Blog Archives

Jackson Street Entertainment District hits a political nerve

[Source: Michele Laudig, Phoenix New Times] — This afternoon, the City of Phoenix Planning and Zoning Committee has a scheduled hearing on the establishment, through rezoning, of the controversial Jackson Street Entertainment District — ground zero for those five new Bernie Kantak restaurants I mentioned yesterday.  And it looks like a protest is in the works, too.  I found the link on Twitter [and Facebook].

It seems like there would be a lot of support for a mixed-use development like this, but as with CityScape a few years ago, there’s plenty of skepticism as well.  The fact that Jackson Street Entertainment District will be located in the Warehouse District — where there are a number of historically significant early 20th century buildings — makes it all the more sensitive.  (However, a staff report from the Planning Department notes that this project will preserve the historical character of the Warehouse District.) [Note: To read the full article and online comments, click here.]

Ambitious downtown Phoenix restaurant plan on the front burner

[Source: Howard Seftel, Arizona Republic] — At a time when the recession is taking a toll on Valley restaurants, a hugely ambitious dining project is coming to downtown Phoenix.  An acclaimed Scottsdale chef and his partners have finalized a deal for a five-restaurant complex.  Bernie Kantak, who for a decade has kept Cowboy Ciao in the foodie spotlight, will house his one-of-a-kind restaurants at 246 S. First St., on the northwestern corner of Jackson Street.  Why downtown?  He’s attracted by lower rents — about half of what he would pay in Old Town Scottsdale, Kantak says — as well as the belief that the area is poised to flourish when the economy turns around.

For more than two decades, Phoenix has been trying to get real nightlife in the heart of the city, and a critical restaurant mass may finally be developing.  Kantak joins two other high-profile chefs who have recently located downtown. Wade Moises left Sassi, a high-end Scottsdale Italian restaurant, to open the Pasta Bar, and Matt Carter (Zinc Bistro, the Mission), is widening his scope with Nine05, a modern Asian restaurant, and Canteen, a gastropub.

Kantak and his partners, whose restaurants target a variety of tastes and budgets, are aiming to open all their doors by the end of the year.  Here’s the line-up for Jackson Street:

  1. It will be a less-pricey version of Cowboy Ciao, showcasing eclectic fare with a Southwestern accent.
  2. Set up in a separate bar area inside Restaurant 1, this down-home spot will offer Southern-comfort fare like barbecue and fried chicken.
  3. Look for an a la carte menu focusing on higher-end beef and seafood at this Italian steakhouse.
  4. Kantak says this rooftop patio will provide a stunning view of downtown Phoenix.  Meanwhile, the vibe will be Latin American, with the spotlight on cocktails, ceviche and tapas.
  5. This basement wine bar, hewed out of river rock, will concentrate on nibbles and drinks. You can expect to enter via a sort of “secret” passageway, perhaps a phony phone booth.

After a spate of closings, it’s refreshing to see such an ambitious project for downtown.  The casualty list includes some of the liveliest, most established independent venues whose demise is shocking dining experts.  Since the end of the year, at least 50 Valley restaurants — and counting –have closed.  Among recent downtown closings were Palatte, Café Labella, Fate, and Sweet Pea Bakery.  On the other hand, several more restaurants have opened downtown, including Vinery Two Fourteen, 214 W. Roosevelt St.; Hanny’s, 40 N. First St.; and Pasta Bar, Sens Asian Tapas and Sake Bar and Turf Restaurant, all in the same building at 705 N. First St.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Ambitious dining projects headed for downtown Phoenix

[Source: Howard Seftel, Arizona Republic] — Call them the ’09ers: The downtown Phoenix restaurant gold rush is not only picking up steam, it’s turning into a stampede.   Despite the dismal economy, pioneering restaurant owners believe there’s a mother lode waiting to be tapped in this mostly unexploited territory.   Two ambitious, multirestaurant projects are scheduled to debut later this year.

Cowboy Ciao chef Bernie Kantak heads one team, partnering with three of his managers and another high-profile Valley chef, who does not want his name made public because he has not yet given notice.  It’s a five-concept complex, all in one building, just a few minutes’ walk from downtown event venues.  (Because lease negotiations haven’t been finalized, the partners do not want the exact address released.)  One restaurant will showcase “creative American comfort food with a global twist,” Kantak said.  The restaurant’s bar menu, however, will focus exclusively on Southern favorites, like barbecue and fried chicken.

Two rooftop restaurants (with patios overlooking downtown) are also part of the mix.  One will be an Italian-themed steakhouse, spotlighting beef, chops, seafood, homemade pastas and wood-fired pizzas.  The other focuses on Latin America, featuring big and small plates from Mexico to Chile, a ceviche bar and Latin cocktails and wines.  Also planned is a cocktail lounge/wine bar, tucked away in the basement.  There you’ll be able to nosh on charcuterie, cheeses, desserts and chocolate.  Kantak hopes to open all five doors sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Also joining the downtown gold rush is Matt Carter, who heads the French kitchen at Zinc Bistro and the Latin American kitchen at the Mission, and two partners.  Now he’s taking another step toward global culinary domination with Nine05, a “modern Asian” restaurant that’s moving into the space that once housed Fate, on Fourth Street south of Roosevelt Street. And next door will be a gastropub called Canteen. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Carter says Nine05 will focus on “greatest hits” Asian dishes, stamped with his own accent.  That means curries, Korean barbecue and a steamed pork belly brioche bun that he says is so good the Chinese will be kicking themselves for not having thought of it 2,000 years ago. He’s aiming to open Nine05 in July.  Canteen, meanwhile, will start off in July as a watering hole, with high-end classic cocktails, wines and beers, along with charcuterie and cheese to tamp down hunger pangs. By October, however, Carter expects Canteen to morph into a gastropub, with uncomplicated fare emphasizing simple preparations and fresh ingredients.  Heading the two kitchens is Jay Bogsinske, who worked with Carter before joining the La Grande Orange group.  Carter expects to be around a couple of mornings and late evenings to see how everything is working out.