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PROOF- There It Is!

We’re used to tipping back a few during dinner. But last week, one dinner in particular came on so fast and furious, with such flavor and serving-size intensity, that we had nary a second to think about a drink order. We walked away feeling food buzzed, not relegated to a food coma, but excited and exhausted about what just went down.

We had dinner at Proof American Canteen at the Four Seasons Scottsdale. Replacing Crescent Moon, in between the lobby and the pool, Proof is one of the Four Seasons’ edgiest restaurant concepts to date. They’ve shucked the formalities for a diner-like vibe that’s hip, upbeat, and casual. The concept’s based on Route 66, so think Americana, easy-going food, and service with a smile. Servers don plaid and denim, with tattoos peeking beyond shirt sleeves and above collars. (Hey, it’s the Four Seasons, letting tattoos show are a big deal.) But so is kicking ass where the menu is concerned. And that’s what rendered us tipsy.

Proof’s menu is amped-up American comfort fare: think meat loaf, deviled eggs, BBQ, shrimp and grits, po-boys, milk shakes, a killer burger … but in no way are you prepared for the level of amped-upedness they’ve achieved here. The “they” is Executive Chef Jesse Hansen and his team. Hansen’s menu here is the yin to Chef Mel Mecinas’ yang over at Talavera (the fancier restaurant on property). Sure, both chefs are masters of culinary creativity and execution, but while Mecinas dishes out veal chops, Hansen’s dishing out veal meat loaf.

We could have made a meal of the appetizers here: BBQ Rib Bites (essentially rib tips, about three fall-off-the-bone bites each), come deliciously slathered in Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce and in a cast iron platter with thoughtfully placed packets of Wet Ones hand wipes; Deviled Eggs are punched up with large pieces of lobster in the mix; the slices of Fried Green Tomatoes are as thick as steaks and come with spoonfulls of crab remoulade; Grilled Cheese 2×4’s + Tomato Soup is just that, only the perfectly melted Vermont cheddar and crispy bread is perfect for dipping into the iron pot of childhood-memory-inducing Sunizona tomato soup. It’s important to note that most of these apps land in the $11-$15 range – not outrageous and on par with any restaurant of this caliber.

A must-order that you’ll see on every table is the simple basket of buttery, salty, fluffy, heavenly pretzel knots. They come 3 for $4 or 5 for $5 with a spicy cheese dipping sauce. They won’t ruin your meal because you’ll likely just mentally deny that they even happened. It’s like a culinary win-win.

After all those apps, we were bummed to not have room for Proof’s version of poutine with shredded duck, which sounds incredible. We did the sensible thing and ordered a salad – and it was actually one of the best things to hit the table: the Chop and Pop comes with chopped vegetables (mostly tri-color cauliflower) covered in green goddess dressing with feta crumbles and white popcorn as the “croutons.” If Proof were in the ‘hood, this would be a daily lunch, without question. At $10 ($16 for the dinner-size portion), it’s yet another item on pricing par with stand-alone menus. (Plus, eating veggies felt like atonement for the sins we were about to commit).

Main courses: the chicken in the Chicken and Waffles is fried with bacon brittle and served atop a fluffy, plate-sized waffle with bourbon syrup and cayenne maple butter; the meatloaf is a gargantuan slice of bacon-wrapped veal, pork, and beef, under fried onion strings and mushroom gravy, along with buttermilk mashed potatoes; and the aptly named We Have The Best Burger with smoked ketchup mayo, bourbon molasses caramelized onions, fried bacon (FRIED BACON!), and Vermont Cheddar. First, let us say that the burger is truly one of the best in town. Top 5. Maybe Top 3. If you’re a bugerholic, get to Proof ASAP. Secondly, get the meatloaf. Get it to go, get it to stay, get it for a friend. It’s the largest, most mouthwatering piece of meat (for only $21, mind you) ever. Well, maybe not ever, but you get the point. Get it.

Believe it or not, we could have handled all this, but dessert is where the whole food drunk thing sets in. You can’t not try a milkshake that starts by soaking cereal in milk, then using that milk to make the shake, which then includes more cereal. It’s called the Cerealist and it’s made with Fruit Loops, Rice Krispies, and Frosted Flakes. A breezier choice: the mint chocolate chip shake with a house-made peppermint patty. There’s also desserts that are not drank through a straw like the Banana Split, Cake Batter Ice Cream Sundae, and Peach Cobbler, but at this point, it’s kinda hard to pick up a utensil, so we opted for straws.

If you dine more sanely than us (i.e., want your calories through booze), there’s over 50 beers on the list, wine on tap served in cool beakers instead of carafes, and a cocktail list with fun concoctions like the Southwest 75 made with melon-infused tequila, lime, simple syrup, and Gruet sparkling wine, or the Moscow Mule reimagined with lavender and simple syrup, lavender bitters, and a touch of lemon.

Breakfast is a whole ‘nuther story that involves things like Lemon Ricotta Blue Corn Pancakes and Pork & Grits with eggs. On weekends, most opt for the $28 brunch buffet (7am to 11:30am) that’s way more than toast and fruit.

Check their website for their almost-nightly event schedule. Heck, there’s even an Alaskan Brewing Co. beer-pairing dinner tonight. Betcha can still get seats. If not, head out to Proof soon – just remember, don’t drive food drunk.

Proof, an American Canteen
10600 E. Crescent Moon Dr.
Scottsdale, AZ 85262
480-513-5085
www.proofcanteen.com