Comfort food gets a bad rap for being fatty or salty. However, one particular ingredient provides comfort, flavor, and health, and that's garlic.
Though garlic has a reputation as an aggressive breath killer, it has become a backbone for countless cuisines across the globe. At Wild Garlic Grill, Chef Steven Schultz loves to let garlic shine with high-end extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs, and wine sauces.
Wild Garlic Grill's building was once an A & W drive-in, which is still apparent with its pointy roof. The building eventually housed Sanchez Burrito Company, then the short-lived Three and a Half Brothers Café. Schultz has managed to break the location's curse, having been busy since opening at the end of 2012.
Even though the building has a fast food and diner history, the interior has been transformed into a small dimly-lit dining room with ocotillo-ribbed ceilings and colorful paintings on the walls.
Schultz's extensive fine-dining background stretches back for decades. Twenty years ago, he earned his Advanced Diploma Ecole De Cuisine from La Varenne in Paris. He was the executive chef at the Ventana Room at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, Tucson's only AAA five diamond-rated restaurant before its closure in 2009. He then went on to open his signature Red Sky Cafe, which closed in 2012.
Despite Schultz's refined culinary background, he's passionate about having quality food accessible to everyone. Most of the dinner entrees are under $15 with generous portions.
Sit at the granite bar overlooking the open kitchen and you'll have access to happy hour specials, which include:
To cool off after a hot summer day, order the OG Summer Day ($6). Choose from house-infused cucumber vodka or Hendricks gin to mix with freshly muddled basil, cucumber, lime, and sweet and sour. This should be a flavor of Gatorade.
The Mango Jalapeño Margarita ($6) packs some heat, but the tropical sweetness will still cool you off. Made with tequila, triple sec, lime, and muddled jalapeño and mango slices, it's like an alcoholic drinkable version of bold Mexican candies.
To begin the afternoon of garlic, start with the Gilroy garlic Swiss fondue with fresh-baked sourdough bread ($7). The amount of fondue provided is more than you'd expect from the size of its vessel, so don't feel guilty about drenching every morsel of the crusty, fluffy sourdough bread.
The Steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels ($9.95) are a perfect match for the Roasted Garlic Fries ($6). The mussels are cooked with white wine, tomatoes, beurre blanc, and of course garlic. The braising liquid is just asking to be soaked up by the fries or sourdough bread. If you opt for the fries, try not to let any of the addictive crispy bits of garlic fall off.
The most recent addition to the menu is the rock shrimp, red chili pork, and stracci pasta with heirloom tomato and goat cheese ($10). Garlic plays a complementary role here, supporting the strong savory flavors of the red chile sauce, heirloom tomato, and goat cheese. The fried onion garnish provides a touch of crisp contrast to the saucy dish, which the wide stracci pasta easily scoops everything up so you don't have to lick the plate.
With the hefty portions, you'll sleep well with a full belly and peace of mind from vampire immunity.
Wild Garlic Grill is located at 2530 N. 1st Ave. and is open Tuesday through Sunday. Happy hour runs 3 p.m. - close Tuesday through Sunday. For more information, visit wildgarlicgrill.com. To keep up with specials, visit Wild Garlic Grill on Facebook. For a list of other hot happy hour picks, click here.
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he is best known locally for his work for Tucson Foodie, his work has also appeared in publications such as Bon...