By Wynter Holden
Meaty wings and man-size meals are par for the course at Grayhawk’s masculine eatery.
Phil’s Grill is the ultimate man cave. The chairs are crafted of masculine leather and wood studded with nail heads. There’s a TV-watching nook with comfortable red leather couches, a stacked stone fireplace for cool winter nights and a stellar view of Grayhawk’s 36-hole golf club through a wall of windows. Southwestern elements carry through in the Navajo blanket-printed stools and stucco wall niches. A massive, rustic wooden door labeled “Gentlemen’s Locker Room” leads to the appropriate restroom.
If that’s not enough to convince men to beeline past the Quill Creek Café, where Scottsdale’s ladies who lunch enjoy cocktails and salads, there’s plenty of memorabilia inside Phil’s Grill from namesake and Grayhawk PGA ambassador Phil “Lefty” Mickelson. Pro golf fanatics will appreciate dining alongside a signed banner from the 1999 Ryder Cup or the Persimmon driver Mickelson used back in his ASU Sun Devil days. Luckily for diners, Phil’s winning influence goes beyond the restaurant’s name. Executive Chef Brian Lieske, formerly of the Westin Kierland Hotel and Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort, drives home hearty portions of champion-worthy grub that’ll get you fueled up for a day on the fairways.
The menu is a hit list of comfort classics paired with Southwestern favorites such as chicken enchiladas, quesadillas and tacos. On our server’s recommendation, we started with the half-and-half chicken wing platter – a sizeable portion of meaty drumettes and wings served with celery and ranch dressing. She didn’t steer us wrong. Phil’s drummies are massive – the size of a small child’s fist. Deep-fried and lightly dusted with ranch seasonings, the “naked” wings are on par with Welcome Chicken and Donuts’ tasty Asian-spiced bird. There’s not a speck of grease left on these babies, and the skin has a toothsome crunch that wing lovers will appreciate.
Phil’s hot wings are classic, with the piquant and peppery flavor you’d expect from home-cooked chicken bathed in Bulliard’s cayenne (though Lieske doctors it up a bit here). There’s just enough sauce here to get your fingers dirty, but not so much that your tongue is on fire. Pair them with a bottle of Moose Drool or Sedona’s Oak Creek Amber for a refreshing, malty finish.
If you’re sticking to a New Year’s Resolution of trimming your waistline, Phil’s roasted cauliflower appetizer is a delicious compromise. Plump white, purple and orange florets are browned and coated with flavorful spices, then laid atop a bed of ricotta studded with pine nuts and raisins. It’s a pretty dish, but with substance. The sweetness of the raisins contrasts with the buttery, resinous seeds, while the milky cheese emphasizes the veggie’s earthy flavor. It’s a bountiful starter that leaves a cleaner aftertaste than wings or nachos.
Chef Lieske’s chicken pot pie is a masterpiece – larger than a standard dinner plate in circumference and baked until just slightly past doughy. This is nothing like the Swanson monstrosities of my childhood. Flaky phyllo layers make up the top crust, providing just enough resistance to make spooning into the dish enjoyable. Underneath is a creamy, savory stew filled with peas, carrots, white onion, celery and pulled white meat chicken. Regrettably, there are no side and bottom crusts, but there’s plenty of top layer to wedge down into the filling. The overall flavor profile is buttery and savory, with a slight black pepper undertone. It soothes the stomach as well as the soul.
The prime rib sandwich is sturdy and satisfying, with plentiful (and very lean) sliced beef that gets an extra flavor boost from pucker-inducing horseradish sauce. Creamy pepper jack cheese adds a nice flavor kick, though its squeaky Velveeta-like texture is too similar to plastic-wrapped cheese food for my taste. The other downside of this dish is its Plain Jane roll. While Phil’s hoagie bread is sturdy and familiar, an artisan grain roll would elevate this $16.50 sandwich for the country club clientele.
While the prime rib sandwich wasn’t our favorite dish, it was still warm and comforting, a hallmark of the Phil’s Grill experience. Anything lacking in a particular dish or side is made up for by the service, which perfectly balances the line between accommodating and intrusive. Servers show up at exactly the right time to take an order or refill a tea glass, and avoid checking in when you’ve just spooned a heaping (and blazingly hot) pot pie bite into your mouth. Diners are encouraged to sit and enjoy pro golf and other sports on the big screens, yet servers are quick enough that a party of four could stop by for lunch and be back at work nearby in just under an hour.
If you’re looking for an upscale, quiet place to take the guys for a weekday lunch, Phil’s Grill is worth checking out. It’s manly enough for a client outing, and the proximity to Grayhawk’s fairways can’t be beat. Come here on the weekend and the wives can enjoy chatting on the outdoor patio next door at Quill Creek while the men take in a PGA tournament over hot wings and prime rib. While not every dish can be a hole-in-one, the overall dining experience is elite enough to do Lefty proud.