Pony Tale: The New Pink Pony Misses the Point
The first time I visited the Pink Pony, following its floor-to-ceiling overhaul earlier this year, I was distracted. Where was the slightly shabby lounge singer, cracking us up with tacky renditions of ancient Pet Clark hits? The cozily dark bar, straight out of a 1930s Warner Bros. gangster film? Where was the fun of visiting an old Scottsdale steakhouse?
Jackie Mercandetti Pork chops with polenta, house chopped salad, and pretzel fondue from the Pink Pony.
In the end, mostly disappointed by near-miss appetizers and entrées, I left wondering, The Pink Pony's main draw, for decades, has been its scruffy sentimentality and dependable steak dinners. In a town full of upscale restaurants offering New American cuisine, we don't need another.
See also: Cafe Review: Angry Crab Shack in Mesa
Closed last summer for renovation, the Pony, added to Scottsdale's Historic Register in 2004, reopened in February. New owner Mark Shugrue, who runs restaurants in Sedona and Lake Havasu, gutted the more-than-60-year-old dining landmark, trading up tatty history for sleek lines and smooth surfaces. The Shugrue Pony offers the much-favored, loft-inspired open floor plan that seemed so new and daring -- blownout ceilings! exposed brick! fun lighting fixtures! -- 20 years ago.
An open kitchen at the back is fronted by an eight-seat chef's table; the main dining room is all tuck-and-roll leather banquettes and glossy wood-paneled walls offset with industrial sand-blasted masonry and exposed ductwork. The zinc-and-marble-topped bar, formerly on the north and now on the south side of the building, is overwhelmed by typical giant-screen TVs blasting sports events and two dozen beer taps.
The restaurant's new design takes a sidelong glance at its own past by incorporating token décor from the old place: The bar is hung with the hand-drawn caricatures of famous baseball players and other pro-ball memorabilia from the old days, and the Pony's familiar pink-inset wooden doors have been transformed into a collapsible wall on the front-end open patio.