For 22 years, Tonto Bar & Grill has provided complimentary house-made bread to every guest at lunch and dinner — from our original three styles of bread to our most current offering, the four-seed baguette. Due to rising costs and our desire to reduce the amount of waste created when guests do not want bread, our basket offerings are in need of a change.

With the launch of our new autumn menu items on Wednesday, November 16, we will still offer the freshly-baked four-seed baguette, but it will no longer be free. Guests can now purchase a freshly-baked four-seed baguette basket, served with fresh butter, for $3.50. We will also continue to offer our gluten-free bread with fresh butter, at a price of $4.50 per basket. Though our complimentary bread is now off the table, we hope those who look forward to our basket offerings will still enjoy them while understanding our need to maximize the labor, energy and ingredients used to produce them. Thank you, and happy eating!

While our jackets have stayed in storage a little longer this year, there’s no denying that fall has arrived. The (relative) chill in the morning air ushers in a sense of anticipation for the fun and change a new season brings. For us, it also means an itch to create and share new dishes.

From the islands of Japan to the foothills of Cave Creek, the flavors of the Far East meet those of the Wild West through a selection of freshly unique additions to this fall’s appetizer and entrée menus — all dusted with Cartwright’s distinctively local flair.

The culinary mastermind behind this Eastern infusion is none other than our own Chef Brett Vibber, whose formal training in both Italian and Japanese cuisine has transported him to kitchens all over the world. His schooling in the latter eventually landed him in Chicago at the award-winning, Michelin-recommended Roka Akor, a Japanese steak, sushi and seafood restaurant where Vibber spent four years as executive chef before bringing the concept back to his childhood home in the Valley. Now that we’ve lassoed him up here in Cave Creek, it seems only fair to give us high desert dwellers an authentic taste of the sea … with a cowboy twist.

Whether it’s Eastern flavors being cooked in a Western style or the other way around, the goal of our new fall menu is to present a unique dining experience for every customer while also staying true to Cartwright’s philosophy of knowing where every ingredient comes from. If we can forage for or grow the food ourselves, we do it — the rest is sourced from purveyors and partners with whom we’ve developed deeply personal relationships.

Allison’s Ranch Wagyu Tataki

For starters — literally — there’s Allison’s Ranch Wagyu Tataki, a new appetizer featuring thinly sliced seared wagyu beef sold to us by Bruce and Allison Hemmingson, who own and operate Allison Ranch in Pittsburg. That’s Pittsburg, Texas, not to be confused with the Pennsylvania city with an added “h.” The ranch was one of the first to breed American wagyu in the United States, after the Hemmingsons flew a full-blood Japanese Red Wagyu bull across the ocean and crossbred it with their Black Angus stock. The result is a classic, American beefy taste with an enhanced, rich flavor from the healthy fats of the wagyu.

The wagyu is lightly seared — a process known as “tataki” in Japanese — before wrapping it around Fresno chilies, locally-sourced microgreens and daikon radish sprouts, then topping it with our house-made ponzu. A Japanese sauce consisting of rice wine vinegar, kombu seaweed and yuzu juice (a citrus fruit originating in East Asia), we Westernize our ponzu by infusing it with smoked shallots and serrano chilies. The dish is finished off with a crispy shallot, grilled asparagus and spiced Japanese panko breadcrumb garnish.

Lobster and Crab Cakes

If you’re already licking your fingers, don’t rush. There’s plenty more where that came from, including our biggest hit of the new appetizer menu thus far, the Lobster and Crab Cakes. We keep the cakes quite simple: a mix of lobster claws and jumbo lump crab combined with Fresno chilies, locally-grown cilantro, eggs, mayo and panko breadcrumbs. All of our local greens and produce are grown and harvested on an urban farm near downtown Phoenix, and the eggs are sourced from a homestead farm in New River.

From there, we make this dish sing like a cowboy at a campfire with an abundantly-flavored remoulade of house-made aioli, capers, yuzu juice, shallots, guajillo chilies, smoked paprika, whole-grain mustard and our house blend of eight Sonoran spices. The cakes are served alongside a basil puree, featuring purple basil tossed with red beet, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. We then top this most-requested appetizer with red arrow radish sprouts.

Tuna Tartare

Tuna aficionados will love our take on Tuna Tartare, featuring a duo of freshly-caught ahi brought in from the big island of Hawaii through our friends at Chula Vista Seafood, and albacore tuna from Organic Ocean, our primary seafood supplier. Based out of Vancouver, the owners are third-generation fishermen with ocean-friendly, sustainable and responsible harvesting practices. Their wild Pacific albacore tuna is hook-and-line caught off the west coast of British Columbia, and is most often described as “buttery.”

The minced ahi and albacore tunas are served with a togarashi vinaigrette — sweet and spicy Asian flavors — cilantro, diced cucumber and scallions, all plated on a bed of baby arugula and garnished with chopped avocado, wonton chips, pea shoots and Arizona sunflower seeds, which were also harvested at the urban farm.

Sashimi Platter

The final new additions to our appetizer menu are our sushi dishes, which include the Sashimi Platter and Spicy Tuna and Sockeye Salmon Maki Rolls. The sashimi features our tuna duo and sockeye salmon infused with an East-meets-West blend of pickled nopales (prickly-pear cacti) Japanese ginger and Spanish onion relish. It is served on a bed of horseradish greens that calls to mind that familiar wasabi flavor, but is then garnished with a more unusual blend of toasted saguaro seeds — harvested by the Cartwright’s foraging team headed up by our executive sous chef, Matt Doss — sweet chicos (dehydrated corn), fresh citrus and home-brewed soy sauce.

Spicy Tuna Maki Roll

You won’t find a better traditional sushi experience than our Spicy Tuna Maki, yet even this roll is infused with a prickly pear yuzu and sliced serrano chili garnish.

Sockeye Salmon Maki Roll

Our Sockeye Salmon Maki has a decidedly more Western flair — think lox and capers, topped with preserved lemon and dill and served without soy sauce or wasabi (we promise that in this case, you won’t miss them).

Organic Ocean Ling Cod and Scallops
Organic Ocean Ling Cod and Scallops

Having successfully whet your appetite, we move on to the newest additions to our entrée menu, including Chef Vibber’s favorite: Organic Ocean Ling Cod and Scallops. Two ling cod medallions are seared with two U-10 diver scallops, sliced thin and enveloped in a smoked tomato broth. They are served atop a Lebanese couscous salad tossed with preserved lemon oil, snap peas, roasted tomatoes and grilled asparagus, then garnished with sweet chicos and purple mizuna, a Japanese green grown especially for Cartwright’s on the urban farm. The clean and subtle ingredients coordinate in complementary layers of buttery rich flavor.

Duo of Tuna
Duo of Tuna

Lastly, our Duo of Tuna is served up with an avocado puree, cucumber salad and purple pesto. Ahi and albacore slices are fanned over crispy-fried sushi rice cakes before being garnished with pea shoots and a saguaro fruit gastrique.

Deconstructed Blueberry Pie
Deconstructed Blueberry Pie

With such a variety of complex Asian-Western cuisine, it only makes sense to bring it all home with a classic, blue ribbon-worthy American dessert: deconstructed blueberry pie. True to our nature of honing in on every ingredient, this traditional pie’s individual components have been broken down on the plate. But spoon the gels, yogurts, syrups and streusel together into one mouthwatering bite, and you’ll get a pie-pleasing experience worthy of entry at any county fair.

Ready for a taste? The only question left to answer is, which dish will you try first?

Harvesting Mesquite Beans, with Chef Brett Vibber

Chef Brett Vibber
To be a desert forager, a true desert harvester, one must leave behind the chaos of daily life and step back in time, walking side by side with the native tribes, pioneers, mountain men and all who came before us. It is a way to honor nature in its fullest form, to harvest all the earth has to offer. Today, we just so happen to be harvesting the “Tree of Life.”

The late July sun begins to dry the mesquite tree pods on their branches. Known to the Tohono O’odham people as the “Tree of Life,” the mesquite was, at one time, the most widespread wild food plant in North America. The natives depended on it for food, shelter, weapons, fuel — even medicine.

Armed with buckets, gloves and my trusty fan rake, I head off into the desert just as the summer sun is starting to rise. The desert harvest is in full swing this time of year. For generations, it has been customary to forage in the cooler hours of the morning and then fabricate inside, or at least in the shade, during the hottest times under the sweltering sun.

While the mesquite tree provides an excellent source of wood for grilling and flowers for honey, today I am after the dried pods that will be turned into flour for use in a variety of breads, pastas and pastries. When the pods fall to the ground, it is Mother Nature’s way of saying, “Pick me up!” With the sun starting to hit my back, I find a stand of three trees and quickly get to work. Within 10 minutes, I have 10 five-gallon buckets full, and the truck is loaded up and ready to head back to the kitchen.

Each item we forage for comes with its own unique challenges — prickly pear with its furry little glochids, saguaro fruit that is nearly unattainable 30 feet above your head. Clearly, the challenging part of my process had not yet begun.

Upon my return, I sort all of the pods. This allows me to discard broken or disfigured pieces, as well as any other foreign objects. The pods are then washed thoroughly and set to dry in the sun for three days. At that point, I roast them in a 250-degree oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. After the pods have cooled completely, I place them in a food processor for four minutes. The roughly chopped mixture is then transferred to a coarse food mill to separate any hard fibrous pieces that remain. The final step is to transfer to my flour mill, allowing the mixture to be pulverized into a satin-like working flour.

Now comes the most rewarding part of being a desert forager and chef: preparing the food and presenting the results to our wonderful guests. It gives me the chance to help connect generations through food.

We want to create a memory. I want people to be able to taste the passion in their food, knowing that we were up at 4 a.m. to start thinking about what we will be serving you for dinner at 7 p.m. The mesquite flour finds its way into a number of our menu items, such as our house made raviolis featured in the beef tenderloin dish, as well as seasonal nightly specials. From pizza to pasta to freshly made pastries and breads, the “Tree of Life” is evoking creativity and passion in the kitchen at Cartwright’s Sonoran Ranch House.

Click below to watch Chef Vibber’s mesquite harvesting process in action.
“The Tree of Life Video”

Enjoy! Stay tuned for more harvesting stories from the Sonoran Desert.

Chef Brett Vibber


Join Us for Father’s Day June 19!

Photo credit: Pinterest: Debra Mikalauskas

June 19 marks the celebration of Father’s Day in our country, but beyond the gift-wrapped ugly ties, family brunches and extra desserts for dads, few people know that there is a solemn history behind Father’s Day that makes it more than just a Hallmark holiday. So, too, do few people know that the history behind Father’s Day is also intertwined with our own local past.

To understand the connection, first we’ve got to dig a little deeper into what was happening in the late 1800s in these desert mountains we now call home.

In 1848, 64 years nearly to the day before Arizona would become a state, James Marshall, a carpenter and sawmill operator, was hired to build a mill on the property of one John Sutter on the American River in Coloma, California. As he began his work one cold January morning, his gaze wandered to the river as it lapped at the rocky shore. The winter sun bounced off the water in sparkling bursts of glowing amber, but there was something else that caught his eye. He reached down to examine dozens of flecks that were gently passing through stones in the currents below and could hardly believe his eyes.

The best gifts aren’t things! Give Dad the stories of a lifetime at Cartwright’s History Dinners!

Picking up a small handful of flakes, he tried breaking them between two stones but found them to be malleable. A look of amazed delight overtook his face, and he proclaimed to his fellow carpenter, “I have found it!”

Photo Credit: Pinterest gold rush

And with those words, James Marshall ushered in the California Gold Rush, which would forever change the American landscape.

Tens of thousands of people headed west, some who were already Americans, and others who traveled from Europe and other parts of the world in search of wealth and freedom. As they journeyed, some veered from the well-trod paths and into other landscapes, hoping to discover uncharted veins of gold and ore.

A few of them even ventured into the Arizona desert hoping to strike it rich in these rugged foothills.

Apaches and Navajos had other ideas, though. They didn’t want Anglo miners infringing upon their lands.

The US Army found manifest destiny to be an excellent reason to intervene on behalf of the miners and prospectors, and to protect them from native “raiders,” so they established Fort McDowell on the west bank of the Verde River in 1865.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

As the Army navigated Apache foot trails to forge connecting roads between Fort McDowell and Fort Whipple, they made frequent stops at a spring on the east bank of Cave Creek, which was situated not far from where the back patio of Tonto Bar and Grill sits today. This outpost became the foundation for the Town of Cave Creek, and as the number of miners and cattlemen who followed them grew, so did the town.

Mines cropped up everywhere, most of which have now been abandoned to bake and settle in the desert sun, but the hardworking brotherhood of prospectors who dug and tunneled them became founding fathers of Cave Creek and many of our surrounding communities.

The West wasn’t the only place where miners were changing the landscape.

On the other side of the country, in Monongah, West Virginia, another group of miners was trying to strike it rich, only it wasn’t gold they were pulling from the ground; it was coal.

December 6, 1907, an explosion rocked the Fairmont Coal Company Mines No. 6 and No. 8 in the sleepy Appalachian town. In total, 361 miners and an engineer were left dead, and an estimated 250 widows and 1,000 children were left behind. It was the worst mining disaster in American history.

In the wake of their loss, and in honor of the sacrifices of miners and prospectors everywhere—like those in our own area who were eking out a living one chiseled rock at a time—Father’s Day was established.

It was, and is, because of their sacrifices and their dedication to raising their children despite difficult and dangerous lives that the foundation was laid for so many of our towns and cities.

As we celebrate Father’s Day at Cartwright’s Sonoran Ranch House and Tonto Bar and Grill, we honor all of the men in our lives who have made sacrifices for their children, their grandchildren, and for those who look to them for guidance and support.

We stand in a proud tradition of honor and pride, and we are forever indebted to the fathers and father figures of the present, and to the founding fathers of the past.





Chef Brett Vibber
Chef Brett Vibber

A great chef not only knows what pairs well with his or her creations, they add layers of heavenly temptation and morsels of luscious surprise that leave you no other option than to close your eyes and indulge each of your remaining senses with the experience.

Every day, our guests experience this kind of bliss thanks to the talent and skill of Cartwright’s Chef Brett Vibber. His quest for culinary greatness took him to Italy, Panama City, Chicago, Marina del Rey, Tucson and Scottsdale before he decided to kick off his boots in Cave Creek.

Here, he’s found the perfect match: the laid-back, timeless beauty of our desert oasis, and love for the vibrancy of the people and flavors that Cartwright’s has built its reputation on.

We’re happy to feature Chef Brett’s talents. What’s more, we’re not like other steakhouses (but you knew that). We don’t charge extra for side dishes, and we don’t leave you wanting with just a slab of meat and a sprig of parsley on an otherwise barren plate. Instead, we treat you like we’d treat our most loved relatives, with genuine smiles, pride in our service and selection, and plates piled high with all of the value and deliciousness guests from around the world have come to appreciate from us.

Our juicy tenderloin filets, for example, are paired with pillows of house-made raviolis stuffed with hand-picked herbs, potatoes, and freshly roasted corn, then covered with a trail of silky smoked Gorgonzola and leek fondue. Every bite is full of richness and a balance of zest and creaminess. Roasted spaghetti squash dulcified with sweet honey vinegar onions adds a soft crunch and tartness to the best-paired tenderloin you will ever taste!

Click the dough below to see how our chef hand makes each ravioli.

Our 12-ounce or 22-ounce rib eyes, beautifully marbled and dripping with succulent juices, are paired with a most extraordinary Sonoran puebla mole demi glace—reduced beef stock infused with a house-made mole sauce carefully crafted from dried chilies, seeds and spices. Add to it the piquant flavors of Anaheim chili and potato relleno, and a mesquite grilled and chilled calabacitas salad, and you’ve got a surprise burst of layered tastes pulled right out of the most delicious annuls of our pioneer history.

Fire roasting Anaheim chilies
Potato & Cheese Relleno
12-oz Cowboy rib eye or 22 oz. Bone-In Rib Eye Served with Puebla mole demi glace, Anaheim chili & potato relleno, mesquite grilled & chilled calabacitas salad

One of the most distinctive aspects of Southwestern hospitality is recognizing that our guests come from near and far. We’ve gleaned a few favorites from our Midwestern and West Coast friends along the way, poring through recipes and adding our own flair to family favorites. Pierogies, Eastern European pastry puffs filled with savory ingredients, are a taste of home for many of our regular guests. We stuff them with potato and fresh farmer’s cheese, then pair them with perfectly crisped Polish kielbasa, warm caramelized onions, house-made kraut and a drizzle of brown butter.

Pierogies: Stuffed with potato & farmer’s cheese, Polish kielbasa, caramelized onions, house-made kraut, brown butter

At Cartwright’s, no detail is too small. You’ll find the impeccable attention that you’d expect in a warm welcome home, from each hand-selected cut of meat to every carefully paired side dish—and the value to boot.

So join us at the ranch! Our doors are open, our smiles are warm, and our food is the best in the West!

Cartwright’s is open nightly  from 4:30 – 9 p.m.
Happy Hour is from 4-6 p.m. at the mesquite bar!

click here for reservations

Tonto Bar and Grill has been recognized nationally for its idyllic patio and stunning setting. This award reflects those restaurants Open Table found notable for al fresco dining and chosen from more than 5 million restaurant reviews and 20,000 restaurants in the United States.
The full list features winning restaurants in 15 states, seven of which are in Arizona. Enjoy lunch or dinner on Tonto Bar and Grill’s picturesque dual-level patio under a shaded latilla roof or open-air under the stars.


Overlooking the 11th hole of Rancho Mañana, dine on Tonto’s Southwestern-inspired menu surrounded by the desert foothills and the southern rim of the Tonto National Forest.  Native desert wildlife is often spotted from this safe haven. Regular sightings include coyotes, javelina, bobcats, roadrunners, great horned owls, and many more.  Revel in the natural splendor of Arizona at Tonto Bar and Grill.

For the complete list of national winners, go to

We’ve come a long way, baby.

eric john golf cart pic
Recognize these two?!

It’s amazing how time flies! December 1, 2014, we’ll celebrate our 20-year anniversary! It’s hard to believe that, for two decades, we’ve been dishing up deliciousness and serving up the suds at Tonto Bar & Grill. We started off with more hair and less leather on our belts, but it’s been a fantastic ride so far, and we want to celebrate with you.




eric cheffing

All this month, we’ll be bringing out an encore of some of your favorite menu items from days gone by, including favorites like our Roasted Rack of Lamb with Balsamic-Thyme Jus with Potato Goat Cheese Strudel and Sautéed Kale; Grilled Beef Tenderloin Medallions on Roasted Onions and Red Pepper Mashed Potatoes, 5-peppercorn Demi and Portabella Mushrooms; Chili Lime Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Black Bean Cakes, Pepper Mango Salsa and Grilled Zucchini; and Grilled Chilean Sea Bass on a Potato, Leek, Spinach and Goat Cheese Phyllo Tart, Sautéed Tomatoes, Asparagus, and Tarragon Crème Fraîche. john eric and christie

We will also bring back more flavors with bold and delicious appetizer, lunch and dessert specials. A complete listing of our special menu can be found on our “Events” pages.

When John and I brought our families to the tiny town of Cave Creek in 1994, we couldn’t have known how much a part of the community we would become—and we didn’t know how much the community would become a part of us.

We both came from the seaside surrounds of the Lodge at Pebble Beach, and we were eager to learn how to not only exist in the challenges of the desert, but we also wanted to harvest the often elusive gifts the desert provides. We learned to use saguaro spines to harvest fruit from the tops of the Sonoran giants, and also to use things like prickly pear, jojoba seeds, local pinion nuts, mesquite beans and creosote in our dishes. grill room pic

We found that, with mindfulness and care for the fragile ecology, the desert has a tremendous amount to give. Like the Native Americans who occupied these lands long before we were here, preserving the land and the history here became central to our purpose.

So join us and celebrate 20 years of success, and centuries of tradition. Weekly specials will be posted on Facebook and on the Tonto Bar & Grill website, and t-shirts are available at the restaurant and online.

dining room pic


Tonto Bar & Grill is located at 5736 E. Rancho Mañana Blvd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331. We’re open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tonto bar is open until 10 p.m. nightly.

We’ll be closed Christmas Day so our employees can enjoy time with their loved ones.










We’ve gone and done it.

Now you can make reservations online with your iPhone, Android or any other Internet-capable device with just a couple of clicks!

We’ve joined OpenTable, the world’s most popular online reservation portal. Just click here and save your seat today!

We’re always working to make your dining experience excellent. Your input is also valued! If you have a great experience, please leave a review on OpenTable, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Urban Spoon or any other review site where your opinion counts. If we need improvement, let us know so we can fix it!


Iowa’s got its corn; Idaho has its potatoes; and here in Arizona, we’ve got tuna galore to harvest his month!

A sneak peek at this year’s prickly pear fruit harvest.

No, nothing’s fishy … we’ve been busy picking the sweet fuchsia fruits from the prickly pear cactus, called tunas, to add to our late summer bounty.

The history of this colorful and versatile fruit goes back to the earliest prehistoric inhabitants of our desert – both the human and four-legged varieties. Their August and September season brings a favorite treat for us, as well as javelina, deer, chipmunks, coyotes, kit foxes and pack rats, too.

Chef Ryan Peters finds inspiration in the desert.

At Tonto Bar and Grill and Cartwright’s Sonoran Ranch House, prickly pears are one of several locally grown bounties that we sustainably harvest and use in our seasonal menus. This month, we will be extracting the prickly pear syrup and will make a sweet sauce and vinaigrette that’s a treat for the eyes and the taste buds, and is decidedly unique to the desert Southwest.

Among our specials will be a local wild arugula salad with baby candy-striped beets, strawberries, fossil creek goat cheese, spiced AZ pecans, and hand-picked prickly pear vinaigrette. You’ll also love our mesquite wood diver scallops with charred summer corn and preserved lemon risotto, shaved fennel and AZ citrus salad with local harvested prickly pear buerre blanc and basil oil.

On our dessert menu, we’ll be adding our house-made prickly pear swirl ice cream and Evening Specials including a fresh Arizona citrus tart with prickly pear coulis. Even our house-made ancho chili milk chocolate candies are made with reduced prickly pear syrup.

Tuna never tasted so sweet … and summer never tasted so good!

Dad1They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and not gonna lie … it’s true. Show Dad some love this Father’s Day, June 15, with lunch or dinner at Tonto Bar and Grill.

In addition to our usual outstanding selection of supper and suds, we’ve got a great menu planned for the day. Join us 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and put a smile on everyone’s faces.

Mesquite  Wood-Grilled Peppercorn Crusted Bison Buffalo Burger with Apple-wood Smoked Bacon, Roasted Anaheim Chile, Beer-Battered Onion Ring, Crisp Iceberg, AZ Tomato, and Maker’s Mark Bourbon BBQ Sauce  $15.

Dr. Pepper Braised and Grilled Baby Back Ribs, Mesquite Grilled Summer Corn Off the Cob with AZ Sweet Peppers, Cotija Cheese, and Cilantro Lime Butter, Roasted Green Chile Whipped Potatoes, Dr. Pepper BBQ Glaze  $28.

Dad’s Sassafras Ice Cream Cake
Vanilla Sponge Cake filled with House-Made Sassafras Ice Cream and Caramel, Frosted with Vanilla Whipped Butter Cream, topped with White Chocolate Golf Ball and served with Root Beer Reduction Sauce and Chocolate Coated AZ Pecans  $11.

Call us at 480-488-0698 for reservations.