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A Redo on the Ranch

October and November must be “Iconic Valley Restaurant Remodel Months” because we’re seeing revamped spaces left and right — Jade Bar and T. Cook’s come immediately to mind. Now we get news that one of the icons way up north just underwent a makeover – the venerable Cartwright’s Sonoran Ranch House unveiled a new look that’s as vivid and dynamic as the history of the place.

Owned by the folks behind Tonto Bar & Grill at Rancho Manana in Cave Creek, Cartwright’s has always been Tontos’ meatier, more hunkered-down cousin. White tablecloths, chunky furniture, ranchy yet refined vibe.

To order, you’d pick a meat type and cut, then a rub and/or sauce, then a side, then a salad if you liked — it was structured that way for nearly 13 years.

Now, the menu revamp combines flavors to achieve what they call, “Modern Ranch Cuisine” that’s rooted with “ethnic flavors of the Southwest.” That’s another way of saying “wood-fired-cooking with flavor combos just the way you want ‘em.”

We’re talking “mulato chili and molasses lacquered pork shoulder braised over coals and served with cowboy beans, cipollini onions, green apple, and pork cracklings.” And all that clocks in at just $24. For an app, check out the mason jar layered with warm canella braised duck, Bourbon braised peaches, and smoky blue cheese with local pecan crostini, or the “Rough Rider” bison buffalo Anasazi bean chili served with jack cheese corn casserole, ancho chili crema, and red onion marmalade. The full menu can be viewed here:

Like Tonto, all meats are sustainable and butchered in-house, while vegetables with heirloom spices, chili peppers, and other locally harvested ingredients impart honest flavors of the Southwest. At the bar, small-batch spirits still play a leading role, only now, many of those heirloom spices, chili peppers, and local fruits (freshly squeezed!) modernize the cocktail combos.

On the design side, the new Cartwright’s re-purposes railroad and other woods for tables and chairs. White table-cloths be gone, this is now a place where suits and blue jeans can both feel at home. Historic photographs of Cave Creek’s most notable and interesting residents line the walls, reminding you of the history of the place, while twisted branches of manzanita glow in evening light, evoking thoughts of campfire lighting on the desert floor.

This, like the other remodels mentioned before, is a well-executed revamp that plays on what works and simply updates the things that’ve become outdated. So next time you’re in the mood for an authentically Arizona meal, Cartwright’s Sonoran Ranch House should be the place.

Cartwright’s Sonoran Ranch House

6710 E. Cave Creek Rd.

Cave Creek, AZ 85331