It’s difficult to find the sweet spot between a neighborhood restaurant and an upscale steakhouse, but Keeler’s Neighborhood Steakhouse in Carefree hits the mark.
In Arizona, Keeler Hospitality Group is well-known for their smoked meats and cocktail programs thanks to a growing number of Liberty Station Tavern locations and the recently departed Market Street Kitchen. The Keelers are no strangers to the world of steakhouses, however, as they own the highly-rated Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops in Omaha, Nebraska.
The patio seating surrounding the entryway makes you feel welcome before you ever step inside, without being intrusive. The interior atmosphere evokes a New England feel. The bar sits as an island separating the two main dining rooms and has plenty of space for those who want to watch a game, enjoy Happy Hour, or just find the bar scene relaxing. In addition to the patio near the main entrance, a lofted area that overlooks Cave Creek and Carefree will be perfect for when the weather warms up a bit.
The menu is broken up into traditional categories, but more choices are available in those categories than at many steakhouses or fine dining locations. A minimum of five options across the six sections means everyone who goes to Keeler’s can easily find items they will enjoy.
The Soups & Salads and Small Plates are somewhat interchangeable as a first course. The Beefsteak Tomato & Mozzarella Salad will bring fond memories for the many people who miss the Caprese Salad at Sassi, the Pinnacle Peak restaurant that closed last year. Heirloom tomatoes, torn mozzarella, with fresh and dried basil are topped with olive oil and just the right touch of balsamic vinaigrette. The PEI Mussels feature Schreiner chorizo that adds just enough heat to the tomato sauce and makes for a perfect soaking vessel for your garlic toast points. The Steak Tartare is decadent and rich, served with egg yolk. It may be a small plate, but it should be shared or there may be no need for an entree.
One of the ways that Keeler’s separates itself from the standard steakhouse is by including two sides with orders from the Steaks & Chops list. The Keeler Baseball Cut is a 12-ounce prime steak that at medium rare has a flavorful char that protects the juicy, tender meat. Other Prime options are a bone-in 16-ounce ribeye, 14-ounce New York Strip, and a monster 24-ounce Porterhouse. Non-steak options are baby back ribs with Liberty BBQ sauce, a double-cut pork chop, chicken, and lamb. Some of the highlights from the Sides section are a loaded baked potato, lobster Mac & Cheese, and an herb-asparagus risotto.
For pescetarians or those in the mood for something from the sea, the Market Fresh Seafood offers a seafood pasta that is creamy and filled with a variety of fish. There’s also a daily Market Fish option that is likely to be a tasty choice no matter what is being served that day – for this visit, it was a Steelhead Salmon that was flaky, delicate and delicious.
For libations, Keeler’s offers a bottled wine list of mostly American selections that will fit any budget and most palates. There are also 25 wines offered by the glass, providing – once again – enough options for just about anyone. Local craft beers are featured, and domestic and imports are available as well. The Signature Cocktail list focuses on the classics, many times with a twist. One highlight is the Pina-Cillin; a scotch-based, mellow sipper of a drink. It’s one old standard cocktail that deserves more fanfare. The Keeler’s Boulevard is smoky and the four weeks of aging in oak are apparent with each taste.
The Keeler’s Neighborhood Steakhouse “Happiest Hours” occur daily at the bar from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and dinner is served nightly from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. For reservations and more info, visit keelerssteakhouse.com.