The latest on Noble Hops, Serial Grillers, Raijin Ramen and more. Note: Older archived stories on the list may not accurately reflect the current status of the restaurant.
Now you can get Thai ice cream and wraps on campus
Omar Elfarmaoui fell in love with Thai ice cream at a shopping mall on the island nation of Bahrain. Employees at a mall kiosk would spread liquid cream onto a freezing flat panel, and roll it up into little pinwheels of fruity ice cream.
It was right then, about two years ago on a family trip, that he knew he wanted to open a Thai ice cream shop back home in Tucson. The 20-year-old Omar is Palestinian, but his family is actually from Saudi Arabia and is involved with the local Muslim community here.
After this revelation, his mother reached out to Ari Baban of Za'atar restaurant in midtown Tucson. Ari wanted to open another concept near campus, Omar said, so the two decided to partner up. They opened Wrap N' Roll this month inside the former Goodness location at the ground floor of the Hub at Tucson student apartment complex, 1011 N. Tyndall Ave.
The shop serves savory wraps for lunch, and Thai ice cream for dessert. Both are done Chipotle style, where you choose your own ingredients from a big list and it gets made in front of you. Meat options include lamb, veggies and falafel.
On a recent visit, they made me up a solid chicken shawarma wrap with olives, Feta cheese, tomatoes and a garlicky aoli for $8. Make sure to grab a side of Cholula hot sauce from the plastic containers; it made the whole thing pop. The ingredient selection wasn't as extensive as Eat-A-Pita on University Boulevard, but the spinach wrap did a good job of holding everything in until the very end.
In addition to the wraps, the restaurant also has homemade hummus, baba ghanoush, daily soups like lentil, and various salads like tabouli and fatoush pita salad. I also spotted some pinwheel pies in the deli case that were brought over from Za'atar.
As for the Thai ice cream flavors, I think it's best to go simple with something like strawberry. The employee chopped up some pistachio nuts straight onto the freezing disk, and added them into the mix. The housemade cream basically freezes instantly, when it touches the cold surface. It's a little bit firmer than regular ice cream, but has a similar flavor with less fat. If that's not enough for you, go wild with some Oreos, Reese's or Fruit Loops on top.
Wrap N' Roll is open Mondays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to midnight, and closed on Sundays. 520-490-9958. Follow them on Facebook at facebook.com/wrapnroll1011
New Tucson International Airport eateries make you wish your flight was late
Minutes after noon last Friday, as travelers gathered around the baggage-claim carousels at Tucson International Airport and a couple gave their tearful young grandson a final hug, Carmen and Ernie Schank were kicking back on the patio of the months-old Noble Hops brew pub not far from the American Airlines ticket counter.
It was the first concession to open in the airport’s expansive culinary makeover, part of the $28 million “A Brighter TUS” project that started last March to improve passenger terminals.
Noble Hops, modeled after the Oro Valley restaurant of the same name and borrowing a streamlined version of its gastropub menu, is one of two concessions in the pre-security area, meaning you don’t have to have a plane ticket or go through a security checkpoint to have a pint of Tucson Barrio Blonde and the popular housemade mac ’n’ cheese. (Arbuckle’s Coffee opened last week near the lower level baggage claim.)
The restaurant has a wraparound full-service bar with flat-screen TVs and a small dining room with a handful of tables, but it is the patio with its mint-colored puffy benches and chairs overlooking the TIA parking lot that has proved to be a big draw. That and being on the ticketing level creates opportunities for the brewpub to become a go-to restaurant/bar for guests from the nearby hotels, said Noble Hops manager Morgan Jeffcoat.
“We get lots of people who come from the hotels that don’t have restaurants or bars, or they may be closed by the time (travelers) get in,” Jeffcoat said at the beginning of the lunch rush last Friday as the barstools filled up and passengers loaded down with luggage plopped into the half-dozen dining room tables.
Customers who spend $15 can get their parking validated, which creates another incentive for nontravelers, Jeffcoat added.
Near the gates, ticketed passengers can now have a taco or burger and beer from the truncated version of Sir Veza’s Taco Garage or a sandwich and pastry from Beyond Bread — two more recently opened local concepts getting some airport love.
Sir Veza’s and the arrival early next year of El Charro marks the Flores family’s return to the airport after a 20-year absence, said Ray Flores, who created and operates Sir Veza’s. The Flores family’s El Charro had once been a primary airport vendor until the job become too much to handle. He said they have learned a lot since that experience after opening restaurants in Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
Almost all of the restaurant concepts that will be sprinkled throughout the airport as part of “A Brighter TUS” have Tucson ties, including a bar inspired by The Maverick Live Country Club set to open early next year near the A Gates on Concourse A. The only national chains heading to the airport are Dunkin’ Donuts, Bruegger’s Bagels and Built Custom Burgers — the first Arizona outpost of the California fast-casual chain.
“All of these are local concepts so it’s really exciting,” said Tucson Airport Authority public information officer Jessie Butler.
The Tucson restaurant owners don’t really make any money in the deal, said Flores and Noble Hops owner Suzanne Kaiser. But the exposure is invaluable, both agreed. Jeffcoat said he and his staff are quick to let customers know the airport restaurant’s origin.
“I have people ask ‘Why Noble Hops?’ and we tell them it’s a gastropub in Oro Valley,” he said, as a server delivered the Schanks’ hot dogs and pretzel to their patio table.
Schank said the prices were pretty reasonable; the Sonoran hot dog was $6 and the pretzel that came with housemade cheese sauce was $9. And at a nearby table on the patio, three Texas airmen were enjoying local beer and soaking up the Tucson sun one last time. After a week working in Tucson, they were heading home.
“This is awesomely positioned so that you don’t have to go through security,” said Bryan, who didn’t want to give his last name due to his military position. “This is kinda neat.”
Other Tucson-inspired restaurants opening early next year include Empire Pizza, inspired by the popular downtown pizzeria, opening on Concourse A near the A Gates. Mixta Express Kitchen, a second Beyond Bread location, El Charro and Thunder Canyon Brewery are all near the B Gates on Concourse B.
Speedway spot Raijin Ramen will have 10 varieties on the menu
One of Tucson's best sushi bars is about to open a traditional Japanese ramen shop, with 10 varieties of ramen on the menu.
Jun and Diana Arai of the east-side's Ginza Sushi plan to open Raijin Ramen, named after the Shinto god of thunder, in the former Saga Sushi spot at 2955 E. Speedway. The couple hopes to open as early as mid-December, as soon as the permitting process goes through.
Jun learned to prepare ramen by working at a ramen restaurant in the Nagano Prefecture outside of Tokyo, where he's originally from. The Ginza Sushi chef is still working on the menu, but he'll offer several varieties including tonkatsu, shoyu, miso and spicy ramen. Regular chef's specials will also explore regional varieties of ramen like Okinawa style with fresh seafood.
Bowls of ramen will hover around $9 with optional extra toppings like chashu pork.
The full-service restaurant will also have beer, sake and distilled shochu.
Serial Grillers opening midtown taproom
The brothers behind Tucson’s inventive Serial Grillers restaurants that serve sandwiches named after famous serial killers are banking on beer for their next venture.
In February, Travis and William Miller plan to open Craft, A Modern Drinkery in a 2,300-square-foot space at 4603 E. Speedway, about five minutes from the brothers’ original Serial Grillers Restaurant & Taproom at 5737 E. Speedway. They have a second Serial Grillers location at 1970 W. River Road that they opened early this year.
Craft will have 40 beers on tap, five of them dedicated to Tucson craft beers and 35 that will rotate with the best craft beers available from around the country, William Miller said.
“I don’t think it’s necessary to reinvent what people are doing. It’s more of filling a need in the market for a midtown” taproom, added Travis Miller.
Construction could start in a month to completely gut the space, which was once home to the popular midtown dive bar Terry & Zeke’s. Among the renovations will be cutting out part of the front wall to add windows and opening up the space.
Craft will seat 75 to 100 people in the bar and on the patio.
The Miller brothers are no strangers to craft beer. They added a taproom to their Speedway restaurant in spring 2016, three years after they converted their popular food truck into a brick and mortar restaurant. A taproom was a big component of their River Road location, as well. They opened with 20 beers on tap and will double that number in the next 30 days, Travis Miller said.
When they added the taproom to their Speedway restaurant, Serial Grillers saw a 500 percent jump in beer sales, Travis Miller said. Overall sales grew from $80,000 a month to $130,000 that first month, and continue to be strong, he said.
It “definitely changed the way we looked at our business,” Travis Miller said. “That’s definitely one of the motivating factors.”
In addition to the 40 beers on tap, Craft also will have six wines. Travis Miller said they hope to open in February.
Level Cup Coffee and Boba sets up shop on North Wilmot
This eastside boba shop Level Cup, at 1525 N. Wilmot Road, serves a rich selection of boba drinks along with hot Vietnamese coffee, and cold Japanese coffee. Look out for their "popping boba" balls, which burst when you bite them. More info here.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.
AC Hotel lounge bar opens its doors
Pretend you're a business traveler and stop in for a cocktail at the trendy new AC Marriott downtown. The bar menu is small at this Spanish boutique chain, but they'll make you a gin and tonic that'll blow you away. (They do it the European way, in a big goblet with high-quality ice.) Plus, they have tapas! More info here.
Hours: 4 to 11:30 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays, 4 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays
Tableside Korean barbecue coming to Tucson, from the owners of Azian
There's nothing like fresh-grilled steak, right off the fire and onto your plate.
So what if you could have that backyard barbecue experience — sans the bugs and with a decidedly Korean twist — in a restaurant?
That's the premise and theme of Sonny and Kim Chu's newest Korean barbecue venture Meat the Sizzle, to open early next year at 4699 E. Speedway.
Each of the restaurant's 33 tables will have its own gas grill and a server to prepare Korean style meats.
"Any meat you cook right there on the grill it tastes so good," said Kim Chu, who owns the restaurant with her husband Sonny. The couple also own the popular Azian Sushi and Korean BBQ at 15 N. Alvernon Way, off East Broadway.
Kim Chu said the couple later this month will begin an extensive build-out of the Speedway building, which last housed Sir Veza's and has been home to several restaurants over the years. Work includes installing grills at the tables and hoods for each of those grills, she said.
The couple hopes to be open by mid-January.
Oro Valley icon Michelangelo reopens as Bottega Michelangelo
Six weeks after closing for a major renovation, Michelangelo's in Oro Valley is back with a new name, a new attitude and a new way of looking at Italian food.
Bottega Michelangelo, 420 W. Magee Road in Oro Valley, opened on Wednesday, unveiling a decidedly casual interior, menu and pricepoint, said owner Guiseppe Ali.
The white tablecloths and formal decor that carried through the first 32 years of the Ali family's Italian restaurant are gone, replaced by bare tables and a wood-burning pizza oven in a corner of the dining room.
"You can see the guy making pizza and you can see him put it in the oven," Ali said Thursday. "We also have all our homemade desserts on display."
Those include momma Ali's famous cookies.
The Ali family's move came after they concluded last last summer that their restaurant's reputation as a special occasion destination was outdated.
Bottega Michelangelo also has a new culinary direction, leaning more to the family's roots in the Calabria region of Italy.
"We are geared more now from southern Italian food," Ali said, explaining that that means more red sauces and "some of the foods are more on the spicy side."
And while Michelangelo's had pizza on the menu, Bottega Michelangelo seems fully vested in the fare given the expense of the new ovens.
Pizzas run $9 to $15 and entrees start at $14 for the spaghetti marinara to the most expensive dish on the menu, the lamb chops in a port wine reduction for $34.
Bottega Michelangelo also is doing something the Ali family never did with Michelangelo: It's opening on Sundays. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and from 11 a.m to 8 p.m. Sundays. Details: michelangelotucson.com
Promise of free food has people camping at a new Chick-fil-A in Marana
The parking lot at Marana's about-to-open Chick-fil-A restaurant was cordoned off Wednesday afternoon and transformed into a campground.
Folks set up pop-up tents and canopies and settled in for what has become a beloved tradition when a new Chick-fil-A opens: Be among the first 100 people in the door on opening day and you win a year's worth of chicken sandwich meals.
But there's a hitch: You have to spend the day and night before in the parking lot. If you leave, you lose your spot.
Not a problem for the 58 people who had staked out campsites and set up tents by midafternoon. Moms and dads called in sick to work or took vacation days; Christine Staten who lives nearby pulled her 8-year-old daughter Paige out of school.
"I told them the truth, that we were camping out at Chick-fil-A," she admitted with a smile and quick chuckle. "Hey it's worth it," she added as Paige sipped from a soda cup.
The prize translates to a Chick-fil-A meal a week for 52 weeks, and that was incentive enough for Becky Davis to get up well before dawn and make the 30-minute drive from Sahuarita. She made a pitstop on Tucson's south side to pick up her friend Monica Alegria and they drove the extra 20-minute trip to arrive in Marana at 4:30 a.m.
"I love Chick-fil-A," said Davis, who works from home writing curriculum for Tucson megachurch Victory Worship Center. She often takes her laptop and sets up a remote office of sorts at Chick-fil-A.
"It's a safe place to go to eat and to work," she said, adding that she appreciated the company's Christian philosophy that keeps the grills and fryers off and the doors closed on Sundays.
Chick-fil-A Marana, 3943 W. Ina Road in front of Target, officially opens at 6:30 a.m. Thursday. The parking lot campers will be the first ones through the door, said the restaurant's owner Brian White, a recent transplant from Georgia whose background includes selling running shoes.
Those who arrived early Wednesday like Davis and Alegria were treated to free breakfast. White and his staff also fed them lunch and dinner, and planned to give the campers cookies and milk Wednesday night. (It's not like they could bring in a grill and make their own dinner, and it would have been kinda awkward for the campers to trot across Ina Road to the McDonald's.)
And White and his staff put them to work filling plastic bags with ingredients for jambalaya. The goal was to create 10,000 of those bags and donate them to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.
"It's a fun kind of camping time but the people can help out, too," White said, standing in the dining room just after 3 p.m. as dozens of campers filled bags with beans, rice and spices in an assembly line operation that covered several tables.
The pre-opening campout and community service project started in Phoenix 14 years ago and has since spread to every Chick-fil-A opening around the country. There are over 2,000 restaurants nationwide; with the Marana restaurant, the Tucson area now has five Chick-fil-A locations, including one tucked into the University of Arizona Student Union Memorial Center.
Roxy and Neil Tomkinson of Red Rock are old pros at the Chick-fil-A free-food-for-a-year grand-opening campouts. Wednesday's was the seventh for Roxy, the fifth for her school-teacher husband.
"We've done these in California. I've been to Yuma. I did one in August in Scottsdale. That was hot," Roxy recalled as Neil glued the pieces to a steampunk mechanical arm he was making from felt material and the couple's two sons — Trek, 5, and Brecken, 6 — ran around after putting in their volunteer time. "When they give you free food, why not?"
The Crackhouse set to replace U.S. Fries on North Fourth Avenue
The Crackhouse, an eggs-centric restaurant, will open in the North Fourth Avenue space that was home for three years to the late-night poutine depot US Fries.
Crackhouse — the reference is to cracking eggs, not drugs, owner Jon Sutton is quick to note — is taking baby steps toward fully opening.
It's open now from 2 to 4 p.m. weekdays to cater to the students from nearby Tucson High School and from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays to serve downtown's late-night bar crowd.
Poutine remains on the menu alongside omelettes, egg sandwiches and burgers, Sutton said.
The restaurant is a first for Sutton, who owns the building at 340 N. Fourth Ave. and was US Fries landlord, He admits it's still a work in progress and plans to announce full-time hours once he has the staff in place.
Button Brew House brewery to hold grand opening this weekend (Sept 16-17)
Husband-and-wife team Todd and Erika Button quietly opened their Button Brew House off of West Ina Road last week.
Now that they are all settled in, they're ready to hold the mother-of-all brewery grand opening parties from noon to 6 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday at their brand new location, 6800 N. Camino Martin, right around the corner from Catalina Brewing Company.
After three years on the hunt, the couple signed a lease for the space in December.
For Todd, who left a 20-year career in the printing industry to enter into brewing, this next step is a big deal.
“To me it feels like a dream,” Todd told the Star in January. The space is a little more than 3,000 square feet.
“We want to make good, world-class beers,” he said. “I want to make sure we do it the right way. Quality is important. We don’t want off-flavors.”
Baja Cafe set to open third location on West Ina Road
Marana will be the home for the third Baja Cafe, set to open in the next few weeks in a small space at 3930 W. Ina Road in the Embassy Plaza that has been home to barbecue and Mexican fare over the past decade.
Baja Cafe, which has locations at 7002 E. Broadway and 2970 N. Campbell Ave., serves breakfast, from Southwest-inspired breakfast burritos to biscuits and gravy, bacon and eggs and pancakes, waffles and french toast. It also serves burgers, sandwiches and Mexican food.
Ten 55 Brewing secures property on East Congress downtown
Ten 55 Brewing will open a craft sausage restaurant to go with its craft beer, The four-year-old brewery on Monday inked a lease for a 3,880-square-foot space at 110 E. Congress that will be big enough to install brewing tanks. Owners JP Vyborny and Chris Squires said they will keep their original brewing site at 3810 E. 44th St. The pair said the idea when they launched Ten 55 in 2013 was to open a brew pub downtown.
The pair will begin renovations later this fall and plan to open the brewery and restaurant next spring. Follow their progress on Facebook at facebook.com/1055Brewing
Mama's opens at Marana mall with delivery
Marana last month welcomed Mama's Hawaiian Bar-B-Cue in the Tucson Premium Outlets off Interstate 10 and Twin Peaks Road. It was the eighth outpost for Mama's, which also opened shop last month in the Hub student housing complex at 1011 N. Tyndall Ave. That restaurant replaced the flagship Mama's on East Speedway near the University of Arizona that was forced to close over the summer to make way for yet another high-rise student apartment building.
In addition to serving diners in the enclosed food court, the Mama's at Premium Outlets, 6401 W. Marana Center Blvd., also offers delivery to neighboring residential areas including Continental Ranch.
Spaghetti Western Steakhouse opening near West Drachman, North Stone
On Thursday, Sept. 14, Kade Mislinski is opening Classic: Spaghetti Western Steakhouse on North Stone Avenue, and if the name isn't clear enough about what to expect coming from the kitchen let us explain: Spaghetti and steak.
Classic, 1535 N. Stone Ave., is kicking things off with a party for a good cause. On Wednesday, Sept. 13, the restaurant off Stone and East Adams Street will hold a grand opening party with proceeds benefiting Hurricane Irma survivors on the Virgin Islands. The party begins at 5:30 p.m.
Beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, Classic will hold its grand opening. Details: Follow Classic on Facebook at facebook.com/classictucson
Get your buns over to this new UA dim sum restaurant
If you've ever had an hour between classes and thought, "I could really go for some shiu mai right now," I've got news for you. There's a new Chinese restaurant on campus, and it's not serving orange chicken ...
Dim Sum House opened quietly in the Next Level student housing complex on North Park Avenue earlier this summer. It's operating on a limited menu right now, but by Sept. 1 it'll be full "steam" ahead. Owned by Eddie Lau of Gee's Garden, the fast-casual spot specializes in a style of Chinese brunch called dim sum.
Traditional dim sum houses are usually large food halls where families congregate and share small plates of various dumplings that are pushed out by moving carts. This restaurant operates more like a Cantonese bakery, where you order from a smaller menu of buns and dumplings at the counter.
Dim Sum House will have five varieties of dim sum, including shiu mai pork dumplings, the white har gow shrimp, shark fin and sticky rice chicken for beginners. Also look for several varieties of buns, including barbecue pork char siu bao, pineapple and coconut, plus egg tarts for dessert. The dim sum is being made at Gee's Garden nearby, and sells for $4.29 an order.
You can also find some more obscure specialty dishes from the Cantonese region of Southern China where Lau is from, including the sweet soup qingbuliang and a braised pork bowl with boiled eggs and Chinese greens. $9.95. "The Chinese students love it," Lau said. But perhaps more importantly, they have boba tea: 10 varieties including taro, mango, lychee and more.
But Lau is not stopping at Dim Sum House ... The Gee's Garden owner also recently purchased ChaTime at 1800 E. Fort Lowell Road, and plans to put in a similar menu of dim sum dishes along with the smoothies and milk teas starting in September. ChaTime is next to Lau's other restaurant Seafood Time, which is his take on the Cajun crab boil.
Lau said he opened Seafood Time after customers told him they'd traveled all the way up to Phoenix to eat at places like Angry Crab. "There's no seafood here, but people love seafood," he said. The restaurant cooks its meats in Lau's own recipe of butter, garlic, tomato and ghost pepper.
In the next few months he says he also plans to open Tucson's first Chinese karaoke bar at 2590 N. First Ave. near Wild Garlic Grill. The yet-unnamed bar will have eight to 10 private karaoke booths for parties to sing Top 40 hits and more. This style of karaoke allows people more singing time, and has become really popular in metro cities around the Bay Area.
Dim Sum House is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day in the bottom of the Next Level student housing complex, 1031 N. Park Ave. Phone and website coming soon.
Fire N' Smoke puts pizza and barbecued pork under one roof
Who would have thought that pizza and barbecue under one roof was a good idea?
Jay Healy, owner of the east side cowboy bar Cow Pony, that’s who.
Healy last week opened Fire N’ Smoke in a 2,300-square-foot space at 6502 E. Tanque Verde Road next to the bar. There’s an imported wood-burning brick pizza oven in the front of the restaurant, a giant smoker in the back.
It makes sense if you look at the Tucson restaurant market. So far this year, we’ve welcomed several pizzerias, including Barro’s Pizza in Marana that is set to open in mid-August; and we’ve embraced a couple of barbecue-centered food trucks and restaurants, including two with “Ken” in the name — Ken’s BBQ, 1830 S. Park Ave.; and Ken’s Hardwood Barbecue at 5250 E. 22nd St. — that opened within weeks of each other in the spring.
Healy went to New York City and learned how to make New York-style pizza fast-baked in a flaming wood-fired oven. And he spent time in Kansas City and Texas, learning the tasty nuances of smoking ribs, chicken and pork until the sweet aroma perfumes the neighborhood. Then he put them on one menu, with some salads, pastas and sandwiches, and has sat back for the past week watching diners scratch their heads in happy amusement.
In the first four days after opening late last week, Healy said business has been pretty equally split between the pizza and barbecue.
“It’s kind of crazy. Even at the same table we’re seeing 50-50,” he said.
Pizzas run about $16 for a large build-your-own; specialty pies can run as high as $23.49 Barbecue plates (chicken, pork and tri-tip) run $11.99 to $13.99, ribs are $14.99 a half slab, $23.99 for a full slab.
Fire N’ Smoke is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Details: firensmokebbqnpizza.com
Drunken Chicken opens shop on North Fourth Avenue
Micah Blatt was being hush-hush Tuesday afternoon about the menu at his North Fourth Avenue restaurant The Drunken Chicken.
He wants to wait until he and partner, Ben Sattler, open the doors at 429 N. Fourth Ave. — former home of Maya Quetzal Guatemalan restaurant — before he’ll reveal the menu. But he did give us a few tasty hints: Tucson craft beer, fluffy waffles and fried chicken.
Oh, and one of those fowl choices will wear a beer batter.
That’s the inside joke of the name, The Drunken Chicken, said Blatt, who owns Mr. Head’s Art Gallery and Bar down the avenue at 513 N. Fourth.
“It’s catchy, and with any good business you want a good name,” he said.
One thing Blatt was quick to let slip: Everything coming out of the kitchen will be made from scratch and the chicken will be antibiotic-free. The focus of the streamlined menu will be on quality, fresh ingredients, he said.
Barring any last-minute hiccups, Blatt and Sattler plan to open The Drunken Chicken at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 8.
Restaurant hours will be 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and 10 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
“We’re really trying to do a little more late-night food on Fourth Avenue,” said Blatt, vice president of the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association board who said he has spoken with other restaurateurs in the area about creating a late-night dining district.
“We’re trying to create a nice little hub for late-night food, a nice little late-night pocket,” he said, one that could include Lindy Reilly’s new venture at 431 N. Fourth Ave., the original location of Lindy’s On Fourth. Lindy’s moved across the street to 500 N. Fourth Ave. in the spring.
Wild Garlic Grill is moving to the foothills
Here’s something you don’t hear often in Tucson, especially in the summer: A restaurant is moving because it’s too busy for its current location.
That’s what’s happening with Wild Garlic Grill, the nearly 5-year-old, fine-casual restaurant that resurrected celebrated Tucson chef Steven Schultz’s career.
“We sell out almost every single night and you have people waiting outside to be sat,” said Schultz’s wife and Wild Garlic Grill owner Maudi Gourdin-Schultz. “We’re just too busy (for the space).”
On Thursday, Aug. 3, Gourdin-Schultz was expected to get the keys for the 3,700-square-foot space at 2870 E. Skyline Drive that was home to Shlomo & Vito’s New York Delicatessen & Pizza Kitchen, which closed in February. Schultz said he hopes to be open in the new location by mid-October after some minor renovations.
“I’m super excited. That facility there is so nice,” said Schultz, who owned the popular Red Sky Cafe at Plaza Palomino for 12 years before closing in spring 2012. “It’s just perfect for our restaurant. It has an excellent kitchen and it’s not too big.”
Wild Garlic Grill will be open at 2530 N. First Ave. until mid-October, serving up Schultz’s menu of French and California-inspired garlic-centric fare, from grilled meats to burgers, seafood and pasta. Gourdin-Schultz said the plan is to seamlessly transition to the new location; close one night in midtown and open the next in the foothills.
“Our goal is to keep everything the same, but it is going to let (Steven) have the ability to execute more specialty dishes,” she said. “He’s going to have the space to be more creative. What limits Steven right now is … space.”
Gourdin-Schultz said she opened Wild Garlic Grill as a “project” to get Schultz back into the kitchen after he closed Red Sky in the aftermath of the tumultuous 2008 economic downturn. The building on North First Avenue, near East Grant Road, was a seemingly unlikely spot for Schultz’s French-inspired, California-styled, fine-casual cuisine. The building was well-worn and had a reputation in the neighborhood for fast food; in the 1950s, it was home to a Frosty Top drive-through burger joint. In the ’80s and early ’90s, it housed Sanchez Burrito Company.
“When we opened, we did not know what to expect,” Gourdin-Schultz said. “We opened it not knowing it would be a success, and people came and they were so supportive.”
Buzz about Wild Garlic Grill quickly spread and within months of opening on Dec. 12, 2012, the restaurant was a hit. Diners commented on the quirky location and praised the food coming from the small kitchen. Some Red Sky fans rediscovering Schultz started emailing requests for the chef’s old signature dishes. But his kitchen was more often than not too small to accommodate them, he said.
“As a chef you have to be on point every second. Sometimes I can only cook a certain amount of things a day” because of the size of the kitchen and the pace of business, Schultz said. “I had a lot of dishes that I just can’t make because of the facility. … I’ve got a really large repertoire of dishes, but it just gets so busy that it’s extremely difficult to execute, especially in the winter season.”
Some of those dishes will make it back on the menu with the move, he said.
Gourdin-Schultz said moving from North First Avenue is bittersweet. In some ways, she said, she feels like they are abandoning the neighborhood, which some of their neighbors have told them they helped to revitalize.
“I feel like in a lot of ways we helped recharge that area,” she said. But “the timing is right for Tucson. The economy is improving.”
New wine bar slated to open up the street from Tap & Bottle
A new wine bar is slated to open on North Sixth Avenue by the end of September, around the corner from Crooked Tooth Brewing and up the street from Tap & Bottle.
The Royal Room will hold court at 450 N. Sixth Ave. in an area north of downtown that is quickly becoming a hub for food and drink beyond the East Congress Street and North Fourth Avenue corridors.
The space, which will be located in the same building as the nonprofit PSA Art Awakenings, will offer a rotating list of wines from around the world, including a healthy selection from Arizona, that will be available by the glass or in flights.
“We want to help start the conversation about wine in Tucson,” said Royal Room co-owner Ian Stupar, who owns two Pita Jungle franchises in the Phoenix area with his business partners. “It seemed like an exciting time and opportunity to do something like this. We wanted to add to the community.”
Stupar is graduate of the Scottsdale Culinary Institute. In recent years has shifted his focus to wine, enrolling in the University of California, Davis viticulture and enology program and most recently serving as an intern for Dos Cabezas Wineworks in Sonoita.
“I moved down here to be closer to that stuff,” Stupar said.
In addition to wine, The Royal Room will feature craft beer options and a food menu that will include items meant to complement the wines being offered at any given time, things like charcuterie plates, house sandwiches and bruschetta.
“The menu will be small, but there will be the option to build your own with a lot of the items, so you’ll have variety," Stupar said.
Sizing up at 1,500 square feet, The Royal Room will be the latest addition to the area, which already has Tap & Bottle, Crooked Tooth, Exo Roast Co. and soon Anello, a pizza spot being opened by Scott Girod, a protégé of Phoenix-based pizza guru Chris Bianco.
“If you want a different pace and feel from Fourth Avenue or Congress, we will be right down the street,” Stupar said.
Follow The Royal Room's progress on its Facebook page.
Perfecto's Express opens on south side in old Sonic, offers you-pick-it options
Perfecto “The Tamale Man” Leon was smiling ear-to-ear Friday morning as he and his son Jose quietly opened the doors to the family’s second restaurant Perfecto’s Mexican Grill Express.
The south side fast-food spot, in a long-shuttered Sonic Drive-In at 1055 E. Irvington Road and South Park Avenue, loosely follows the model of Chipotle and Illegal Pete’s. Diners create their own you-pick-it burritos, bowls or tacos, choosing from steak, chicken, red chile, barbacoa or vegetarian to add to rice, beans, veggies, salsa, guacamole and sour cream.
The highest priced bowl tops out at $7.50 for the steak. There’s also a kids menu that includes chicken nuggets and fries ($4.25), and Perfecto’s wildly popular green corn tamales brought over from the flagship Perfecto’s Mexican Restaurant at 5404 S. 12th Ave.
Perfecto Express is open 10:45 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Follow the restaurant on Facebook at facebook.com/perfectosrestaurant.
Two other restaurants opened in Tucson last week:
Fire N’ Smoke Wood Fired Pizza & BBQ, 6502 E. Tanque Verde Road, 300-6686 (see story, Page 6).
Black Bear Diner, 6095 E. Broadway, 790-8881. Tucson’s first outpost of the national chain — known for big, heaping portions of eggs, thick-cut bacon and fluffy scratch-made biscuits — opened Monday. You can also get a meatloaf sandwich or a cup of chili, burgers and wraps, T-bones and ribeyes and some apparent drool-worthy Grandma’s Peach Cobbler or scratch-made bread pudding. Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Growler's in Marana taps into area's craft beer craze
The Station Pub and Grill on the corner of North Silverbell and North Wade roads in Marana draws a reliable neighborhood crowd, especially on big-game days.
The parking lot at Home Plate a quarter mile down Silverbell fills up early on those same big-game days.
And on Thursday, Aug. 10, they got some company in the Continental Ranch neighborhood when Growler’s Taphouse opened at 8275 N. Silverbell Road.
But Growler’s in the plaza next door to The Station isn’t positioning itself as a sports bar like its neighbors.
It’s more of a grown-ups-who-love-craft-brews kinda place, where Executive Chef James LaMont will dip fresh-cut rings of onion in a rich Barrio’s stout beer batter and fry them golden to go with the 30 regional and national craft brews on tap.
Sports will no doubt be blaring from the 10 TVs mounted over the bar and hanging on the walls of the 3,000-square-foot restaurant/taproom. But the focus will be on the craft beers and microbrews from several Tucson breweries, a few around the state and some as far-flung as New York, New Jersey and the New England region, all curated by veteran Tucson bar manager Tommy DeStefano.
To complement the beer, LaMont and his staff have a streamlined Prohibition-themed menu that will employ co-owner/general manager Dustin McMillan’s love of smoking. Smoked baby back ribs and pulled pork are highlights of the “Gettin’ Smoked” section of the menu; “Babyface Sides” include the beer-battered onion rings, and “Bootlegger Breadboards” are highlighted by the all-inclusive meat and cheese board “The Loot.” “Chopper Squad Salads” feature the “Scarface Caesar” and “Happy Days are Beer Again,” bar snacks include “Packin’ Heat” chips and house salsa.
Growler’s Taphouse takes its inspiration from the Prohibition era and celebrates Prohibition’s liberation. Photos of 1930s mobsters and crime fighters — mob boss Al Capone and his FBI nemesis Eliot Ness are cornerstones — are blended in with photos of barkeeps filling the metal growlers that originated in the 1880s.
The theme builds on that history, said McMillan’s mother and partner Dawn. The mother and son co-own the restaurant with Dawn’s husband of seven years, Lee Fabrizio, a retired FBI special agent who spent most of his 27-year career in Chicago before relocating to Kingman in 1996 to take the lead in the Oklahoma City bombing investigation into Timothy McVeigh’s Arizona associates. Dawn McMillan and Fabrizio for years have operated a pair of private investigation-centered businesses in Kingman, where they lived until moving to Oro Valley in January.
Dawn McMillan said the family researched the origin of the term “growler” — it dates to the late 20th century when workers filled their metal lunch pails with beer from the bar or breweries after work and the containers made a growling sound as the CO2 escaped — and built the restaurant’s theme around that history. A photo of a disheveled worker carrying a pail graces the menu and other photos on the walls include black-and-white images of bartenders filling rows of metal buckets from the taps and young boys carrying them to the workers. They even serve some of the food in small metal pails.
A craft-brew-centered restaurant was Dustin McMillan’s idea and after the former firefighter/EMT came up with a detailed business plan, his mom and stepdad were all in. The family found the Marana location early this year and started work on the $500,000-plus buildout in the spring. The idea was to open sometime between mid-May and early July, but construction took longer than they had planned.
Special touches include hand-stained wood-slat walls and handcrafted industrial-style metal-pipe-and-wood high tables and chairs that were still in various stages of put-together on Wednesday afternoon. With scant hours to go before the family hosted a friends-and-family trial run Wednesday night, workers welded the pipe table frames as bar manager DeStefano and Dustin McMillan tested the beer taps to make sure each was attached to the proper kegs.
Chef LaMont was in and out of the kitchen with his staff while Dawn McMillan pointed out the special touches in the 80-seat dining room that complete the Prohibition theme including Edison-style bare bulbs dangling from the ceiling. They covered the concrete floors with shiny epoxy, and in the restrooms, Dawn McMillan painstakingly hand-laid thousands of pennies to create penny floors using that same epoxy.
The patio’s half-dozen wicker tables have solar-powered lights built into the umbrellas. A fireplace against the outside wall will come in handy during the colder months, and Dawn McMillan said she would eventually like to create a water wall in the far corner accented by solar lights. In the dining room, her other son Jimmy Stock and his friend Tyler Thompson came down from Phoenix to install the sound system for the live bands the family plans to bring in including for the grand opening Aug. 26.
“Craft beer is a growing industry,” Dawn McMillan said as a worker grabbed a stack of wooden planks the family laser-engraved with “Growler’s Taphouse” to place on the chair backs. “When you see the potential, and this area, because we are new, we’ve gotten so much positive feedback.”
“It’s become so popular,” added Dustin McMillan. “The craft-beer thing is huge; it’s exploding.”
Dustin McMillan said he wanted to create a place where people could be entertained in a different way.
“I wanted to bring something unique, something special to the people,” he said, recalling how he dreamed years ago about opening a nightclub. But as he got older — he’s 29 — and became a father — he has a 6-year-old daughter — his ideas of entertainment matured.
“This is more the place where I think it’s at,” he said.
Growler’s is the first craft-brew taproom west of Interstate 10 in Marana. The town also is home to Monsoons Tap & Grill, which opened in 2013 at 6781 N. Thornydale Road; and the nearly year-old Dove Mountain Brewing Co., at 12130 N. Dove Mountain Blvd.
Catalina Brewing Company, a cycling-centric brewery in an industrial area at 6918 N. Camino Martin, off West Ina Road, has been open since 2014. And on Sept. 16 it will get some company when Todd and Erika Button open Button Brew House at 6800 N. Camino Martin.
2nd Seis Kitchen to open in mid-September
Last week, Jake and Erika Muñoz welcomed their second child, a boy.
In mid-September, they will open their second restaurant.
“We knew that we wanted to expand, it was just a matter of timing,” said Erika, who with her husband has run Seis Kitchen and Catering for six years — the first two out of a food truck, the last four at Mercado San Agustín, 100 S. Avenida del Convento, off West Congress and Interstate 10.
“This spot was sort of what we had envisioned. We needed a lot more space,” she said of Joesler Village, where they will open in a 3,400-square-foot space next to Sullivan’s Steakhouse.
The couple, who also have a daughter, have been working since April on a complete buildout of the space at 1765 E. River Road at North Campbell Avenue. When completed, it will seat 115 inside and another 40 on its patio, Jake said.
“They’re doing all the pretty stuff now so we should be ready to go by mid-September,” he said. “We tried to design it so it takes a little bit from our current space.”
The new place is significantly bigger than the 278-square-foot walk-up Mercado restaurant, where customers order at the window and eat at the tables set up in Mercado’s courtyard patio. Seis Kitchen also offers table service.
Erika said the couple’s goal is to largely imitate the Mercado restaurant, from the chalkboard announcing daily specials to the menu inspired by the cuisines of Mexico City, Baja, Oaxaca, northern and western Mexico, and Yucatán.
Hours for the new restaurant haven’t been set, but Seis Kitchen and Catering at the Mercado is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and until 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Tucson's first Black Bear diner to open Monday
UPDATE: Black Bear Diner has now opened.
Way back when 2017 was in its infancy, the folks at California-based Black Bear Diner teased us with a restaurant of our own this summer.
Well the summer is nearly history and Black Bear Diner is finally arrived. The restaurant in a 5,500-square-foot former Coco's Bakery at 6095 E. Broadway will swing open its doors at 6 a.m. Monday, Aug. 7. It will be the California chain's 100th location and the 11th in Arizona; a 12th is set to open in Laveen on Phoenix's far west side sometime this fall.
Black Bear Diner specializes in old-fashioned, homestyle comfort food along the lines of chicken-fried steak, two eggs over easy or meatloaf and brow-gravy smothered mashed potatoes. They also have this over-the-top bear motif — there's a gigantic 12-foot-tall carved black bear holding the "Welcome" sign at the door — and decadent cobblers and fruit pies topped with whipped cream or ice cream. Yummo!
Black Bear Diner's hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Steak 'N Shake to open in UA Student Union
Update: Steak 'N Shake is now open
Steak ’N Shake, the Midwest fave for its juicy hamburgers and thick, frothy milkshakes, is coming to Tucson.
The restaurant will open its first Southern Arizona outpost and only its second Arizona location in the food court of the Student Union Memorial Center. The Illinois-born-Indiana-based chain will take over the space once occupied by another national burger chain, Burger King.
Manager Dylan Magnuson said the restaurant will open in August, when the university resumes class for the fall semester. The first day of classes is Aug. 21, but Magnuson said the restaurant could open ahead of that date.
Steak ’N Shake has one other Arizona location, in Tempe in the shadow of Arizona State University on Mill Avenue. That restaurant has been open since fall 2013.
Steak ’N Shake, once cited by the late film critic Roger Ebert as the place he would like to have his last meal if he were on Death Row or the restaurant he would take President Obama and his family, was founded in Illinois in 1934. There are 544 locations mostly in the Midwest and Southern United States, as well the Middle East and Europe.
Colorado family opening Copper Brothel Brewery in Sonoita
The Jesser family has toyed with craft brewing for a few years now.
Nothing big, just dabbling with a pretty fancy home-brewing set-up.
But when Robert and Cheryl Jesser came across Robert’s father’s bucket list after he passed away in 2015, they decided to cross off one of his biggest dreams: open a business. And what better idea in the middle of Southern Arizona’s wine country than a brewery, tapping into their passion for craft brewing.
The Colorado transplants, along with their daughter Samantha, are breaking ground Friday, June 23, for Copper Brothel Brewery, a 5,000-square-foot restaurant/brewery near the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds at 3112 Highway 83, just south of the crossroads of Highways 82 and 83.
Construction of the steel building should take about two months and they hope to open for business later this year, Cheryl Jesser said.
Daughter Samantha will be the brewmaster, crafting a half-dozen or so beers at a time. The initial lineup could include a blonde, IPA, pale ale, German-style Kölsch, oatmeal stout and a vanilla porter, which they test-ran over the holidays. They also will offer a handful of Arizona craft beers among the 18 on tap, Cheryl said.
The restaurant will serve a menu of high-end pub food, from burgers and salads to barbecue. They have not finalized the menu nor hired a chef, she said, but both are in the works.
The Jessers have never been in the restaurant business, but they have years of business experience. The couple has a logistics company back home in Colorado that moves products around the world. The company is idle now with the couple living in Sonoita, although they still maintain a few smaller clients, Cheryl said.
The Jessers moved to Arizona from Colorado in 2013 to get Robert Jesser’s dad, Glenn, out of the cold weather. They settled in Sonoita because it reminded them of the small Colorado town where they were from: rural in nature with strong country roots.
When Glenn died in the fall of 2015 at the age of 87, the couple stumbled across his handwritten notes including a list of “wishes and hopes.” “Start a business” topped the list, the couple said.
The Copper Brothel Brewery brewing area will be outfitted with a state-of-the-art Specific Mechanical 7-Barrel System and will have an area where customers can sit and watch Samantha in action. The open floor plan also will include a full-service bar that will offer cocktails as well as regional wines, and patio seating.
“We want people to come and spend time,” Cheryl said. “We’re going to have a nice patio where people can sit out and look at the” Santa Rita, Mustang and Whetstone Mountain ranges.
The family also is planning to use the brewery as an events center to host weddings, wine tastings and private parties.
Wings Over Broadway adding second location
Update: Wings over Broadway's second location is now open
Wings Over Broadway is opening a second location as early as mid-July in the just-closed BZ’s Pizza Co. Neighborhood Grill at 8838 E. Broadway.
BZ's closed last Friday after a three-year run marked by financial ups and downs after the Safeway store that anchored the corner of East Broadway and South Camino Seco closed 18 months ago.
Wings Over Broadway — fondly referred to as WOB by its legions of fans — is one of Tucson's oldest buffalo wing restaurants. It's been around since 1999, serving up cold beer with its hot wings and a full menu of burgers, sandwiches and smothered fries.
The new location is about 3½ miles from the original WOB at 5004 E. Broadway. Owner JJ Esquibel bought the restaurant 10 years ago.
Esquibel said he is hiring for all positions in the kitchen and front of house. In a Facebook posting, he said applications are being accepted at the original location.
Smoke rising: Old Jack's BBQ to once again house 'cue
Update: Ken's Hardwood Barbecue is now open
Ken Alexander usually parks his big red food truck on the corner of North Stone Avenue and East Congress Street at lunchtime on Thursdays.
But last week, a car was in its spot, so Alexander and his partner/nephew, Terrance James, turned Ken’s Hardwood Barbecue truck around and drove a few blocks. A police officer directed them to park the fifth-wheel on the sidewalk in front of the library on North Stone — on the other side of Congress.
“People are used to seeing us there,” Alexander said nodding toward Congress moments after delivering orders to two customers late in the lunch hour.
Finding someone parked on their regular corner will soon not be as big a problem. In late May, Alexander will open a brick-and-mortar version of Ken’s Hardwood Barbecue in a place that has been stained with barbecue for nearly 70 years.
Last week, Alexander inked a five-year lease for the 2,500-square-foot building at 5250 E. 22nd St. that has been home to barbecue since Jack Banks opened Jack’s Original Barbecue in 1950. Jack’s stayed open under a few different owners through 2013. An outpost of the national Dickie’s Barbecue Pit succeeded it for a couple years before pulling up stakes last month.
“We really feel fortunate and blessed to be able to go into a spot that’s been a barbecue joint for 67 years,” said Alexander, who retired from Raytheon in 2015 and launched Ken’s Hardwood later that year. “People know it for barbecue. There has been some people there that have been very successful at barbecue at that location.”
Alexander, who runs the food truck with his 29-year-old son K.G. and his 34-year-old nephew James, said he hopes to be open for business by the end of May. The building is pretty much a turnkey operation; all the barbecue equipment, including smokers, is intact.
He does plan to tweak the menu a bit, adding some more comfort-food side dishes, including cornbread, to the array of barbecue ribs, chicken, pulled pork and hot links. The menu is drawn largely from generations of family recipes dating back to his grandfather, who owned a small cafe in rural Dixon, Tennessee.
Alexander has been cooking since he was 9, but when it came time to pick a career, he chose business. He got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in his native Kentucky, then moved to Tucson in 1985. A couple years later he landed a job at Hughes Aircraft, which was acquired by Raytheon.
Alexander said he plans to keep the food truck rolling even after he opens the brick-and-mortar restaurant. The truck is a regular fixture at several Tucson call centers, breweries and beer joints including AZ Beer House on South Kolb Road. A loyal following takes to crowd-sourcing sites like Yelp to lavish praise. In one of the more colorful reviews, Anne J. of Tucson admitted she was not a barbecue aficionado, but she called discovering Ken’s “a bit like finding Jesus, if somewhat less life-changing. I think the sun did come out and angels sang a la Monty Python when I took my first bite of the sweet potato fries.”
“The good thing about the truck is we can take the food to the people,” Alexander said. “It’s like having two locations.”
“We were kind of at a point where we did what we could do as a food truck. It was a logical next step to go into a brick and mortar,” he added. “And how can you turn down Jack’s Barbecue when it comes up? It’s a sign. It just seemed like the right thing to do and the timing was great.”
It's official: Chris Bianco coming back to Tucson
Restaurateur Chris Bianco has put his plans to return to Tucson in writing, inking a letter of intent with downtown developers Ron Schwabe and Marcel Dabdoub to take up the bottom floor of the pair’s project at 123 S. Stone Ave.
But Bianco, a James Beard Award-winning pizza chef, said he still hasn’t decided what to bring to the space.
“We’re going to do something in Tucson. I am committed to doing something in Tucson,” Bianco said on Thursday, two days after the Rio Nuevo board of directors agreed to provide a site-specific sales tax rebate for several Schwabe/Dabdoub downtown projects including 123 S. Stone Ave. and a CVS drugstore in the former Chicago Music Store on the corner of South Sixth Avenue and East Congress.
Bianco said he is exploring options for Tucson to follow up on his Pizzeria Bianco, which he ran at 272 E. Congress for just over two years before closing last September.
Bianco owns and operates five restaurants in Phoenix including two locations of Pizzeria Bianco. In 2003, he became the first ever pizza chef to win the prestigious James Beard Award.
Bianco said he has no timetable yet for opening a Tucson restaurant.
“We’re going to figure out something to see if we can make a great fit,” he said. “I love Tucson. That’s the reason I came down there. I still love it.”
In addition to his pizzeria, Bianco has three other concepts: Bar Bianco, next door to the original Pizzeria Bianco at Phoenix’s Heritage Square; Tratto next door to Pizzeria Bianco in the Town & Country Center; and Pane Bianco, a sandwich shop in downtown Phoenix.
Ken's BBQ opening at old Mr. K's Barbecue spot on Tucson's south side
Update: Ken's BBQ is now open
There’s a big smoker sitting out front of Charles Kendrick’s Afro-American Heritage Museum on South Park Avenue and the rich fragrance of smoked meats once again perfumes the air.
For the first time since Mr. K’s Barbecue closed shop in 2012, the small space at 1830 S. Park Ave. with a half-dozen tables and counter service is focusing on barbecue.
“We’re bringing back Southern style barbecue that’s been missing in Tucson,” Kendrick said Wednesday morning, as his partner and top chef Robert Lott chopped freshly smoked pork on a wooden cutting board in the kitchen.
Ken’s BBQ officially opens on Tuesday, May 2, but Kendrick, Lott and partner Arthur Platt have been quietly serving barbecue to anyone who comes in the door for the past handful of days.
The restaurant’s menu is centered on Texas-style mesquite-smoked beef, pork and chicken, with a handful of housemade Southern sides, including macaroni and cheese, candied yams and ranch beans. There’s also fried fish and fried chicken.
Lott, who has cooked in chain restaurants in Nebraska and at his grandmother’s restaurant in Shreveport, Louisiana, said he plans to introduce more Southern fare as they go along.
Prices run $7.25 for sandwiches, with dinner entrees starting at $11.75. For a limited time, they are offering a trio of sliders for $4.99.
Ken’s BBQ is the first restaurant to occupy the corner space since the short-lived J and K Heritage Museum Cafe opened and closed in summer 2015. The space also was home to Olé Rico Mexican Steakhouse, which lasted a few months from late 2014 to early 2015; and a Caribbean restaurant made a short run in early 2013.
Kendrick opened Mr. K’s Barbecue in 1998. His son Ray ran the restaurant for nearly a decade until he renamed it the Original Mr. K’s BBQ and moved in summer 2012 further south to 6302 S. Park Ave.
A year earlier, the senior Kendrick opened a much-larger version of Mr. K’s in a former Chili’s restaurant on North Stone Avenue and East River Road near the Tucson Mall. The restaurant was open two years before closing in fall 2013.
Kendrick said he is confident Ken’s BBQ will do well, a sentiment echoed by Lott and Platt. Lott said the restaurant’s goal is to present authentic Texas-style barbecue — characterized by a more tomato-leaning sauce and wood smoking — and ensure that every diner leaves full.
“It’s like going to a family barbecue,” Kendrick, 85, said. “We’re going to give people what they want.”
“I’m very confident in us as a team,” Lott added. “I believe this is something that Tucson is really going to go for.”
Trident Grill opening third Tucson restaurant in August
Update: Trident Grill III is now open
Trident Grill will open its third restaurant in mid-August in the former home of Tilted Kilt at 250 S. Craycroft Road.
And if an opportunity presents itself, it might even expand its reach beyond Tucson, the owner said.
“With the success of both restaurants, we continue to seek out other possible locations,” co-owner Danny Gallego said in an email interview. “... In the event the right opportunity presents itself, we do plan to venture outside of Tucson.”
Gallego and his partner Nelson Miller are investing $250,000-$400,000 to renovate the space on Craycroft near Broadway, where Tilted Kilt had operated about two years before closing earlier this year.
Gallego said most of the work centered on “brightening up the interior” including the addition of local art work and concrete bar tops. Plans also could include creating a private dining area for business meetings, happy hour events and larger gatherings, he added.
Trident Grill opened its first location in summer 2001 in the former Big “A” Restaurant at 2033 E. Speedway. In late 2015, it opened Trident Grill II at 2900 N. Swan Road in Plaza Palomino months after Jackson Tavern shuttered in spring 2015.
Gallego said the Craycroft Road location may not be the last for Trident, which has a loyal following for its grass-fed burgers, seafood that includes a wide array of oysters and shrimp dishes, and its wide-ranging beer menu that includes several Tucson craft brews. He said that back when Trident opened its first location in 2001, Miller was the architect around the concept and “always envisioned opening multiple locations” after waiting for “the right opportunity to arrive.”
Trident III will employ between 50 and 75 workers and will be open from 11 a.m. to midnight weekdays, later on weekends. For updates on the opening date, follow Trident Grill on Facebook at facebook.com/TridentGrill.
Blake's Lotaburger coming to River and Craycroft by July
They’ve broken ground and construction is underway for Tucson’s third Blake’s Lotaburger restaurant, this one on in the foothills.
The new eatery at East River and North Craycroft roads, near the nearly year-old Kneaders Bakery & Cafe, should open in mid-July, company officials said.
Blake’s, famous for its award-winning, much-drooled-over green chile burgers and seasoned fries, was founded in New Mexico 65 years ago and has more than 90 locations, mostly in New Mexico. It also has a few in Texas and two others in Tucson — at 2810 E. Speedway, which opened in spring 2016; and at 1600 W. Valencia Road on the south side, which opened last June.
The company’s third restaurant will not be its last here, officials said. There are plans to open more restaurants in Tucson and break into the Phoenix market.
Meanwhile, The Screamery will open its fourth location, this one at 5920 W. Arizona Pavilions Drive off Cortaro Road and Interstate 10, on May 25. The ice cream shop is still hiring production staff, including bakers, said owner Kenny Sarnoski. For more information, visit thescreamery.com
This is the fourth Screamery location since Sarnoski and his wife, Linda. opened their first shop at 50 S. Houghton Road in summer 2014.
Popular Barro's Pizza coming to Marana this summer
The popular Phoenix pizza chain Barro’s is opening its first Pima County restaurant this summer in Marana’s bustling Cortaro Road-Interstate 10 shopping and entertainment district.
The restaurant will take up the 5,000-square-foot retail space at 5884 W. Arizona Pavilions Drive , a former Sleep America store. No opening date has been announced, but a Barro’s spokeswoman said they hope to finish a build-out of the space and open by late July.
This will be the 38th Barro’s location since the family-owned-and-operated company opened its first in Mesa in 1980. Most of the other restaurants are in Phoenix’s east valley including Queen Creek; the Barro’s nearest Tucson is in Casa Grande.
Barro’s operates under the classic pizzeria template with a menu of pizza, sandwiches, salads, wings and a couple signature pastas. Pizza prices top out at around $19 for an extra large while pasta dishes start at $6.49. The restaurant offers dine-in, take-out or delivery.
In 2015, the chain received Yelp’s distinguished “People Love Us On Yelp” award, which recognizes companies that earn overwhelmingly favorable reviews on the crowd-sourcing site.
Fans of the pizza often point to the thick, light and flakey crust topped with family matriarch Grandma Angelina Barro’s signature sweet and tangy sauce.
Barro emigrated to Chicago from Italy in the 1930s and her sons opened the family’s first restaurant in the Windy City in 1961. The family moved to Arizona in 1980 and opened a restaurant in Mesa that same year.
In a written statement, Barro’s owner Bruce Barro said he has wanted to expand the chain outside of Maricopa County for years and decided on Marana because it is “the fastest growing town in Southern Arizona.”
Barro also hinted the Arizona Pavilions location is the first of several planned for Southern Arizona.
Barro’s hours will be from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with weekday lunch specials running 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Check out the menu at barrospizza.com
Amy's opens this month, bringing insane candy doughnuts to Tucson
Some mornings you eat a yogurt. And some mornings you want to eat lots and lots of ...
Lucky for you, this new shop will have more than 100 different varieties including Reese's, Oreo, mini marshmallows and more. Amy's Donuts is a mom-and-pop shop based out of Colorado Springs, Colo. that plans to open its third location this summer in Tucson.
It's going into the former Little Luke's at 101 E. Fort Lowell Road, which closed last summer. The outside of the building has been painted a festive pink and orange, kinda like a homey version of Dunkin' Donuts. Update: Amy's will hold its grand opening June 19 at 4 a.m., it announced on Facebook.
But the shop is actually taking a page from the trendy Voodoo Doughnut joint in Portland ("The magic is in the hole?"), which popularized crazy combos like Captain Crunch and bubble gum.
Amy's Donuts specializes in the yeast doughnut variety (as opposed to cake doughnuts) and goes a little loopy with the toppings. Here are a few examples ...
CANDIES AND PRETZELS
The Colorado Springs location is currently open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Most of the specialty doughnuts are priced around $2 apiece, or $17 for a dozen. They also serve fresh-made pigs in a blanket.
Say "hallo" to The Dutch! It's replacing Wilko after 10 years
The Wilko signs are still on the door, but it is Wilko no more ... Last night, the campus bistro announced it was ending its decade-long run at 943 E. University Blvd.
"After over ten fantastic years of serving our community, we have decided to pass the torch to others in the great space at the corner of Park and University," read the Facebook goodbye. The trendy space, owned by Peter Wilke of Time Market and B Line, opened its doors as an upscale convenience store in 2007 and has been a restaurant since 2010.
New owners Marcus and Nicole van Winden didn't waste any time. This morning for brunch, they opened their concept The Dutch: Eatery & Refuge. Right now they're in soft opening stages, and plan to roll out the dinner and happy hour menus later this week.
Although you'll see some holdovers from the Wilko menu (and familiar faces serving the food too), there's a bunch of interesting dishes from the Netherlands, where Marcus grew up. Like this: Uitsmijter, aka The Dutch Breakfast, $9. It's basically two eggs rolled into a thin omelet, and layered with ham, tomatoes and melty Gouda cheese on whole grain bread trucked up from Wildflower Bread Company.
The couple actually met on a Holland America Line, where he ran the cruise ship's kitchen. The seasoned chef has also worked his magic at Lodge on the Desert and Loews Ventana Canyon in Tucson, but most recently ran the Holland Hotel in Alpine, Texas. The couple wanted to keep up the Holland connection here in Tucson, where Nicole is from.
Make sure to check these dishes out:
— Patat Oorlog (or War Fries): Thickly-cut French fries with a sweet sambal peanut sauce, which has ties to Dutch colonialism in Indonesia. Pictured up top, $8
— Belgian waffle: From the next country over, with strawberries and Grand Marnier whipped cream, $9
— Breakfast flatbread: This yummy spread has smoked salmon and herbed cheese topped with a baked egg, $14
Midtown Bar and Grill is now music-centric House of Bards
The Midtown Bar and Grill on East Speedway and Swan is now House of Bards, a live music venue and restaurant where two-for-$25 steak night and all-you-can-eat fresh fish Fridays replaces fried bar food and a handful of pool tables and dart boards.
The idea, co-owner John Bujak said, is to create an arts-centric space for musicians that will eventually include an adjacent music store and studio offering instrument lessons for everything from guitar to violin and drums.
“It’s like a House of Blues with a music store, and it’s all about live music," said Bujak, who owns Bards, 4915 E. Speedway, with Judith Bard. "It’s all organic; the musician's poet."
Bujak and Bard co-own the 18-month-old music store Lessons N' More at 4889 E. Speedway, across the street from House of Bards.
The couple plans to move the store across the street into the space adjacent to the bar that once house a motorcycle shop. Bujak said they will connect the two spaces with a glass door.
Soon after taking over the bar/restaurant, Bujak and Bard created a staging area and started inviting singers and bands to perform nearly nightly. They also plan to add an patio stage in early summer.
“We want to revive the live music scene on Speedway," said Bujak, a guitar player who was in the Tucson rock band The Spenders when he was in high school in the 1980s. "We are really trying to make it a destination for live music.”
House of Bards — which was been home to Paulo's Steak and Chop House back in the 1950s and Oliver Twist before Midtown Bar and Grill — is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Live music includes open mic on Mondays and bands playing covers and original music nightly the rest of the week.
Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar opens at the Tucson Mall
Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar opened on April 13 after five months of renovations at the 8,700-square-foot space in the Tucson Mall parking lot, 150 W. Wetmore Road. The location had been vacant since Brio Tuscan Grille pulled out in spring 2013.
This Twigs is one of the farthest flung locations of the 15-year-old Spokane, Washington-based, family-owned chain and the company's biggest restaurant. It's the only location in Arizona.
Twigs' menu includes meal-worthy salads including several topped with beef or chicken; steak, seafood and chicken entrees sided with rice, pasta or potatoes; and single-serve pizzas from the go-to pepperoni to a decidedly more adventurous blue chicken made with gorgonzola cheese and the slightly spicy Thai chicken in a savory, creamy peanut sauce.
But Twigs' signature is the 20-plus craft martinis on the cocktail menu, from the Downtown Manhattan made from Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon with a dash of bitters and a hint of cherry juice to the go-to Kosmonaut (with a cranberry base) and the frisky Razitini made with black raspberry liqueur.
Twigs at Tucson is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Details: twigsbistro.com or call 777-4649.
First brewery on Tucson's east side opening this Thursday
The first craft brewery on Tucson’s east side is set to launch this Thursday.
BlackRock Brewers announced on its Facebook page Sunday that starting this week, its hours will be 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and noon-8 p.m. Saturdays.
With about 3,700 square feet of space, BlackRock holds a sizable location at 1664 S. Research Loop, off of South Pantano Road, south of East 22nd Street.
In a January interview, co-owner Tony Williams said they went big with their brewery, because they were going to be “the only game” on the east side in terms of craft brewing.
BlackRock is working with a 3-barrel system. There will be 2-3 beers, including a cream ale and an Imperial Irish red, available this weekend.
When fully operational, the brewery will feature six taps, with four flagships, one seasonal and a "foreign exchange" beer from one of the other local breweries in town, Williams said in January.
New craft beer and wine bar opens near Sabino Canyon
A new spot to enjoy craft beer and wine has popped up on the way to Sabino Canyon.
Three Canyon Beer and Wine Garden launched late last month at 4999 N. Sabino Canyon Road, less than a mile south of the popular outdoor recreation area.
With approximately 2,700 square feet of space inside and a patio area of about a quarter acre, Three Canyon has taken over the property that used to be a landscape center, and originally a U-Tote-M convenience store.
Owners Steven and Susan Sheldon were filling a need in that part of town, says general manager Kyle Blessinger.
“They are closely connected to the community and the neighborhood and saw an underserved area that needed a craft beer and wine bar,” Blessinger said. “We’re close to a lot of popular tourist and recreational areas, as well. It’s great for those who live in the neighborhood, but also a great destination for those who might be visiting.
Three Canyon has 16 beers on tap — five European beers and 11 craft — and 110 different beers in cans and bottles, available for purchase.
On the wine front, it has more than 54 bottles available and four on tap.
The venue also has a coffee bar.
Blessinger says the business uses beans locally roasted by Caffé Luce, and pastries and baked goods provided by Treehouse Cakes by Kat.
“We wanted to make sure we had something to offer people during the day time hours,” general manager Kyle Blessinger said. “With the coffee area, we get to cater to a morning crowd.”
Three Canyon is open Tuesdays-Sundays. Hours can be found on the Three Canyon Facebook page.
Old Gus and Andy's on Oracle being revived as The O
After life as a bar/restaurant and an events center, the old Gus and Andy’s Steakhouse on North Oracle Road is about to be revitalized.
The O (Oracle 2000) will open March 10, just in time for NCAA March Madness.
For the past couple months, owner Tami Korth and her investor partners have been renovating the restaurant, where 15 tables will seat roughly 60 diners and a dozen or more can sit around the bar. Flat screen TVs throughout the restaurant will be tuned in to the NCAA Tournament when it kicks off March 14.
Call it a restaurant that also will behave like a sports bar and then transform into a cool club at night. They’ll have Tucson craft beers on tap and drink specials, offering $2 draft beers throughout the NCAA tournament, Korth said.
The O’s menu will include two dozen entrees, from biscuits and gravy in the morning, hand-formed burgers and sandwiches for lunch and steaks, chops and salads at dinnertime. Korth hopes to have live music at some point, and dancing at night. But for now The O, on Oracle south of Grant Road, will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Korth said the restaurant also will have an espresso lounge with a drive-through, package liquor takeout and karaoke nights, things she said might just remind people of a bygone era in Tucson’s Miracle Mile area nightlife.
“We’re trying to bring back the Old Miracle Mile revitalization on lower Oracle Road,” said Korth, who spent 20 years bartending around Tucson.
Brothers Gus and Andy Lettas opened Gus and Andy’s Steakhouse in 1972, a dozen years after they built the building on land that was a car lot when they bought it in 1959. The brothers, with help from their sister Kathryn Congelli who waited tables, ran the restaurant for nearly 50 years, creating a niche for themselves as Tucson’s home of Dixieland jazz.
The brothers were in their 80s when they sold the business in the summer of 2004 to Looks Bar and Grill. The building has been vacant for several years.
Holy Smokin’ Butts BBQ to open next month
Their business on wheels has found a place to park.
Holy Smokin’ Butts BBQ leased 2,000 square feet at 1104 S. Wilmot Road and owners Marisa and Curt Lewis are in the process of transitioning from their food truck.
“Customers kept asking about a restaurant and that’s really what we wanted to do when we started the business,” Marisa said.
The couple moved back to Tucson last year, after quitting office jobs to pursue their dream of opening a business. The food truck started rolling in May and quickly built a following.
Their speciality is the slow-smoked brisket, which cooks 18 to 20 hours over pecan wood without propane, charcoal or lighter fluid.
“It’s not a quick thing, it’s not fast food,” Marisa said.
They also serve up ribs, pulled pork, sausage and tri-tip and plan to add barbecue chicken to the menu once the storefront opens in April on Wilmot near East 22nd Street.
The trailer will remain a part of the business for catered events.
Marisa said she looks forward to opening the doors and seeing regular customers pull up a chair.
“I just love meeting people and cooking,” she said, “that satisfaction of people enjoying the food and loving it as much as we do.”
Frank Arrotta, with Tucson Realty & Trust Co., represented the tenants in the lease.
Other recent commercial transactions include:
- HSL Properties bought the Hampton Inn and Suites at 5950 N. Oracle Road for $7.2 million. the hotel has 109 guest rooms, including 28 with kitchenettes. It is the the sixth hotel in the HSL Properties portfolio.
- CA Senior Lifestyle LLC bought 3.35 acres of land at 9005 N. Oracle Road, in the Copperstone Professional Park, for $830,000. David Volk, Peter Villaescusa, and Jesse Peron, with CBRE, represented the buyer.
- Larry Howard leased 4,695 square feet at 4281 S. Santa Rita Road for a distribution center. Kevin Volk, of Volk Co., represented the landlord, 4275 Santa Rita LLC.
- The Little Bird Nesting Company leased 2,504 square feet at 4508 E. Broadway, in the Midstar Plaza shopping center. The tenant was represented by Jeramy Price, of Volk Co. and Nancy McClure, of CBRE, represented the landlord, Midstar Partners LLC.
- San Antonio Shoe Inc. leased 2,384 square feet at 2890 E. Skyline Drive. Debbie Heslop, with Volk Co., represented the tenant and the landlord, Plaza Colonial LLC, was represented by David Carroll of Romano Real Estate.
- Otaku Nation, a retailer of gaming and anime collectibles, leased space at Frontier Village, on the northeast corner of Pima Street and Alvernon Way. Andy Seleznov and Melissa Lal represented the landlord, Larsen Baker.
Tucson's Ryan Airfield restaurant is getting new management
Six months after closing for major renovations, the restaurant at Ryan Airfield in Three Points could be back in business by June under a new operator.
On Wednesday, the Tucson Airport Authority Board of Directors approved a lease for Richard Flory, who owns The Happy Rooster Cafe on Tucson’s east side. Flory is expected to open Richie’s Cafe by June in the space that long housed Todd’s at 9700 W. Ajo Way.
It will be the first time that patrons of the airport will be able to grab a bite at the restaurant since last fall, when the airport authority closed it to make much-needed updates and repairs.
Todd’s was expected to reopen in late November or early December, but the owners, Shari and Todd Scott, couldn’t reach a lease agreement with the authority. The airport wanted the restaurant to open at 6 a.m., but the Scotts wanted to continue opening at 8.
Todd’s officially closed in late December and the authority has spent the time since making even more repairs, including replacing kitchen equipment, said TAA spokesman David Hatfield, senior director of business development and marketing.
Hatfield said Richie’s Cafe will be open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily year-round, with the exception of Christmas Day, and will likely serve a menu similar to that of Flory’s Happy Rooster.
The Happy Rooster Cafe has been a staple at 1114 S. Sarnoff Drive off East 22nd Street for 17 years. Flory has owned it four of those years.
The restaurant serves hearty country breakfasts anchored by sausage, bacon, chicken-fried streak or Italian and Polish sausage, and stuffed sandwiches bulging with sliced turkey, roast beef, ham or other deli meats and cheeses.
MiAn Sushi opening in downtown Tucson on Thursday, March 9
Nearly a year after announcing plans to strike out on his own outside of his famous father’s shadow, Bin An will swing open the doors Thursday to his upscale downtown Asian bistro.
MiAn Sushi & Modern Asian Cuisine, which is unaffiliated with An’s father Kwang C. An’s Oracle Road restaurant, will open for lunch at 11 a.m. Thursday, March 9, on the ground floor of Tucson Electric Power company’s headquarters, 88 E. Broadway.
“I’m excited,” Bin An said Tuesday as his staff hosted TEP employees at a soft opening to iron out the kinks of running the nearly 5,000-square-foot restaurant. “Things are going well.”
MiAn Sushi’s upscale menu goes beyond the traditional array of sushi and sashimi, employing ocean trout, halibut, salmon and tuna. Appetizers include a shrimp toast topped with caviar, beef carpaccio, and a variety of poke bowls with salmon, scallops and other fresh fish.
Lunch prices run $9 to $14; dinner entrees average $13 to $18, with specialty items a bit pricier.
Chef Young Min Choi from Las Vegas’ high-end Japanese restaurant Nobu is the executive chef, bringing what An described as a “Vegas feel” to downtown Tucson dining.
“By doing this as an upscale, nicer bar and restaurant, it makes it a cool spot for people to hang out and enjoy a different ambience ... more like a big city,” An said. “We want to bring in different flavors and different concepts to Asian dining.”
MiAn seats 160 diners inside and 120 on the patio. Valet parking is available and there is off-street parking along Sixth Avenue, An said.
Beginning Thursday, hours are from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays, 3 to 11 p.m. Saturdays and 3 to 10 p.m. Sundays.
Tucson Real Estate: Mama's Hawaiian to move into original Hub
Mama’s Hawaiian Bar-B-Cue will be moving its Speedway location a block south.
The standalone restaurant near the University of Arizona will close in May, as developers of the two Hub student-housing towers are planning a third one on the site.
Mama’s will occupy 1,570 square feet of space on the ground floor of the original Hub, a 592-bed complex at 1011 N. Tyndall Ave.
Debbie Heslop, with Volk Co., represented Core Campus Tucson I LLC, and Mama’s was represented by John Ash, of CBRE.
Other recent commercial transactions include:
- Tractor Supply Co. bought 5.35 acres of land at the southeast corner of Indian Agency and Valencia roads from Tucson South Development Group LLC for $1.3 million. Greg Furrier, with Picor, represented the seller, and David Long, with The Long Corp., represented the buyer.
- MCR 1135 Jones LLC bought an 8,268-square-foot office building at 1135 N. Jones Blvd. from Intergalactic Inc. for $1 million. Tom Nieman, with Picor, represented the seller.
- A. Cruz & Co. LLC bought a 6,400-square-foot industrial building at 1971 W. McMillan St. from JIMP Holdings LLC for $380,000. Ron Zimmerman, with Picor, represented the seller, and James T. Lavery, with Realty Executives Tucson Elite, represented the buyer.
- The TJX Cos. Inc. leased 21,000 square feet at the southwest corner of Cortaro Road and Arizona Pavilions Drive from AZPAV West LLC to open a TJ Maxx store. Brenna Lacey, of Volk Co., represented the tenant.
- Filter Products Corp. leased 11,406 square feet at 4175 S. Fremont Ave. from Doubletree Investments Inc. Stephen D. Cohen and Russell W. Hall, with Picor, represented the landlord, and Tim Healy, with CBRE, represented the tenant.
- Centro Familiar Getsemani leased 4,000 square feet at 1702 S. Winmor Ave. from International Evangelistic Mission. Denisse Angulo-Badilla, with Picor, represented the landlord.
- Dempsey’s Boarding Care LLC leased 2,177 square feet at 1152 N. Craycroft Road from Deebco Properties. Andrew D. Sternberg and Robert J. Nolan, of Oxford Realty Advisors, handled the transaction.
- Dominic Escamilla Financial Services LLC leased 1,577 square feet of office space at 4400 E. Broadway from 4400 Broadway LLC. Michael Gross, of Tucson Realty & Trust Co,. represented the landlord, and Bob Herd, of Excelsior Real Estate, represented the tenant.
Tucson restaurant Pastiche gets new owners
Costas and Judie Georgacas never met the late Tucson restaurateur Pat Connors, but when they walked into his central Tucson restaurant last week, keys in hand and the ink on the property title not quite dry, the couple felt his presence.
“It was meant to be,” Judie Georgacas said, sitting at a high table in the empty dining room on Tuesday, hours before Pastiche Food + Drink opened for lunch. “I already feel like it’s my home, and it’s only been a week.”
“I love the place very much,” added Costas, her husband of almost a year. “The atmosphere; you feel welcomed.”
The sale to the Tucson couple was finalized three weeks after Connors, 48, died on March 5 after a months-long battle with advanced lung cancer. The Georgacases had been negotiating the sale since mid-November, not long after Connors put the 19-year-old restaurant on the market following his cancer diagnosis last fall. Connors had told family and friends that he wanted to settle his affairs while he was still able.
Pastiche was the second restaurant the Georgacases had seriously considered buying. The first was near the University of Arizona, but the deal fell apart.
The Pastiche deal felt almost fated from the start, said Judie, who had twice stumbled on the blind listing — it was advertised without the name — before she was able to get the ball rolling.
Judie was familiar with Pastiche. She and her late husband, Charlie, had been regulars over the years. But Costas had only eaten there once or twice, and neither had ever met Pat Connors, who was known to stroll the dining room with an infectious smile, greeting longtime patrons and newcomers like old friends.
But they knew of Connors, had heard the stories of his outsized personality and generous spirit, the way he rallied other Tucson restaurateurs to help one community cause or another. It is a legacy that the Georgacases hope to continue, and add onto.
“This is what we wanted, somebody who would care about (Pastiche) like we do,” said Connors’ only son, Cole, who grew up at the restaurant and will continue working there under the new owners. “We were really worried that someone was going to buy it and turn it into a Cracker Barrel or some chain.”
“We know we have tough shoes to fill,” Judie said. “We want to continue his legacy and we want to create our own legacy and give back to the community.”
And it will all start with the restaurant, said Costas, who spent 35 years running restaurants in Chicago, where he settled after immigrating from his native Greece with $18 in his pocket. The menu might be tweaked in time, with less popular dishes dropped and others added, but the flavor of Pastiche will remain.
Regular restaurant features, from the live music two nights a week to the Tuesday steak nights, will live on, and the staff, many of whom have been with the restaurant for years, has agreed to stay on.
Costas, 70, already has begun making much needed updates and fixes, starting in the kitchen.
“Everything that my dad worked for is still going to continue,” Cole Connors said. “I can’t emphasize enough how happy we are to have these two with us.”
The Georgacases said they believe they were meant to be at Pastiche. They share a deep and tragic bond with Cole and his mother, Julie. Judie and Costas both lost their first spouses to lung cancer — Costas’ wife Patricia died in late 2012; Judie’s husband Charlie, who worked in corporate restaurants and hotels for decades, died in 2012.
Costas moved to Tucson about a year after his wife died with the full intention of retiring. He owned a trio of Chicago restaurants, but sold out and retired nine years ago so that he could care for his wife. When she died, he decided to leave Chicago for Tucson. The weather, he said, reminded him of Greece.
Judie and her husband had moved to Tucson from California in 1993. She worked in real estate. When Charlie was diagnosed with cancer, Judie cared for him for five years before he died.
As the Pastiche deal played out, some of the emotions Judie and Costas experienced with their spouses came back to the surface.
“We were reliving our sorrow through Patrick,” said Judie, who met Costas through a mutual friend. “We knew what they were feeling.”
Costas said he had been contemplating coming out of retirement for months before they found Pastiche. After a lifetime spent working 12- to 16-hour days, six or seven days a week, sitting around playing poker with his buddies and soaking in the Arizona sun wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as he imagined.
“It’s in my blood; I love it,” he said. “It’s going to be tough, but hey.”
“He’s here when I get here in the morning and he’s the last to leave,” Cole Connors said of Costas.
“I see so many similarities between Costas and my dad. ... I think he would be very happy and I think they would be good friends, if not best buds.”
Why did the Marana Peter Piper Pizza cross the road? It needed more space
After 35 years of baking pizzas, tossing salads and hosting kids’ birthday and end-of-season baseball parties, Peter Piper Pizza at 3741 W. Ina Road in Marana closed on Monday.
But the locally-owned franchise didn’t stay closed for long.
On Tuesday morning, it opened for business across the street in a 14,500-square-foot space in the Michaels Plaza, 4731 W. Ina Road — more than double the size of its former Fry’s Plaza location. Both are at the intersection of West Ina and North Thornydale roads.
“We just outgrew the business over there,” said manager Randy Kreger.
Peter Piper spokeswoman Jennifer Krebs attributed the quick turn-around to the closing last May of the Peter Piper Pizza in Oro Valley. All of the furniture and equipment from that restaurant were brought to the new location, she said.
The restaurant and eight others in Tucson are owned by the Baxla family, which opened its first Peter Piper Pizza in Tucson in the late 1970s. In addition to its Tucson locations — including at 5925 E. Broadway, 1380 N. Silverbell Road and 3717 S. 12th Ave. — the family owns a Peter Piper restaurant in Phoenix and The Oink Cafe, which has three locations including one at 7131 E. Broadway .
The Marana Peter Piper Pizza is open from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Screamery opening 4th and final Tucson location, this one in Marana
The Screamery, the Tucson-born ice cream shop that specializes in natural, handcrafted ice cream starting with pasteurizing its own cream base, is opening its fourth and final Tucson area location, this one in Marana.
Kenny and Linda Sarnoski will open the Marana shop on May 1 in the small plaza at 5920 W. Arizona Pavilions Drive, off Cortaro Road and Interstate 10. It will be the only ice cream shop in the bustling Cortaro Road-I-10 corridor populated by several chain restaurants and large retail stores including Walmart and the weeks-old TJ Maxx/Ross Dress for Less retail complex.
“We’re making a lot of new friends and lot of happy faces,” Kenny Sarnoski said. “And we’re excited about that.”
Meanwhile, Sarnoski said his small Tucson company will make inroads into the Phoenix market before the end of the year. They are negotiating for a location in Gilbert, the first of at least eight Phoenix area shops. All will be corporate owned and operated, with a focus on the couple’s popular ice cream that comes in inventive flavors like Bees Knees — honey-swirled in a sweet cream and lavender base — and Rough At Sea — a sea salt-kissed base to complement honey-swirled candied pecans, almonds and pistachios.
He said they also have had people outside Arizona, including in Florida and Las Vegas, who have expressed interest in franchising.
“We want to be as big as Ben & Jerry’s,” Kenny Sarnoski said.
In addition to cones and cups ($2.75 for a kid’s scoop, $4.50 for a single), the Screamery offers a variety of treats from “Ice cream Nachos,” with a single scoop of ice cream topping waffle chips drizzled with hot fudge; ice cream floats and sundaes; and the meant-to-be-shared Farmhouse with a whopping eight scoops of ice cream loaded with cookies, brownies and buttercake and your choice of toppings. At $24.50, it’s the most expensive item on the menu.
“To have ice cream where it’s a $4.50 for a scoop of ice cream ... they’re walking out spending $10 for two people,” Sarnoski said. “In order to do that in Tucson, you have to have a great product and great customer service. The customer service has to be as good as the product.”
The Screamery is the latest Tucson company to take on the Phoenix market. The Flores family launched its Sir Veza’s Taco Garage brand at Sky Harbor International Airport in 2012. It branched out to US Airways Center — now Talking Stick Resort Arena — in 2013 and Chandler the following year. El Guero Canelo Mexican Restaurant, which specializes in Sonoran hot dogs, opened last year in west Phoenix.
The Sarnoski’s opened their first Screamery in summer 2014 at 50 S. Houghton Road. In spring 2016, it opened the second shop at 2545 E. Speedway, followed a few months later with the downtown shop at 250 E. Congress last summer.
Second Tap & Bottle set to open on northwest side this summer
Tap & Bottle, Tucson’s downtown craft beer tasting room and bottle shop at 403 N. Sixth Ave., has announced that it will open a second location on the northwest side this summer.
Tap & Bottle North is currently under construction at 7254 N. Oracle Road, on the northeast corner of West Ina and North Oracle roads, in the old home of Computer Renaissance.
The space — which shares a shopping center with Tucson Tamale Company and Truland Burgers & Greens — will keep the same feel as the original Tap & Bottle, with a rotating tap list, extensive selection of to-go beers and wines for sale and regular craft beer-themed events, according to Rebecca Safford, who co-owns both locations with her husband, Scott Safford.
Rebecca said they decided to open a second location in response to the lack of craft beer options on the northwest side.
“We kept hearing customers say they really wanted something like this on that side of town,” Rebecca said. “We started looking into it and saw huge growth and the population density in the area. We began seriously looking for locations about six months ago.”
Regulars at the original Tap & Bottle will see some distinct differences in the new space.
Tap & Bottle North, which has nearly 3,000 square feet to play with, will have a private event room and patio seating.
“There will be a front patio and a side patio,” Rebecca said. “It was a must when we were looking for new spots. More space and outdoor seating."
It will also have several televisions, which are often hard to find in local craft breweries and tasting rooms.
The original Tap & Bottle has no televisions.
“There will be a minimal presence at the new location,” Rebecca said. “But the option is there if you want to watch the Wildcats play basketball or things like that. At our current location, you can walk two blocks to North Fourth Avenue and everyone has TVs. That was something that was already being offered.”
The Saffords opened the original Tap & Bottle in the summer of 2013 and it was the first of its kind in the Tucson area. The city has since seen the addition of venues like the Tucson Hop Shop at 3230 N. Dodge Blvd and Arizona Beer House at 150 S. Kolb Road.
Rebecca Safford said the success they’ve had with the original Tap & Bottle is part of the reason why they felt they could open a second spot.
“I feel like we have really learned a lot from opening the first location,” she said. “It is manageable now. We have been open for a few years and have a really good team. We can step away for a minute and know it is going to be OK.”
In addition to Tap & Bottle North, the Saffords are looking into opening a third venture at the MSA Annex, an expansion of Mercado San Agustín, that is still in the planning phases, but is not going to be a Tap & Bottle, Rebecca said.
"We have zero plans to open Tap & Bottles all over the place,” she said. “At most, maybe 2-3 in Tucson."
East side getting upscale Jackson Bar + Eatery
In an age when new restaurants lean more toward burgers than beef bourguignon, a new restaurant coming to the far east side hopes to find a middle ground.
Jackson Bar + Eatery, expected to open in mid-March, bills itself as upscale with a casual twist. You can wear a tie and coat and sip on one of 18 wines by the bottle or 10 by the glass while nibbling on a filet and fritte with béarnaise, or come in your jeans and polo and pair one of 20 beers on tap — including Arizona and Tucson craft brews — with a ground ribeye or brisket blend burger.
“I think Tucson is really screaming for slightly higher," said Jackson owner Peter Oser. "You can come to our restaurant and spend $60 a person or $20.”
Oser anticipates Jackson, which is taking over two spaces at 8864 E. Tanque Verde Road that had been home most recently to dance and martial arts studios, will open March 16 — on the eve of the 2017 March Madness NCAA basketball tournaments.
“If you’re going to get in the water you might as well get wet," said Oser, a New York native who has lived in Tucson since 1995.
Jackson's dining room will seat 104 and its bar, separate from the dining room and outfitted with seven TV screens, can accommodate 60.
The menu will include several pasta dishes, seafood and chops, as well as small plates, entree salads and a half-dozen sandwiches. Brunch will be served Saturdays and Sundays.
Jackson Bar + Eatery has been a work in progress since 2012, when Oser, who has a business background that includes work in the restaurant industry, first starting scouting out Tucson locations.
Willcox Sand-Reckoner Vineyards opening Tucson tasting room
Sand-Reckoner Vineyards in Willcox has been around seven years, but until this weekend, owners Sarah and Rob Hammelman haven’t had a true tasting room.
They almost did a few years ago when they rented space along historic downtown Willcox. They did some remodeling and built out the space, including installing their principal winemaking operation in the back, but before they could put up the “Open” sign, they ran out of space.
Sarah Hammelman said they’ve done tastings by appointment, but this weekend they will do it on a much bigger scale — in Tucson.
Sand-Reckoner is opening its first tasting room in Tucson’s Warehouse Arts District, 510 N. Seventh Ave., No. 170, on Saturday.
The tasting room, pouring all 12 of the winery’s vintages, will include the Conrad Wilde Micro Gallery, an extension of Miles Conrad and Ryan Wilde’s bigger gallery on West Sixth Street.
The grand opening is from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18. Regular hours beginning Sunday, Feb. 19: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.
Sand-Reckoner is the latest winery to open a Tucson tasting room. Others include Sierra Bonita Vineyards from Graham County, which operates out of the owners’ law offices at 6720 E. Camino Principal; and Flying Leap Vineyards from Sonoita, which has a tasting room in St. Philip’s Plaza, 4320 N. Campbell Ave.
Other wine-tasting shops in Tucson include CataVinos Wine Shoppe & Tasting Room at 3063 N. Alvernon Way; and Bear Track U at 943 E. University Blvd.
Nancy's Boondocks to open Monday on Tucson's north side
In Tucson’s bar universe, when one comes, one leaves. And this weekend, that will literally occur within hours.
At the end of business Sunday, Feb. 19, in the wee hours of Monday, Nancy Kuhlmann and her staff will wipe down the bar and turn off the lights for the last time at her 16-year-old namesake Fort Lowell Pub, 746 E. Fort Lowell Road. Ten hours later, around noon Monday, Feb. 20, she’ll open the doors of her new joint, Nancy’s Boondocks, around the corner at 3306 N. First Ave.
“We have zero downtime,” said Kuhlmann’s daughter April, who manages the bar with her sister, Jodey Bingham.
The Kuhlmanns have been painting the interior of Boondocks and making minor fixes since buying the property three weeks ago, April Kuhlmann said. They also are updating the kitchen and plan to begin serving food — breakfast, lunch and dinner — in about a month. The menu will include popular Nancy’s Fort Lowell Pub fare as well as burgers, fries and a few other items, Kuhlmann said.
Nancy Kuhlmann became interested in buying the Boondocks not long after it was put up for sale in October, weeks after longtime Boondocks operators Bill and Cathy Warner closed the bar. The Warners, who ran Boondocks for 20 years and turned it into a vital live blues venue, now manage the Hideout Saloon East near East 22nd Street and South Pantano Road.
April Kuhlmann said her mother had always wanted to own her own property and not be beholden to a landlord. The sentiment goes back to her experiences with the Chaparral Lounge, which she ran for nearly 20 years from 1980 to 1998 at Oracle and Magee roads before Oro Valley annexed the area. Kuhlmann’s bar became outlawed under town zoning ordinances that required that bars serve food.
April Kuhlmann said her mother then bought 18 acres in the middle of nowhere — beyond SaddleBrooke and the fork in the road at Oracle Junction, where Arizona 179 heads toward Florence. Nancy Kuhlmann cleared the land, put up a horse arena and a 5,000-square-foot building, and 13 years ago opened the Cadillac Chaparral Steakhouse & Saloon off South Highway 79 and East Ballesta Road, her daughter said.
She opened Nancy’s Fort Lowell Pub but kept a distant eye whenever a building nearby would go up for sale. They bid on a couple locations to no avail, until the Boondocks came up.
“The bar we’re in now literally has one bathroom for the men, one bathroom for the women, two pool tables and a juke box,” April Kuhlmann said. “When that opportunity became available, we became really excited.”
Kuhlmann said plans for the Boondocks are still a work in progress. Eventually, they would like to host live music much like the Warners did, but that will have to wait until they find their business rhythm in the new place and can afford the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) licensing fees.
Kuhlmann said they plan to keep the landmark Chianti bottle sculpture that has graced the Boondocks since it was an Italian restaurant in the mid-1970s. She said they decided to keep “Boondocks” in the name because “it’s historic; everybody knows it.”
Bumsted's to close Sunday; Lindy's on 4th moving in
Bumsted's, a sandwich shop and bar on North Fourth Avenue where a cold beer is the perfect complement to the house favorite Mickey Likes It turkey and bacon sandwich, will close at the end of business Sunday, ending a 15-year run in one of Tucson's busiest entertainment districts.
Meanwhile, longtime burger maven Lindy's on 4th will take over the space at 500 N. Fourth Ave. as early as next month, said Shannon Cronin, who owns Lindy's with her husband Tim and son/chef Lindy Reilly.
Cronin said the new owners of the building across the street from Lindy's current location recently approached them about leasing the entire 3,200-square-foot building, which also is home to World Wide Wrappers. Cronin said the landlord told them Bumsted's had operated for a long time on a month-to-month lease and the owners wanted to get a new business in the building.
"They (building's owner) have been looking for a new tenant to move and we were the first ones to jump on that (now that) it's available," Cronin said.
In a Facebook post late Wednesday, Bumsted's owner Barbara Shuman said that she and her husband/business partner Scot were "being forced out of business." She said they were notified by email two weeks ago that their and World Wide Wrappers' leases were not being renewed and "we were not even given an opportunity to counter Lindy's offer."
World Wide Wrappers owner Ali Bagheri could not be immediately reached to comment.
Bumsted's will be open from 11 a.m. to midnight today, from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 11 a.m. midnight Sunday, their final day in business.
Cronin said Lindy's will begin renovations and a buildout of the building after March 1. The restaurant at 431 N. Fourth Ave. will remain open until the move, she said.
Downtown Tucson getting new Even Stevens sandwich shop
The Utah sandwich chain Even Stevens is opening its first store in Tucson, inside the historic The Julian Drew building downtown.
Workers are currently renovating two storefronts on the western side of the 100-year-old building at 178 and 180 E. Broadway.
When it opens in the next few months, Even Stevens will serve gourmet casual sandwiches like capreses, Reubens and Vietnamese fish banh mi, with lots of vegetarian options like savory jackfruit. According to the website's menu, other Even Stevens locations also have salads, breakfast and Sunday brunch.
What better way to heat those cold bones than a cup of the Tom Basil Bisque and a half reuben sandwich? Warm creamy goodness to warm your belly! Try it with super tender corned beef brisket, melted Swiss, house-made red cabbage kraut and dressing. All on a toasty swirl rye. Take a couple bites and let us know what you think!
A sign posted on the door shows that the location is currently applying for a liquor license. Other Even Stevens locations across Utah and Idaho serve mimosas and local craft beers like Uinta from Salt Lake City. Even Stevens also hosts local music acts on the weekends.
But the hallmark of this Salt Lake City restaurant is its charity work. For every sandwich sold, they donate another sandwich to nonprofit organizations in the area. Last week the chain announced it donated its millionth sandwich.
The chain, which originated in Salt Lake City in 2014, is quickly moving into Arizona. Over the last few months it's opened shops in Phoenix, Gilbert and also Tempe.
Pop-up bar coming to downtown Tucson in space formerly occupied by Proper
Downtown Tucson is about to get a pop-up bar.
Martin Drug Co. lounge is expected to open in mid-February and stay open about six months while owner/developer Scott Stiteler and his partners create a full-fledged restaurant in the space at 300 E. Congress St. The bar will then be incorporated into the restaurant concept.
The idea is to create a space holder for the restaurant, whose opening will be closely tied to Stiteler’s neighboring AC Hotel by Marriott on East Broadway and South Fifth Avenue. On Tuesday he said the hotel’s construction is on schedule for an August opening.
The space, formerly occupied by Proper, has sat empty since the Flagstaff restaurant closed in June. Stiteler said that by opening the lounge he is “reactivating” the space during the height of Tucson’s tourism season.
“I can’t stand walking by and seeing stuff closed when there are so many people downtown exploring,” said Stiteler, whose other downtown ventures include the Hub Restaurant and Ice Creamery and Playground bar.
Whatever restaurant concept he creates for the space will carry the Martin Drug Co. name and the history of the original drugstore that sat at that corner until the 1940s or ’50s.
“There’s just a treasure trove of old photos of … Martin Drug Co. I get chills when I think about it,” said Stiteler, who plans to decorate the walls with old black-and-white photos from the 1930s and ’40s at the second location of pharmacist George Martin’s pharmacy. The Martin family operated nine drugstores in Tucson from the late 1800s through the mid-1900s, several of them along Congress Street downtown.
“That’s the history we’re pulling from,” Stiteler said. “Tucsonans and visitors are going to come in and absorb the space. I can already imagine people sitting in there and looking up at all the work that’s gone into that space and the leaded glass and the way the stoplights glow and say, ‘This is a really special space.’”
Work already is underway to renovate the interior including building a temporary wall to divide the dining room from the old Proper bar that faces Congress Street. The bar opens onto Congress, and an outdoor patio will be extended to wrap around South Fifth.
New wine bar Revel opens off Fourth Avenue
There's a new bar in town that serves Belgian beers and some really incredible bubbly from the great state of New Mexico. Revel holds its grand opening tonight at 416 E. Ninth St., with complimentary cheese and meat platters for every guest.
Todd and Celine Getzelman are from the Central Coast, California, and have stacked the wine list with "classic examples" of every genre. Spanish Monastrells mingle with Sonoma County Chardonnays and Sauv Blancs from New Zealand.
The couple wanted to create an atmosphere that's both comfortable and informative, where people can chat and learn about wine with knowledgeable staff. The bar will eventually serve select cheese and meat boards, varying week by week.
The former gallery space is cozy yet modern, with a commanding mural painted by Tucson artist Rebecca Grad. Hours are 4 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 4 to midnight Fridays, noon to midnight Saturdays and noon to 9 Sundays.
Formerly Flux, Harbottle Brewing secures space on South Palo Verde
When the owners of Harbottle Brewing Company started their journey to open a brewery in Tucson, they were known by a completely different moniker: Flux Brewing.
Then came the roadblocks in the trademark process. A brewery in Maine had a product with a similar name, as did a winery in California.
Owners Michael Figueira, Andy Shlicker and Sam Kroack came to agreements with both businesses, but “we eventually made the decision that if we couldn’t trademark it, we would have no potential for growth outside the market,” Figueira said.
Thus Flux became Harbottle, named for Figueira’s distant relative, John Harbottle, a British naval officer who, as the story goes, helped King Kamehameha assert his claim to Hawaii’s throne.
The brewery is moving into the former home of Mexico in Season, a Mexican restaurant that included vegan offerings but was only open for a short time at 3820 S. Palo Verde Road.
“Once we looked at it, we knew it was the right fit,” Figueira said. The location is just shy of 4,000 square feet, with good visibility from the street in a high-traffic area.
“It was perfect,” he added.
Harbottle, which will run a seven-barrel system purchased from McFate Brewing in Scotts-dale, opens down the street from several breweries, including Green Feet Brewing, 1055 Brewing and Nimbus, all of which are on East 44th Street. Copper Mine Brewing, mentioned earlier in the story, can be found between 44th and Harbottle, and plans to open in February.
“We are now able to be part of that local community,” Kroack said. “It is a perfect fit for what we are trying to accomplish.”
Sushi masters to open 'modern' Southern restaurant Bird, on north side
Brandon Katz had the idea floating around in his brain ... a gourmet restaurant that draws on "Southern values" like whole-hog cooking and sharing dishes family-style.
These are concepts the Tucson restaurateur he'd already been exploring at his downtown sushi restaurant Obon Sushi Bar and Ramen, but through a Japanese and Korean lens.
Then Daniel Thomas came around, a young Le Cordon Bleu graduate who cut his teeth with Virginia Wooters at The Abbey and more recently headed up the kitchen at 47 Scott. Katz knew he had to make a move.
His company Fukushu Restaurant Concepts will open its latest effort, Bird Southern Table and Bar, this November in the space that once held Frogs Organic Bakery, 7109 North Oracle Road. Thomas will head up the kitchen, putting a "cheffy spin" on Southern favorites like pot pies, cauliflower grits and of course, fried chicken.
"If they're gonna use a chicken, they're gonna use as much of the chicken as they can," Katz says. "We want to try to take out a garden and use the vegetables. ... We'll have an amazing salad program."
Despite being a little over a mile from Tucson's other gourmet Southern restaurant The Parish, Katz thinks they can bring something unique to the north-side restaurant game.
"We're not going to take it to the extreme like Travis is doing at the Parish, with the (obscure) game that he uses ... We'll focus on polished, casual service ... We want it to be very approachable."
To switch up the French bakery vibe in the current building, Katz enlisted the help of A23 Studios as well as his business partner/designer André Joffroy. They plan to do a "complete overhaul" with natural reclaimed woods and an indoor-outdoor bar flanking the patio.
Katz has also recently brought on Obon's chef Paulo Im and bartender Matt Martinez as partners in Fukushu. The two will act as corporate chef and mixologist, overseeing all the company's concepts.
In addition to Obon, Goodness and now Bird, the team also has another project in the works: In January they'll open Duck and Cover, a 'music-driven, elevated dive bar' in the basement of the former Chicago Music Store, 130 E. Congress.
New Tucson brewery to open in growing craft beer, craft spirits hub
A new brewery is set to launch next March in an area of town that is quickly becoming a prominent hub for craft beer and spirits.
Owners Jeff Kaber and Jeremy Pye have leased 1,800 square feet of space at 3455 S. Palo Verde Road, immediately south of East 44th Street. East 44th Street is already home to the likes of Green Feet Brewing, 1055 Brewing, Three Wells Distilling and Nimbus.
Kaber, 32, and Pye, 30, both University of Arizona graduates, are calling their new venture the Copper Mine Brewing Company, in homage to Arizona’s history in copper.
The two began discussions about opening a brewery as employees of a small business software company in Tucson. Kaber and Pye enjoyed homebrewing on the weekends.
“We just had one of those conversations while brewing one day that we should take this to the next level and make a business out of it,” Kaber said.
Kaber and Pye initially wanted to launch using a 10-barrel system, but “the final bill was staggering,” Kaber said.
They opted instead to invest in a 4-barrel system from Colorado Brewing Systems in Fort Collins, Colorado.
“We took advice from people already in this business,” Kaber said. “They asked ‘Why do you have to be the biggest? Start scrappy. Start small.’ ”
When Kaber and Pye complete the space and clear all of the permit hurdles associated with opening a brewery, they plan on producing up to ten beers at a time for their taproom, including a double IPA, a traditional hefeweizen and an Irish Red Ale.
Kaber said the goal is to focus on producing beer for the taproom first.
“Down the road, we definitely see going into restaurants, bars, storefronts,” Kaber said, but distribution won’t occur until after the first six months of production, he added.
While the South Palo Verde spot was not their original choice, they are pleased to be part of a hyperlocal community of craft beer and spirit producers.
“This area is now like a destination,” Pye said. “You can come here and do a little tour. It is a community.”
Keep up with Copper Mine's progress at facebook.com/copperminebrewing