Breaking the ice over a few shared dishes makes a great start to a productive power lunch. Dust Cutter offers an array of interesting palate pleasers from the creative mind of Executive Chef Joshua Murray, a Phoenix transplant whose immersion in the Valley of the Sun’s edible bounty and culinary influences yields Avocado Fries, firm wedges coated with Sonoran spices and served with a Chiltepin pepper aioli; a new take on an old favorite, bacon-wrapped dates, that uses the small Deglet Noor dates instead of the common Medjool for a smoother texture and more even blending of flavors with the Crow’s Dairy goat cheese, served with a Prickly Pear balsamic; and corn bread served in — of course — a skillet.
Flavors that pervade the menu defy the usual “Mexican” or “Southwestern” labels. Grilled Wild Isle Salmon is served topped with a blue corn foam and sides of a mildly spiced creamed version of Mexican street food-style corn-on-the-cob and a garden succotash that includes sunburst squash, baby zucchini, breakfast radish and heirloom tomatoes. Steak Frites and Queen Creek Truffle Fries is a hearty entrée of marinated strips of flat-iron steak served alongside a snaky pile of seasoned French fries.
Supporting the emphasis on indigenous ingredients and sustainable sourcing is use of local vendors, and this includes alcohol. Beers on tap are all from Arizona breweries. And the specialty cocktails get the same “made fresh” attention as the dishes, eschewing bottled syrups for house-made mixers. If time permits an expansive lunch: The El Pepino is a great summer libation with its refreshing flavor of cucumber.
Dust Cutter opens off the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel’s lobby, like many a hotel bar. But the food — served from a kitchen open 11 a.m. to midnight — is not what one typically experiences at a bar. And neither is the ambience, sophisticated yet evoking Arizona’s early cowboy heritage (which is also the source of the saloon’s name: “Dust cutter” harkens back to a cowboy coming into a saloon at the end of a long day on the range to cut the dust in his throat with a few shots of whiskey). Patrons can get comfortable at one of the community tables, bar seating, or, for the workaholic, the perch-and-post table, or in the lounge area, below railroad ties seemingly hung by fraying rope. Yes, of course there are the requisite big-screen TVs, but they’re incorporated into the décor at convenient but not obtrusive viewing placement on the walls between expanses of window. Windows of garage-style gates open to the sidewalk in nice weather, boosting the hotel’s goal of being part of the rebirth of a vibrant Downtown Phoenix.
100 N. 1st St., Phoenix