Sedona, Ariz., is one of Chandler Tschand's favorite places in the world. He's been there dozens of times, so it's no coincidence that he and his wife,  Asha (the official owner), named their year-old Woodstock restaurant Sedona Grill.

Nor is it a coincidence that Southwestern fare is the culinary theme here. This cuisine favors a kinder, gentler approach than the spicier Tex-Mex (and Mexican) styles of Arizona's neighbors. It is generally less heated with well-balanced background flavors. This eatery offers both Mexican-style preparations and typical American pub fare, often with Arizona-style touches. Thus, there's the cowboy burger with Worcestershire and barbecue sauces, and the Hawaiian burger with  grilled pineapple.


But if you're looking for tongue-searing stuff, you can get it. The house salsa (with homemade tortilla chips for $3.50) will definitely stimulate your taste buds. There are also house-made red hot poppers — jalapeños   stuffed with cream cheese, battered and fried for $5.50. Hot's the word, but the house-made approach was a nice change from most you find on pub menus these days.

We also ordered an appetizer of a pair of chicken flautas ($5.50) featuring plump, crisp, lightly browned flour tortillas wrapped around a generous filling of marinated grilled chicken with lettuce, sour cream and house-made guacamole (they do at least two batches a day) on the side.

The four of us opted for Tex-Mex (Southwestern-style, of course) entrées.  Each came with fluffy rice with a bit of tomato juice tossed in with it and either pinto beans or black beans. The rice made a pleasant foil for the meat dishes. The beans, both pinto and black, were tenderly cooked and well flavored.

Beef fajitas ($10.95) featured — yes — beef, marinated, grilled, tender and ample, along with sautéed onions and bell peppers to tuck inside warm flour tortillas.  Simple and comforting.

You get three tacos for $7.95, all served with lettuce, tomatoes and jack cheese.  Filling choices include beans, shredded beef, or pulled white meat chicken, or get all three, plus a choice of crispy corn or flour tortillas.

There's a menu section called "Popular Combinations" that features mix-and-match Texican favorites. Our guest's combo starred a pair of chicken enchiladas and a shredded beef taco ($8.95). Mild enchilada sauce enlivened the tender chicken enchiladas, while the shredded beef taco, though tasty, was stuffed inside a too-chewy tortilla.

The first time I had fish tacos was about 16 years ago in Laguna Beach, Calif., at a thriving little seaside eatery called — if you can believe it — Fish Tacos. The fish (not cod) was marinated and lightly grilled, and there was plenty of it stuffed inside soft flour tortillas with shredded cabbage added for crunch. They remain to this day a benchmark for me.

Sedona Grill fixes fish tacos just that way (almost), using tilapia as a base and cooking it just right. Three small ones ($10.95) were most welcome, even though shredded lettuce, not cabbage, was on the side. Nestled in with the fish were grilled onions — a flavorful touch.

The Tschands have named many of their items for Sedona area sights. The Verde Valle Entrées section boasts Red Rock Enchiladas. Among sandwiches, burgers and sub choices is the Grand Canyon Trail Wrap, featuring a flour tortilla with a choice of meat (pulled chicken breast, pulled pork, shredded beef), peppers, onions, rice, black beans, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese and guacamole.

Another plus with this Sedona are the reasonable prices. The costliest dinner entrée – Arroz con Pescado – is only $11.95, and it's a combo platter.

No dessert, as usual, but that's partly because a redeveloped dessert menu is in the works, says Chandler Tschand, along with an expanded dinner menu featuring more seafood and the addition of  Margarita Chicken, which has been a very popular chef's special.

We'll be sure to check it out.

Sedona Grill
10805 Birmingham Way