Tucson native Sam Fox made national headlines this past spring with The Global Ambassador. The hospitality experience, which includes a 141-room hotel, is the culmination of more than 20 years in the restaurant industry. Fox famously founded Fox Restaurant Concepts (FRC), a locally based Arizona food group that opened more than 100 restaurants under his leadership, and a brand he continues to run day-to-day even after his sale of it to the Cheesecake Factory in 2019. In addition to FRC, there are a slew of similarly creative, well-run Arizona-based restaurant groups keeping a steady national spotlight on the local culinary scene. Here are some of the best and brightest:
The Haunted Group
If you’ve been to Cottonwood or Jerome in recent years, chances are you have fallen under Eric and Michelle Jurisin’s spell once or twice. The couple owns The Haunted Group, which operates The Haunted Hamburger and Grapes in Jerome as well as Crema Craft Kitchen & Bar, Pizzeria Bocce, Nic’s, The Tavern Grill and The Tavern Hotel in Cottonwood. In 2020, the husband-and-wife team managed to expand, opening The Clinkscale, a Jerome hotel and restaurant of the same name that offers American-fusion cuisine with a touch of French flare as well as daily brunch and regular wine pairing dinners, and in more recent months opened Strada, an eclectic extension of the ultra-popular Pizzeria Bocce made from eight industrial-sized shipping containers and featuring a menu of shareable Italian tapas and street food, many with ingredients sourced directly from Italy.
Dahl Restaurant Group
Chef Lisa Dahl is one of the country’s leading female chefs and restaurateurs and a pioneer of the culinary scene in Sedona. As executive chef and CEO of the restaurant group that bears her name, she oversees five outstanding restaurants in the region: Dahl & Di Luca Ristorante Italiano, Cucina Rustica, Pisa Lisa, Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill and Butterfly Burger, A Couture Burger Lounge. In addition to her own restaurant group, Dahl was also recently announced as culinary director of Alchemy at the soon-to-open Ambiente hotel in Sedona, where she will offer a menu of her magic food in a custom Airstream that has been reimagined into a culinary destination situated poolside at the heart of the rugged three-acre property.
That Place Projects
Founded in 2009 with the opening of Tinderbox Kitchen in Flagstaff, today THAT Place Projects is behind not only Tinderbox, but both Annex Cocktail Lounge and Tourist Home immediately next door. The three concepts, under the leadership of Kevin Heinonen, Nick Williams and Mike Schmitz, work symbiotically; sharing product and employees alike, and the wide breadth of demographics for each restaurant captures the interest of families, students, and couples alike, keeping business humming nearly 20 hours a day. In May 2020, the team signed a lease on a new restaurant space just up the street in the heart of downtown Flagstaff where it plans to open a fourth concept – a high-end, modern Italian Restaurant with expansive wine and Amari selections by years end.
Barter & Shake Creative Hospitality
Founded in 2016 by Jason Asher with the opening of UnderTow, a tiki-inspired concept underneath Sip Coffee Bar in Arcadia, Barter + Shake is also the creative team behind turn-of-the-century inspired, cocktail-centric venue Century Grand, opened in 2019. In 2021 and in response to COVID-19, the brand boldly moved all of its concepts into one space. As a result, today Century Grand features Platform 19, a high-concept mixology bar set in a historic Presidential Pullman-inspired train car that takes guests through the Rocky Mountains via visual effects and sounds; Grey Hen Rx, a New Orleans apothecary-themed cocktail bar with experimental non-alcoholic spirits alongside low-alcohol cocktails and boozy classics that also serves sorbets and ice creams; and UnderTow, a new version of the beloved Tiki concept.
Vivili Hospitality Group
Founded by Skyler Reeves in 2014, Vivili Hospitality Group is the largest restaurant group in Prescott, today employing more than 100 people across four thriving restaurants including The Barley Hound, Rosa’s Pizzeria, Taco Don’s and La Planchada, plus a full-service events and catering company, Hawk & Hound. With an eye toward putting Prescott on the culinary map, Vivili is not only committed to executing exciting new concepts that deliver big-city appeal, but also breathing new life into celebrated staples while maintaining the quality and charm locals and travelers have grown accustomed.
In 2001, a hip indoor-outdoor wine bar called Postino – named for the Italian word for postman as the venue was located in a vacant brick building that was a local post office once upon a time – opened in Arcadia. And while no longer a post office, the small-but-mighty location delivered night after night, growing a faithful following across the Valley. Its success led to the creation of Upward Projects by Lauren Bailey and Crag Demarco in 2008 with a vision to take vacant or historically relevant buildings in town and re-invent them into restaurants and bars. In the years since, Postino has grown to 15 locations across Arizona, Texas and Colorado. Today, Upward is also behind Windsor, Churn, Federal Pizza and Joyride Taco House in the Valley.
Born and Raised Hospitality
Arizona natives Nick Campisano and Joshua James are the creators of Born and Raised, founded in 2013. Campisano refined his craft by opening up a series of new age lounges along the Southern Californian coast while James began his journey crafting exquisite cocktails at AZ88. The dynamic duo met while working together at The Parlor in Phoenix and has since opened four restaurant concepts together: Clever Koi, which has locations in Central Phoenix and Gilbert; Fellow Osteria in south Scottsdale; Across the Pond in Central Phoenix; and Clever Ramen, an upscale fast-casual restaurant serving up steamed bao buns and build-your-own ramen bowls out of their newly constructed restaurant space that opened in late spring.
The Maggiore Group
While The Maggiore Group was officially founded by Joey Maggiore, Cristina Maggiore and Flora Tersigni in 2019, its roots began in 1977 when Maggiore family patriarch and renowned chef Tomaso Maggiore – who was born and raised in the Sicily region of Italy and who passed earlier this year – opened Tomaso’s in Phoenix. Today, The Maggiore Group boasts Tomaso’s as well as The Italian Daughter, Sicilian Baker, Sicilian Butcher and Hash Kitchen concepts across the Valley. The family-owned and operated brand plans to double in size over the next year, which will include expansion out of Arizona – likely into Houston, Dallas and/or Denver – as well as aggressive growth of current and new concepts, including a Mexican eatery called The Mexicano, within Arizona.
Common Ground Culinary
Common Ground Culinary, owned by award winning chef Christopher Collins, operates some of the most recognizable restaurant concepts in the Valley. Chef Christopher is proudly raised in Phoenix, Arizona and is a fourth-generation restaurateur. Common Ground Culinary began with Grassroots Kitchen & Tap in 2011, and has expanded to a total of seven concepts today: Grassroots, Twisted Grove Parlor + Bar, The Collins Small Batch Kitchen, The Macintosh, Wally’s American Gastropub, Sweet Provisions and Arcadia Catering Company. Each of Common Ground’s concepts are specifically designed to fit the neighborhood they inhabit, and according to Collins, diners can expect three new concepts in the Valley from him in the next year.
Square One Concepts
It all started with a cold beer and a cheeseburger. Square One is behind Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers, a casual burger spot known for its laundry list of half-pound burgers – including one with sugar-cured bacon, peanut butter and jelly – a selection of more than 130 beers that first opened in Scottsdale in 2011. Today, the brand has more than a dozen locations across Arizona and two in California. Square One has also branched out into other concepts, notably Cold Beers & Pizza, Wasted Grain, Bourbon & Bones Chophouse & Bar and Famous 48 in Scottsdale; The Funky Monk in Tucson; and both Bootlegger and Pacific Beach Shore Club in San Diego.
Genuine Concepts was founded by Tucker Woodbury and Jim Riley in 2006 and quickly earned a reputation for creating unique environments that become neighborhood-defining hangouts. What began with The Vig Arcadia, has grown into a collection of hyper-local, community-driven restaurants and bars packed with genuine people, serving genuine food and drink. Today, there are not only five Vig locations across the Valley, but Ladera Taverna y Cocina and The Womack in Phoenix, The Little Woody in Arcadia, Campo Italian Bistro and Bar in Scottsdale (in partnership with James Beard award-winning chef Alex Stratta) and The McMillan in Flagstaff.