Even before Searsucker opened in Scottsdale in the fall, locals were already very familiar with its chef, Brian Malarkey. He was a finalist on “Top Chef Miami,” and hosted shows on TLC, OWN, The Travel Channel and Bravo. Now, Malarkey is one of the hosts of “The Taste,” a competition cooking show.
Scottsdale’s Searsucker isn’t the first of its kind; the original is in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. However, Chef Malarkey says there are quite a few differences between the two spots. Scottsdale, for one, being more spacious. The restaurant is open and airy (thanks to sky lights and gorgeous green plants and trees), accented by an exhibition kitchen. Cool rope lights hang from the walls, mismatched chairs are pulled up to the button-tufted booths and cool sconces and artwork fill the space. Overall, Searsucker has a unique modern-meets-nautical-meets-rustic vibe.
Before digging into the menu, peruse Searsucker’s amazing cocktail list. Nearly every server, manager–even Chef Malarkey himself–recommended the Peter Rabbit with Pimm’s #1, bruised basil, pressed lemon and topped with a house-pickled carrot. This concoction was heaven-sent. Perfect for the sipper who isn’t into sweet or for someone craving something a bit different. It is savory, a little tart and all-around yummy. For those who do like a sweet libation, the Coyote will knock your socks off. Crafted with cinnamon bourbon, lime, ginger beer and bitters, it is a great winter drink–cinnamony and warming.
Searsucker’s dinner menu offers Bites and small plates, followed up by salads, seafood, meat and poultry dishes, and a selection of scene-stealing side dishes. The cheddar puffers, among the Bites, are slightly spicy, cheesy rolls. A delectable start to the meal. (And at $2, a steal.) For small bites, the squid can’t be beat. The calamari steaks are lightly breaded and served in a sweet, spicy mango sauce. The dish tastes light and refreshing, but still rather satisfying. The melted brie, with grape jam and roasted grapes, makes a decedent dish when piled high on crostini.
During our visit, the shark was the seafood star. The flaky white shark steak was served with drunken cherries and smoked almonds. The fish was crispy along the exterior, though more succulent toward the center. And we could have eaten the mouthwatering cherry-almond combo on just about anything. The filet, with lobster butter and congac, was a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth peice of meat. It was just the right size, too, for a meal that starts out with Bites and small plates. On the side, the mashed butter potato proved to me a little too buttery (though pure velvet in mouth-feel), but the fried brussels sprouts might be the best in the Valley. They are crispy and the walnuts that top them add even more crunch.
For dessert, try Searsucker’s “The King” Sundae. Peanut butter ice cream, caramelized bananas, peanuts. Yes, please. http://www.searsucker.com/scottsdale/.