Mark Tarbell’s eponymous restaurant is sleek and airy, punctuated by colorful, modern artworks. The menu? American—grilled salmon, pan-roasted chicken, seared pepper steak—tempered with a French technique. It has become a Phoenix classic, but it’s still current enough to attract the city’s movers and shakers, as well as a fair share of celebs like Clint Eastwood, Sammy Hagar and Muhammad Ali.
Yet when Tarbell took the leap of faith to open his own restaurant in 1994, his only thought was to be the third-best restaurant in Arizona. “Why? Because the first- and second-best restaurants kept closing,” he recalls. “I wanted to have a great restaurant that stayed open.”
That plan reveals Tarbell’s deep-seated Yankee practicality. Born in New Hampshire, Tarbell became interested in food, he says, because he was always hungry and taught himself to cook. After high school he apprenticed in an Amsterdam hotel kitchen, then got into La Varenne, the Parisian cooking academy, as well as l’Academie du Vin, where he learned about wine.
Returning stateside in 1984, he got a job as a sous chef in Boston, with a long-range plan to open his own place. To get front-of-the-house experience, he signed on as a manager of a Utah ski resort’s fine-dining restaurant, then spent eight years as the food and beverage director at The Boulders in Carefree.
Since launching Tarbell’s, he has won numerous awards and accolades, including a James Beard Award nomination and a win on Food Network’s Iron Chef America. Tarbell, also an accomplished wine columnist, recently opened The Tavern, a next-door, “bruschetta-free” wine bar, as well as The Wine Store, which offers wine, beer and local foods.
“We honor where we came from,” says Tarbell reflecting on more than two decades of restaurant success, “but we always stay relevant.”
Eggs, butter, cheese, wine, beer, Champagne and lots of projects I’m working on, such as hot sauces, pickles and preserves.
Vincent on Camelback
Posh or Cowboy Ciao
For views, elements at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain.
Wow—the omakase menu at Nobuo at Teeter House.
To my house, where I cook!
Delux, for burgers.
Poolside at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain, with a cocktail in hand and a side of fries.
Photo via Facebook
Crudo has the best cocktails in town!
By Nora Burba Trulsson. Originally printed in the 2015 Phoenix Official Travel Guide, published by Madden Media.
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