Upscale Southern comfort food may sound like an oxymoron, but at High & Rye on High Street in North Phoenix, they stay true to their roots while elevating each dish.
Before we get started, I have a confession to make.
I’m a Yankee.
New Jersey-born, New York-raised. I’ve lived in Arizona for 12 years now, but when it comes to Southern cooking, my exposure has been limited to some of the Southern “inspired” restaurants we have. Even with the recent explosion of BBQ restaurants in the Valley, I usually haven’t left my comfort zone of meats and sauces. That all changed at High & Rye and my stomach is happier for it.
High & Rye opened in early 2018 and features a menu and atmosphere quite different from all the other options in the Desert Ridge/High Street area. The restaurant is spacious. There’s plenty of space to spread out or have a large gathering. The remodeling from previous iterations was smartly done and the result is industrial chic meets rustic barnwood. The restaurant is almost divided in two halves – the very long bar and half-booth, half-high-top seating on one end with more traditional tables and seating in the back. There’s also a handful of patio tables and couches.
Staying true to its name, High & Rye offers over 25 American Rye whiskey selections. The bourbon list is twice as long and there are whiskeys from all the familiar regions as well. The “Make Your Own” section of the drink menu is fun. Starting at $9, you can choose martini, manhattan or old fashioned. From there, you select your spirit and style. High & Rye also offers a selection of House-infused Cocktails. The Pinapeno Margarita with roasted pineapple and jalapeno-infused tequila was a big hit. Not as exotic as it sounds, but definitely different from your everyday margarita. The Sweet Johnny D is a great way to introduce someone to whiskey. The Peach and Tea-infused whiskey is mild and smooth and it’s sweet enough where the bite shouldn’t scare them off. In the other signature drinks, it was said of From Russia With Love by my dining partner that “it goes down smoother than water”.
The starters are your first hint that you’re in for an authentic Southern experience. The Smoked Trout Deviled Eggs are creamy with a contrast of crisp from the lardons. The Smoked Chicken Wings are grilled and smoked. We tried the dry rub and then went back and forth using the various sauces provided tableside – Nashville Hot, Carolina Mustard and a Sweet Bourbon BBQ. One of the best blues you can slather on your wings is Point Reyes Bleu Cheese, and they give it to you here. The Pastor’s Plate is a shareable medley that features smoked Tennessee ham – think Prosciutto di Parma for the South – a generous portion of pimento cheese, and a variety of breads and sauces that threaten to steal the show.
The Southern Watermelon Salad is a great segue from the starters into your main course. The refreshing watermelon works as a palate cleanser and the accompanying ingredients play well together. They also have a Southern Fried Chicken Wedge salad if you want to tell your trainer you had a “salad” for lunch.
High & Rye features a variety of “Meat Plates” that you can either order a la carte or with accompaniments as a dinner. The Southern fried chicken is an absolute standout and comes out hot and juicy with the perfect amount of breading. The other options are smoked pork shoulder, a handcrafted Texas hotlink, smoked beef brisket and St. Louis-style ribs. You can also have a sampler for one which features the pork shoulder, brisket and hotlink with two sides or a “Southern Supper” which is meant for a party of six or more. They also have a section of “Specialties” that features Shrimp & Stone Ground Grits. If you’re a fan of grits, choose this for dinner or as a side for the table.
If you need to get in touch with your Southern roots, or if you need to discover them for the first time like I did, give High & Rye Southern Kitchen & Bar a try. They’re open seven days a week for dinner and Happy Hour and for brunch on the weekends.
For more information and to see the full menu, visit highandryeaz.com.