Taste of Arizona: Sea food with a cool vibe and central location

Buck and Rider
$$ – $$$$
4225 E. Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85018

The Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix has always been cool. Cool houses, cool kids, cool school, and it became super cool over the years as fabulous neighborhood restaurants opened within walking distance of the residents’ already hip existence. This is largely due to great dining at La Grande Orange Pizzeria and Grocery, Ingo’s Tasty Food and Chelsea’s Kitchen, all of which were created and are operated by LGO Hospitality, who clearly know what they are doing. Now, as if the neighborhood wasn’t cool enough already, comes Buck and Rider, a seafood establishment built like a beach house, right where the venerable Havana Café sat for 25 years.

Good seafood is tough to come by in Phoenix. Not that you can’t get it, but it has to be a destination. Now all that has changed. Buck and Rider is centrally located off Camelback Road, across from my child’s pediatrician and on the way to my mother’s house. Best of all, unlike other LGO restaurants, it has plenty of parking!

Inside is gorgeous, with giant windows that open to the breeze in nice weather. It has a beach house feel and a modern vibe with people-friendly food and servers. There are great happy hour specials with many of your favorite seafood items and half-off drinks. Best of all, happy hour runs from 11 am-6 pm, perfect for lunch.

Over the course of a couple of visits, here’s what I had:

Hit the Road Jack $10 ($6 during happy hour)
(Frida Kahlo Blanco tequila, coconut water, yerba maté, ginger)

This refreshing drink was served with a sprig of mint, my favorite cocktail garnish. It was like a margarita without the burn and sour of margarita mix, which I dislike so much. Instead, you could savor the sweet, fresh ingredients of the cocktail. What drew me to order it was the coconut water. This was an excellent beginning.

Spicy Tuna Roll  $12 ($6 during happy hour)
(sushi grade tuna, avocado, spicy mayo)

The first thing to arrive is a ceramic pot of Ponzu, an infused soy sauce for the sushi, but the server also says they have regular soy sauce if I prefer. I dip a naked chop stick for a preview and experience a delicate citrus flavor with light soy. It’s wonderful. So I patiently wait for the rest to come. Soon, a beautifully presented and colorful roll with eight sushi pieces, wasabi and ginger is placed before me. I dutifully pour the Ponzu and stir in some wasabi and then quickly dive in. I taste the sushi first, without dipping, to get a sense of the flavors, freshness and texture. All wonderful, so I move on to the sauce. They called it spicy but it really wasn’t and I’m not complaining. There was plenty of deliciousness here and you could spice it up all you wanted by adding more wasabi. Paying happy hour prices made it a real treat.

Sushi Grade White Fish Ceviche $16 ($8 during Happy Hour)
(halibut, avocado, cherry tomato, roasted sweet potato, fennel)

I have been craving ceviche for a while and never have the guts to make it at home because it is made with raw fish. Marinating the fish in citrus juices gives the fish the appearance of being cooked but it is still truly raw, like it is in sushi. I leave this to the experts and found the beautiful bowl served to me so appealing and knew my craving was about to be fulfilled. The halibut was marinated in house-made citrus juices, like orange and lime, and mixed with fresh vegetables, seasonings and, most surprisingly, sweet potato, which served as a lovely texture enhancer as well as a sweet morsel among the tang of the citrus. Very fresh, very delicious and served without crackers. They are available, however, if you ask, and I did. I liked having a respite, almost a palette cleanser, between forkfuls of ceviche.

Banana Cream Pie $9
Though there are truly exotic desserts on the menu, I am a sucker for banana cream pie. This one did not disappoint and the key was the crust. I have never had a crisper, sweeter, thicker graham cracker crust on a cream pie like I did on this one. Everything was fresh, the bananas, the vanilla custard, and all of this was drizzled with a nice caramel sauce.  Oh, but that crust!

Knowing that not everyone likes seafood, I returned to try the beef.

Certified Angus NY Strip $32
(warm potato salad, cress)

I chose the NY Strip because the side dish interested me, and ordered the steak medium rare. A generous portion of steak was served sliced, showing that it was cooked as ordered and to perfection.  The steak was under seasoned for my taste, but there definitely was flavor in this lean cut and I ate the whole thing. I don’t think a beef lover should expect an ultimate steak experience here, but if you are a steak lover accompanying a seafood lover, this is a very nice dinner for you. The warm potato salad was out of this world. Fingerling potatoes and greens were served warm and drizzled with what they called a Bavarian dressing, a mustard seed and citrus-based vinaigrette with some exotic seasonings that really made it unique.  Again, the portion was quite ample.

At Buck and Rider I found a very nice, upscale seafood place with great specials (seafood can get pricey), and it’s on my beaten path. It’s operated by people who know and love what they do, and they are filling a niche for coastal seafood lovers who live in Arizona. If it’s not on your regular route, it’s worth the detour. The vibe, the cool people, only serve to enhance the experience.  Go fishing; give this one a try.

Contact A. Noshman at

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