By Sally J. Clasen
Photos by Mark Lipczynski
Born and raised in Arizona, chef-restaurateur Aaron Chamberlin longed for the Southwestern food of his youth. So he decided to revive the cuisine—albeit with a twist—in his latest restaurant concept Ghost Ranch, located in south Tempe at Rural and Warner roads.
“When I was a young chef in the early ’90s, Southwestern food was all the rage. It was notable for its big plates of heavy rice, beans and cheese—a glob of food,” he says. “It’s mind-boggling to me that it’s a dying art. My goal was to make a menu influenced somewhat by the traditional Southwest region and Mexico, but lighten it up a bit.”
Ghost Ranch reinvents the idea with a cleaner, brighter and seasonal menu that features some familiar items like cowboy steak, green chile burgers, tacos and chile Colorado braised-pork enchiladas with Chimayo chile, but with measured attention to portion and use of ingredients and sauces. The lineup includes shrimp ceviche, trout, vegetarian options and salads that spotlight fresh produce and hints of citrus, rather than a mound of tortilla chips and shredded cheese.
“I wanted to open a Southwestern-inspired place where people could come on a regular basis and have a bowl of black bean soup with a dollop of sour cream or a salad if they wanted to,” Chamberlin says.
A tribute to author Georgia O’Keeffe’s home and studio in New Mexico, Ghost Ranch is a geographical reference point that covers a lot of ground for Chamberlin’s vision of modern Southwestern cuisine.
“The idea was to represent our region with a broad swath, from Texas to Baja and everything in between,” he explains. “The plan is to continue to improve the Southwestern food model going forward.”
The décor of Ghost Ranch, like its menu, also is a brighter take on Southwest ambiance, thanks to local artist and designer Gennaro Garcia, who chose airy desert hues, naugahyde-covered chairs, hanging terra-cotta table lamps, textured “adobe” walls, a bare-wood patterned ceiling and wrought-iron light fixtures indicative of the New Mexico flag to create a relaxed, but refreshed environment influenced by the region.
1006 E. Warner Rd., Ste 102-103, Tempe, AZ 85284