Spokane, Washington-based Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar is heading to Tucson in what will be its most ambitious and farthest-flung restaurant in its 15-year history.
The chain, which has a location outside Portland, Oregon, and another 15 miles outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, is heading to Tucson Mall. Twigs will take up residence in the 8,700-square-foot space that has stood empty since Brio Tuscan Grille called it quits in spring 2013.
“We’ve looked at the Arizona market for a long time, in Phoenix and Scottsdale and Gilbert, and we had an opportunity that came about” at the Tucson Mall, said owner Trevor Blackwell, whose company has worked in the past with Tucson Mall owners General Growth Properties.
“We’ve got a good relationship with them, and they are a good partner of ours,” he said.
Tucson will be Twigs’ 10th location and its largest. Blackwell said most of their restaurants run between 6,500 and 8,000 square feet.
Construction barricades and a big “coming soon” sign went up weeks ago around the cavernous building at 150 W. Wetmore Road, directly behind The Cheesecake Factory and next to the REI outdoor store. Demolition will begin in mid-December, and Blackwell estimates it will take three months for the build-out that will include expanding the bar, installing new flooring, redesigning the dining room and creating smaller private dining spaces.
“It will have a completely different feel,” Blackwell said.
Twigs could open by late March or early April.
Blackwell and his wife, Jayne, and father, Jeff, started Twigs in 2001 at a mall in Spokane. The family had operated a number of fast-food restaurants, but Blackwell said they jumped at the chance to create a bar/restaurant concept in the mall’s food court.
The name was inspired by a designer doodling a drawing of the bar on a cocktail napkin. The design included twigs and tree limbs shooting out of the bar. The name stuck.
Twigs serves a regional American menu that includes everything from a wasabi pea-crusted Ahi made with sashimi grade yellow fin tuna as an appetizer to pork osso bucco and crab mac and cheese on the dinner menu, alongside pastas and pizzas, including a Polynesian with mango chile sauce and shredded Kalua pork.
Twigs’ drink menu includes 36 signature martinis and a host of craft cocktails and wine.
Blackwell said Twigs restaurants are mostly established in so-called medium markets like Tucson and “we seem to do well” in those areas.
Coming to Tucson is “a unique opportunity. We like the area. We like the Tucson Mall,” Blackwell said. “I think it’ll be a good fit for us.”