Angy Dykstra, senior sous chef, shows off three of her dishes inside Carcara restaurant in downtown Phoenix (photo by Darryl Webb/North Central News).

Angy Dykstra’s roots in local foods go deep — first in a small town in Missouri’s lush countryside at the Lake of the Ozarks, then as a transplant to Arizona, where she began her culinary career 26 years ago.

Today she’s senior sous chef at Carcara, the 7,000-square-foot signature restaurant in the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown.

Living off the land, literally, was an integral part of Dykstra’s family culture.

“We grew everything,” she said. “My twin and I gathered our own crawdads (crayfish) and blackberries, for my aunt and uncle to make blackberry cobbler. They had their own pigs. We’d forage for mushrooms. My grandparents lived across the street and had a giant garden. I’d come home from school and go over and pick green beans.

“That’s why with this restaurant, we try to do as much local as we can. We use goat cheese from Crow’s Dairy, Ramona Farms, Yuma greens, olives and oil from Queen Creek.”

Sausage from Schreiner’s, the North Central butcher shop, appears in several iterations, including a smoked Southwest turkey sausage benedict with mole-spiced hollandaise on the brunch menu.

“We’ve always used Schreiner’s stuff, we love it.”

Pictured in the foreground is Carcara’s barramundi, which is seared with skin on and served with black bean chipotle, spinach, green and red peppers, on Spanish chorizo hash and topped with lime-butter cream sauce (photo by Darryl Webb/North Central News).

Arizona’s 5 C’s figure into the restaurant’s design and menu. Climate is highlighted in the spacious patio, with ample table seating and comfy lounge areas that wrap the exterior.

Hotel restaurants are duty-bound to offer variations on surf and turf on their menus, and Dykstra takes it up an Arizona notch with prime ribeye steak (cattle) served with mashed sweet potatoes, roasted asparagus and blood orange demi-glace (citrus); and pan-seared trout Veracruz, with cilantro citrus rice, wilted greens and olive relish.

Citrus makes more appearances, including Baja shrimp ceviche with oranges, and an appetizer standout: hummus with orange, aromatics, cilantro, sriracha, heirloom carrots, watermelon radish and tortilla chips fried daily in-house.

“We change our menus twice a year, spring and fall, to be seasonal,” she said. The spring menu rolled out in mid-May. “It’s a lot of Sonoran and Native American-inspired dishes.”

Look for examples in the guajillo-glazed heirloom carrots supporting a prime beef filet, habanero fig jam with the duck confit and goat cheese empanadas.

“We have a Sonoran Caesar, with croutons with mole spice and green chiles and roasted tomatoes,” she said. “For our spring menu we’re using barramundi, a white fish.”

The barramundi are hatched in Australia and the fingerlings are transported to Desert Springs Barramundi, a fish farm in the southwest part of the state.

“It’s kind of bizarre,” Dykstra said. “It starts in Melbourne, Australia. They raise them in Colorado filtered water and fed a vegetarian diet without antibiotics and hormones.”

The result is a firm-fleshed white fish perfect for searing. “We pan sear it, skin-on, and it’s served with black bean chipotle, spinach, green and red peppers, on Spanish chorizo hash and topped with lime-butter cream sauce.

“It’s a lot of flavors, but they’re all mild and muted, kind of like the décor.”


Carcara’s organic heirloom chicken with apricot glaze, citrus habanero rice, roasted garlic haricot verts and stone fruit pico de gallo (photo by Darryl Webb/North Central News).

Copper and cotton, the final two C’s, are featured in the understated décor, in tones of terra cotta and exposed naturally finished beams, with muted earth-toned wall coverings and a spectacular hanging at the entrance, evoking a desert at dusk.

During COVID, when the restaurant was closed, a complete revamp included opening up the ceilings, adding new seating, a 14-foot-tall centerpiece tree and an updated bar area. The result is a spacious, open space with a sophisticated yet welcoming atmosphere.

Dykstra has relished her chance to put a personal stamp on food service in the hotel.

It’s been a long road for the chef, who began her culinary career at Black Angus as server, trainer and other roles.

“In my 30s I decided, ‘I think I’m going to be a chef,’” she said. That led to the Art Institute’s culinary school in Metrocenter, attending classes during the day and waiting tables at night.

“After school, I went to the Sheraton as an entry level pantry cook, making salads,” she said.

Over the next 13 years, she worked her way up to her current role, as senior sous chef for the hotel. Today, Dykstra runs the food program that goes to the pool, in-room dining for the 1,000-plus rooms, food in the lobby bar and Carcara.

As in many area eateries, cocktails are playing an ever-growing role.

“We do an amazing happy hour,” Dykstra said. “We do a loaded guacamole with toasted pumpkin seeds, radish sprouts, jicama, pickled red onions and cotija on top.”

Pair that with one of the signature cocktails — the Ajo passion margarita, for instance, with Casamigos Blanco tequila, harlequin orange liqueur, lime, passion fruit puree, jalapeno and Tajin (a spice blend with chile and citrus), and you pretty much have all the food groups.

Once a month on a Saturday, the hotel hosts The Merchantile, a pop-up marketplace with boutique items from local businesses, food producers, artists and designers. Guests can pair brunch with a visit to the market, and book a new Shop & More package that combines an overnight hotel stay with special amenities and discounts. For more about The Merchantile, contact or call 602-262-2500. The next Merchantile is scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., June 24.

Carcara, at 320 N. 3rd St., is open daily, with breakfast from 6:30 to 10 a.m., lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday and dinner daily from 5 to 10 p.m. Brunch is served weekends from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, contact or call 602-262-2500.



  • Marjorie Rice

    Marjorie Rice is an award-winning journalist, newspaper food editor, travel editor and cookbook editor with more than three decades' experience writing about the culinary industry.

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