Choice spot atop nearby Mt. Lemmon

Not to worry, longtimers - there's pie. But smoked meats are Sawmill's heart
2012-11-01T00:00:00Z 2014-07-22T11:18:48Z Choice spot atop nearby Mt. LemmonTom Beal Tbeal@azstarnet.com Arizona Daily Star
November 01, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Let's cut to the chase: Yes, the Sawmill Run Restaurant in Summerhaven has pie.

The newest addition to cuisine atop Mount Lemmon was built, after all, on the spot where the late Pam Rinella ran the ramshackle Mount Lemmon Cafe - famous for its tasty pies and notorious for its slow service.

The Sawmill Run has quicker service and a broader, more inventive menu. It didn't skip the pies, though it highlights its bread pudding for dessert.

Most importantly, it smokes its own meats and pairs its pulled pork with fresh potato chips as an appetizer ($8.95).

I've pretty much stopped ordering things like french fries, though I'll nibble them from a friend's plate, but I'm always tempted to order fresh potato chips because I'm of the opinion that if you're going to eat something unhealthful, you should go all the way.

Thin potato slices provide ultimate exposure for fat and salt. Adding pork - diabolical genius.

The pork, generously piled on the chips, is perfectly smoked and doused with a spicy barbecue sauce that tints your fingers and face orange by the time you're done.

You can't eat that sort of thing all the time, of course, and the menu at the Sawmill has many more choices - some of them downright healthy.

The salads are all fresh and nicely composed.

The grilled Caesar ($6.95), in particular, is a treat - heads of baby Romaine lettuce are dipped in Caesar dressing and lightly grilled, then redressed with all the Caesar trimmings.

The restaurant has burgers, baby-back ribs and a variety of sandwiches.

It has "championship" chili ($7.95/$5.95) that comes as a bit of a surprise. It's made with turkey and white beans instead of the more traditional ingredients. It's nicely spiced.

The smoked and pulled meats constitute the heart of the menu. You can order them as a "carving board" selection ($12.95 one meat, one side) or in a sandwich.

You can even order pulled corned beef in a "hashwich" from the breakfast menu offered on weekend mornings. Dinner specials - a choice of steak, fish or pasta - are offered on Friday and Saturday.

Lunch is an everyday thing.

The pulled pork that complements the homemade chips is featured in a sandwich ($12.95) topped with cole slaw in a creamy blue-cheese sauce on a fresh ciabata-style bun that holds up nicely to the sauce saturation. It's a mix of tangy and creamy - and big enough to save half for later.

There is a french dip ($12.95) made with the Sawmill's slow-cooked brisket and another sandwich made with its smoked chicken.

For vegetarians, in addition to the salads, the restaurant serves up a sauteed portobello mushroom sandwich ($11.95) with spinach, onion, garlic, roasted red pepper and a bleu cheese/chipotle mayonnaise.

All of the sandwiches come with a side order. You can get a green salad, cole slaw, seasoned french fries, spicy sweet-potato tots, deep-fried corn, mac and cheese, grilled veggies, soup or collard greens.

The sweet potato tots and the grilled corn are the favorites, said Gabe Greenberg, restaurant manager, and a partner in the new enterprise with longterm mountain entrepreneur Bob Zimmerman and developer Jim Campbell.

The sides and the overall quality of the food make it easier to swallow the elevated prices, which are a couple bucks above valley prices.

Things are understandably more expensive on the mountain, where propane tanks must be filled and garbage bins hauled off to Tucson at a premium. The restaurant also pays its staff for traveling to work, said Greenberg.

The restaurant is fully staffed. My wife and I spent a good deal of time on Mount Lemmon this past summer and stopped in at the Sawmill half a dozen times. We were always greeted immediately and cordially, and were seated and served in efficient fashion.

My lemonade never sat empty and the refills were free.

The restaurant is light and airy, with a partial rock facade and open-beam ceiling. It has a large patio and a small bar with indoor and outdoor seating.

The Sawmill has a mountain vibe. The architecture resembles something you'd see at the base of a ski run and the music is just as loud - my big quibble with the place.

I enjoy the Rolling Stones played at full volume when I'm listening to music but not when I'm having a conversation. Some '70s and '80s rock should never be played that loud - or heard at all, for that matter.

Greenberg said my annoyance might be a function of speaker placement.

He's happy to seat someone farther from the speakers or to dial it down.

I'm not asking. It's a slippery slope for someone on the cusp of late adulthood to start complaining about loud music.

It's bad enough that I need reading glasses to see the menu and no longer have room for dessert.

Which brings us back to those pies.

They look delicious.

Review

Sawmill Run Restaurant

• Where: 12976 N. Sabino Canyon Parkway on Mount Lemmon (on the left as you enter Summerhaven, next to the post office); 1-520-576- 9147.

• Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays throughThursdays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.

• Drinks: full liquor service, six wines by the glass, draft and bottled beer.

• Noise level: Be careful where you sit. The music can be loud.

• Vegetarian options: salads; portobello mushroom sandwich.

• Gluten free: available on menu and they will accommodate; just ask.

• Family call: You can't go to Mount Lemmon without the kids.

• Reservations: not taken.

• Price range: breakfasts $7.95; sandwiches $11.95-$12.95; dinners $16.99-$22.99

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Activate
Get weekly ads via e-mail

Featured businesses

View more...