Aaron Chamberlain’s ode to Southwestern cuisine, Ghost Ranch – located in South Tempe – has arrived to much fanfare and anticipation.
The buzz for Ghost Ranch began well before the doors opened. As word spread that one of the Valley’s most prominent and popular restaurateurs – the aforementioned Chamberlain, who brought us St. Francis and currently owns the Phoenix and Tempe Public Market Cafes and Taco Chelo – was opening a restaurant that focused on Southwestern cuisine, excitement built quickly. It opened in late August and has seen a packed house ever since.
The colorful interior and the restaurant name is an homage to the former home and studio of artist Georgia O’Keefe in New Mexico. It was designed by artist Gennaro Garcia. The extent of the design details are apparent in every inch of the space. Even as you peer into the open kitchen from the bar to get a glimpse of the staff at work, your attention is drawn to the cast iron skillets along the kitchen wall that spell out Ghost Ranch with the restaurant’s longhorn insignia in the center.
From the first visit to the table, it’s apparent that the hospitality aspect of your experience is a major focal point. For still being a new restaurant, the menu knowledge is extensive and the effort to please is genuine and emanates through the entire staff, even with a packed house.
The drink list is a bit of a “best of”; fans of wine, craft beer or cocktails will find something to enjoy. Most of the specialty cocktails have a level of spice to them. The Prickly Pear Frosé Rita stands on its own in the menu and deservedly so. Blanco tequila, rosé, prickly pear, and lime make for a sweet, but natural frozen beverage. To get a discount on some of the beverages, Happy Hour is available everyday from 3 to 6 p.m.
The menu has a wide range of sections, with three to five options in each category, and standouts in each one. In the appetizers, the Ceviche is fresh and flavorful with an ample amount of avocado. The Queso Fundido features Schreiner’s chorizo and plenty of it. The accompanying handmade tortillas act as a perfect holder for the cheesy, meaty dish. If you want to start with something a bit lighter, there are three salads to choose from.
The entrees feature taco platters, enchiladas, house specialties, and items from the grill. To try various items, the sampler platter includes grilled skirt steak, one each of the pork and chicken enchiladas and a cheese-filled chile relleno. On the wood-fired grill, the trout may be overlooked in favor of more traditional Southwestern classics, but it is one of the best dishes on the menu. The vegetable salad and tart beurre blanc provide a subtle complement to the flavor-packed trout. Two dessert choices are currently available and the burnt banana is worth saving room for with ingredients that must be tasted together to believe.
Ghost Ranch is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday, and brunch and dinner on weekends. For more information and to see the various menus, visit ghostranchaz.com.