The popular San Diego restaurant has a thriving new outpost in Arizona.
The original Searsucker in San Diego opened in 2011 and remains a great bar and trendy eatery founded by celebrity chef, Brian Malarkey of Top Chef Season 3 fame. The boyish-faced Malarkey, now a mentor on the new reality show, The Taste, with Nigella Lawson, Anthony Bourdain and Ludo Lefebvre, has launched a new incarnation of Searsucker in Scottsdale and the Arizona branch is already a big hit.
Despite the snazzy Fashion Square location, the entrance is a bit concealed, but once inside, Searsucker unveils as a real beauty in both design and concept with enough trendsetters in tow to make you feel like you’re in a Beverly Hills brasserie. In fact, it only opened a month ago (at the end of 2012), and is sure to top the list of Scottsdale’s best new restaurant lists.
That said, it’s clearly a magnet for the hipster crowd, and the early indication is that they are arriving in droves. When we visited, there was more Botox, beards and friendly faces than a Golden Globes after party. Flattering its hangover-prone clientele, the lighting is low and the decor austere. Exposed pipes and contemporary lighting gaze down upon understated graphics, mismatched chairs and comfy sofas decked in cheery autumn hues.
A behemoth of a bar takes up nearly a quarter of the venue, while half-booths and tons of tables in mixed sizes dot the room. Renowned LA designer Thomas Schoos has worked his magic once again.
For those of us not on the A-list, Searsucker is still welcoming and sums up what Valley dining should be all about. It’s permanently buzzing and boisterous, the design emanates an alluring vibe, and the “new-American” menu pairs prime ingredients with confidence and panache.
There are no mysteries at Searsucker – the exposed kitchen invites patrons to fuse with the culinary experience from start to finish while exotic flavors waft through the open space. The comely servers and affable kitchen staff don seersucker aprons over casual club wear.
And where did they get that crazy moniker? Inspired by other restaurants that had amusing names that don’t take themselves too seriously, seersucker–which is a “a light fabric usually striped and slightly puckered, worn by hipsters striving for a certain style”–is an amalgamation of “seersucker” and the cooking term “sear.”
The trend for tarted-up comfort food is acknowledged with an offering of striking starters. Nibble on simple and succulent bites like duck fat garlic fries; rosemary-lemon butter popcorn; pink pepper sweet potatoes; pretzel with ham and honey; fennel ribs, mouthwatering egg and bacon pork bellies. Then move on to the “carb-free” crabcake, scallop and lobster toast or Malarkey’s famous shrimp + grits. The San Diego swordfish–topped with a delightfully delicious drunken cherries and smokey almonds, and the accompanying fried Brussels sprouts and walnuts–enchanted the taste buds as a perfect bite. The salmon “Skuna Bay” in beurre blanc with bacon and peas was a winner in terms of both flavor and texture; while the hanger “butcher’s steak” with watercress, bbq, and blue fondue was tender and juicy. For something truly different for your palate, order the “tongue and cheek,” done up with agave, fresco and cactus.
Executive chef Steve “Chops” Smith also keeps an impressive array of sides like jalepano-chorizo “corn off the cobb,” fennel fingerlings, bacon grits, or cauliflower mashers.
The drinks and desserts are just as creative: bookend your meal with buttered popcorn tequila, pressed with lime and stirred with agave nectar or do a shot of one of the many infusions from cinnamon whiskey to cucumber gin. A signature drink–the Peter Rabbit–mingles Pimms#1 with bruised basil and lemon, garnished with a pickled carrot. After a Hibiscus rum cocktail and a slice of red velvet cake and you’ll be verging on sensory overload.
Between the varied menu and fantastic setting, Searsucker makes a great place for a dinner date, with warm, unimpeachable service filling in the conversational gaps as you coo over the creations of one of Scottsdale’s best new restaurants.
6900 East Camelback Road
Dinner nightly, Lunch Mon.-Fri., and Sunday brunch.