Hit the road to rustle up cowboy chow
by Roger Naylor – Nov. 6, 2010
source: The Arizona Republic www.azcentral.com
Blazin’ M Ranch
If all cowboys could sing like the band at Blazin’ M Ranch, the Old West would be remembered for jam sessions instead of shootouts.
This family-owned spread keeps a folksy tradition alive by providing a live show with dinner, and both are aces. Gates open at 4 p.m., so you have time to browse the Western-themed shops plus learn how to rope, pan for gold and snap off a few rounds in the shooting gallery.
At 6:30, the dinner bell rings, luring everyone inside a climate-controlled, festively decorated barn lined with picnic tables. Guests toting tin plates are loaded up with cowboy beans, roasted potatoes, a zesty corn salad, buttermilk biscuit, a quarter of a chicken and tender pork ribs. Staff members wander about, refilling tin cups with beverages, and the “biscuit wrangler” tosses extras your way. Apple cobbler and ice cream finish off the hearty meal, then it’s time to settle in for the show.
The band is a tight group of skilled pickers playing a mix of classic Western tunes and a few originals, with some family-friendly (i.e., corny) comedy woven in. The “Ghost Riders in the Sky” finale, with special effects, gets everyone buzzing. $34.95, $24.95 for age 12 and younger.
Details: 1875 Mabery Ranch Road. 800-937-8643, www.blazinm.com.
Li’l Abner’s Steakhouse
The site where Li’l Abner’s stands used to be a stop on the Butterfield Stage line, and patrons today have a similar experience as stagecoach patrons of old, without the bone-jarring ride. Someone asks what kind of meat you want and then slaps it on an open mesquite barbecue pit, where it’s cooked to perfection. Can’t beat the classics.
Open as a steak house since 1946, the joint emanates a rustic, funky vibe. The decor consists of old license plates nailed to the walls and endless scrawls of graffiti. The menu is a verbal one. The server invites you to choose steak, chicken or ribs. A 1-pound T-bone goes for $23.95, as does a 7-ounce filet mignon. Chicken and a half-rack of ribs (choose beef or baby backs) costs $14.95. Garlic bread, salad and beans come with the meal; potatoes are extra. Afterward, let your belt out a notch and lasso the homemade cherry cobbler.
If you can, show up Friday or Saturday and groove to the sweet Western sounds of Dean Armstrong, who has been performing at Li’l Abner’s for a remarkable 50 years.
Details: 8501 N. Silverbell Road. 520-744-2800.
Crystal Palace Saloon
Long famous for serving “good whiskey and tolerable water,” the Crystal Palace more recently has added great food to its repertoire.
Opened in 1882, the Crystal Palace was known for fine dining and was frequented by Tombstone’s most notorious characters. Over the years, the building went through several incarnations before reopening under its original name and restored to its former glory. Three years ago, the restaurant added hearty, from-scratch grub.
Certified Black Angus beef is cooked over an open flame. If you’re in a burger mood, latch onto the Duke, a 1/3-pound patty heaped with bacon, roast beef, barbecue sauce and American cheese, plus a side of beer-battered fries for $8.99. Ribs are slow-cooked St. Louis style and go for $14.99 for a half-rack. A 12-ounce aged rib eye costs $19.99. Or enjoy the best of both worlds with the steak-and-rib combo, $19.99 with an 8-ounce sirloin or $23.99 with a 12-ounce rib eye. All entrees come with dinner roll, ranch beans and choice of potato.
The Crystal Palace even makes an excellent thin-crust pizza slathered with homemade sauce, $13.99 for a 16-inch, one-topping pie.
If the Earps and Clantons could have shared one, history might have turned out very differently.
Details: 436 E. Allen St. 520-457-3611, www.crystal palacesaloon.com.
Dambar & Steakhouse
With a big red steer on the roof, you can be pretty certain this isn’t a sushi joint. Sawdust on the floor and wooden booths provide a casual setting, and the aroma of mesquite-kissed steaks lets you know you’re in for a right tasty meal.
The cowboy cut is a pound of hand-cut top sirloin seasoned and grilled to order for $21.99. Prime rib is available nightly for $18.99 for 10 ounces or $21.99 for 14 ounces. Entrees come with soup or salad, fresh-baked biscuits, cowboy beans and choice of potato. In fact, those cowboy beans come with every meal. They’re the breadsticks of the Dambar.
Other favorites include farm-raised catfish for $13.99 and grilled margarita chicken breast for the same price. For a big finish, try the DamBerry pie, $3.99, bursting with nearly every berry under the sun.
At the Dambar, an entire room is devoted to Kingman’s favorite son, Andy Devine. And if you don’t know who Andy Devine is, you can’t call yourself a cowboy fan.
Details: 1960 E. Andy Devine Ave. 928-753-3523.
For 29 years, Babe’s has been satisfying the carnivorous needs of Camp Verde, a town steeped in cowboy tradition. Using a big, boxy smoker and outdoor grill, the cooks dish up a flavorful array of burgers, steaks and ribs.
The luscious brisket dissolves in your mouth. Try it grilled on sourdough with cheese and green chile for $8.95. Steaks vary from day to day and usually cost about 16 bucks. On a recent Friday, there was a 12-ounce rib eye and a 12-ounce New York strip for $15.99 each. All dinners include salad, buttermilk biscuit, potato and some of the most delectable cowboy beans you’ll find.
Everything is made from scratch, including Babe’s thick, rich barbecue sauce and airy honey butter to be smeared on your biscuit. If you have an event you want cowboyed up, ask about Babe’s popular statewide catering service.
Details: 90 Montezuma Castle Highway. 800-954-6969, www.babesroundup.com.