Local Fave: St. Francis
Owner: Aaron and David Chamberlin
Opened: September 2009
The Concept: An “Urban Neighborhood Restaurant.” That straightforward notion is prominently featured on the outside of this mid-century former office building turned loft-style eatery. At the helm is chef-owner Aaron Chamberlin, who has an impressive resume working under Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Nancy Oakes of Boulevard in San Francisco. Since day one, St. Francis has strived to serve the best, local seasonal ingredients in modern (but recognizable) cuisine. Family owned, they strive to keep their staff educated and efficient while warm and welcoming to anyone who dines there.
Have a Seat: Upon entering St. Francis, you are greeted with a “Pow!” at the door by the adorable chef caricature that comes from one of Chef Chamberlin’s cookbooks. The hip, sleek interior and exterior designed by Wendell Burnette Architects showcases original brick walls and beamed ceilings. Beautiful bistro style tables and bar stools fill the dining area facing your choice of artwork, the semi-open kitchen, the patio, or bar. The bar is an indoor/outdoor spot with a garage style door that lets the warm AZ sunshine in. Large swivel glass doors open the dining room to a shaded patio, complete with heaters and a fireplace. You can also enjoy dinner, a drink or even a movie as it projects onto the patio wall. A beautiful mural decorates the upstairs wall along the mezzanine, providing eclectic scenery for the diners as they overlook the dining areas below. Two local artists, DOSE and Hector Ruiz, collaborated with Chamberlin to transform that space and give it some unique character. You can also find their artwork at Bentley Gallery and the Heard Museum.
The Eats: Though most of the menu is inspired by Chamberlin, day to day operations and execution are overseen by Executive Chef Chris Barch (promoted in March 2012). Many have raved about the St. Francis staples like the Pork Chile Verde or Baked Goat Cheese appetizer but there are many enticing things on the menu. Some probably won’t ever go away, but new items get added for the regulars to try. One new addition is the The Pig Dip sandwich on the lunch menu: wood roasted pork loin, prosciutto, bacon, caramelized onion, and gruyere cheese on a house baguette. The ingredients are layered neatly and in perfect proportion. A surprise house-made mustard cuts all the richness and brightens it up. This sandwich is accompanied by a dipping jus but it’s so delicious it really doesn’t need it (however it provides a nice dip to soften the crunchy bread). If you’re looking for some lighter fare, try the Farm Salad that is packed with healthy, local veggies like white beans, pickled onion, fennel, kale, and baby carrots dressed in a sauvingnon blanc vinaigrette. It’s beautiful, balanced, and filling – all the qualities of a great salad. Proof that Chamberlin is keeping careful track of seasonal ingredients, a market list blackboard is adorned with the growing seasons of respective fruits, veggies, and meats/seafood along with approximate months/time frames. See for yourself that what you are eating is truly the freshest you can get.
FUN FACT: The custom wood fired oven was designed to provide a focal point in the restaurant as well as being the heart for many menu items. Almost every dish has some element coming from the mesquite and almond wood burning machine, designed using a 19th century bread-making blueprint. This has to be why St. Francis’s San Francisco style homemade (almost daily) sourdough bread is so delish (take one home for only $3)!
The Drinks: HAPPY HOUR IS OFFERED EVERYDAY from 3-6! This is great not only for those looking to take a load off after work but also for local food industry people looking for a good deal on any given day of the week. Specialty cocktails are $5, and made with fresh squeezed juice, fresh fruit mixes, and homemade house syrups. Have a simpler palette? Get your well drinks, beer, and wine (by the glass) at half off. Aside from happy hour, their regular drink list offers a variety of quality wine and beer at reasonable prices. All are hand selected to complement the current menu and you can find some AZ wine and beer in the mix as well. Also, enjoy the lush Cartel coffee after a meal or during your morning brunch offered on weekends.
Report: With so many offerings, from brunch to happy hour to dinner, it would be difficult to leave St. Francis unsatisfied. The focus on a variety of locally driven food in a comforting, neighborhood, home-away-from-home concept invites people to re-visit Chamberlin’s restaurant over and over again – each time with the possibility of a different experience. Even the kiddos can enjoy quality, tasty food FOR FREE. There are always fun things happening there (including live music for Sunday brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) so check the website often for details on the changing, seasonal menus and events.
And stay tuned – as Chamberlin’s second restaurant is scheduled to open in the former Urban Grocery & Wine Bar space (14 E. Pierce St.) in April 2013!
Last Saturday, Artlink’s Silver Gala brought together Detour supporters past and present in honor of Art Detour 25, March 2 and 3, Inspired Connections’ Chief Connector Rhonda Bannard remarks on the evolution of the arts in downtown Phoenix reminds us of this community’s strength and encourages further connection with business leaders to propel us to the next level of success.
In 1993, I jumped into the position of downtown [Phoenix Partnership's] marketing manager. My first assignment was to help the Suns and the city prepare for the NBA playoffs and a parade of what turned out to be 350,000 people downtown on a 115 degree day. It was quickly apparent that supporting the arts & cultural community was critically important to the revitalization efforts that were beginning to take shape.
My boss at the time – Margaret Mullen – was at the forefront of negotiating deals for artists in the Jackson Street studios. It may not be a happy memory for many artists, as the studios needed to be relocated for the Arena to be built. She shared with me that it was Mayor Terry Goddard who said we needed to figure out how the business community could keep the artists downtown and not have them scatter across the Valley. Consider how that set us up for where you are today.
Margaret said that it is often the artists who had the guts to go in early and see the revitalization opportunities waiting to happen.
I remember meeting artists Sevak Khalsa, Greg West, and Otto Rigan in the early years and how Jackson Street was one of the top places to visit on Art Detour. I remember hearing Beatrice Moore’s name often.
And I remember being told to help out Art Detour however the Downtown Phoenix Partnership could.
From arts to theater to the tiny Arizona Science Center with the Swensen’s Ice Cream shop next to it – those early days for arts and culture were not easy.
Tonight we celebrate the early pioneers who paved the way for the possibilities of today.
The first gallery owners, the early downtown artists, and those passionate volunteers with Artlink – many still active in the community today – all made it possible for tonight’s celebration.
I don’t have to tell you that it’s been a challenging road. And sometimes you can still hear the same challenges and complaints leveled in the effort to sell the value of the arts to a vibrant city center.
Yet I would submit you’ve proven the potential – whether it’s seen in the “must do” First Fridays, or the burgeoning Third Fridays and more intimate arts meet ups.
The business community and city are starting to speak your language. They just come at it from a different lens. They realize that they are competing for workforce talent – and the one common denominator of talent is to look to the creative.
So looking at 25 years and beyond for Artlink and the downtown arts community – what’s next?
1,500 chief executives noted “creativity” as the most important leadership skills needed for successful ventures in the future – according to an IBM’s survey through its Institute for Business Value. The findings noted that they understand the power of an innovative individual and the creative thinking and collaborative mentality they bring with them.
They’re even beginning to advocate for it in schools.
Well, as we know, Arizona is usually behind such trends, so here are some ideas that could help us move forward:
- Showcase the competitive edge businesses can realize with their workforce and within the community to attract talent by supporting the arts. This will not be easy given the realization that many business are still hanging on until the economy turns more upright.
- Refine your messaging.
- Remember to speak their language when you’re telling your story.
- Stop speaking to the choir and let your voice be heard outside of your community.
- See yourself as a bridge to connect the community. Help the business community see you as the creative tool in their toolbox.
The intrinsic benefits of arts are many – they sooth, provoke, connect us, connect cultures. It’s essential to the health and vitality of our community – it makes new business possible, tourism probable, attracts skilled and educated workers – especially if we begin to consider and harness the growing power of the younger generations. Let them know they can tap your talents when pitching for business.
- Go to them until they starting coming to you.
- Support business leaders who “get it” and help them become your ambassadors.
Business scholars are already recognizing that creativity is at the leading edge of innovation.
In Massachusetts a “creative economy director” is part of their statewide economic development strategy.
In D.C. a mayor’s summit is held on the creative economy to connect arts to community and help local businesses.
In one MBA program ranked first in entrepreneurship, students are required to take art classes. Same with those in another college’s engineering program. They believe that creativity allows for quantum leaps in knowledge.
Americans for the Arts said, “When we reduce support for the arts, we are not cutting frills. Rather we’re undercutting an industry that is a cornerstone of tourism, economic development and the revitalization of many downtowns. When we INCREASE support for the arts, we are generating tax revenues, jobs and a creativity-based economy.”
Great points, great message. One that now requires us to translate it to those who need to hear it.
Name: Kara Roschi
Her Neighborhood: Grand Avenue
Where spotted: Waiting for the Light Rail on her way to work.
Occupation: Co-owner of Practical Art
What’s your favorite thing about Downtown? Everyone always talks about the sprawl here, but I love the density. We have a big movie theater as well as a local indie theater, poetry, bars and shopping. Whatever your bag is, it’s right there.
How do you get involved in the community? I volunteer at the Phoenix Art Museum. I’ll graduate and get to be a docent in May. I would like to get more involved with Critical Mass and Pedal Craft. I love how they combine art culture, city culture and bike culture.
Cycling fashion tip? The weather here can sometimes change a lot through the day so I like to dress in layers.
What’s the bike culture like at Practical Art? We get a lot of cyclists on the weekend on their way to Windsor for brunch. We were the first ones in our little block here to get a bike rack. It’s such a cool piece of art tat a lot of times people don’t know it’s a bike rack, though.
What she’s wearing:
- T shirt by Dry Desert Design
- Thrifted jeans and cardigan
- Chuck Taylor shoes
- Bike: Huffy Dash (Also has a Ross she occasionally rides)
- Light from Slippery Pig that straps on to easily transfer from bike to bike
The 13th Annual Arizona Strong Beer Festival returns to Steele Indian School Park tomorrow, Saturday, February 16. The best beer festival in the Southwest called Central Phoenix home for the last four years. For at least a little while, the Beer Culture center of gravity moves out of the East Valley and we all get a glimpse of what life might be like with a few more breweries in the central city.
Beer is ordinarily the star at the fest, with each local and regional brewery bringing something to showcase the kick-off of Arizona Beer Week (Feb 16- 23). This year, however, the top story is the number of new breweries pouring this year. Eight Arizona breweries will be making their Strong Beer Fest debut. Their struggles and successes provide insight as to the future of beer in Phoenix between 7th Street and 7th Avenue.
Cosmic Beer out of Flagstaff began as a distribution company that contract brewed with the now defunct Mogollon Brewing Company. It has been recently reported that Cosmic lost its bid to buy Mogollon’s brewing equipment. If this is true, Cosmic will have to find another brewery to brew its line of beer. Saturday may be our first chance to find out the answers to both the Earthly and Cosmic concerns.
Flagstaff’s newest brewery, Wanderlust Brewing is headed by Nathan Friedman. More to the point, it is literally a one man operation. Wanderlust represents one of the two nanobreweries pouring at the festival. Nanobreweries have brewhouses that are generally under 3 barrels. By way of comparison, Four Peaks has a 40 barrel system in its 8th Street brewery and a 60 barrel system in its Wilson Street facility. There are some that believe that Phoenix could support dozens of nanobreweries, however most of the nano-operations are not sustainable in the long haul. Friedman compares his brewery to a journey and so it seems likely that he and the brewery may need to evolve as his opportunities open. Alternatively, it seems, Friedman is happy and appreciative about the moment. That’s something that many downtown business owners share. Zen from the High Country.
It was quite a shock to some when Desert Eagle Brewing announced that it would set up shop in downtown Mesa. It’s already considered a major driver in Mesa’s nightlife revitalization plan. Believe it or not, there were two other breweries looking to locate in Mesa. Mesa seems to have plenty of right-sized and right-priced buildings to support smaller production breweries. Something that Phoenix should consider when the wrecking ball cometh.
Tucson’s Dragoon Brewing just missed last year’s festival. Both Tucson and Flagstaff have seen enormous growth in the last two years. I’m really looking forward to tasting the Mesquite Smoked Porter. This ex-homebrewer team has already produced Tucson’s favorite IPA and many of their offerings make it to Phoenix.
Fate Brewing may very well provide a blueprint for a smaller brewpub that could fit right in on Roosevelt Row or on Central. The Scottsdale brewpub is small by design. A woodfire pizza oven keeps everyone fed and all beer brewed is sold on premise. The godfather of this “wee humble brewpub” concept is Tom Hennessy of Colorado Boy Brewing in Ridgway Colorado. Hennessy started two of his own GABF award winning breweries and has mentored a total of three Arizona start-ups. Ideally, an existing restaurant or bar is purchased and then a brewery is shoehorned in. This strategy allows a brewery to start-up with less cost than a traditional brewery. Fate founder, Steve McFate built the restaurant on Shea (off Scottsdale Road) from scratch. His higher end concept has attracted that neighborhood’s crowd and attracts the Valley’s Beer Geek contingent.
Tamara and Steve Morken of Pine’s THAT Brewery also learned brewing operations from Hennessy. The Rim Country brewery distributes kegs here in the Valley, which runs counter to the sell-beer-across-the-bar-only strategy. It will be interesting to see if Mischief Brewing (the third “wee humble”) will follow start-up plan to the letter. Mischief is still in the building phase, but plans on locating in Peoria.
Though not a disciple of the “wee humble” school, OHSO nanoBrewery certainly has some of the elements that a downtown Phoenix brewery would need to thrive. It has a great selection of beers, interesting food and a comfortable indoor-outdoor feel. Even without the brewery, the business has the chops to remain a vital part of its Arcadia neighborhood. OHSO is currently making small batches of beer on what might normally be a large brewery’s pilot system. Generally adhereing to the no-distribution-sell-it-all-on-site mantra, an OHSO-like enterprise could very well work in the 7th Avenue and McDowell neighborhood that borders Willo and Encanto-Palmcroft
North Mountain Brewing may not be able to bring their beer to the dance this time around as they only recently became federally and state licensed. You can be sure that Brewmaster Robert Berkner will be at the festival, so it will be a good time to ask him how his Sunnyslope neighborhood brewery is shaping up. Berkner took great aims to find a neighborhood that he could support. Let’s see if Sunnyslope is ready to give back.
One other new brewery, Freak’N Brewing Company, is not yet licensed but will be represented by a beer that they collaborated on with Sun Up Brewing in the Central Corridor. Double Black IPA contains twice the hops of Sun Up’s Trooper IPA and just enough roasted malt to darken the color. Freak’N Brewery is currenly awaiting approval for its Peoria brewery.
While we are not talking about a large Arizona brewery moving into the stadium district or Gordon Biersch taking residence in CityScape this year, there are a few encouraging signposts on the horizon. Arizona’s thirst for beer is being met ably. The Strong Beer Fest’s freshman class gives a beer fan some hope for a downtown brewery in the future.
Local Fave: Postino Wine Café – Central
District: North Central
Here’s The Deal: While many of us are familiar with Postino’s Monday and Tuesday deal, did you know about the great deals you can get for lunch? Every day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. they offer $5 glasses of wine (anything by the glass) and any pitcher of beer for $5! Also, a majority of the menu is under $10 for a nice selection of sandwiches, salads, and combinations, including a half Panini with a side salad, or “soup of the moment” (today’s was chicken and wild rice).
Have a Seat: Like many of the Upward Projects locations and concepts, you can sit at a great bar. This one has a double-sided seating section for guests to sit across from each other and engage in conversation. There is a nice window area for people watching along Central Ave and a beautiful covered patio with heaters and fireplaces that will keep you shaded but warm. Inside is bistro style area, with brick walls and racks of retail wines you can buy and take home.
The Concept: Urban Projects is known for taking historic Phoenix buildings and turning them into new, updated neighborhood hangouts. This Postino’s location was originally home the Manhattan style Katz’s Deli. Urban Projects took over in 2009, keeping as much to the original building design as they could. The rafters and overall layout will be familiar to the old timers while appealing to newer Phoenicians with the swanky, graphic décor, as is evident when you look around at the eclectic mix of people gathered for a busy lunch rush on a Wednesday afternoon.
The Eats: The bruschetta will always be a successful staple but other stars on the menu include the Autostrada Panini served with a side of housemade organic chips. The chips are crunchy and light, which is a great complement to the hefty sandwich on the plate. Your choice of ciabatta or focaccia bread surrounds a pile of sopressatta, Italian ham, capicola, mortadella, provolone, arugula and tomatoes with spicy pepper relish. This sandwich is nicely balanced with acid, pepper, and quality proteins. It has a great zing from the ingredients that don’t leave you feeling heavy after eating one. Another notable is the Italian picnic salad that has fresh, California roasted beets, goat cheese, bacon and walnuts, and adds some delightful texture with an array of crispy root veggies (beets, tarot chips, and sweet potatoes). The herb vinaigrette is slightly sweet but adds depth with a variety of fresh herbs.
The Staff: Eager to serve their guests, the staff seems to be able to handle volume with smiles and good knowledge of the menu. Ben Grissom, server, can educate diners on “Brent’s Pick,” a wine selection by resident wine merchant Brent Karlicek, which is featured on the menu and as wall décor with accompanying bottles of wine. The staff also looks great in their uniform of the day (usually including a witty, Postino-centric t-Shirt) and they have great personalities to match.
Report: Postino’s will always be a go-to place for a good deal and quality food and beverage. Labeled a wine café, it lives up to the name with great wine selection and a food menu that doesn’t feel overwhelming. Come here to be comfortable in your surroundings, listen to some good music, laugh and enjoy your wine while being served by some of Phoenix’s best. The owners should be proud to know that they have some of the best waitstaff you can find in the valley, no matter what location you might visit.