John and Amanda Guerrero traded in their Tucson teaching jobs last summer for a kitchen in Oro Valley, opening a restaurant with a menu that twists and turns classic comfort food on its ear.
In August, the couple bought Cattleman’s Cafe 2 at 10110 N. Oracle Road from owner Mike McGee, who owns the original Cattleman’s Cafe at the Marana Stockyards. They renamed it Blaze — A Flavor Inferno in September.
“This has always been my passion,” said John Guerrero, who taught math for seven years in the Vail School District and a year with Tucson Unified School District. His wife taught math for five years in Vail and a year in Marana before leaving the profession in May.
Initially the couple, working with sons Gabe and Alex, intended to run a food truck selling Guerrero’s creation, Whatchos — a takeoff of nachos using a base of french fries that he tops with whatever, from feta cheese to meatloaf and chorizo. They bought an RV and retrofitted it with a kitchen but needed a commercial kitchen to pull it off.
That’s how their paths crossed with McGee. Guerrero said McGee was overwhelmed running both of his restaurants and offered to sell them the Oro Valley eatery he had opened in summer 2013.
Blaze’s menu is loosely based on Cattleman’s Cafe, with some innovative re-imagining. Take the french toast burger, which at $11.99 is the most expensive item on the lunch menu: It starts with a third-pound of grilled hamburger topped with peanut butter during the grilling so that it gets toasty and gooey. Add American cheese, two strips of applewood bacon and top with a fried egg. The monstrosity is sandwiched between two slices of cinnamon-raisin or regular French toast.
“I had thought about putting syrup on it,” Guerrero said, but “the flavors that went into that. ... This thing is amazing. I call that the power brunch — you’re getting both breakfast and lunch all in one shot and you won’t need to eat again until 7 p.m.”
Prices run about $9 for burgers and $9 for breakfast. Dinner items average $10 with the most expensive items — the top sirloin or New York steak dinners — at $15.95.
Blaze is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays through Tuesdays and from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. It doesn’t serve alcohol, but Guerrero said diners can bring their own wine, beer or spirits. Details: blazeov.com or call 395-1297.