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After more than a year in the making, Jonathan Buford and Patrick Ware, the ownership team at Gilbert-based Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co., are applying the finishing touches on their new Downtown Phoenix bar and restaurant.
It’s slated for a March grand opening — with a soft opening coming soon.
“We thought about where we’re going next in our growth pattern and Phoenix was just a magnet,” said Patrick Ware, head of brewing operations.
The flagship Gilbert restaurant and warehouse will remain open as the brewing and operations hub. But Arizona Wilderness DTPHX, located at 201 E. Roosevelt Street along Roosevelt Row, is more of a fast-casual urban beer garden, focusing on art, culture and an elevated pub experience. The concept is inspired by the co-founders’ travels through European and west coast cities.
“There will never be a TV in this place,” said Jonathan Buford, visionary and brand manger. “Come socialize!”
From Arizona citrus to spices, Arizona Wilderness is known for supporting local farms and purveyors through dynamic local flavors and brewing techniques — winning accolades both here and abroad for its craft ales and lagers.
The new location will go even further in honoring all things Arizona.
Featuring local vintners like Page Springs Cellars and Arizona Stronghold, spirits from Hamilton and Blue Clover distilleries, mead and cider from Superstition Meadery — the drinks on tap are rooted in a sense of place.
Arizona Wilderness’ mission to use locally-sourced agricultural products also includes malt barley grown in the Verde Valley and seasonal produce. But as small business owners, they struggled to find an affordable, accessible beef product for their trademark burgers. After months of negotiations and researching distributors, Ware and Buford found Arizona Grass Raised Beef Company — a keystone of the new downtown menu.
“We’re trying to make an impact with our beer, using these local grains, so we wanted to figure out how to do that on the food side,” Ware said.
Diners can expect some of the same beloved food items as the Gilbert location, including duck-fat fries, distinctive burger toppings and breads made from scratch. New items include all Arizona grass-fed burgers, Benny Blanco breakfast burritos, buffalo fried cauliflower, a fried chicken sandwich, and some vegan and vegetarian options.
The building is also unique to Roosevelt Row.
Built in the late ‘60s and home to a wholesale floral company for many years, it’s known for the Carrie Marill mural of a bicyclist on the west side, an homage to San Francisco artist Margaret Kilgallen.
“We’re proud that we were able to keep this mid-century modern look and not tear down another building — that’s one of the greatest things,” Buford said. “We could’ve torn it down, in the long run probably saved some money, but in hindsight, it was the best decision.”
Remodeling an old flower shop into a modern bar and restaurant took considerable time and money. Buford and Ware invested more than $2.5 million, and rehab took more than a year to complete.
The good news: the building, the Carrie Marill mural, and the cute row of citrus trees in the front will remain. The lead paint, crumbling support beams and paper-thin windows will go.
The east-side parking lot will also be replaced with a 6,000-square-foot dog-friendly patio complete with desert trees, a massive shade structure, and a 30-tap bar inside a shipping container. Another bar and the main food counter will be inside. Drinks will be served on tap, including wine and pre-batched cocktails.
Being a block from the light rail in a walkable urban area, Buford and Ware decided to forego parking and opt for ample bike racks and partnerships with nearby garages instead.
The parking deal is still in progress, but in the meantime, Buford and Ware said they’re not worried. The area’s walkability is part of what drew them to Roosevelt Row, along with its “electric energy.”
“I love that we get to re-energize the building, start over and add value to the area without taking anything away,” Buford said. “We’re not the first ones, there was an amazing group of people here before us, we’re just happy to be a part of it.”