When Spanish missionary Father Eusebio Kino first brought cattle to Arizona in the late 1600s, he was thinking about sustenance, not shoot-outs or swankiness. But the plucky Jesuit priest founded the state’s cattle ranching tradition, and where there’s beef, Arizona steakhouses eventually followed.
Today, you can get your beef just the way you want it at dozens of classic steakhouses around the state.
Want a rare T-bone with a side of cowboy gunfights? How about a medium-well rib eye, a martini and some Frank Sinatra songs in the background? Here are just a few places where you can get not only steak, but a unique Arizona experience as well.
Phoenix & Central Arizona
Phoenix and Scottsdale steakhouses abound. For a Western experience, try T-Bone Steakhouse, perched on the side of Phoenix’s South Mountain.
The restaurant – a 1920s adobe with panoramic city-light views – partners with nearby stables so you can ride a horse to dinner. If you prefer, you can skip the saddle sores and just drive to the restaurant, which serves up its signature T-bone (grilled over a mesquite fire right outside the restaurant) with a side of cowboy beans.
Further south, Rawhide Western Town & Steakhouse, founded in Scottsdale in 1971, has expanded to 160 acres on the Gila River Indian Community. Its Wild West experiences include a frontier town, shoot-outs, burro rides, gold panning and more.
The menu at the steakhouse has been spiffed up to include a flat-iron steak, in addition to other mesquite-grilled cuts. Try the rattlesnake appetizer, if you dare.
Many a deal has been struck in the booths of The Stockyards Restaurant, a Phoenix steakhouse that opened in 1947 to serve cattle barons doing business at the surrounding stockyards.
Now a historic landmark, the darkly swanky restaurant serves up filets and prime rib, and offers calf fries as an appetizer (ask your server for details).
Stockyards will also offer a special Centennial menu beginning February 15, 2011, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Arizona’s statehood.
Mormon Lake Lodge Steakhouse near Flagstaff has one of the few open-pit mesquite grills still in operation in Arizona, ensuring juicy rib eyes, tenderloins and ribs.
Want more of a Western experience at this rustic restaurant and lodge? Check out the resident buffalo or come back in summer for onsite roping events.
Greer’s Molly Butler Lodge celebrated 100 years of hospitality in 2010, accommodating and feeding the likes of Herbert Hoover, Teddy Roosevelt and John Wayne.
Enjoy views of forest and meadow from the newly expanded deck, or head into the dining room for prime rib, steaks and even prime rib chili. Save room for pie.
North Central Arizona
Creekside Steakhouse and Tavern started out as a bait and tackle stop for anglers heading to nearby Christopher Creek.
The shop morphed into a rustic Arizona steakhouse, where you can now dig into sirloins and rib eyes, then contemplate the blueberry cobbler. Keep your eyes peeled for elk, which mosey out of the forest to poke around the restaurant.
In Cottonwood, Blazin’ M Ranch was founded as a dairy and cattle ranch along the Verde River in the late 1800s. Today it’s evolved from agriculture to entertainment, and you’ll get a Western stage show along with a chuck-wagon dinner.
Check out the small museum and wagon rides pulled by a vintage tractor. It’s chicken and ribs on the menu, not steak but you can sample great Arizona wines.
Tucson & Southern Arizona
Li’l Abner’s is a Tucson steakhouse that’s been a local hangout since 1946. The old adobe building was part of a stage stop and later a ranch where cowboys congregated for roping competitions.
Go for a porterhouse or ribs, a slice of pecan pie and, on weekends, some toe-tapping live music.
El Corral, in Tucson’s Santa Catalina foothills, is another local favorite, known for filet mignon and prime rib, served with a side of their famous tamale pie (cornbread made with cheese and chiles).
The adobe restaurant, which dates to the 1920s, also houses cowboy memorabilia, including a flashy suit once worn by cowboy movie star Tom Mix.
Arizona’s West Coast
Dambar & Steakhouse in Kingman sits along western Arizona’s historic Route 66, so you’ll be mixing with everyone from locals to European visitors when you tuck into a charbroiled rib eye, smothered with onions and mushrooms, and sip on their regionally brewed Dam Red Beer.
The name? It’s said that the original owner’s wife did not approve of his proposed restaurant expansion, muttering that she did not “need no damn bar.”
In Yuma, Jack & Rosie’s Steakhouse has been owned and operated by the same family since 1935, and it’s become a place where locals come for birthdays and anniversaries.
Order a martini, a rib eye and get Rosie’s blue cheese-based special dressing on your salad as you listen to background music by Frank Sinatra and the Glenn Miller Orchestra.