Let’s talk about a hidden gem on the outskirts of Glendale’s Arrowhead Ranch area. The most damning thing I have seen written wasn’t about the Rogue Tomato itself, but rather the fact it was trapped in Glendale rather than living life as the author thought it should along Phoenix’s north central neighborhoods. (I have some choice words for that reviewer, but that’s another story.)
The truth of the matter, though, is the Rogue Tomato bears a strong resemblance to the laid-back, food-driven restaurants usually found closer to north central Phoenix. It occupies the far end of a strip shopping center, which gives it the ever-important patio seating (at least, important when there aren’t excessive heat warnings). Inside, the dining area is split, with a great bar space right in the middle. The lighting’s low but not too low and, if you go on Saturday nights, there’s live music while you eat and at a decent volume so conversation’s still possible – always a plus.
We first went here for weekend brunch. The lemon ricotta pancakes are not the size you get at a chain like Denny’s or Black Bear Diner, but they are packed with lemony flavor. I’ve stuck with the omelet but, frankly, the rogue chilaquiles are going to be up next.
Both brunch and dinner are stacked with items where the ingredients are the stars. Off the to the right is the Rogue stuffed poblano – fried perfectly, filled with tenderloin, eggplant, corn and more. On the left is the beef stroganoff, which is unlike any version you will have had of it prior.
Now, given this is a chef- and food-driven place, there are a few quirks …
The beer on tap is a series of craft beers, but they approximate more common beers fairly well for those, like me, who prefer a hefeweisen of some sort. (Instead of Blue Moon, there’s Mudshark Full Moon – damn good in its own right.)
The St. Louis-style ribs, though pork ribs, tasted a little more like beef ribs – I still haven’t quite figured this one out. The poblano, as I mentioned, is great but when I got it there was a touch too much sauce – not in the TGI Friday’s slather-it-in-sauce-so-people-don’t-realize-the-food-sucks mode – but still, just a hair more than expected.
The bruschetta is excellent – grilled bread, people – but the toppings (tomato-garlic compote, mozzarella, olive tapenade, hummus) all come in the same ceramic dish. Having said that, the olive tapenade is spectacular. Not as good as my wife’s, but still really good.
Last note – though the restaurant’s in Glendale, the prices are a little higher than we normally see in this humble burgh of which that one reviewer is so unfond of. But it’s absolutely worth the trip, both for the food and ambiance and to support the kind of locally-owned, quality restaurants we need more of here in our chain-fueled world.