even better. But I didn’t eat too much rice because I had realized at this point that we had ordered way too much food.
trio of fish, veggies, and the famous “green chile potato” (I forget the exact wording, but underneath the restaurant’s name on the menu, it said they were the creators of the original green chile potato.)
Unfortunately, my dining companion noted that her fish was only alright, nowhere near as good as our appetizers had been. It was very hard to see, so she wasn’t sure which fish was which (one of them was mahi mahi, but I don’t recall the others currently) nor what sauce was what. The vegetables were a bit bland, though the potato looked most interesting; thankfully it wasn’t too spicy but just very good mashed potatoes. I think you’re meant to cut into the pepper to eat with the potatoes, but neither of us tried that.
partales: halibut over angel hair pasta with red chili pepper cream sauce
I was really disappointed as the fish was only so-so, a bit hard. But the hugest disappointment was the pasta- this was not pasta. This was more like short lo mein noodles (they were dark brown, as well), about 2-3 inches in length and really gummy/chewy. The sauce was barely there, and overall I was hugely disappointed with that aspect of the dish. I think perhaps my dining companion and I just ordered poorly though, as these were both specials on the blackboard while the regular menu had many interesting items as well (we tried to order them but the waiter practically refused, telling us we had ordered a lot of food already).
At this point, we’d boxed up two of the appetizers (the chili that we didn’t touch, and the garlic toast) and wound up boxing my dining companion’s entree as well. The overall feeling was a great, fun and laidback, casual atmosphere, good food and good times.
Yvo says: I would definitely go back to try more stuff. I think I like Southwestern cuisine; it was very filling, cheap, and overall just tasty. The prices were good, though the menu is a bit confusing as there’s no real appetizer section and we had to kind of guess what was or wasn’t appetizer portions until the waiter came by to tell us we’d guessed incorrectly on a few of them. The flavor is tinged with Mexican influences, deliciously so.