Published January 18, 2013 at 1:35am
Next Friday, January 25, the Wild Garlic Grill will have its grand opening celebration. The Louie Levinson band will treat attendees to its melodies, there will be a free wine tasting for the classy crowd over 21 and the Stoli girls will be giving out free vodka samples.
From the outside, the restaurant looks like a fast food joint, and in fact, it was once home to the A&W drive-thru.
But take a step inside, and the new Wild Garlic Grill restaurant erases all of those thoughts immediately.
“It was a good surprise,” UA general studies senior Kimra Griffin said. Griffin lives right up the street from Wild Garlic Grill, but said she never noticed the restaurant until now.
The scent of garlic emanates from the restaurant when you first walk in, but not the undesirable stench that most people avoid when on dates. This garlic sizzles, twists and lures you further into the intimate dining experience.
Like the exquisite piece of modern art that adorns one wall of the restaurant, the food is prepared artfully. “Each plate is a work of art,” said Steven Schultz, chef and owner of Wild Garlic Grill.
Schultz likes his garlic. He uses it in almost all of his dishes. “Not excessively,” he said, “but … tastefully.”
Although he took on an obscure building that looks like a dive, he is confident in the restaurant’s location near the UA and hip-happenings downtown.
“We hope to get a great mix of people,” Schultz said.
What’s more, he chose the restaurant specifically based on its funky 1950s retro look. Since its days as an iconic A&W stand, the building has housed many aspiring restaurants. the longest time it was Sanchez Burrito , and it last housed Three and a Half Brothers Cafe, which had barely a whisper of business during its time.
The concept of Wild Garlic Grill was inspired by Schultz’s culinary career. Though a Tucson native, he studied culinary arts in France and was the executive chef at a resort in Carmel, Calif., so he is used to a large kitchen and feeding hundreds of diners a night.
At Wild Garlic Grill, Schultz enjoys getting to make certain that every dish he makes is perfect.
“Customers walk right in and I get a chance to see them from my kitchen, so I can make a personal connection and thank them for coming in,” Schultz said.
Foodies sidle up to the bar and watch Schultz and the other chefs at work, flipping shrimp in a skillet, braising lamb and of course peeling and chopping, letting the smell of garlic drift into the dining room.
Once Tucson recovers from the recent cold snap, Schultz will put together the restaurant’s patio, which is as big as the inside of the restaurant itself and will also include an herb garden to elevate Schultz’s dishes even more with fresh, homegrown herbs.
The menu is full of unique tastes for those tired of the traditional Southwestern fare. Californian sea bass, braised pork shoulder, linguini bolognese with braised beef and even steamed mussles are all available specialties. Chef Schultz adds subtle yet flavorful sauces to his dishes, making them pop.
The grilled garlic shrimp with warm brie was lightly glazed with a creamy, warm beurre blanc dressing to tie the tastes of the brie, roasted eggplants and corn salsa to the shrimp.
“You don’t go to the Wild Garlic Grill for the food alone,” Griffin said. “You go for the environment, people and hospitality too.”
Reasonably priced with delicious, healthy and filling dishes set in an intimate upscale dining experience make the Wild Garlic Grill perfect for a date — as long as you don’t mind a little garlic breath.
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