Here at DPJ, we’re all about sharing what we love. Beyond the stories that make us love downtown, we often come across things that catch our eye, tingle our senses or have us dancing in delight. “We Like…” turns a brief spotlight on the little treasures that make our day, with helpful links so you can share in the fun.
When I was young I thought that artists were born fully formed and able to accomplish amazing work right out of the gate. Later I came to recognize that what makes an artist truly great is all of the time spent learning technique, honing their craft, refining their vision, solving problems, and growing into their talent. Recently I stumbled across an example of that kind of evolution in the work of a remarkable local artist, Jordan Alexander Thomas.
I first came across his delicious robot constructions at Made art boutique a few years ago. I don’t really care one way or another about robots, but these charmed me immediately. Not only were they imaginative, cheerful and affordable, they also had magical little “secret compartments” built into their bodies. I am a sucker for a box, and the hidden boxes in these robot bodies had me leaping for joy.
Flash forward a couple of years to just a week or so ago, when I wandered into Practical Art one afternoon with a friend and discovered an entire exhibition of Thomas’s newest robots. In just a few short years his constructions have evolved from charming, slightly rough-hewn curiosities, to gorgeously wrought works of art. I kid you not, they are absolutely beautiful.
So, quick like a bunny, before the show comes down, trundle yourself off to Practical Art and spend a little time marveling at these fabulous constructions. They’d make a perfect gift, especially if you tuck a little surprise into the secret compartment. For those of you who don’t want to commit to a larger piece, Thomas has created smaller scale “busts,” as well as some sweet and wearable pins.
Jordan Alexander Thomas bills himself as a robot artist, which might lead some people to overlook his work. Don’t make that mistake. He has created unique, exquisite, finely detailed sculptures that just happen to be robots. When you slow down enough to look closely, you will be amazed and delighted. Your mind will be blown and Santa may just have to bring me one for Christmas!
At last! Today was the day we got official word on the mysterious goings-on at the old Beef Eaters building at 3rd Ave. and Camelback Road.
Rumors have abounded and well over 100 people, including families from the neighborhood, business people, bankers, builders and just plain folks, gathered at 10 a.m. this morning to celebrate the plans to revitalize the site. The excitement was palpable on everyone’s smiling faces.
From 1961 through 2006, Beef Eaters was a central gathering place for Phoenicians to share meals, celebrate special events, and craft the business deals that shaped our Valley. When owner Jay Newton died in 2006, the restaurant shut its doors and the building sat empty. Now adaptive reuse developers Venue Projects have stepped up with a remarkable vision to bring the site back to life.
Central Phoenix-based Venue Projects principle Lorenzo Perez told the crowd of Venue’s dedication to finding and adapting buildings with history, a story to tell, and a strong sense of place. Jon Kitchell, another principle with Venue added, “We’re salvage hounds and love finding materials worthy of putting back into place, like black leather booths and the Queen Creek adobe bricks of this place.”
Working with John Douglas Architects, they’ll be uncovering the bones of the building and incorporating the treasures they discover back into the new uses for the site.
“Jay Newton’s Beef Eaters legacy will continue with a new interpretation of his iconic gathering place,” said Kitchell. To honor the past, the new complex will be called The Newton.
The Newton is co-owned by Venue Projects and two of the three businesses that will comprise the site. Co-owners include the nationally renowned, independent, community-based bookstore, Changing Hands, which will open its second Valley location at the site; and Justin and Michelle Beckett, current owners of Beckett’s Table, who will open a new neighborhood restaurant concept at The Newton. The third occupant will be The Lively Hood, a co-working space for creative professionals. Construction has begun and the goal is to reopen on November 1.
These three businesses will continue Jay Newton’s Beef Eaters legacy. Located just across the street from the light rail station, the bookstore, restaurant and co-working space will be active community gathering spaces that energize the neighborhood and encourage people to work together.
Shannon Scutari of Sustainable Communities Collaborative summed up the thrill experienced by everyone gathered when she referenced an old African proverb. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others. This place,” said Scutari, “is going to be about going it with others.”
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!
Want to go where the locals go? Read DPJ’s new E&D Beat and visit some favorite Eats & Drinks destinations.
Local Fave: Lux Central
District: Midtown Phoenix
Owner: Jeff Fischer
Identity: “It’s your third space,” says bartender Ben Linsenmeyer of Lux Central. “It’s a place that’s not home or work but that third space you spend the rest of your time. The place you feel comfortable enough to grab your cup of coffee before work and then return to for a late night cocktail with friends.” Ben explains that owner Jeff Fischer had a vision of creating this third space for his guests after attending a business conference about such things. What you won’t get here is a map telling you where to order, pick up, or someone telling you where to sit. “It’s meant to be that way,” Ben says. “People who don’t like our concept usually leave frustrated but then return with their friends, usually the very next day, explaining how it all works with a sense that now they’re ‘the cool ones’.”
Find Your Way: The space offers an urban feel with brick walls and rigid textures complimented by sleek, mid-century furnishings. On every surface sits another unique piece of art or a trinket that is waiting to tell you its story. You’d hardly expect this place to be considered a bar. In fact, the puzzling layout forces you to walk the entire space, discovering different corners that reveal elements of the conceptual bar/restaurant/roastery. Menus seem to be misplaced and employees aren’t outright identifiable. Any newcomer might initially be turned off, but a little exploration will have them delighted with this unconventional watering hole.
Have A Seat: With numerous seating areas, including a few different types of bars to sit at, you get a variety of experiences. Belly up to the low-sitting, polished-stone bar counter and watch your favorite bartender mix up a cocktail from fresh ingredients that are literally at your finger tips. Take your cocktail to one of the many community tables where you can chat with a business CEO and a local artist, finding an unexpected common ground. For the foodies, a comfy seating arrangement of tufted sofas or rough cut wood picnic style bench faces the open stainless steel kitchen.
The Eats: Find everything from organic steel cut oats to vegetarian egg bakes, seasonal pies and cookies, weekend breakfast NY strip steaks, and mac n’ cheese. This is a true local, seasonal menu offering the best in comfort food. The real fun is coming in to see the lunch and dinner offerings that change daily.
The Drinks: You’ll find the cocktail menu carefully handwritten on note cards, taped to a clear divider at the end of the bar. The bartenders are also happy to whip up something special, just for you. With high-end spirits and fresh herbs and produce, these mixologists will find a way to your inner buzz. As for beer and wine, Lux has a menu of over 50 domestic, local, craft, and imported brews, along with beautiful, recognizable wines and some approachable exotics – all fairly priced.
What They Say: “Lux is that place that everyone is leaving, going to, or is already at,” says Lux Central regular Emily Caldwell, owner of Gallery Parallax. She explains that you can arrive by yourself and by the end of your visit have made five new friends. Alternatively, you can find yourself a quiet nook and enjoy a house-roasted coffee or daily inspired cocktail while studying or working.
Report: Lux Central offers a social experiment, with a melting pot of guests and an eccentric, but exceptional service strategy. You’ll never have the same experience twice, but always the same quality in eats and drinks. Cheating on Lux to enjoy other places is expected, but this is the place where you’ll always return: Phoenix’s unique third space.
Community members representing Downtown Phoenix and beyond (including DPJ) have been working on a plan to make Central Avenue sparkle and shine during the upcoming holiday season.
It’s a big idea worthy of this great city – and it’s going to take a community-wide effort to make it happen.
Think of it: up to 10 miles of our city’s grand boulevard festooned with decorations!
A Holiday Decoration Fund has been established, with donations needed by October 25 to get the decorations up by Thanksgiving.
There are hundreds of light poles that can be decorated, so the more donations the more festive Central Avenue will be!
Read the following invitation to participate and let’s all come together and contribute to the spirit of Phoenix and the holiday season.
Dear Phoenix Community:
Please help us bring the spirit of the Holiday Season back to Central Avenue from Camelback to Dobbins!
Last year was the first year since light rail construction began that our Central Avenue street lights had holiday decorations. By the end of the Holiday Season (Thanksgiving – MLK Holiday) the decorations had deteriorated and are no longer usable.
A number of property owners and managers of buildings along the Central corridor are eager to help bring decorations back to the street.
We hope you will be too!
The cost to purchase or refurbish – and install, store, maintain, and remove the decorations, as well as purchase new hardware to support them – is excessive.
The most affordable option for the short and long term is to lease new decorations. Many communities across the country are tending toward this direction.
We have worked with all the vendors involved and have arrived at a reduced rate of $210 per street light. This includes everything: the decoration and banner (examples pictured right), installation, removal, the purchase of new hardware required to support it all and tax.
The City of Phoenix and Valley Metro Rail are assisting us and support this effort. Also, some property owners want to help decorate streets and areas along and adjacent to the light rail.
We do not have much time. Please join us!
The Phoenix Community Alliance (PCA) has agreed to be the facilitator for the Phoenix Holiday Decoration fund.
Payments must be processed by October 25.
Download the contribution form from PhoenixCommunityAlliance.com.
Then use your credit card to donate online.
Or make checks payable and mail to:
Phoenix Community Alliance
234 North Central Avenue
Suite M-1100, Floor 1A
Phoenix AZ 85004
(ANY level of contribution is appreciated! PCA is a 501 (c)3 organization and your contributions are tax deductible.)
Please do not hesitate to contact PCA at 602-254-7477 ext. 22 with any questions you may have.
Thank you! And here’s to a Happy Holiday season!
JOSEPH BENESH, Director, Phoenix Center for the Arts
KENNY BARRETT & CINDY DACH, Roosevelt Row
DAN CARROLL, Chairman, Midtown Museum District
CATRINA KAHLER, Publisher, Downtown Phoenix Journal
DON KEUTH, President, Phoenix Community Alliance
EVA OLIVAS, President, Phoenix Revitalization Corporation
DAVE RODERIQUE, President & CEO, Downtown Phoenix Partnership
VICTOR VIDALES, Business Owner, REMAX, South Mountain Real Estate
GEORGE YOUNG, South Mountain Village Resident